While many people predicted ChromeOS would be dead before it ever reached the apex of public notoriety, the operating system is going strong, receiving regular updates, and growing beyond what anyone could have expected. It may not be in a position to challenge Windows or macOS, but what used to be a tiny, niche market has grown into a cloud productivity powerhouse. But does ChromeOS have distinguishing features that could give it an edge over our household tech giants? Let’s look at the differences between ChromeOS and Windows to see what’s under the hood.

Windows vs ChromeOS: Side-By-Side Comparison

WindowsChromeOS
Source Code AvailabilityPartially Open-SourceOpen-Source
System Stability0.2–0.3% crash rateCrash rate unpublished
System File Size15+ GB~8 GB
Mobile IntegrationPartial Integration with AndroidPartial Integration with Android
SecurityWindows DefenderGoogle Security
Disk TypeHDD or SSDSSD
KernelWindowsLinux
windows vs chromeos
ChromeOS does not require as much storage space, as the files are mostly stored in the Cloud.

Windows vs ChromeOS: What’s the Difference?

ChromeOS and Windows are both operating systems that compete in the home computer industry. Windows is typically the frontrunner in most home computer races. However, recent upgrades and additions to the ChromeOS operating system have positioned it as a more powerful juggernaut in the computing world. What seemed like a Hail Mary from Google has become an open-source operating system juggernaut for cloud productivity.

Here are a few of the main differences between ChromeOS and Windows.

Source Code Availability

For starters, ChromeOS is a completely open-source operating system. That means 100% of the operating system’s code is freely available online. This mentality contrasts strongly with Windows, which is only partially open-source.

In addition, Microsoft’s transition to a more open-source platform is relatively recent. The original CEOs of Microsoft, Bill Gates, and Steve Ballmer, viewed communal sharing of code as a threat to their business. Thus, they resisted any attempts or suggestions leading Microsoft toward an open-source state.

However, this mentality changed when Satya Nadella became CEO of Microsoft. Nadella began by publishing Microsoft’s .NET Framework as an open-source project. Then, in 2018, Microsoft acquired GitHub, the leading open-source software exchange site. Since then, Microsoft engineers have been blazing open-source trails and are frequently the top contributors to GitHub. Microsoft has also released many of its projects, from the Windows UI Library to the Windows Calculator app, as open-source projects.

However, it would be nearly impossible to beat ChromeOS, an operating system that has been open-source since day 1. ChromeOS is based on the Chromium internet browser, Google’s open-source version of the Google Chrome internet browser.

System Stability

It’s hard to say for sure which system is more stable. Unfortunately, Google hasn’t published many statistics regarding crash rates for ChromeOS. However, cursory searching on Google seems to bring up a lot of anecdotal documentation for system crashes in ChromeOS. Still, you wouldn’t be able to extrapolate a rate of crashes from just that.

The crash rate for Windows isn’t directly published. However, we can extrapolate a rough estimate of crash rates from their success rate. Microsoft recently released a statement saying they would allow older systems that “may not meet the system requirements” for Windows 11 to upgrade their operating system anyway. They reported that this would have a higher crash rate, approximately 52% higher than the crash rate for Windows 11 PCs that meet the system requirements.

They also said that PCs that meet the system requirements experienced crash-free use around 99.8% of the time, leaving a 0.2% crash rate. So, ~50% higher would be 0.3%. That’s an exceptionally low crash rate.

Reducing the crash rate of your system isn’t necessarily based on your system itself. Instead, this is based on how you use your computer. For example, Microsoft reported that the vast majority of crashes that occur on Windows machines are due to conflicting third-party drivers.

System File Size

Windows is also a significantly heavier operating system. Installing the operating system onto a machine requires around 15 GB of free space. These files include everything needed to run the operating system, from instructions on handling drivers to UI elements. Many of these frameworks and libraries can be found online nowadays. Still, Windows has to install the files to the correct folders (so the operating system can find them) and organize all the files in a logical hierarchy that the computer can follow.

Most Windows PCs have at least 500 GB of disk space. As a result of the larger operating system, using the PC would be extremely difficult if you had less, as you wouldn’t have room to download all the runtimes and programs you need to get through your daily computing life.

Conversely, ChromeOS is a highly lightweight operating system. It requires just 8GB of disk space, and many Chrome machines are installed with a mere 16 GB SSD. This light operating capacity is achieved by moving the primary storage to a cloud instead of local disk storage.

By moving all storage of the main motherboard, the operating system can achieve a lightweight operating system that operates on even weaker computers and those with smaller disk drives. This makes it ideal for anyone not planning on using many standalone programs.

Security

Both operating systems come with preinstalled security features and receive regular security updates. However, there are some notable catches and flaws to the security features of both operating systems.

For starters, Microsoft has allowed older PCs to upgrade to Windows 11. However, they have stated that they will not be providing updates to PCs that don’t match the system requirements. Meaning anyone who upgrades an older PC to Windows 11 won’t be able to get system updates, including security updates.

On the other hand, Chrome OS is one of the most secure operating systems you can use. Due to how many people are looking at the code and how quick Google is to fix flaws and plug holes, you’re unlikely to run into many problems. Even if you did, ChromeOS is a multilayer Linux-based operating system with several more layers of protection after the initial wall.

ChromeOS has a few significant security features that aren’t present in Windows machines. Firstly, the code is open-source. So, thousands of eyes watch its every move and scan it for flaws and security holes. ChromeOS also features sandboxing, complete OS recovery, and data encryption surpassing almost every operating system.

Hardware Options

Both operating systems can be found on a wide range of hardware choices. While macOS and Linux aren’t rare, they’re much less common than ChromeOS and Windows. Windows is by and far the leading operating system. It can be found on many devices, from very low-power options to very high-power options.

ChromeOS tends to be a low-power option as the PCs focus on cloud-based work rather than hard storage. As such, they tend to be outfitted with lower-powered parts as they will primarily use mobile and browser apps.

Both operating systems can be found on devices from several big-name manufacturers like Samsung, Lenovo, and Hewlett-Packard.

Reparability and Planned Obsolescence

Reparability with Windows machines is typically based on whether you’ve purchased a desktop PC or a laptop. Laptops have far less reparability and generally are designed with planned obsolescence. Planned obsolescence in laptops is far less intentional. Instead, it’s a product of innovation and lack of standardization in laptop parts.

Most laptops are built using a lot of in-house-made parts that are designed for specific models. For instance, ultra-thin laptops need flat, thin parts that would never be made for a different model. Similarly, any parts made for a different model aren’t going to fit in an ultra-thin laptop.

Since ChromeOS is a laptop-only operating system, it will be hard to repair your laptop. All repairs will likely have to go through the original manufacturer; outside technology repair services like Geek Squad will probably be able to order parts directly from the manufacturers to service your laptop. However, these come at a price, and people who are used to servicing their own desktops won’t be able to transfer those skills as easily.

Mobile Integration

Both ChromeOS and Windows have partial integration for Android. However, ChromeOS’s Android integration is far superior to Windows. Since Android is a Google property, it made sense for Google to include some integration with ChromeOS. For many people, this was a deciding factor in switching over.

When ChromeOS was first released, it was a standalone operating system with little integration for Android apps or connectivity. However, Google decided to integrate Android with ChromeOS to unify their two operating systems and provide a more similar experience to OS X’s integration of macOS and iOS/iPadOS. While many naysayers had a go at them for making this decision, it couldn’t have been a better decision overall for the company.

The integration of Android was slow and took several years to be built and fleshed out. But now, almost seamless integration between Android and ChromeOS allows the system to utilize Android apps. Of course, not all apps are compatible with Android, but most are. So, if you have a favorite Android app that you like to use for productivity, you might be able to get it working with a Chromebook!

windows vs chromeos
Windows machines are usually more versatile than ChromeOS machines.

File Management

File management works a bit differently between ChromeOS and Windows. This difference occurs because the two systems use vastly different methodologies for storing data. Windows prefers to keep data locally on a hard disk or solid-state drive. Conversely, ChromeOS focuses on cloud storage and uses very little disk space.

Gaming

Choosing a system for gaming is going to depend more on what games you play and less on which system is actually better for gaming. ChromeOS has little to no integration for gaming except Android apps. If you’re the type to have Android apps as your main gaming platform, this could be good for you. However, gamers who prefer more traditional games will want to choose Windows as it’s the powerhouse gaming platform.

ChromeOS users who want to play games can use Wine or CrossOver, applications that allow Linux kernel operating systems to run Windows platform games. However, these applications don’t provide the full support that running a Windows machine would. They also don’t guarantee that your game will run as intended. Driver issues and other backend conflicts can prevent the game from running as intended, even when using something like Wine or CrossOver.

Linux Virtual Machine

However, all is not lost for gamers who want to use a ChromeOS machine as their primary computer. As long as your Chromebook is new enough to support the full integration of the Linux operating system that is packaged with newer versions. That’s right. ChromeOS comes pre-packaged with a fully functional Linux virtual machine.

While a virtual machine isn’t quite as good as a raw dual-boot (it uses more resources to run a virtual machine versus booting a different operating system), this is an excellent reason to get your hands on a Chromebook, especially if you might be developing software that needs compatibility with Linux. This virtual machine allows users to run and test apps for Linux while still using ChromeOS in the background.

When combined with CrossOver, you can functionally be running applications for three operating systems all at once. Though be careful with it, you might find that less robust machines have trouble handling and running all that simultaneously.

Windows vs ChromeOS: Must-Know Facts

  • ChromeOS is one of the most secure operating systems available.
  • Windows machines are more versatile than ChromeOS machines.
  • ChromeOS can run Windows apps using CrossOver and has a built-in Linux virtual machine.
  • Windows has the highest compatibility with video games on the market.
  • ChromeOS can natively run Android apps.

Windows vs ChromeOS: Which One Is Better?

Deciding to switch home operating systems is something many people go through while working. It makes sense to want to get the most out of your computer and for some people that may involve switching operating systems. Windows and ChromeOS are two frontrunners in the operating system game and while they have some things in common, they’re very different, as you can see.

Windows vs ChromeOS: Full Comparison FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Chromebooks just an internet browser?

ChromeOS has blossomed and flourished past its stage as a glorified internet browser. ChromeOS is a full-fledged operating system with native application support, and, at this point, can run up to two concurrent machines. Not so much of an repackaged Chrome anymore, yeah?

Do all Chromebooks have Linux integration?

All modern Chromebooks have Linux integration. Like with Android app integration, very old models from the beginning of ChromeOS’s history will likely not be able to support Linux, both on the soft and hardware side.

Are Windows machines better than Chromebooks?

Windows machines are certainly more versatile than Chromebooks, but Chromebooks have unique features that help them stand out from the crowd. If you’re looking to have a “catch-all” machine, Windows is a better choice.

Are Chromebooks slower than Windows machines?

Chromebooks and Windows machines have similar speeds when performing their expected functions. Chromebooks may experience slowdown when attempting to run a heavier Windows app that the hardware does not support, like a video game.

Do all Chromebooks support Android apps?

No. Very old Chromebooks do not support Android integration. However, all Chromebooks currently on the market support app integration with Android.

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  • Google Available here: https://www.google.com/chromebook/chrome-os/
  • Microsoft Available here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows?r=1
  • Parallels Available here: https://www.parallels.com/tips/chrome-os/vs-windows/
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Windows
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ChromeOS