How to Run Windows Apps on Chromebook

The need to run Windows applications has traditionally been one of the biggest issues slowing broader adoption of ChromeOS devices in the enterprise. Most organizations still rely on at least a handful of legacy Windows applications – apps that either don’t have a SaaS version, or where the SaaS version doesn’t have the full functionality of their installed desktop version – which can’t run locally on Chromebooks. 

Chromebooks were designed for a more secure, cloud-connected approach to computing. But in the past it’s been tricky to bridge the gap between the classic Windows PC paradigm and today’s more nimble, flexible workplace. 

But in 2020, when Chromebooks outsold Apple Macs for the first time, even more CTOs and IT departments in enterprise organizations took notice. ChromeOS had proven to many that it was a far more secure platform than Windows OS, but still, enterprises needed access to ther Windows apps. So how do you bridge the “app gap”?

In this post, we’re going to take a look at some of the most common ways your organization can get Chrome OS and Windows software to play nice. The good news? Yes, you can run Windows software on a Chromebook. But how you choose to do it can have a big impact on the cost, complexity, and user experience.

1) Run Windows apps on a remote desktop

If your end users already have a Windows computer, you can use Google’s Chrome Remote Desktop app to access that device through a remote desktop session. This will require IT to set up a Chrome Remote Desktop extension in the Chrome web browser on the Windows PC. That process will guide you through some setup steps to securely establish the connection between the PC and the Chromebook.

Downsides to this approach? For starters, it requires each user to have a dedicated Windows PC, effectively doubling your device fleet. Also, that PC will have to be up and running whenever the Chromebook user needs to access it, which comes with practical implications as well as increased energy consumption.

The other drawback is that your users always end up interacting with the desktop environment within Chrome OS. It’s a bit like looking through a window through another window just to glimpse a view of the world outside. It doesn’t offer quite the same user experience as native-feeling desktop applications.

2) Emulate a Windows environment with Parallels Desktop

Parallels, the company known for providing cross-OS compatibility through emulators and virtual machines, has a product that enables IT departments to run desktop Windows applications—including full-featured Microsoft Office titles—on Chromebooks. Parallels Desktop is a Windows container that runs natively on Chrome OS and basically allows both operating systems to run side by side, even without an Internet connection.

This dual-OS setup might sound appealing, but it’s not exactly the best of both worlds. It comes with some elevated hardware requirements since users are now running the full version of Windows on their Chromebook. They’ll need devices with an Intel Core i5/i7 or AMD Ryzen 5/7 processor at a minimum. They’ll also need at least 8GB of RAM and 128GB of local storage. That will offset some of the cost savings of low-spec Chromebooks. 

It’s also worth considering that Parallels Desktop is largely a consumer-centric product that isn’t always ideal for enterprise environments with large pools of users. Parallels focuses on delivering a full Windows OS desktop on Macs and Chromebooks (rather than taking a Windows-independent Cloud Desktop approach), and managing these Windows desktops at scale can demand more and more of IT’s time. Most use cases might be better served by other forms of virtualization.  

3) Utilize traditional virtual desktop (VDI) or Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) products 

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Desktop as a Service (DaaS) solutions have been around for more than 25 years, and they enable you to deliver the full Windows OS to any device (Mac, Chrome OS, etc.). We cover the various flavors of traditional virtual desktops in depth on our blog (you may want to start here), but at the end of the day the biggest thing to note is that all VDI and DaaS solutions force you to deliver the full Windows OS to Chrome OS devices in order to run Windows apps. 

But most organizations are making the decision to move to Chrome OS devices so that they can reduce the cost, security concerns, and complexity of managing Windows OS devices – so why make your users access the Windows OS from their Chromebooks? 

4) Enjoy seamless Virtual Application Delivery with Cameyo 

Just a ChromeOS is the secure, cloud-first approach to modern computing, Cameyo’s Virtual App Delivery (VAD) is the secure, cloud-native approach to giving your people access to all of the apps & data they need on any device.

Cameyo’s VAD platform enables users to access full Windows desktop applications either through the Chrome browser or as Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). There’s no Windows-based virtual desktop or emulator necessary, because the apps aren’t running on the local device. 

At the same time, Cameyo ensures a more native experience for the user than any other approach. Our VAD platform’s native file system integration with Chrome OS means that end users can open, edit and save Windows applications files locally on their device. Coupled with Cameyo’s support for Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), users can also access their full-version Windows apps directly from their taskbar and launcher. And since the apps themselves aren’t stored and run locally, organizations can even deploy Chromebooks with more economical specs.

The result is uncompromised performance, ease of use and cost-effectiveness. Let’s say a Chromebook user wants to work with the full desktop version of Microsoft Excel (instead of the Office 365 version that doesn’t support macros). Thanks to Cameyo, they can simply click on the app icon in their taskbar, work in their spreadsheet just as they would on a Windows PC, then save the file – either locally or in your org’s cloud storage of choice – for later access or sharing. There’s no VPN or remote desktop client to mess with.

With Cameyo, you unlock the full benefits of ChromeOS with a Windows-independent Cloud Desktop that allows your people to work exactly as they always have, without the cost, complexity, and security issues of Windows OS.

The preferred way to run your business’ Windows apps on a Chromebook

Google has already recognized Cameyo as one of only 3 Chrome Enterprise Recommended solutions globally for virtualization. And the wider Windows community has also been taking an interest in how Cameyo is opening up Chromebooks to enterprise adoption.

 But don’t take our word for it. Here’s how some of our enterprise customers are utilizing Cameyo’s VAD platform with Chrome OS devices to deliver secure, full-featured Google virtual desktops:

  • “As a G Suite customer, we love how integrated Cameyo is with Google. We don’t have to configure a thing – everyone simply logs in with their Google account info, and they instantly have access to all of their applications.” — Emir Saffar, CIO at Ur&Penn
  • “The most critical need was the ability to deliver our Windows-based ERP system, VismaBusiness, to all of our employees even though they are now utilizing ChromeOS devices. Cameyo played a critical role in enabling our transition to Chrome Enterprise” — Christian Ahlin, Group Head of IT at Nordward
  • “Cameyo’s platform plays a critical role in enabling our Digital Workplace strategy by removing the legacy application roadblocks that were preventing widespread Chrome adoption. Cameyo’s VAD platform is the perfect blend of simplicity, a seamless user experience, and advanced security.” — Mario Zúñiga, IT Director, Digital Workplace at Sanmina

If your organization is using, planning to use, or even just curious about ChromeOS devices and you still need access to Windows apps – Cameyo can help. Take a few seconds to sign up today for your free trial of Cameyo and see if Virtual App Delivery is the right solution for your environment. Or to get a one-on-one tutorial from one of our engineers, feel free to request a demo instead.