Google’s Chrome OS has gotten a lot of ink lately, and for good reason: It’s easy to install, zippy, and—insofar as thin-client operating systems go—powerful. But as ubiquitous as Chrome is in the news these days, it isn’t the only web-based operating system in town. Jolicloud, or as Jolicloud developers prefer to call it these days, Joli OS, has been making low-powered netbooks, PCs, tablets, and web browsers more productive since 2009.
Savvy users who opt to install Joli OS as a secondary operating system to complement their existing Windows 7 installation will find that booting into the thin client is so fast that they’ve already logged on, fired off an email, and moved on with their lives in the time it would take for Windows 7 to load to its boot screen. Setting up your PC to dual-boot into Windows 7 and Joli OS couldn’t be easier, with the whole process taking no more than 45 minutes and a single download. Here’s how it’s done.
If you’re going to install Joli OS, you’ll have to download it first. The thin client’s developers offer the operating system in a variety of flavors. The easiest way to install Joli (and the one we’re going to use for this tutorial), is the Keep Windows option, presented prominently on the Jolicloud download page (above). Click it and download the OS’s installation package to your desktop.
It’s time to get this thin-client installation show on the road. Double-click the Joli OS Installer and tell Windows to back off when it warns you that it doesn’t recognize the package’s publisher. After taking a few moments to extract, the package will greet you with an installation dialog.
Click the Get Started button (above, top). You’ll be asked to select a username and password for your Joli OS installation (above, bottom). Select something easy to remember, while at the same time giving truck to the importance of strong password protection. Once you’ve noodled out your new thin client’s login credentials, click Next.
By default, the installation package will want to set up shop on your C: drive. If you’re OK with the location and partition size suggested, click Next. If they rub you the wrong way, click the option to change the configuration (above). Your PC can rock a Joli OS installation with as little as 4GB of space. Once you’ve wrangled the installation settings you’re after, click Next. Joli OS will install to your system, prompting you to go for a coffee. If you choose to do so, you’d better make it a quick one—after repeated installations, we’ve found the whole process to average less than five minutes in length.
Once the installation process is complete, you’ll be prompted to reboot your system. Do so. Thanks to some behind-the-scenes magic and GNU Project’s GRUB bootloader, you’ll find that you’re now rocking a dual-boot system that asks which OS—Joli or Windows 7—you want to boot into at startup. For the sake of this tutorial, use your keyboard’s arrow keys to select Joli OS (below), and hit Enter.
You’ll be rewarded with a Joli OS splash screen, followed shortly thereafter by a dialog and progress bar explaining that your Joli OS installation is being completed. In hindsight, we’re sure the Joli OS devs would agree that this would be a way better place to go and grab a cup of java than during the unpacking process. As svelte an OS as Joli is, the last leg of its installation took a surprisingly long time to complete. That said, your patience will be rewarded with one of the best dual-boot thin-client experiences currently available. Once the installation process is complete, Joli OS will automatically restart your system, booting back into the OS so that you can get down to business.
Whether you decided to take a coffee break or not, sooner or later your Joli OS installation will be complete and ready to use. Remember those login credentials we had you decide on back in Step 2? It’s their time to shine: Once Joli OS has restarted, enter them in the field provided. You’ll then be asked to either log into your existing Jolicloud account, or create one (below). For existing Jolicloud users, logging in will connect your Joli OS installation to your account, allowing any of the preferences, settings, or documents that you’ve created with other iterations of Joli OS to sync with your new hardware-bound version of the operating system. For users that are new to Jolicloud and Joli OS, creating an account is not only a requirement for rocking the thin client on your computer, it is also a fantastic way to access all of your personal information, documents, and preferred applications everywhere you go, via the Jolicloud website, a dedicated Chrome app, thumbstick installations, and hardware dedicated to the operating system.
You’ll then be asked to describe what kind of hardware you’ve installed the OS to, as well as your computer’s brand and model. This assists Joli OS in serving you the best drivers and updates for your particular rig. It could also come in handy later, should you decide to utilize the OS in multiple locations and need to differentiate between which installation is which.
Now that you’ve installed your Joli OS thin client, you’re ready to reap the benefits of what a dual-booting super rig like yours now has to offer. For heavier tasks, like hardcore gaming, and photo manipulation, there’s no question that Windows 7 is the right platform for the job. If all you’re interested in is a bit of word processing, web browsing, or catching up on your email, you’ll find Joli OS more than capable. What’s more, Joli OS’s low power requirements make it perfectly suited for road warriors looking to stay productive on a cross-country flight with nothing more than the charge in their laptop’s battery, or for those of us who don’t have the patience to wait for our computers to boot into a more robust OS.
If for any reason you ever decide that Joli OS isn’t for you, getting rid of it is even easier than installing it. Simply boot into Windows with an Administrator account, navigate to your Control Panel > Programs > Programs and Features > Uninstall. Locate Jolicloud in the list of applications and uninstall it as you would anything else. Boom: Your rig is back to being a mono-boot beast.