Use Android apps on older Chromebooks

This article applies to Chrome devices for education and enterprise administrators.

Starting with Chrome OS version 60, many older Chrome devices started supporting Android apps. To run Android apps on these older Chrome devices, migrate user profile data to Android N’s new filesystem. This requires careful planning to minimize end-user disruption and prevent unintentional data-loss.

By default, the No Migration setting has been selected in the Admin console, and we recommend that most schools keep this option if they do not intend to use Android Apps on older Chromebooks. However, if you want to use Android apps on these older Chrome devices, follow the steps below to select the migration path for these devices.

Select which devices to turn on for Android apps

Inventory which types of devices you have and which ones you want to enable for Android apps. Most devices launched in 2017 and later do not require migration. Decide if you have any older devices that you want to enable Android for. If not, you do not need to change any migration setting (as by default, it will be set to No Migration). If you do want to enable Android on older devices, you will need to migrate your devices to the new filesystem and decide which migration path works best for your organization.

Chrome devices with Android fit into two categories:

1. Newer devices (launched with Android N, NO MIGRATION NEEDED)

See this Chromium page. The devices that support Android on the stable channel (without a star [*]) do not require migration. These natively support Android apps on Chrome OS and no migration is needed. Follow these steps to enable Android applications on Chrome Devices.

2. Older devices getting Android N for the first time (REQUIRE MIGRATION)

See this Chromium page. The devices listed with a star [*] require migration before your users can run Android apps on these Chromebooks. If you manage devices in this list on Chromium, follow the instructions below on how to migrate user profile data.

Three options to migrate your user profile data

The file system migration will migrate all data in the user profile and therefore will be hard to predict across a large fleet how much time it will take, from 1-10 minutes or more per user profile. Therefore these controls were developed to make the migration more predictable but you should proceed with caution and ensure you test this on a small OU before rolling out fleet-wide.

Before you begin: To turn the service on or off for select groups of users, put their accounts in an organizational unit.

  1. Sign in to the Google Admin console.
  2. From the Admin console dashboard, go to Device management.
  3. On the left, click Chrome management.
  4. Click User settings
  5. The setting is under File System Migration.

Note that the migration setting is a user setting, just like enabling Android applications on Chromebook settings. Furthermore for user-created profiles on devices after Chrome version 60 or 61, their profiles are already using an Android N compatible file system and they will not need any migration.

1. Wipe data on migration

This will wipe any data stored in a user profile upon next login. This is the recommended option for most schools. This option works well for schools with younger students and in shared environments where important data is saved to the cloud (for example, in Google Drive).

IMPORTANT: Because you’ll be wiping the data on the device, be sure to message your students and teachers to backup anything stored locally on the Chromebook (such as photos and video) before selecting this option.

Test this migration option first with a small organization unit before doing this widely across your school. Setting this will wipe the user’s profile on next login. Let the Chromebook update to Chrome OS version 61 or later. When the user recreates their profile, it will be created in the new Ext4 filesystem encryption compatible with Android N.

2. User choice

For business employees or schools with one student per Chromebook, you can consider this option. Each user will decide if they want to go through the migration process when they start up the Chromebook once it updates to Chrome OS version 61 or later. Note they will not be able to use Android apps until they go through the migration.

3. Force users to migrate

We don’t recommend this option for most schools, as this feature is largely for enterprise customers. Selecting this option will force your users to migrate their user profile to the Ext4 filesystem when they try to sign in to their account on an older Chromebook.

To determine the status of Android apps support on other Chrome devices, please continue to consult the list of Chrome OS Systems Supporting Android Apps.


What action do I need to take?

We recommend that most IT Administrators who do not require Android Apps should keep the default option of ‘no migration’ selected. However, if you want users on older Chrome devices to be able to use Android apps on their Chromebooks, follow the instructions above.

How does this filesystem migration affect my devices?

This migration is for Android N compatibility only, and won’t affect how the Chromebook operates.

How long does a migration take, on average?

1-10 minutes (or more) per Chromebook when the user first signs in after the device has been updated to Chrome OS version 61. The migration depends entirely on the amount of data stored locally in the user profile.

If I pick ‘User choice’, what happens if a user opts against the migration when they sign in on their Chromebook?

After login, users can choose whether to migrate their profile data or skip the migration until the next login. If they choose to migrate, use of the device will be blocked until the migration completes. If they choose to skip, they can use the device immediately. However if they want to use any Android apps, they will need to complete the migration process first.

I have a classroom where there are multiple user profiles on each Chromebook. If a student does the migration on one Chromebook, do they still need to do it on others?

Yes. This is why we recommend using the Wipe data on migration option for shared environments, and provide ample communication to teachers and students to store any important files to Google Drive.

Does this migration apply to only managed devices?

No. The file system migration is a User setting just like enabling Android apps on Chromebooks. This means that the setting applies to managed accounts, not devices.

Does this migration affect any of the other Android-supporting Chromebooks?

No, the only devices affected are listed above. The newer Chrome devices listed on this page are not affected by this announcement.

I have devices that are listed as needing migration but only some users are prompted to migrate, others get Android apps immediately. Why is this?

Local user profiles created on the device with an older version of Chrome OS (prior to 60 or 61) will need migration. Profiles created by a newer version of Chrome OS already support Android N and do not need migration. Thus, depending on when the user’s profile was created on the device, they may never need to migrate. Also, removing a user’s profile from a device and then logging in again will create a new profile that does not require migration.

Are Chrome kiosk devices affected?

Chrome kiosks apps are not affected by the migration. Android kiosk apps will be migrated silently in the background.

What if I have devices in my organization that span different categories?

First, you need to determine which categories your devices fall into. For example if you have ASUS Chromebook Flip C213 (newer 2017 device) and ASUS Chromebook C202SAs (older device), the Flip C213 won’t require any data migration to use Android apps whereas the C202SA will. You have a couple of options depending on which devices you want to enable Android apps:

  • If you want Android apps only on your newer C213, just enable Android apps on Chromebooks and set the file system migration setting to No Migration. This will enable Android apps for your C213s but not your C202SAs (and users on these devices will see no migration).
  • If you want Android apps on both devices, you enable Android apps on Chromebooks and set the file system migration to one of the options listed above.

What happens if I upgrade the filesystem, activate Android apps and then disable the Android app activation?

The filesystem migration cannot be rolled back. Your users would have no access to Android apps, but their filesystems would remain on ext4.


This article was last updated on March 12, 2018

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