Differences between ChromeOS Flex and ChromeOS

ChromeOS and ChromeOS Flex share underlying technology and management tools. When you install ChromeOS Flex on Windows, Mac, or Linux devices, you get most of the features and benefits of ChromeOS. However, ChromeOS Flex has some important differences compared to ChromeOS, which is only available on Chromebooks, Chromeboxes, and Chromebases.

Security

  • Verified boot and Google security chip: ChromeOS devices contain a Google security chip that helps to protect the system and verify that hardware and OS are trusted. Because ChromeOS Flex devices don’t contain a Google security chip, the ChromeOS verified boot procedure is not available on them.
    As an alternative, Microsoft reviewed and approved ChromeOS Flex’s bootloader to optionally support UEFI Secure boot. Secure boot can’t provide the security guarantees of ChromeOS verified boot, but it can maintain the same boot security as Windows devices, preventing unknown third-party operating systems from booting on ChromeOS Flex devices. See Microsoft documentation.
    Google recommends that you turn on Secure boot on all your ChromeOS Flex devices
  • Firmware updates: Unlike ChromeOS devices, ChromeOS Flex devices do not manage and automatically update their BIOS or UEFI firmware. Instead, device OEMs provide updates. Update procedures vary by model and need to be managed by device administrators.
  • TPM and encryption: Like ChromeOS, ChromeOS Flex automatically encrypts user data. However, not all ChromeOS Flex devices have a supported Trusted Platform Module (TPM) to protect encryption keys at a hardware level. Without a supported TPM, data is still encrypted, but might be more vulnerable to attack. Review the Certified models list to check if your models support TPM on ChromeOS Flex. Learn more about TPM on ChromeOS Flex.

Supported VMs and apps

  • Google Play and Android apps: ChromeOS Flex does not support Android apps or Google Play.
  • Parallels Desktop: ChromeOS Flex does not support running Windows virtual machines (VMs) using Parallels Desktop.
  • Linux development environment: Support for Linux development environment on ChromeOS Flex varies, depending on the specific model. Review the Certified models list to check if your models support Linux on ChromeOS Flex.

Hardware support and performance

  • Only certified models are supported: You can run ChromeOS Flex on most computers with Intel or AMD processors. ChromeOS Flex does not support ARM architecture. To provide a reliable and predictable experience, Google has tested and optimized many of the world’s most popular models of Windows, Mac, and Linux devices. Check the Certified models list to see all the models that are maintained by Google for ChromeOS Flex. Learn more about ChromeOS Flex certification.
    While many non-certified devices might work, Google guarantees only those on the list. Learn more about installing ChromeOS Flex on non-certified devices.
    Only certified models that you enroll in the Google Admin console are eligible for support.
  • Keyboard differences: ChromeOS Flex devices don't share the ChromeOS keyboard layout. Instead, they have their original OS layout and shortcuts. So, on ChromeOS Flex devices some keyboard shortcuts or function keys don’t work the same as Chromebooks. For details about how to change the function of keys, see Shortcuts on external keyboards.
    Some keyboard shortcuts or functions printed on ChromeOS Flex keyboards might be irrelevant, especially if they are specific to another OS. Or, keys might act differently than what is printed on the keyboard. Review the Certified models list for notes on unexpected behaviors for your particular models.
  • Ports and features not tested or supported on ChromeOS Flex: Some hardware capabilities on Windows, Mac, and Linux devices are not officially supported for ChromeOS Flex. They might not work as expected, or even not work at all.
    Even if these ports or features work on devices, they’re not tested or maintained on ChromeOS Flex. Unsupported ports and features include:
    • CD and DVD drives
    • Fingerprint readers
    • FireWire ports
    • Infrared (IR) and face recognition cameras
    • Proprietary connectors and docks
    • Stylus and active pen input
    • Thunderbolt functionality
      Note: Although Thunderbolt functionality is not supported, Thunderbolt ports using USB-C or mini-Displayport can still be used for any USB3, USB4, and Displayport functionality the port is capable of.
  • Differences in performance guarantees and standards: While you get many performance, power, and reliability benefits by installing ChromeOS Flex, we cannot guarantee the same performance as ChromeOS devices.
    Some factors that might vary by model on ChromeOS Flex include:
    • Boot speed
    • Battery life
    • Power savings

Management

  • Zero-touch enrollment: ChromeOS Flex doesn’t currently support zero-touch enrollment. You can enroll ChromeOS Flex devices in the same way you enroll ChromeOS devices in your organization. For details, see Enroll ChromeOS devices and Mass enroll Chromebooks.
  • Forced re-enrollment: Because the ChromeOS underlying firmware and hardware were not originally designed for ChromeOS Flex, devices don’t support forced re-enrollment. Instead, we recommend that you prevent unauthorized users from wiping devices. For example, use a secure BIOS or UEFI administrator password, and be sure to disable external bootable media after you install ChromeOS Flex.
  • Verified access and verified mode: Because ChromeOS Flex devices lack a Google security chip and are unable to use verified boot, you might find that the Verified access and Verified mode policies don’t behave as expected. Even if turned on, services that require verified access or verified mode might fail or have errors.
    Sometimes, you might need to configure Verified access and Verified mode specifically for ChromeOS Flex devices. If so, move ChromeOS Flex devices to an organizational unit that does not contain ChromeOS devices. That way, security for your ChromeOS devices is unaffected by changes that you make.
  • SCEP is supported: Simple Certificate Enrollment Protocol (SCEP) is supported on ChromeOS Flex. When you add and configure a SCEP profile, for Security, select Relaxed. For details, see Set up SCEP certificate profiles for ChromeOS devices.

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