When Google announced a few years ago that it would offer at least 5 years of software updates for Chromebooks and Chromeboxes, that seemed like good news. After all, most Android phones only get updates for a year or two, if that.
But compared to Windows and OS X, that 5 year lifespan is pretty short… especially since the clock starts ticking the day a Chromebook is released, not the day that you actually buy it.
That means that not only could a Chromebook you bought 4 years ago stop getting updates next year… but if you’re lured by sales on older models you could end up getting a device that won’t be officially supported for long.
In fact, I was prompted to write this article when scanning for bargains to include in today’s daily deals post. I ran across a refurbished Asus Chromebook C200 that Newegg is selling for $70 after rebate (with coupon code: EMCSPTPT3). The only problem? Google might stop releasing software updates for the notebook in June, 2019.
It’s basically a laptop that you can safely use for a little over a year.
This is hardly a unique situation. I regularly see retailers selling older Chromebooks. And that makes sense: you can still find brand new models with similar specs including 1366 x 768 pixel displays and as little as 2GB of RAM or 16GB of storage, so why not offer shoppers a chance to save some money by picking up a model with an older processor (and one that’s not much slower than the Celeron N3060 or N3350 chips powering many newer Chromebooks)?
But I’ve largely stopped featuring these Chromebook deals in Liliputing’s daily deals roundups because I can’t really recommend buying a laptop that only has a year or two of official support ahead of it.
You can certainly continue using a Chromebook after it reaches its Auto Update Expiration (AUE) date. But without any new updates you’re not guaranteed to get the latest security patches or new features as they become available.
The good news is that Google has extended the AUE date for newer Chrome OS hardware: devices shipping today should get at least 6.5 years of updates instead of 5. But legacy Chromebooks and Chromeboxes still only get 5 years… and some older models have already stopped receiving updates.
That’s a problem that doesn’t really affect Windows PCs the same way.
Until Windows 10 came along, Microsoft typically provided 5 years of mainstream support for each version of Windows, plus 5 more years of extended support (for business customers). And users could always buy a license for a newer version of Windows if they wanted to switch from XP to Vista, for example, or from Vista to Windows 7 or Windows 8.
Windows 10 is a bit different, since Microsoft is releasing a few major updates per year instead of working toward something called Windows 11. So the company promises 18 months of support for each version… but updating to the next version is free.
The point is that while Microsoft only offered 5 years of mainstream support, there were escape hatches that would let users continue to use Windows on a PC for as long as they could stand it. Google doesn’t really have an official option for folks that want to keep using an older Chromebook when it reaches its expiration date.
But I guess there is an unofficial option: advanced users could always replace Chrome OS with Ubuntu or another GNU/Linux distribution after their device stops getting updates. That’s a strategy some people have been using with PCs for ages, but Linux GNU/Linux isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. Key selling points for Chromebooks is that they’re simple and easy to use and set up. Customers who are attracted to them for those reasons might not be all that interested in researching and installing an alternate operating system.
I’m not really sure what the best solution is: Google doesn’t want to commit to supporting aging hardware indefinitely, and I can’t necessarily blame the company for that. And I suspect most people who buy a Chromebook in its first year of availability are going to be relatively satisfied with 5-6 years of software updates.
I just wish retailers who insist on selling new or refurbished Chromebooks that are more than a few years old would put the AUE date in their product descriptions so that potential customers know exactly what they’re in for if they buy a 2014 Chromebook in 2018.
Is it safe to browse as guest after expired automatic update?
What if you browse as guest on a Chromebook that has an expired automatic update? Will that make it secure?
I recently purchased my first Chromebook, a Samsung model being sold as “Renewed” on Amazon. There was no mention of the unit’s AUE, or even that such a thing existed. I updated to the OS yesterday, only to be sent a message that this was the last update the Chromebook would receive.
To be quite honest, I feel rather ripped off!
I get that Google doesn’t want to support aging hardware for years and years on end, but as this was sold as Renewed, it seems to me that would tell the average buyer that this unit would be supported for quite some time. I know that isn’t Google’s fault, and frankly I can live with switching to Mint, if need be. Retailers should be required to list the AUE on any used/older Chromebook they sell, as well as explain what that means.
At least Microsoft’s support of Windows 10 is easier to swallow – limiting Win10 to machines that support certain instruction sets or 64bit capability or such.
I have an Acer C710 which lost support for updates last year. This machine was brand new in 2012 and now can’t get any security updates in 2018. This is pretty bad compared to some AMD machines I have from 2006 which still run WIn10 very well and get consistent updates.
I really like chrome for the pick-up-and-browse (aside from the horrible sleep problems) and if I could figure out how to always for it to shutdown when shutting the lid instead of just draining the battery it would still be great.
As it is now, I think I’d have to invest far too much time to find a chromeos-like linux distribution that still gets updates to make this machine worth keeping. Chrome is great, but without security updates, it’s an increasing risk to use this for pick-up-and-browse for anything other than light reading.
My 2012 Samsung 11.6 inch Chromebook still works just fine. It was still getting updates when I checked last month. I’m happy this Chromebook lasted longer than Windows 8 or Vista.
The most practical solution would be to replace chromeos with neverware cloudready. Go from google supported to a more general PC platform supported system. The end user experience would still be the same. Pulling off the changeover would be difficult for the average chrome os user.
Great info. I got stuck with a Chromebook BRICK about a year after I bought it USED on eBay where neither eBay or the vendor disclosed it only had about a year left. Here is what I posted on lon.tv after he provided the link to this article:
Re Chromebook short life – Here is my experience and personal opinion: I bought a used student Chromebook FROM EbAY FOR ABOUT $100 about 2 years ago and the seller DID NOT DISCLOSE THAT CHROME SHUTS OFF WIFI ABILITY AT “THE END OF LIFE”. IT BECAME A BRICK since they don’t have an RJ45 LAN port. It was one of the first ones, so the 5 year limit was up. Hardly any warning. You get a notice that is not clear. So, our School District was looking at Chromebooks for up to 40,000 students and I gave public input at the Board meeting telling them they should not waste funds on a product that becomes a brick so fast. Google really ticked me off for ruining a perfectly working device. eBay and Google need to be SUED for selling new and used Chromebooks without clearly disclosing the termination date. One trick they play is to set the end of life not based on Chronological age, but a period such as five years from when the product was launched. Thus you could buy a brand new one four years into the sales cycle and only be able to use if for a year. I even got the email for the Google for Education rep for Florida and he sent me a gobbledegook explanation saying contact the manufacturer. Now all this is what I could find out and is my personal opinion, but I will not buy or recommend Chromebooks to anyone.
Here is what I posted in a review on Newegg’s listing for my model Chromebook. Google’s motto of “Do the right thing” clearly doesn’t apply to Chromebooks.
Chromebook expire warning
Posted on Newegg Sept 12, 2107
My Acer Chromebook AC700 series – Model No.: ZGB
Mfd date: 2011/10/25
Per “Auto Update Expiration” list for this Acer model, it expired Aug 2016, or under FIVE years of service.
Don’t ever buy used Chromebooks. They have a SHORT “Auto Update Policy” and will expire in about 5-6 years after initial data of manufacture.
This happened to me after buying a used ACER Chromebook. It doesn’t matter the brand. Google controls the Chromebook operating system and they discontinue support only five years after the Chromebook model was LAUNCHED. Thus if this is four years old, it will shut off aLL SUPPORT IN ONE MORE YEAR. Don’t buy used chrome books – they don’t warn you what the launch date was or how soon before the expire date arrives. Newegg or Amazon or eBay should not be selling these without CLEAR warnings about the hidden expire policy. I consider this Google policy to be unethical and should be clearly disclosed for new and used Chromebooks when sold.
Here is link to their Auto Update Policy https://support.google.com/chrome/a/answer/6220366?hl=en
Make a static site on Github that list manufacturers, devices and the pertinent AUE dates (as well as starting OS revision, current, etc). Then accept pull requests (as long as they link to evidence online of the correctness of the claim).
Important topic! I think the way forward with this for both PCs and smartphones is regulation that forces all manufacturers and resellers to prominently list how long (in years from today) the device will receive security updates. Require that information to be in bold on product pages or in store product information. Then consumers can more easily make informed choices.
I think these fucking companies should be regulated to explain in technical terms why these devices are not getting security updates. I guess being honest like we don’t know how, or we like to ensure that 3rd world countries can’t use the devices or that they like to fill the land with dead computers isn’t likely. Ah fuck it. They do it because hell, they sell more product. Good for the industry. Imagine if vehicle manufacturers had the ability to set a drop dead date. I’m sure all the corporations would, if they could.
These “things” were suppose to be easier to manage and update. It’s *just* a browser. Google managed to turn these kiosks into bricks too – by agenda-driven design. There isn’t any technical reason why this parody of modern tech couldn’t receive security updates.
Perhaps Chromebooks were never really meant for the general population but geared toward (money-making) educational (and future enterprise) contracts. Making money off the data-mining apparently isn’t enough or is there some kind of back room agreement with 3rd-party manufacturers and the ongoing push toward planned obsolescence that’s pretty obvious in so many design choices.
In my experience, end of support doesn’t NECESSARILY mean the device isn’t going to get updates. I have an Acer C710, and it is still getting updates despite reaching end of support October 2017. I have one waiting for me to restart next time right now!
And it has been a truly excellent computer by the way; excellent build quality for the price, reliable in every way. Not something you can say about all Chromebooks. I still use it just about every day despite having many newer options. So I recommend the C720 as well – the 720 supports more options for installing Linux OSs without a risky reflash of the BIOS, vs the C710.
Microsoft is “still” pushing out updates to my Dell mini 1012 with atom n450 (now running win10). I think google has significantly increased their contribution to the world’s e-waste problem through android fragmentation and their chromebook EOL policy.
My Lenovo Thinkpad from 2007 running Windows 2000 still gets updates occasionally in Windows Update. It’s pretty amazing considering Windows 2000 is almost 20 years old now.
Anyone here defending a set drop dead date, explain this. Tell me (and others) why limiting the lifespan to a date on a calendar makes sense. So you do not want to see an update in year 6 for example even if the hardware still gets the job done or if you could actually pass the device to a younger member of your family as a starter computer? Or are you suggesting it’s expecting too much from a company to roll out a security update on their OS when it has been proven time and time again that old computers can run (see exhibit A, Windows) over long periods of time? Or are you just shareholders/employees?
I’m not a shareholder or employee of Google, but I do work for schools that do buy Chromebooks, along with iPads, Windows and Mac computers, and a few other things.
So are you complaining about just Google’s case, or drop in support in general?
Ceteris paribus, sure, ChromeOS having a faster drop off than, say, Windows, would be unjustifiable, but you’re not paying more for Windows for just support, and you do get something different with a Chrome device.
But what would make you happy? Again, asking for a 6th year is just splitting hairs, and asking for 10 years support for business like Windows is really just too much for most of the hardware, as the article brought up.
In short, what are your expectations, and how are they not being met?
I don’t think anyone is really defending it. Going back to my Windows 2000 example, I’m still getting updates through Windows Update almost 20 years later. Granted those updates aren’t exactly for the OS itself, but for some other integrated components like Internet Explorer 6.
Chromebooks are based off linux and should be easy to support them for an extended period of time – at least for the ones with intel processors. If google are limiting support to only 5 years it is a bit of poor form on their part.
With Arm processors the graphics drivers aren’t open source and this makes things more difficult because they can’t just update to the latest linux kernel.
Still even without updates they are probably less susceptible to malware than windows. Particularly to users who open dodgy email attachments.
Have you considered listing old Chromebooks in your Deals of the Day, but explicitly including their AUE date?
Just looked on Newegg and there’s also another model that’s $69.99 after rebate and that’s the Acer C720 with an Intel Celeron 2955U. Between the two models, the C720, while using an older Haswell Celeron processor, seems to perform better than the other one based on Atom’s Bay Trail architecture. The TDP of the Haswell CPU is double that of the N2830 though.
Can you install Windows on a chromebook though? $70 seems like a really good deal for a light use laptop if I can install Windows on it.
I have never tinkered with a Chromebook. Can ChromeOS be wiped out completely and replaced with a version of linux? I do not mean using crouton. If this is possible then all these EOL Chromebooks could see a second life. Of course, most would not see that second life as people either would not know it could be done or would be afraid to try.
Yes. I did it on my Chromebox. The device needs to be x86. I needed to install seabios over the original bios. It runs so frikin well… Fully boots in 20 seconds from button push.
Yes, it’s absolutely possible, but the advantages of swapping a light OS like Chrome OS for Linux are less than swapping out a relatively heavy Windows install, especially if we’re talking about 5-year-old hardware that initially cost $200-300.
Depending on your needs, you don’t necessarily have to install the latest version of Windows. Older versions like Windows 7 and Vista are considered lightweight OS’s by modern standards of hardware requirements. Windows Vista in fact has lower system requirements than modern Android does. And going further back, Windows 2000 (still usable in 2018 to an extent), is even lighter than some embedded OS’s these days.
I have a very old Chromebook. I completely replaced it with GalliumOS, an Ubuntu-based Linux distro. Works great.
I think one of the key differences in the Windows vs Chrome OS update policy is that MS makes money on every license of Windows an OEM puts on their laptops, Google makes nothing. And also, I’m not sure how upset I’d be that my $250 Chromebook won’t get updates 6.5 years from now. If the main problem with my device 6.5 years from now is that it didn’t receive the latest software patch (instead of components not working from 6.5 years of use) I think that’s pretty good. Heck, my $600 Lenovo laptop didn’t even last 5 years before the USB ports started not working and the hinge was falling apart. Additionally, when you think of the average Chromebook sale price vs the average windows computer sale price, I’d think the average Chromebook selling price is a lot lower. Think of akin to how Apple will only support several years of devices back of iOS devices with software/security updates. I really don’t see much of an issue with this in my opinion. For me at least the average lifespan of a notebook is less than seven years.
You buy a lot of crap then.
I bought Asus EEE PC netbook back in 2008, it still works fine. Of course, it’s slow as a snail for today everyday use (hello megabytes of JS code everywhere, even on that very page!), but it works. I only replaced a battery.
It costs $300 for me.
In 2014 I bought for replacement Dell 3137 (model was released 2013), it twice hit service center already, but still works. Probably will last one more or two years. If it die, I will never buy new laptop again – I bought the Dell for $600 and in my opinion it didn’t worth it.
I’d be hard pressed to recommend holding onto a 2008 XP machine that long. At this point, it’s probably more of a security liability than anything.
I would be willing to bet that the majority of Chromebooks fail (with the dreaded onscreen message: “Chrome OS Is Missing Or Damaged”) well before the EOL support from Google ends.
Having deployed and supported thousands of Chromebooks at a bunch of schools, the failure rate is pretty low. The unrecoverable “missing or damaged” message is in the single digits, one hand even.
I still can’t fathom why schools would bother with chromebooks. What benefit does that provide to students? There’s so many extracurricular classes and electives like software development, video production, graphic design, 3D modeling, and so on that require the use of industry software like Visual Studio, Adobe Premiere, AutoCAD, and more. How can students learn to use these industry standard software if they can’t have access to it?
Back when I was in high school, we had business class Lenovo laptops and desktops running Windows 7, though they were beginning the transition to HP laptops and desktops powered by Windows 8 by the time I graduated. And in middle school, we had laptops powered by Windows 2000. My AP Computer Science, programming, and desktop publishing/digital media classes wouldn’t have been possible on a Chromebook simply put. Chromebooks are terrible in an education setting as it’s so limited.
Gotta step out of your bubble and realize that many schools have huge populations of students that don’t have a computer at home. Their entire interaction with the internet might be through a smart phone. Chromebooks are a very cheap gateway for kids to access many of the free and feature rich resources hosted on the internet. Even outside schools like these, chromebooks are great for younger students because they can take a beating, be locked down, and are relatively user friendly.
That doesn’t make any sense at all. My school district alone consists of 3 large high schools, 12 middle schools, and 18 elementary schools. There are Windows laptops that are even cheaper than chromebooks from numerous OEM’s including Lenovo. I’m sure buying them in bulk with education discounts would make them even cheaper than Chromebooks, all without stifling and limiting a student’s educational opportunities. These chromebooks literally put these students at a disadvantage when they realize they’re not prepared or educated on the use of industry standard software and tools.
As for locking down the laptop, that’s what group policy is for or even S Mode with Windows 10. You think they gave every student administrative privileges on our Windows 2000 and Windows 7 laptops? No they were very much locked down and anytime other software needed to be installed, like a new version of Visual Studio or Adobe Photoshop, an administrator would have to do it. There’s no reason a cheap chromebook would be any more durable than a cheap Windows laptop. The best part is, with cheaper pricing, similar hardware, these Windows laptops can do everything a chromebook can do and still provide student’s with more learning opportunities and prepare them for the real world of industry standard software.
Like it or not (even for me, not is often the case), a lot of industry standard software is moving to the cloud. My company exclusively uses Google Docs over Office, for example. There are robust photo editors and IDEs for Chrome. Even Office 365 works on Chromebooks!
Probably the biggest thing is getting Google Admin set up and deploying Chromebooks is a LOT easier than setting up an AD server and getting group policy together. Same with pushing out apps. This is coming from experience working with dozens of deployments of both CBs and Win labs. And so far, S-mode hasn’t been a significant force, and hasn’t yet matched the price to utility in most schools.
I’m not sure how commonplace that is though. I think that heavily depends on the industry. I seldom see anyone using web based compilers and IDE’s, especially when dealing with native code. Game development tools are all still native apps as well. And ultimately, the high end of the industry like Hollywood most likely won’t be migrating their film production tools to the cloud. They already spend millions on high end hardware for rendering and special effects. I doubt Sony or Adobe has even considered moving Sony Vegas or Adobe Premiere to the cloud in their entirety. Instead, companies like Adobe, for their industry standard software opt to sell “cloud subscriptions” like Office 365, but the apps are still installed and run locally rather than in the browser.
Now I’ve personally never set up an AD server or group policy before so I can’t really comment on the difficulty of it. But I know there are just somethings that native apps running locally can do better than if they were running in the cloud.
Chromebooks are just inexpensive machines that can be managed easily and inexpensively. The school content is web based and any OS will work. It is no surprise that Chromebooks have 70%+ market share in schools. There is also the me-too factor, where some school districts want to offer the same devices as neighboring districts.
It’s about cost, and Microsoft is much more expensive for schools. Just ask YCAU.
I highly dispute your 70% statistic. In most of the world, Chromebooks are really just experimental in schools. Most reasonable schools I’ve seen in the past 10 years still use Windows laptops. In fact, I’ve still seen more schools use Macs than Chromebooks.
There has been a major shift in the past 10 years, perhaps even more the last 5. It might not be precisely 70%, but it’s close, anyhow.
I’ve seen similar numbers to the below from other sources.
Chromebooks, in education, are often implemented as a per-student device, rather than a replacement for specialized computers for CAD and coding in high schools. That said, there are many options for online CAD and coding environments fully compatible with Chromebooks. You’ll still see traditional labs in high schools with beefier hardware and Windows or Mac OS. But for core classes, like writing English papers, doing basic science or history research, and the like, Chromebooks are just fine and are a better alternative to tying up a computer lab that could be put to use doing other things.
Why not just one laptop for all purposes then rather than maintaining 2 sets of ecosystems? I know some other schools near me were in the process of phasing out their computer labs in favor of more powerful Windows laptops for all purposes. And I’m aware of other schools in other states that have been doing that with MacBooks for years already.
Wow. Where did you go to school that had unlimited budget? Must had grew up in a rich neighborhood.
I went to a public school that was entirely state funded. Though I believe my district in particular had some additional grants from the state and federal government for a classroom of the future technology initiative, but that was later on when they began the transition to the newer HP Windows 7 laptops and desktops. Before that, state funding got us Windows 2000 and XP laptops for the final year of elementary school all the way through early high school. So it’s not a huge toll on their budget at all. A Windows laptop for every student that lasted 5-6 years? Pretty good investment. It’s not like we’re talking about Alienware laptops here. And you do realize there are Windows laptops of comparable performance that are cheaper than Chromebooks today?
There aren’t really Windows comps at lower price points for equivalent performance. We have a couple schools that have the same hardware, but one got Windows, the other got Chrome OS. Windows was slightly more. On top of that, Chrome has the advantage of being less resource intensive.
I don’t know how much you were involved in the budgeting of these schools, but they often don’t plan things out that way. A lot of schools I work with get computers on 3-year leases. And are you talking about computer labs, or like 5 classroom computers per grade? Because a lot of Chromebook programs are full 1:1. If you are talking about 1:1, then your school must be exceptional, as no district I’ve worked with has done that with Windows.
So back when I was in elementary school and my school district began buying laptops with Windows 2000 to supplement the Windows 98 desktop PC’s we had in computer labs, the laptops were IBM thinkpads, before Lenovo bought them. Those IBM thinkpads continued to be used for about 12 years. Around 2007-2008, when I was in middle school, my district expanded their laptop program to the full extent and got enough Lenovo Thinkpads for every student in every classroom. These laptops were kept at school though, not taken home by students. Every classroom had a laptop cart (and a couple desktop computers) in addition to all the computer labs. When I graduated high school, they were starting to ditch Lenovo and got a new contract with HP. From what I hear, they are letting students take home those HP EliteBooks now.
I’ll concede that my school district, while very large, is probably one of the nicer school districts as far as state funded public school districts go. My school district put a heavy emphasis on technology education to prepare students for a “computerized future”. They made it part of the curriculum to learn all kinds of basic computer skills since they anticipated the future job market would be all computers. Keep in mind this was back in the early 2000’s and late 90’s. That’s why my school district qualified for special state and federal grants to help them roll out advanced technologies to students. As for other schools, I don’t know the price they get for chromebooks vs windows, but I do know at Best Buy, I can buy a Windows laptop with the same hardware as a chromebook for $99-199 at retail depending on sales. If that’s retail price, then surely it must be cheaper in bulk along with education pricing.
Generalkidd re: pricing
Okay, that’s where it gets problematic. Sure, you could probably find a sale on some Windows laptop for a ridiculous discount, but stores like Best Buy never have them in school quantities (say, 30) at that price, and education distributors never give education or bulk discounts on top of sale prices from consumer channels.
I’d like to see some of these devices for apples-to-apples comparison, though.
$149-199 are typical retail priced laptops at Best Buy without any sale prices or special discounts. On sale, you’d be able to find them for $99 from time to time, but regular price is more commonly around $199 depending on the manufacturer. These are all powered by the same Celeron CPU and same amount of RAM found in your typical cheap Chromebook. It should be safe to assume that non-sale retail prices are always higher than wholesale prices and I doubt education and even business channels pay retail prices for their bulk orders of laptops. So I’m still willing to bet that if the laptop costs up to $199 at retail, bulk orders could probably cut that down quite a bit. Not to mention in the $149-199 price range, Best Buy also sells their own line of detachable laptop-tablet hybrids with touchscreens and an Intel Atom CPU. Now of course with these devices we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. There are certainly nicer laptops for both Windows and Chromebooks if a school is willing to pay more money. But for budget constrained schools, there definitely are Windows laptop options that are priced competitively with the cheapest Chromebooks.
I don’t know how schools do things these days though, you did mention that they lease their laptops now. But all I know is that at least as of 5 years ago, my school district still went with the route of purchase orders and holding on to those laptops for 6-12 years before looking into new upgrades. As for those old Lenovo laptops, I’m quite positive my school district simply recycled or sold them or eBay. I noticed a local seller on eBay selling thousands of the exact same models of Lenovo laptops that we used to use. Could be a coincedence or perhaps that’s where the old laptops my school district used to use ended up.
I guess my school district does something more akin to buying decent hardware today, and letting it become out of date 5 years later, and then getting another set of decent hardware after that, rather than leasing new low end hardware every couple years or so.
Looking at the Best Buy site right now, there are only two non-refurb models available. Both have only 32 GB eMMC storage, which I would have a really hard time recommending to a school, as Windows is going to take up most of that space, making it difficult to update. One has only 2 GB RAM, which again is a little low for Win10. They’re also all Home edition, so nix on being able to manage them. The only one I might consider at a stretch is limited to 2 per customer. There’s nothing in the $99-149 range.
Incidentally, the same model often costs about the same after education/bulk discounts, due to distributors only stocking somewhat higher quality models, and having to hold onto large inventories to fill large orders in a reasonable time.
I don’t think I could recommend to a school holding onto hardware for anywhere close to 12 years. Schools I work with that have 10-year-old computers can get things done, but it’s pain for everyone involved. And I have no idea what a school’s needs will be in 8 years (two presidential/gubernatorial elections with changes in education policies, not to mention just the progress of technology), much less 12.
Like you said, those are for retail customers. I’m sure in a different distribution channel, they wouldn’t be limited to the Home Edition of Windows 10 and probably have other customization options available. Anyways, my school district didn’t hold on to the same laptop exclusively for 10 years. Half way through that lifespan, they began slowly transitioning to newer laptops. They didn’t buy thousands of laptops all at once and then suddenly tossed out the previous line of laptops. Yes I do agree though that towards the end of the life of those laptops, it was a little frustrating working on the outdated hardware. The desktops in computer labs weren’t really in a better situation either. That being said, I still prefer that model. Relatively decent laptop for several years rather than cheap laptops every couple years. The computers were fine for the most part even after several years. For the most part, they kept the OS’s somewhat up to date. About what you’d expect in your average enterprise.
Regardless of what a school needs a decade down the road, you can bet that computers will be even more important in the future as more and more industries require computer skills as a minimum requirement. I’d rather students have as many learning opportunities available to them as possible to prepare them for a heavy technology-reliant job market across all industries. Even fast food cashiers need some basic computer skills now too as everything becomes more computerized. And they’re not web based in the cloud either, so having computer skills beyond web browsing is pretty critical to a student’s future.
What I worry about the most with the future of education is that without enough computer education on industry standard technologies, we’ll have students entering the workforce that are like that one kid from that Apple commercial that infamously asked “What’s a computer?” when someone asked her what she was doing on her iPad. I get the marketing message Apple is trying to convey, but at the same time, it shows that the younger generations aren’t as good with technology as we’d expect them to be. Running that “what’s a computer” ad in the early-mid 2000’s would’ve been absolutely ridiculous. I fear that commercial may actually apply to a lot of kids because schools are pushing iPads and Chromebooks on them instead of giving them opportunities to learn “what a computer is”…
for some reason my kids’ school recently picked up some windows machines this year (they’ve been on chromebooks). My kids bitch about how long it takes for these new machines to boot up and how slow they are and my daughter says they are confusing as well. Makes me wonder if the school wasn’t paid to take them.
Or you know, their school just wants to prepare them for a job market that’s predominantly computer reliant, of which said computers do more than just web browsing. Were it not for their school’s decision to switch over, your kids would be ill prepared for the future and at a disadvantage to other kids who did learn basic computer skills in school. The fact that your kids were confused by the OS is ample evidence they lacked basic skills and knowledge of industry standard computers. Better they be confused now and learn than be confused when they’re looking for jobs in the future and have no idea how to use a real computer.
I have researched this and I have reason to doubt your claims of such a low failure rate. My particular chromebox died twice within 17 months of purchase. The first time was after 11 months. I sent it back to Acer and they replaced the main board and the SSD. Eight months later the SSD went out again. But my claims are not based only on my own experience – but actual research I’ve done regarding this issue.
So you’re saying that my hard data of thousands of devices deployed is cast into doubt by your single anecdotal experience and some “actual research” you did?
Okay, let me pull up my repair logs and get the actual numbers. I have 281 tickets for repairs from the last 5 years, varying from wipes to hardware replacement. 8 of them deal with “missing or damaged” OS, and 4 of them were covered through an extended warranty due to a known issue.
It’s hard to say exactly how many individual devices this covers, since some leases ended in the middle of the 5 years. It’s somewhere around 4k.
If you’re talking about the general failure rate, which wasn’t what I was discussing, it’s about average for school devices in general, roughly comparable to iPad cracked screens depending on protective cases used (though much cheaper to repair/replace).
I will mention several reasons why I think the overall failure rate in the wild is higher than you suggest.
1) If you go to the Chrome store and then the Chrome recovery tool you will see close to one million users have downloaded it. I’m not sure how many chromebooks are in the wild (but IMO it’s not an extremely large amount) so one million users of the chrome recovery tool is not “insignificant”. Next taking this a step further the Chrome revovery tool is only rated 3 stars (out of a possible 5 stars) in the user reviews. This would suggest that roughly half of the Chrome utility tool users were displesed with their outcome. In school 60% on an exam is usually considedred a failing grade no? The Chrome recovery tool won’t work if the hardware is shot.
2) Next both Google and the OEMs have dedicated help pages on the web dealing with this “Chrome OS Is Missing Or Damaged” problem. If the failure rate could be counted on one hand as you suggest – then it wouldn’t be likely for Google and the OEMs to have dedicated help pages for this issue. It suggests the problem is widespread.
3) If you go to the official Google Chrome OS help forum – there is a pinned post marked *Important* advising ALL Chrome OS users to download the Chrome recovery utility. If the failure rate was extremely low as you suggest it wouldn’t be likely for this post to be pinned to the top of the forum.
4) This next one is just anecdotal – but I spent a solid couple of weeks monitoring that help forum and there are always numerous posts about trying to install the Chrome recovery tool because users experienced the “Chrome OS Is Missing Or Damaged”. Most of the attempts fail which suggest the hardware has failed.
5) If you try doing a Google search for: “Chrome OS is missing or damaged” there are literally dozens and dozens of search page results. IMO this suggests that this is by no means an insignificant issue. In fact if you try searching for just “OS is missing or damaged” or even “Windows OS Is Missing Or Damaged” – the search results still show primarily Chrome OS Is Missing Or Damaged. This suggests that this happens on Chrome OS way more than Windows, Apple or any other OS.
6) In my own particular situation I just wanted a reliable Chromebox to hook up to my TV. I liked it when it worked – but it failed twice within 17 months. I’ve since moved on from Chrome OS because I’ve had enough of the aggravation. I would of bought another Chromebox if it would of been more reliable.
1) Your analysis is highly speculative. Over 10 million Chromebooks shipped in 2017 alone. I’ve probably downloaded the tool 5 times myself on different accounts, sometimes as part of troubleshooting something else.
2) Again, 10 million Chromebooks in a year means you cover all your bases in support documents. Preventing .1% in support calls out of 10 million is a huge saving.
3) https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/chromebook-central/RByT9vSwe1E This? This is some guy commenting that some people have issues with the Windows version.
4) Anecdotal, and we have no idea the state of those devices.
5) Again, 10 million devices means “dozens” of reports on any issue are likely. You won’t find the same results under the same search terms for Windows or Mac. They have their own symptoms of the same problem, generally “missing boot sector” and question mark folder, respectively.
6) Anecdotal, unknown cause (maybe you have power issues where it was plugged in, which could cause multiple failures after hardware replacement). I haven’t used many ChromeBOXes, but the 50 or so I do have set up have been running for two years now with zero issues.
You make some really good points, and I appreciate your reluctance to post deals that aren’t as good as they appear. Would it be possible for you to include older Chromebooks in your daily deal roundups under a special “DIY” tag or something similar? The outdated Chromebooks at bargain basement prices are great deals for people looking for disposable Linux laptops for travel or DIY projects.
To be fair it seems a unique problem because it is so black and white if you know where to look. Meanwhile companies constantly sell devices with older version of Android – usually from companies which are going to give zero updates to them.
You can also buy cheaper older Apple devices, and again updates will only be coming for a while.
I agree it goes against the grain of Chrome OS being so easy for non-techy types to use in that they have to be aware of this and look up the info. And it would be nice, though unexpected if retailers announced it.
However at least the info is there and in black and white.
I have an older machine with guarantee giving out this Fall. I put my sister onto the same machine several years or more ago now. So I am aware of the issue. I already informed her at the beginning of the year she should buy something new by November. It’s nice at least knowing.
To be honest I’ll bet this machine still gets updates beyond the guarantee. But I’m going to buy new as the security aspect is a big part of the picture for me.
When you control everything, hardware and software you can manipulate as you please. A giant like that can’t put the manpower into maintaining security updates? Shameful. It’s manipulation, nothing more. Maybe people support that, being sheep and all, but it’s the BS that sometimes comes in the tech sector. People can accept it. People can be complacent and clearly people are. When people care, things can change. Has anyone heard a plausible explanation from Google? I don’t imagine they would come out and say that it’s better for their bottom line to have products aging out due to software security and thus continue a stream of reoccurring revenue. I wish I just just cynical and not right about it. Go ahead. Buy these products. Always remember to say “bahhh” when you pay though.
Well, they don’t control the hardware. I’m not sure why you’re so sure that they do. Sure, they have a couple of their own devices, but the vast majority are put out by third parties, which is a major part of Google’s explanation.
Even taking the most cynical position that end of updates means immediate trashing, the value proposition is still pretty good. To a consumer, or particularly a school doing a lease, a device that only lasts 5 years and then needs to be replaced is well worth it for the low price, ease of management, ease of use, and high security.
Yeah, ideally everything would be free and come with unlimited updates forever, but we have to set our expectations somewhere. And for now, it seems the market is eager to bear the situation as I explained it.
Hardware wise I was more referring to their smartphone business. Chromebooks are more of a disposable type device right? So you shill of an explanation hold no water, except for in your own eyes. If you want to see this as an exclusive to Chromebook sham, be my guest.
You can set your expectations as long as you want, and clearly you have. Good for you. Eager as a bunch of sheep with you as the leader of the pack.
I’m not sure what age you are, but if you’re young, wow, corporations have it easy with people like you around. I sure hope you don’t represent the future.
I rarely reply to shills so this is ultimately time wasted. Last time I checked or read anything, Microsoft and Apple are far more generous with their hardware. Sure, let’s ignore XP for example. Sure Google has laid the foundation for everyone to join the disposable hardware concept. If the hardware can perform, then there is no excuse unless you are a shill, employee or a shareholder.
Whoa, hey, back up a second. I said Chromebooks are a good value prop for consumers and schools, not that I’m shilling for some perfect device that all the sheep should be led to the slaughter with.
I won’t defend the disposable hardware concept; it is what it is, and it’s not a good direction to be moving, or an easily solved problem. Yet we find ourselves sliding down the treadmill of Moore’s Law, from the obsolescence of progress to capitalism’s planned obsolescence. That is an unequivocally bad thing. But how much can you expect to push back?
What would make you happy? Six years? It’s just splitting hairs. Eight? By then, you’re really stretching the limits of any device to keep up with changing technologies, raised expectations, and just general wear and tear. And again, we’re talking about devices that can cost as little as $200 from the outset. Are you really asking that bargain-bin products be supported for a decade?
I don’t know what you’re referring to as exclusive to Chromebooks, but I brought up the security, price, and simplicity as their major selling points, with a five year cap being acceptable in light of those features above the competition.
If you’re referring to the smartphone business, this is the wrong article to complain about it and not make it clear.
Google doesn’t control the hardware for smartphones either. It’s up to the OEM’s what they want to do. Google doesn’t even control the software much. OEM’s are free to customize Android however they want (eg Samsung’s TouchWiz). That lack of control though is what led Android to have significant fragmentation problems early on. And Google doesn’t mandate updates either, that’s also up to OEM’s and carriers.
Microsoft is legendary for their support of older systems and backwards compatibility with older hardware. You can still run Windows 10 (32 bit) on some hardware from the 90’s and early 2000’s and still get the latest updates. As for support for a single OS, they usually offer support for around 10 years, with a few exceptions here and there. Apple is ok with updates too, not as good as Microsoft though.
Oh right. Google didn’t just buy a hardware company. Right, Google doesn’t sell a pure Android smartphone. Oh right, they have nothing to gain by stopping security updates to their own devices based on some arbitrary date on a calendar. Google employees bored today?
Did you not read the rest of my comment? I was totally on your side… I was merely pointing out that Google doesn’t control what the OEM’s do anymore than Microsoft does… I even told you in another reply somewhere else that I despite Google’s phone for removing the headphone jack. I even told you how Windows 2000, being almost 20 years old now, still receives security updates for some products. I feel like you only picked out certain keywords from my reply to you and went on an immediate attack, or rather friendly fire in this case.
I love my Apple devices, for example, but they stop updating the OS a few years after they’ve been released, regardless of when I’ve bought them. If I knew for a fact that I’d get five or 6 1/2 years out of my iPhone or iPad I’d think I’d died and gone to heaven. So my Chromebooks and Chromeboxes aren’t exactly a bad investment, and they’re generally a lot less expensive.
Right now you can buy Skylake machines that are on a year less of support then much slower A73 based ARM chips.
The problem is Google isnt putting any effort into merging changes into the kernel, so each generation of devices is an additional kernel to maintain. It also makes it very difficult for people to run Linux on ARM machines, as many patches never make it upstream.
In this respect, ChromeOS is becoming much lile Android.
Wow, I didn’t know that, very insightful info, makes me not want to buy a Chromebook even more….the windows 10 S mode is alot more suited for a closed platform.
Windows 10 On ARM, with or without S Mode, would be perfect as a chromebook competitor priced at $99-199. The performance and features would be comparable but with the added option of running some Windows apps. That being said, it’d still lack features present on the Intel variants in that price range and only offer relatively similar performance.
I am very interested in these developments, working in the education space, but so far I haven’t seen anything compelling. The first wave of 10S was a bust, but the new ARM stuff might shake things up. Still, it seems like MS is just wanting to move into the budget space without really making a good value. When Chromebooks are adding Android support, MS has to deal with poor perceptions of its app store, and tests of x86 emulation on ARM as being slow to unworkable. As a consumer, and for schools, I’d take a Chromebook over Windows on ARM until there’s significant improvement.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see more options in the budget range, but it’s hard to see MS’s value at this point in time.
Well that’s fair, I still have my reservations about Windows On ARM anyways. I still see it as another attempt at Windows RT. But that’s beside the point, ultimately I’d go for full Windows over any stripped down versions, for both consumer and education devices.
$99-$199 for a laptop is wishful thinking, even with an ARM chip. Do a quick BOM check for the components. If you want to use an ARM chip that offers similar performance to its Intel counterpart, It will cost you comparable to the Intel platform.
Which is why I have 3 windows laptops and no chromebooks…even my near 8 year old windows 7 machine gets updates and many Atom powered windows 10 laptops are actually cheaper than many of the chrome machines and many have IPS screens which are not that easy to find with cheap chromebooks.
Atom? I don’t know how it’ll pan out with later models, but at least the Clover Trails were dropped from full Win 10 updates after 4 years. Further, I can find loads of sub-$300 Chromebooks with IPS displays.
Thanks for the -2, is what I’m saying not true, or irrelevant?
Take a look at the new Apollo Lake and Gemini Lake netbooks, especially the ones from Acer. I used to poo-poo atom netbooks because they were too under powered and build quality was bad.
Don interesting isn’t it? Reality is 5, 6, 7 year old hardware can still do what a lot of us need it to do. All it needs is some security patches. Which if you believe Google, the guys who can code just about anything, can’t seem to get beyond five years. Just like a clock it seems. That’s called reoccurring revenue. Glad you aren’t a sheep. Bravo to you. I take more of an issue with the expensive Google phones, but the same lame principle applies to Chromebooks which at least are priced as disposable units. The phones? Oh no, premium dollar and even shorter life span.
1. Can’t stand Google’s phones anymore ever since they removed the headphone jack. Absolutely deal breaker to me, the Pixel 2 is absolutely dead to me and might as well not exist.
2. I still occasionally use my old Lenovo Thinkpad laptop which runs Windows 2000 and Windows Vista in a dual boot configuration. Windows Update still works on Windows 2000 and I occasionally still get some updates for Office 2003 and Internet Explorer 6 even though Windows 2000 is getting close to being 20 years old! Vista just hit the end of extended support a year ago but it still runs great and can handle modern apps and websites pretty well. That ThinkPad laptop is using an even older Core 2 Duo CPU as well.
Even with updates your windows machines are probably still not as secure as an out of date chromebook. Malware and viruses targeting windows outnumber those targeting other operating systems by several orders of magnitude.
Also, the cheap atom powered windows computers generally only have small emmc storages. Not a problem problem on a chromebook but given the size of windows, and the bloatware generally included by pc makers, users rapidly find themselves running out of space.
Chromebooks are a sound concept but I think people often buy a windows pc because they are the standard and they don’t realise the benefits chromebooks have.
Google should still still pull their finger out and provide updates for a longer period though.
Are there any options for Chromium? I have Neverware installed on a x86 NUC to bring the Chrome browser to a TV. It works for that.
Good I was about to ask the same thing since that’s precisely why I’m partly interested in that Acer Chromebook Tab 10. Can’t hope to nuke and pave it with any current Linux derivatives (Plasma Mobile? Pure OS?) just yet.
When you do that, pleaaase document how you got an external keyboard and wifi working properly. My intuition tells me it will be quite a challenge. I expect a lot of people to be interested in being first 🙂
All the stars for this article, Brad. I am actually a big fan of Chromebooks in place of the often incredibly overpriced options that people use for the things that Chromebooks excel at: Facebook, watching random videos online, browsing your favorite websites, and doing some light work catching up on email or writing something in Docs or Word Online– the sort of things many people use their Macbooks or iPads for for many times the cost.
Compared to an iPad or Android tablet, a Chromebook with a 5 year lifespan is an incredible value, but only if you’re buying it at the beginning of that window instead of the end. I still break out my XE303C12 original Samsung arm chromebook when I’m traveling to overly sketchy places because I know that the only thing I’ll lose is 5 years worth of nostalgia. Sadly, I still see the XE303C12 being sold online for nearly half of what I paid for it orginally, which is madness. I’d hate to be an uninformed parent looking for a deal on a solid laptop only to be burned when it becomes a brick within a year (hyperbole, yes, but the sentiment holds).
Hopefully somewhere out there is listening to you, Brad, because this is the sort of thing that can hurt a promising platform as much the fragmentation in Android has for the big G (and still haunts them today).
Yeah you said it buddy. Get it on opening day and pay up for that luxury. They get you on the way in and on the way out. I hope you’re smiling and saying “bahh” when you leave the store with the latest and greatest. I guess you don’t want to ask the “why” five years makes sense. Like, if the hardware can perform, then what’s the issue with releasing a security patch once in a while? I know. It’s because people like you line up to buy the new one the day it comes out because yours is three years old.
Are we talking about the same thing here? A “luxury”, or something for “Facebook, watching random videos online, browsing your favorite websites, and doing some light work catching up on email”? An XE303C12 was, what, $250 at launch? Even if you’re capping it at 5 years, $50 a year is hardly a luxury.
You’re oblivious too. Oh well. Most people don’t buy junkers these day which is why there are premium Chromebooks. Still, you base your view on selling price and not on ethics? Shill away.
Your above comment made no mention of ethics. And I’m not sure what you mean by “junkers”, but people and schools are buying Chromebooks in the $200-$400 range in large quantity. Yeah, there are premium Chromebooks, but they don’t make up a large proportion of sales.
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