If you recently made the switch from a Windows 10 PC to a Chromebook, you’re probably missing some of your favorite apps. It’s no secret that some Windows apps can’t run natively on ChromeOS. Users often miss their favorite productivity apps, creator tools, and games when making the switch. Luckily, there are options if you need to run Windows 10 on your Chromebook.
One of the most powerful methods to accomplish this is to install Parallels Desktop for ChromeOS. Note though this software is currently targeted at enterprise users, so individual licenses are not yet available. If you’re part of the target audience, this can be an amazing supplement to your ChromeOS workflow.
What is Parallels Desktop for ChromeOS?
Parallels Desktop is a full-featured Windows container that runs natively on ChromeOS. This software allows you to run the full version of Windows, but there are a few important things to be aware of. First, the software is currently only available at scale to business customers, making this option of little use to individual users at the present time.
It does have some interesting features, like the option to switch between ChromeOS and Windows operating systems without rebooting. You can also save the state of your Windows installation and get back to it when you want, and you can even use Windows applications like the full versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on your Chromebook. Beyond that, your Windows 10 installation will work offline, and you can access Windows documents from ChromeOS and even print on Windows using your ChromeOS printers.
With Parallels Desktop for ChromeOS, IT departments can enable proprietary and full-featured Windows applications — including native Microsoft Office — on ChromeOS devices, online and offline. You’ll need a Chrome Enterprise upgrade to run Parallels (see screenshot above).
Requirements for running Parallels Desktop
To run Parallels on your Chromebook, you need at least ChromeOS version 85 or later. Additionally, you need the Google Admin console, Chrome Enterprise Upgrade/Chrome Education Upgrade, a Microsoft Windows ISO, a Windows license, and a storage server if you wish to distribute to multiple machines in your organization.
In terms of hardware, supported processors include Intel Core i5 or i7 and AMD Ryzen 5 or 7. You’ll also need a minimum of 8GB of RAM and 128GB SSD storage on your device. There are many enterprise Chromebooks from Acer, HP, and Lenovo that meet the requirements. If your Chromebook or ChromeOS tablet meets the minimum requirements, you might also enjoy buying a docking station to turn your Chromebook into a full workstation.
Technically, you can upgrade to Chrome Enterprise on a supported Chromebook if you are an individual. All you need to do is purchase a website domain from a provider like Squarespace and then link it to a Google Workspace account. Both Google Workspace, Chrome Enterprise, and your domain will have associated costs, so this can be a very expensive approach if you don’t own an actual business.
Installing Parallels Desktop for ChromeOS
The installation process for Parallels Desktop for ChromeOS requires you to do a few key things before you start:
- You need to make sure you’re a super admin on the Google Workspace account associated with the domain you plan to install from.
- Make sure you also have a Windows 10 ISO, a Chrome Enterprise Upgrade valid Windows 10 license, and a Parallels Desktop for ChromeOS license key before getting started.
- You’ll need to install a copy of Windows on your admin Chromebook first. Then, you can create a zip file to upload to a company server or Google Drive for others to install on managed devices.
- Keep in mind that before a user can sign into a Chromebook with your organization, the device must be enrolled into management. This also applies to the admin’s Chromebook, which will be used to create a Parallels Desktop Windows image.
- Next, you need to activate your Parallels Desktop license. This is accomplished by visiting the link provided by Parallels support when you purchased your license. After you click the link, you’ll visit your Google Admin console to enable Parallels Desktop for your organization.
- Visit the crosh (Chrome developer shell) terminal by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T while in the Chrome browser.
- In the crosh terminal run the command: vmc create -p PvmDefault <Windows.iso> Here <Windows.iso> should replaced with the name of your Windows image file stored in your Chromebook’s Downloads folder.
- You can then run the VM by executing the command: vmc start PvmDefault
- This will open the Windows 10 setup menu, and you can install Windows as usual. Keep in mind you need a valid Windows license to complete this process. Make sure you also install Parallels Tools to take full advantage of all features.
- After you set up Windows 10 on the VM, you need to export the image as a zip file for other users (including yourself) to run Parallels Desktop from the ChromeOS launcher. To do this, run the command: vmc export -d Pvmdefault Windows10.zip You can replace ‘Windows10.zip’ with whatever you want to name your file.
- At the end of the process, you must upload the file to a corporate server or Google Drive, then input the relevant URL and SHA-256 hash into the Google admin console.
- Click on the Parallels Desktop icon in the Chrome launcher and launch the setup process to download and install the zip file on your machine. From this point, Windows 10 should open naturally, and you’re good to go. Additional users for your organization can repeat this process to use Windows 10 on their Chrome devices.
After creating the virtual machine and installing Parallel Tools on the administrator Chromebook, you need to download the Windows ZIP file from the corporate server or Google Drive to install Parallels fully on your own machine. You will not have the file-sharing capability without doing this. To install Parallels on the admin laptop, simply click the Parallels icon in your ChromeOS launcher, and the download will begin automatically. Now you have full sharing capabilities between Windows and ChromeOS.
Which Windows apps run on a Chromebook via Parallels?
With Parallels Desktop for ChromeOS, you can run the majority of popular Windows apps. With a full version of Windows installed on your ChromeOS device, you can easily download and run the full desktop version of every Office app. Most PC games should also run fine using Parallels, but keep in mind gaming quality will depend on the specs of your Chromebook.
Not all functionality works exactly the same as a true Windows machine, though. It turns out you can indeed run Windows 10 on any of the top Chromebooks, provided you’re an enterprise or education customer or are willing to pay for a Google Workspace and Enterprise upgrade attached to a website domain you personally own.
If you’re willing to buy Parallels Desktop for ChromeOS, the full power of Windows comes to your Chromebook. For those who want to get started trying Parallels, hit the link in the boxes below.
Parallels Desktop for ChromeOS
Parallels Desktop is a full-featured Windows container that runs natively on ChromeOS. This software allows you to run the full version of Windows on your Chromebook.
HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook
The HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook was designed with Google, so it’s the closest thing we’ll see to a new Pixel-branded Chromebook. It has a 1,200-nit, 2560 x 1600 display, an RGB keyboard, and an Intel Core i5.