How to run AutoCAD on a Chromebook in two easy ways

It’s a common misconception that Chromebooks aren’t capable of running powerful software found on PCs or Macs. If you are an engineering student, you may need to run some fairly intensive applications on your laptop. Chromebooks are a great option for students because they are secure and economical.

If you’re an engineering student using a Chromebook, you’ll likely need to run AutoCAD for some of your coursework. Unlike a PC, AutoCAD does not offer a native installation of Chrome OS. Fortunately, there are still a few easy ways to take advantage of the drawing power of AutoCAD on a Chromebook or other Chrome OS device. We’ll take a look at the online version of AutoCAD for students and explain how to run the full version of AutoCAD using Parallels for Business Customers.

How to run AutoCAD on a Chromebook using the browser

If you only need AutoCAD for very basic tasks, like an introductory engineering or drawing course, your best bet is to run AutoCAD in the browser or use the progressive web app ( PWA). AutoCAD offers a robust online platform for cloud computing with a fair amount of power.

To use AutoCAD online, all you need to do is log into your university or organization AutoDesk account and choose the online option. If you are already logged in to your AutoDesk account, you can directly access the online platform via web.autocad.com.

CAD web application auto splash

The main disadvantage of using AutoCAD online is that you have to store the files in the cloud. Fortunately, AutoCAD makes it easy to integrate any cloud service you desire with their web application. This is in stark contrast to the case of MATLAB Online, which I covered a few weeks ago.

In the AutoCAD web app, you can choose Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, Google Drive, and others as the primary cloud storage service. This option makes it much easier to use AutoCAD in the browser for homework and collaborative projects.

automatic storage of cad web applications

AutoCAD Web Application Performance

The speed in the browser is honestly pretty impressive. AutoCAD works great in the web application for most 2D design tasks. There is a little lag if you try a more advanced 3D drawing, but that’s to be expected. Features found in the web application include:

  • Edit geometry and select, move, rotate and resize objects in drawings via the ribbon or command line of your choice.
  • Access easy-to-use drawing tools and manage views, properties, and layers. Reduce eye strain with crisp icons and a modern blue interface.
  • Safely review and add comments directly to a DWG file without modifying the existing drawing.
  • Send a controlled copy of your drawing to your teammates and colleagues for access wherever they are.
  • View, edit, share, and save drawings stored in Autodesk Drive and Autodesk Docs, as well as OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box.
  • Easily access the command line, which is docked at the bottom left of the drawing area and displays prompts, options, and messages.
  • Take measurements and add dimensions to your designs.

automatic CAD web application function

Admittedly, there are few advanced rotation and manipulation features only in the PC version of AutoCAD, but the capability of the web application is impressive overall.

autocad web application demo

How to run AutoCAD extensions for Chrome OS

For those who plan to use the AutoCAD app frequently, you can also add a shortcut to the web app in your Chromebook’s app drawer.

You can also install a Google Drive extension for the AutoCAD web app through Google Workspace Marketplace. This allows you to integrate AutoCAD directly with Google Drive. Once this extension is installed, you can use the “Open with” option in Drive by right-clicking to open files directly in AutoCAD.

auto cad reader app

Obviously, it is much nicer to use a local copy of AutoCAD on a PC, which has additional features and local file storage. Still, for students using AutoCAD for their homework, this should get the job done. You can always choose to move files between AutoCAD’s cloud storage and your own Google Drive or Dropbox folder. Obviously, this is not ideal, but it can get the job done in the blink of an eye. If you have an LTE Chromebook, make sure to turn off automatic sync for cloud services in AutoCAD.

automatic cad reader warning 1

Running AutoCAD on a Chromebook Using Parallels Desktop

For those who cannot settle for the online solution, there is another convenient option if you are a business or education customer. It is possible to install the Windows version of AutoCAD using Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS.chrome os chromebooks windows parallel

Parallels Desktop is a full-featured Windows container that runs natively on Chrome OS. This software allows you to run the full version of Windows, but there are a few important things to know.

Parallels Desktop software is currently only widely available for business customers, which makes this option of little use to individual users at this time. With Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS, IT departments can activate full-featured, proprietary Windows applications, including AutoCAD, on Chrome OS devices, online and offline. You will need an upgrade to Chrome Enterprise to run Parallels (see screenshot above).

Some key features of Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS include:

Permanent access to mission-critical Windows applications

  • Switch effortlessly between Chrome OS and Windows – no need to restart.
  • Suspend and resume Windows to restart instantly.
  • Open files on Chrome OS using Windows apps.
  • BONUS: Access over 30 one-touch tools with the included Parallels Toolbox.

Work ready anytime, anywhere

  • Use full feature sets of desktop applications including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more.
  • Access Windows desktop, documents, downloads, and custom folders from Chrome OS files.
  • No internet? No problem! Files and applications are fully accessible online and offline.

Full Chrome OS integration for a familiar and user-friendly experience

  • Easily move content between Chrome OS and Windows via a shared clipboard.
  • Print from Windows to supported printers.
  • Stay in the flow with a transparent mouse, camera, microphone, audio system, docking station, and USB smart card reader support.
  • Enjoy the view with dynamic resolution and full screen support.

System Requirements To Run Parallels Desktop

There are minimum system requirements to run Parallels on your Chromebook. You need at least Chrome OS version 85 or later. Additionally, you need Google Admin Console, Chrome Enterprise Upgrade / Chrome Education Upgrade, Microsoft Windows ISO, Windows License, and Storage Server if you want to distribute to multiple computers of your organization. In terms of hardware, supported processors include Intel Core i5 or i7 and AMD Ryzen 5 or 7. You will also need a minimum of 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of local SSD storage on your device.

While some of these specifications seem limiting, keep in mind that this software is currently intended for corporate customers. There are many enterprise Chromebooks from Acer, HP, and Lenovo that meet the requirements. If your Chromebook or Chrome OS tablet meets the minimum requirements, you can also purchase a docking station to turn your Chromebook into a full workstation.

Chrome Enterprise Upgrade Page

Technically, you can upgrade to Chrome Enterprise on a supported Chromebook if you’re an individual. All you need to do is purchase a website domain from a provider like Squarespace and then link it to a Google Workspace account. Google Workspace, Chrome Enterprise, and your domain will both have associated costs. So this approach can be very expensive if you don’t have a real business.

Nonetheless, if you are a corporate customer, Parallels Desktop can definitely be worth it. If you’re interested in the full process of running Windows on your Chromebook through Parallels, check out my full tutorial.

You are ready, this is the whole process of installing AutoCAD on your Chromebook or other Chrome OS device using the web app or Parallels. I was actually quite surprised at how smoothly AutoCAD ran in my Chromebook’s browser. It really is a great experience. For those who need a local installation, Parallels Desktop is also a great option for corporate users.

Let us know about your experience with either method in the comments section below.

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