Microsoft has made an unprecedented offer in allowing users of Windows 7 and Windows 8 upgrade to Windows 10 in the first year of its release. But older PCs that run Windows XP and Windows Vista are out of the loop. Those wanting to speed up their operation and beef up their security with a free option have traditionally had to turn to powerful but complex Linux options.

Now, though a company called Neverware has created a relatively simple way to turn these laptops (or desktops) into Chrome OS devices using the simple, secure and speedy operating system developed by Google. Dubbed CloudReady, the process involves downloading a file and then tracking down a Web app called the Chromebook Recovery Utility to send it to a USB flash drive. Once the flash drive is ready the PC must be set o boot from the flash drive.

As with many "live" Linux installations, you can try out Chrome OS from the flash drive. This is a good option to make sure things work although it will be slow. Once satisfied, you can install Chrome OS but make sure you do a complete backup of anything you want on the old PC as it will be completely erased and replaced with Chrome.

Overall, Chrome OS is a great option for older PCs, Unlike with Android, it is optimized for keyboards and mice or trackpads. but there are a few caveats to keep in mind. The operating system and its Web apps still are far more useful when they have access to Wi-Fi. This issue is exacerbated a bit when working with older PCs as they may not support newer, faster Wi-Fi standards.

Older processors are often not as energy-efficient as more modern ones so battery life may not be as impressive as it would be on a cheap Chromebook (or even new sub-$300 Windows laptops). This is particularly true given that many of these laptops have hard drives as opposed to the flash memory on modern Chromebooks. In general, though, Web tasks should be a bit zippier, particularly if the PC was using an older version of Internet Explorer.