One of the key selling points of Chromebooks, Chromecasts, and Google Home and Nest devices is that they receive automatic updates delivered straight from Google’s servers. The devices download and install the latest bug fixes, features, and security patches automatically on smart home devices and media streamers — although you’ll need to reboot your Chromebook occasionally to complete the process.

But… what happens when an update causes more problems than it fixes?

Android Police notes that multiple users have reported that their Google Home or Home Mini stopped working after receiving an over-the-air update… and that while Google will replace a truly bricked device that’s still under warranty, the company hasn’t been receptive to doing that for out-of-warranty devices.

Update 10/24/2019: Google tells 9to5Google and Android Police that it’s identified a problem with the automatic update process that led to some units being bricked and it’s rolling out a software update to prevent that from happening in the future — at least for units that are still working. The company says it’s also going to replace devices that stopped working — whether they’re under warranty or not.

The original article continues below. 

Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal. After all, who expects a device maker to offer replacements for broken out-of-warranty products?

But it’s more than a bit annoying when it seems pretty clear that the reason a device broke in the first place was a botched software update.

And since Google only offers a 1-year warranty for Google Home/Nest Home devices, that means that if you get a bad software update 366 days after you purchase a device, you’re out of luck (or 367 if you buy during a leap year, I guess).

Google says it’s investigating why some Google Home software updates have bricked some devices, but not others. But for now the company isn’t offering much assistance to folks whose products are no longer under warranty.

Some users have found that restarting their smart speakers or performing a factory reset has been enough to get things working again. But others have had less luck — and since there’s no simple way to interact with a non-responsive smart speaker other than connecting or disconnecting the power cable or pressing the mute button, there’s not much at-home troubleshooting one can do.



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11 Comments

  1. I really wonder what the current state of software warranties is like, since I rarely ever use software that has one. But it’s clear that in cases like this where there’s no no UEFI or other way to reinstall the OS, there really ought to be separate hardware and software warranties, and for each update to have it’s own warranty.
    Not that that’s anywhere near the biggest of our problems.

  2. Yeah. If a user cannot block auto-updates and there’s no way to manually reinstall software the company should totally be responsible for this kind of thing. If not, what’s to stop a company from bricking a device on purpose to force users to upgrade? It’s one thing to cut off devices/support, another to brick devices after all.

    1. Pretty sure European law covers you in situations like this. Just take them to the small claims court.

      1. And for us in the Americas? I don’t think any country in this hemisphere has the same customer protection as the EU (though I cold be wrong).

  3. “For now the company isn’t offering much assistant to folks” – either this is a subtle pun / reference to Google Assistant, or that was suppose to read “offering much assistance”…

  4. A couple decades ago when Compaq computers were in their prime I bought a couple of old LTE Elite’s, a once very expensive laptop, in a pawn shop for $50 each. I downloaded the latest BIOS update and it bricked the first one. I called Compaq and their service guy asked me to try it on the second one with him on the phone to see if it’s a bug in the update. I did. It bricked it as well. Compaq had me send both of them in and they returned them to me kind of quickly with new motherboards.

    This was on very old computers, long out of warranty, that I told him I’d just bought from a pawn shop. Companies used to care.

    Barry

  5. Wow. I don’t have any of these devices but maybe if this spreads more and with the social outcry, Google will replace out of warranty devices that Google broke.

    1. They didn’t replace Nexus 5x phones that had the boot loop when they were out of warranty. It wasn’t their fault either, but I won’t buy another Google product because of that (really it’s because they have made something that I have wanted since then).

  6. Leaving aside my distaste for speakers that listen to everything for a moment, memory is cheap enough at this point that everything ought to have a second partition with the last working firmware in place that it can switch over to and copy over a non-working partition, and obviously avoid reapplying the same bad update. I’ll provide my own sd card for the functionality if necessary.

    I always hold my breath a little when I apply a motherboard or other chipset update and the little dos window instructs me to definitely, definitely not power down while updating. Sure glad that’s on my laptop where I’ve got a battery in case the power goes out. But the OS could still crash and lock up mid update. Stuff just ought to be more redundant these days.

  7. A working device with a security flaw is almost always preferable to a secure device that is not working!

    And, Microsoft please take note, – there is a very good reason why some of us prefer to be able to switch off automatic updating and have manual control, and learned through decades of practical experience.

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