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Is the Chromebook end of life policy really that bad?

UPDATE: Since this article was written the policy is now called Auto Update policy. Also, Chromebooks released from 2020 will receive updates for eight years. The rest of the article is still valid.

I’ve heard a lot of noise lately about how Chromebooks are doomed because of the end of life policy that Google introduced some years ago. So I thought it was a good time to explain what this means for Chromebook owners and for anyone looking to buy a new Chromebook.

The first thing I should mention is that Google renamed the ‘end of life’ policy and replaced it with the ‘Auto Update Policy’. This is a good move because ‘end of life’ sounds rather dramatic. Also, Auto Update Policy is the right way to describe what happens. After all, a Chromebook is still functional once it reaches the Auto Update Expiration (AUE) date. It just may no longer receive new updates.

Chromebooks offer the latest in technology

Chromebooks offer the latest in technology

What is the Auto Update policy

The Chromebook Auto Update policy means that a Chromebook comes with an assumed expiry date. This does not mean you can no longer use your Chromebook. It just means you may no longer receive Chrome OS updates.

Until recently Chromebooks were given a life expectancy of five years under this policy. This meant as soon as the Chromebook was launched to the public it would get guaranteed updates for five years. So if you decided to buy a Chromebook that was launched three years ago. There is a possibility that it would stop receiving updates after two years.




This is why it’s understandable that people are dubious about buying a Chromebook if the updates they receive are only guaranteed for such a small amount of time. However, do other laptops using operating systems such as Microsoft offer anything better than this?

It’s worth pointing out the policy has changed recently and any new Chromebook or Chromebox released will have updates guaranteed for six and a half years.

Why is the Auto Update policy in place

For Chromebooks to continue to be seen as fast and reliable the Auto Update policy is necessary. The reason why Chromebooks have a good reputation for security and reliability is due to Chrome OS. Chrome OS is the operating system that your Chromebook needs to function correctly.

Technology is a world that changes faster than any other field you can imagine. This is great for us the consumer because it means we can get our hands on the latest gadgets. We’ve seen how Chromebooks have improved dramatically over the years. Not just in how they look, but how they operate.

If the Auto Update policy was not in place this would cause two major issues. First of all, manufacturers would not be so eager to bring out new Chromebooks using the latest hardware. The other issue would be Chrome OS would not be the fast and reliable operating system we’ve all grown to love.

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The Auto Update policy protects Chrome OS

For Chrome OS to continue to be one of the leading operating systems in the world. It must be able to move with the times. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to continue to provide an operating system that is super-fast and reliable; if every Chromebook launched since 2011 had to be supported?

It’s simply not possible to provide an operating system that can take advantage of the latest technology. While continuing to provide support for obsolete Chromebooks manufactured in 2011. If this was the case, it would mean Chrome OS would suffer and that would not be good for us the consumer.

You only have to look at how awful an experience you receive from Microsoft Windows. One of the reasons Microsoft Windows is so slow is because it needs to support a huge amount of hardware from different manufacturers.

HP Chromebook 11 was one of the first Chromebooks to be launched

HP Chromebook 11 was one of the first Chromebooks to be launched

The main goal of any business is to make a profit

Can you imagine the type of Chromebook you would be using if the Auto Update policy did not exist? Some consumers always want the best of both worlds. However, this is simply not possible. We live in a world that is run by power and money. Whether you like that or not is irrelevant because it’s the reality.

Manufacturers are a business and all businesses are there for one main goal and that is to make money. They do this by offering the consumer the best products available. The goal is to bring out the latest Chromebook that knocks a Chromebook from another manufacturer off the number one slot. They are not doing this for the greater good. They are doing this because the main aim in business is to drive revenue.

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New Chromebooks to the market would be few and far between

If the Auto Update policy did not exist the Chromebooks we would be using today would be almost identical to the Chromebooks launched in 2011. A manufacturer will only spend money on research and development if it knows the end product has a demand in the market place.

So what would you prefer? A Chromebook you bought in 2011 that still works today and receives updates or a Chromebook with the latest hardware and software that performs and looks ten times better? I know what I would choose. I’d always want the latest that technology had to offer.

Asus C302 Chromebook

The Asus C302 would possibly not have been created without the Auto Update policy

You can still use your Chromebook

Not everyone is after the latest technology. There are many people who prefer to buy a product that lasts for many years. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but you cannot expect technology not to move forward because of this.

When your Chromebook reaches its AUE date it can still be used as normal. It just means you may no longer receive the latest updates. There is a concern this means your Chromebook will become vulnerable. Maybe this is true to some extent, but it’s not as dramatic as it’s sometimes put across.

All laptops have been designed to stop working after five years

Laptops have been specifically designed to last five years. They have been designed by the manufacturer to deliberately stop working correctly at this period. It’s known in the industry as planned obsolescence and laptops using Microsoft Windows are subject to this.

Laptops, whether they use Chrome OS or Microsoft Windows, have an expected life expectancy of five years. It’s simply wrong to state Microsoft laptops are a better option because they do not have an Auto Update policy. In fact, Chromebooks are most likely not subject to planned obsolescence because the Auto Update policy means it’s unnecessary.

It may be true that Microsoft does not have such a policy. However, you only have to do a search on Google to see the life expectancy of any laptop is five years. Again, this does not mean that after five years you will not be able to use your Microsoft laptop, but would it even last you five years?



Microsoft computers are unreliable

Apart from the Chromebooks that I have owned over the years. The only other computer I’ve ever owned that lasted over a long period was my Atari ST. A computer that was around long before Microsoft Windows computers even existed.

Before the Chromebook was launched in 2011 you only really had two major players when it came to choosing a computer. You either chose Microsoft Windows or Apple. I chose to go with Microsoft Windows. I spent a fortune on computers running Microsoft Windows over the years and all but one of them broke well before five years had gone by.

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Conclusion

Nobody wants to spend extra money on a computer when they already have a computer that works perfectly fine. However, if we all decided to keep our computers for seven years or more. Just imagine what this would mean for the new computers manufacturers would bring to the market.

Research and development does not come cheap and manufacturers need to be confident the money they spend can be clawed back through sales. Whether you agree with this or not; without it, you would not get the fantastic new Chromebooks that have been launched today.

The Auto Update policy is absolutely essential to keep Chrome OS the fast reliable operating system we all know and love. It’s also essential if we want to get our hands on a brand new Chromebook with the latest hardware every few years.

10 Comments
  1. ive just been reading this article. My son just bought this chromebook about 3 months ago and to be honest what i am reading means hes been sold a chromebook that only has a life expectancy for a few months..absolutely ridiculous so it is.
    Should retailers not be made to explain to customers about the update alert (which pretty much started as soon as the chromebook loaded up for the 1st time) before they purchased. I think this is a massive con in my eyes and i am not happy at all

  2. I agree, I would not have bought my Asus chromebook if I’d have known it had built in obsolescence

  3. Maybe house builders should adopt the same approach. House construction methods improve with time, so houses should be built of materials which start to fail after let’s say, 20 years. Floors could be designed to collaps, windows and doors could cease to open and close properly. It would keep the construction industry supplied with new customers looking for new products. Same logic. Don’t like it..? I wonder why?

  4. The issue not addressed in the article is…is it safe to continue to do online banking etc once the AEU has passed.

  5. 8 years from purchase is ok. 8 years from the date a model with the same System-on-Chip was first sold is NOT ok. Samsung, for example, was shamelessly selling Chromebook 3’s during the 2019 holiday shopping season which had only 2 years of updates remaining from the date of holiday purchase. My excellent first gen Chromebook Flip is incredible hardware, incredible condition, but goes to electronic heaven in just one month, July 2020. That’s not right. As a hobbyist I could accept if if the Open Source community could support it – that’s the source of most of ChromeOS software to begin with. Or, better yet, if there was an easy path to replacing ChromeOS with some Linux distribution. But AFAIK you can only run Linux OVER ChromeOS, not replacing it. Running it OVER an expired version of ChromeOS is like mounting a brand new truck body on old, expired tires. Unsafe in both settings.

  6. I’m reading this on a 2011 MacBook Air. This is a lot of e-waste.

  7. For what I paid for it, I am not worried as long as I can buy another one. I’ll never own another windows machine. I nev4er had a problem with one, but a chrome system is just so much simpler. system restore is faster than running antivirus lol.

  8. This article seems like a Chromebook sponsorship…I have one that works beautifully, oh right, the software updates have expired. So a fully functioning e-waste is supposed to e cool? Moving on…sticking to Windows or Ubuntu until this changes. Google needs to realize there is a growing movement of people who use the Chromebooks and convert them to Linux OS laptops. Curious how this will work out for them.

  9. Tanya Davies is 100% correct. This is mindless marketing.

    You should NOT ever be browsing the web using an ‘expired’ web browser if you plan to use credentials on websites that you deem important (banking, email, etc). As such, unsupported ChromeBooks are UNSAFE to use for anything but the most basic of browsing tasks.

    I’ve been using ChromeBooks for 8 years now and THERE’S BEEN ALMOST NO CHANGE IN CHROMEOS in the 8 years. There is no major investment, either by Google or by the OEMs.

    Manufacturers take a cheap WINDOWS laptop, remove the unnecessary engineering (ChromeBooks are crippled computers, after all) and sell a cheap piece of crap to consumer that they KNOW will be forced to buy a new computer in only a handful of years because Google stops supporting them.

    Macs from 2010 are still FULLY supported with security patches from Apple. Yes, they don’t run the latest and greatest macOS but Apple still makes sure they’re secure. THAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT COMPONENT IN MODERN COMPUTING!

    Windows 10 running computers from 2010 are slow BECAUSE HARDWARE FROM 2010 IS SLOW! Windows 10 on a modern machine is fast. In fact, it’s as fast, IF NOT FASTER than ChromeOS running on the same hardware.

    Stop being a blind cheerleader for ChomeBooks. If you call Google and the OEMs out for their abusive practices we’ll get change. If you let them off the hook they will simply abuse us even more and for even longer.

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