Getting started with a new Chromebook? Here's where to begin.

So you just got a new Chromebook? Awesome! They make for a great little laptop, and are a favorite of many of us here at Android Central. We use them both for work and play (I'm writing this on one) because they are ultra-portable, easy to use, and make for a great portal to everything the web has to offer.

But there are a few things you'll need to know while you're getting started. A Chromebook is not your regular laptop, and it's pretty different from that Windows-powered ThinkPad you may be using at work.

We've assembled five things you need to understand about your new Chromebook so that you have a better handle on what it can do, how to do it, and why you'll love it!

Five things you need to know about your new Chromebook

1. It's not the same as a traditional laptop

Chromebook apps

You're probably used to a traditional laptop that runs Microsoft Windows. You'll need to think a little differently when it comes to using your Chromebook.

Chrome OS looks a lot like the Chrome browser you may have used on that traditional Windows laptop, but it's a full application platform in its own right. You have access to additional software through the Chrome Web Store, and many of the features and functions you'll want can be installed with the click of a button.

But some of the features and software you're used to having on another laptop aren't going to be available. Your new Chromebook isn't going to run Crysis, because Crysis isn't available. The same goes for full Microsoft Office (though Google Docs is a fair substitute for most things, and Microsoft is improving its online Office product regularly).

If you use a laptop to work and play online, chances are your new Chromebook will be perfect, but don't expect to be able to buy third-party software and drop in a CD to install.

2. They are built for sharing

Add users to a Chromebook

Chrome has full support for your Google account, as well as full support for multiple users. When you power things up, you need to log in with a set of Google credentials to get things synchronized and started. If you don't have a Google account, your new Chromebook will walk you through setting one up. Don't worry, it's easy and much safer than most people realize.

Once that's done for everyone who might be using your Chromebook, each person will have full access to everything under their own unique account. Your wife or your brother won't have access to your stuff, and you won't have access to theirs.

You can even set up and use a guest account that doesn't store information for those times when you let someone borrow your Chromebook. They have full access to everything on the web, with no way to get to any private information.

3. You'll want an Internet connection

Chromebook network connections

You can work offline with Google Docs or play an offline game on your Chromebook, but to make the best of everything you'll want to have access to the Internet.

Many Chrome apps are a front-end for a web site or web app, and applications that do work offline still need a regular connection to the 'net to keep synchronized.

You also have minimal storage on your Chromebook's hard drive, so cloud storage services like Google Drive are almost a must. The good news is that Google Drive works seamlessly with your Chromebook, and as soon as you're up and running (and connected to the Internet) it acts like local storage.

4. They stay up-to-date

Chromebook updates

Every time you turn your Chromebook on, it checks for the latest version of the software for both the operating system and all applications you might have installed. Updates to the core Chrome platform are seamless, but you'll be warned about any new permissions third-party programs request before they are updated. You can then choose whether or not you want to keep using the software.

If a new version of Chrome is found, it's downloaded and the next time you turn things on it automagically updates from the downloaded file.

By staying up-to-date, you can be sure you're running optimal software as well as staying safer while online.

5. They come with goodies

Free stuff for Chromebooks

Don't forget that your new Chromebook comes with some free stuff!

When you first went through the setup it was probably mentioned, but chances are you skipped right through so you could have a little fun. We don't blame you — we do the same thing. But know that your new Chromebook comes with freebies like additional Google Drive space, or Gogo in-air Internet passes, or a free trial of unlimited music from Google.

On your Chromebook, head on over to the Chrome Goodies page for more details.

This is just the tip of the iceberg! For more, check out our Chromebook hub, and our Chromebook forums!

Article originally posted December 2014, updated March 2015.