Google’s Chrome OS is great at a lot of things, but it lacks functionality compared with heavier operating systems like Windows or MacOS. Google has been working behind the scenes for months to develop a so-called “Alt OS” mode to run Windows 10 on a Chromebook
Spotted by XDA-Developers, “Campfire” is a new project for Chrome OS which, when active, may allow Chromebook owners to dual-boot Windows 10 on their devices. This isn’t something that would work exclusively on the Pixelbook either, as the code mentioned clearly lays out that multiple Chromebooks would be able to use this feature.
How would this all work? Well for one, before anyone gets too excited, there are some big limits on this. Google isn’t just flipping a switch and letting every Chromebook owner do this. Rather, the machine would have to be verified by the OEM to support Windows 10, probably just like Google did recently for the Pixelbook. This feature also wouldn’t require running developer mode like other dual-booting options have in the past.
After digging into the source code, the report states that the developers have reworked the RW_LEGACY ROM section on Chromebooks that gives users the ability to dual-boot into an alternative OS. This was rarely used, but Campfire will now ensure regular auto updates to RW_LEGACY. The report also states that a recent commit also states that enabling Alt OS will be a very easy process from the user’s end too, and just a simple command should suffice
Google developers appear to have set a minimum threshold of 40GB to install Windows 10 on a Chromebook with Campfire. You need at least 30GB for Windows with another 10GB reserved for Chrome OS. Google’s platform relies almost entirely on web apps and services, so you can manage with just a few gigs of space. Windows is desirable because you can install more software, which takes a lot of space. 30GB is actually rather tight after you account for all the OS files. Ths small size of Chrome OS means many devices ship with 32GB or less storage. None of these computers would support Alt OS.
Manufacturers would also need to certify their Chromebooks for Windows 10 before Campfire would work. Most Chromebooks use similar hardware to their Windows-running cousins, so it should be a relatively simple matter to ensure driver support exists. There will most likely be hardware restrictions as well. Chrome OS can run on less powerful ARM chips, but Windows usually needs x86. Only a few Windows laptops have launched on high-end ARM chips, and they’re limited compared to x86 platforms.
As of now, there is no clarity on when Google will officially unveil Campfire, on Pixelbook and other Chromebook owners to run Windows 10 on their device. But with the Pixel 3 event likely coming up in early October, it’s possible we’ll learn more then. Stay tuned!