Thinking About Chromebook’s Auto Update Expiration Date (Premium)

Google’s Chromebook platform has a lot going for it. But its relatively short support lifecycle is not one of them.

I’m not sure why this topic has suddenly come (back) to life: Chromebook has had the same support lifecycle for years, and this isn’t a new policy of a change of any kind. But it has been popularized---well, demonized---anew in recent days for some reason. And it’s certainly worth discussing.

According to Google, Chromebooks are supported with auto updates, which can include feature updates as well as security and bug fixes, for 6.5 years.

There’s some good and bad to this policy, which Google literally calls the Chrome OS auto update “expiration date.”

On the good news front, 6.5 years isn’t actually all that horrible, though many will try to present it as such. Also, you really will get both feature updates and security/bug fixes, because Chrome OS updates always include both. This stands in sharp contrast to the old Windows support lifecycle policy in which you could get news features in that first 5 years of mainstream support, but you almost never did.

On the bad news front, and this could be a real problem if you’re trying to save money by getting a used Chromebook, that 6.5-year support lifecycle is dated from the time the manufacturer released the device. So if you buy a Chromebook 1.5 years after it was made, you will only receive 5 years of updates. This makes a 3-to-4-year-old Chromebook almost worthless for resale.

Google will start warning you about this milestone 90 days before it happens. And then you’ll be prompted with a message that notes, "This device will no longer receive the latest software updates. Please consider upgrading." But the question, of course, is what happens when a Chromebook hits this end of support date and you want to keep using it.

Google says only that it will stop sending updates at that time and that it will no longer provide technical support. The Google support page lists the auto update expiration date for individual Chromebook models, so anyone looking at used Chromebooks should consult this list first.

And in reality, there are examples of Chromebooks receiving updates well past their expiration date. The firm told PC World over three years ago that this date wasn’t “a firm cut-off” point.

But that’s nonsense. Google should be clear about the support timeline. And it should support all Chromebooks with security and bug fixes for up to 10 years, just as Microsoft used to do. That’s the only way this platform will be successful with businesses, in particular.

And if Chrome OS doesn’t support an updating system in which Google only delivers security and bug fixes, then fine: Just deliver all updates for 10 years, or something more reasonable. 8 years?

Until then, this expiration date will continue to undermine Chrome OS and the Chromebooks on which it runs.


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