New Chromebooks will now ship with ten years’ worth of security patches and updates, Google said Thursday, helping ease a persistent problem: the limited lifespan of Chromebook hardware.
Google will also support Chromebooks that were released in 2019 or later by an additional two years, also giving them ten years of patches and updates, Google said.
Windows PCs don’t last forever, but Microsoft traditionally has never placed an end-of-life date on a Windows PC until 2021, when it limited some older PCs from upgrading to Windows 11. One of the differences between laptops and Chromebooks is that Google actually tells you when it will stop supporting Chromebooks. A Chromebook once exited support in just five years; in 2019, Google extended the Chromebook support window to eight years instead.
(Google oddly hides this information, also known as the Auto Update Expiration date, on the linked support page. If you match your Chromebook’s model number against the Google database, you can find out when your Chromebook’s support window will expire.)
Further reading: The best Chromebooks
The problem, though, hasn’t gone away: at some point, Google will stop supplying patches, putting a specific Chromebook and its user at risk. For a home user, using an out-of-date Chromebook may be an acceptable risk; for a school or government, it likely violates IT policy. As recently as April, groups have argued that this “Chromebook churn” contributes to e-waste. In fact, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) argued that Google should extend the Chromebook support lifespan to ten years — exactly what Google has done.
It’s not an automatic upgrade, however. If you own a Chromebook that was shipped in 2021, you’ll automatically get ten years of updates, Google said. But if you own a Chromebook that was shipped before that, you or an IT manager will have to “turn on” the additional support. It’s not clear exactly how that will happen.
“You can find more information about the extended updates in our Help Center, Admin console or in Settings,” Google said.
The extended support window still doesn’t solve the core problem: Chromebooks will go out of support, someday. But Google highlighted greener solutions like global recycling drop-off points that can be found in Google Maps, to allow schools and users to recycle their Chromebooks. Google also highlighted its ongoing repair program, to keep Chromebooks already in the field up and running.
You don’t have to worry about the the AUE support window in our list of the best Chromebooks; they’re all new enough that they’ll end support in many years. But retailers may try to foist older, expiring Chromebooks on you in what we call trap deals: if you’re not paying attention, you can buy a Chromebook that will essentially be defunct in a year or two. That problem won’t go away, either.
Still, Google’s decision means that whatever Chromebook you buy should last longer before you need to recycle it. That’s a positive step, either way.