How to Update a Google Chromebook

Ensuring all available updates are installed for your computer helps keep you safe as updates often contain bug fixes that stop cyberattacks and hackers from gaining access to your data. Updates are also great for ensuring all your programs run well and without issue on your operating system. 

If you have recently switched to a Chromebook, you may find yourself wondering how to update your new device especially if you’ve never worked with Chrome OS before. The good news is that it is super easy and completely logical. Chrome OS sends updates very frequently – approximately every two weeks for the version you are most likely running on your Chromebook. However, you can change this and try beta or event developer updates before anyone else, and we will discuss how at the end of the article. 

Updating Your Chromebook 

For most users, Chromebook updates could not be any easier. When an update is available it will be automatically downloaded when you are connected to Wi-Fi or ethernet. However, if you only use mobile data on your Chromebook, It’ll inform you of the size of the update and request permission to install it over a mobile data connection. 

Automatic Updates 

As discussed, if you are connected to the internet via a stable network the updates will be downloaded automatically. Once a new update is available and installed, you will receive a notification (a small arrow icon) in the bottom right corner near the clock indicating that an update has been downloaded. To update your Chromebook immediately; 

  1. Click the “download available” icon
  2. Select “restart and install” if you’ve been instructed to do so 
  3. Wait for your computer to restart

If you see the icon, and don’t act on it immediately the update will simply be installed the next time your restart your computer. No permissions or discussion required. 

Manual Checking 

If you think your Chromebook has missed updates or you haven’t been connected to Wi-Fi/ ethernet for some time, then you may want to check for manually for new updates. Follow the steps below to ensure you have the latest updates installed:

  1. Connect to Wi-Fi or ethernet 
  2. In the bottom right corner select the clock 
  3. In the menu that appears once you’ve clicked the clock icon select the “cogwheel”, settings icon 
  4. In the bottom panel select “about chrome OS” 
  5. Scroll down to check for updates and click 
  6. If any updates are found they will be downloaded automatically, and you can install them after 

If you are working on mobile data, then you will be notified of the size of the update and can decide whether to continue then. 

Problems with Updates 

If updates won’t download or install, try the following:

  1. Restart your Chromebook 
  2. If restarting doesn’t resolve the issue, try connecting to a Wi-Fi network 
  3. If the issue remains unsolved you may need to reset your Chromebook however check with Google’s support pages before taking this step as you should back up any data not on the cloud and a system reset is rather arduous and better avoided if you can.  

Changing your Update Channel 

Most Chromebook users will be on the Stable update channel which receives update every 2-3 weeks, with occasional smaller updates in between. This is suitable for most people and although you can experiment with other channels you receive beta and developer updates these are not tested and checked to the same extent.

Beta updates occur approximately once a week and include updates that have been tested but not yet proven. Whilst developer updates are sent 2-3 times a week and are a wild west of functionality and lack thereof. Unless you have a very specific feature to change to the developer update channel, we recommend avoiding this option as you may start running into a lot of bugs in your day to day use which can make your work or studies less pleasurable and more stressful. 

You can however experiment with the Beta channel without taking a huge risk of bugs (note that this is not no risk, just lower risk). To do this follow these steps: 

  1. Open a Chrome browser tab 
  2. Type Chrome://help into the address bar 
  3. Select “Detailed Build Information”
  4. Then klick “Change channel” and select the channel you want to use 

Remember that you can always revert this by following the same process again. 

What if Your Chromebook is Too Old to Receive Updates?

Well, you would not be the only person who’s run into the problem and it is not unique to Chrome OS. Eventually as the chip in your computer ages and fewer people are running devices using that chip it becomes less profitable for companies to keep sending updates to the operating system.  Once this happens you may not initially notice any issues however as software packages develop your computer will have less and less utility and be left with increased vulnerability to cyberattacks. 

This is obviously an undesirable situation and, while you may choose to buy a new machine at this point, it may not be an option for everyone due to monetary constraints. The good news is that you can most likely find a way to keep using your device for a variety of tasks safely. The bad news however is that you will need to find and install a new operating system that is updated regularly and is compatible with your computer’s hardware. 

Most people choose Linux based operating systems in these situations. Linux operating systems are Open Source and are becoming more and more user friendly as time passes. While 10 or so years ago they were mainly suitable for more technically minded users, these days anyone can use a Linux system with a easy to use interface which isn’t very different from Windows and Mac OS environments without much difficulty. 

A popular replacement OS for old machines is CloudReady, offering a free home version of the operating system, and allowing you to check whether the operating system is compatible with your device or not before your proceed. Ubuntu can also be installed on Chromebooks and has options to run alongside ChromeOS or to replace it completely.