Chromebooks have always been great if you can do your work with web apps (and now Android and Linux apps). But most people still find themselves keeping a separate Windows machine for specific tasks. That might change soon.
The “AltOS” feature first started appearing in Chrome OS commits back in April. Those first commits revealed Windows support, leading us to believe that Google intended to let users boot both Windows and Chrome OS on the same machine. All of the commits so far reference “Eve”, the codename for the Pixelbook’s motherboard.
The next round of commits showed up in September. This gave us the icon that may be used when the Chromebook boots to a different OS, as well as some of the keyboard combinations users will have to press to boot to the alternate OS. There’s no telling if these key combos are just for Google’s internal testing, or if it will survive until the feature is on consumer devices.
That brings us to today. Google appears to be continuing its work on letting Chromebook users install Windows 10 right alongside Chrome OS. There appear to be some caveats, of course, the main one being storage. About Chromebooks’ Kevin Tofel states that Chromebooks will likely need at least 40 GB of free storage to dual boot Windows, because Windows needs room for the OS itself and space to download updates. This excludes most Chromebooks under $500 since the machine will need to ship with 64 GB or more of internal storage at the very least.
The latest round of commits also mentions how the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) will handle multiple operating systems without compromising security, though there isn’t any real user-facing information just yet. This isn’t something the end user really needs to care about anyway, but they’re critical steps in making sure Dual-Boot will work properly and securely.
Right now, it appears Google is still only testing this feature—codenamed “Campfire” and likely to be officially named “Dual-Boot”—on the Pixelbook. There’s a precedent for new features coming to Google’s own devices first. Google has offered other features like Google Assistant integration on the Pixelbook before making it available to other Chromebooks.
Of course, you may have been able to dual-boot Windows and Chrome OS in the past, but it was hacky at best and involved installing custom firmware. This newer method will presumably just require a toggle in the Settings menu.
While we should see dual-booting with Windows come to the Pixelbook soon, there’s no telling when (or if) the feature will come to other Chromebooks. When Android and Linux app support rolled out, some reasonably modern Chromebooks didn’t get those because they used an old kernel version. There’s a chance the same thing will happen when it comes to Windows support.