Why Chromebooks are the new immortals of tech

A decade of support is a much better deal than what Microsoft or Apple will give you

Opinion I run my computers until they die. I'm cheap that way and it's one reason why I'm a Linux fan. Thanks to Linux, I have PCs that are closing in on 20 years of useful life.

But I also like computers that come with serious long-term support. In theory, Windows PCs come with 10 years of operating system support – yet in practice, we all know they tend to slow down from cases of what I call Windows cruft. Major macOS versions are only maintained for three years. Now Google is promising a decade of support for newer Chromebooks. I like it!

E-waste recycling

Google promises eternity of updates for Chromebooks – that's a decade for everyone else


Why? Because Chromebooks already last forever. I reviewed the first commercial Chromebook, the Samsung Series 5, in 2011. I was still running it in 2021 when it fell off a desk and went to the great bitbucket in the sky. Of course its software was terribly outdated, but, by gum, it was still working!

Today I'm still running Google's 2013 vintage Pixel Chromebook – yes, there was a Pixel Chromebook long before there was a Pixel phone. Of course it hasn't been supported for ages, but I've given it a new lease on life with ChromeOS Flex.

ChromeOS Flex, for those of you who haven't met it, is ChromeOS for older PCs and Macs that are out of support. Unlike Linux, which can require some expertise to run on out-of-date computers, anyone can install ChromeOS Flex and get back to work on their rejuvenated hardware in less than an hour. So long as your box has an Intel or AMD x86-64-bit processor, 4GBs of RAM, 16GBs of storage, and you can boot it from a USB drive, you're in business.

Although Google doesn't advertise it, you can also use ChromeOS Flex to revitalize old Chromebooks. It works like a charm.

But I'm a geek, and most people who use Chromebooks aren't geeks at all. They just want a cheap laptop for school, light computing jobs, and work. Now, since Google and Chromebook vendors have liberated Chromebooks from their artificial Auto Update Expiration (AUE) date, most new-ish and all forthcoming Chromebooks get an official 10 years of support.

While this extended lifespan was mostly to make schools happy, it's good news for anyone who wants to save money and have a computer that will still be as useful in 2033 as it is in 2023.

Officially, the new 10-year support lifespan will be born in 2024. Google will offer support for specific "platforms." A platform isn't a manufacturer's brand. Instead, it's a specific model type. For example, low-end Arm-powered Chromebooks would be one model type, while high-end Intel i5 Chromebooks would be another.

But starting immediately, Google is extending 10-year support to all 2021 Chromebooks, and newer models are getting the support lifetime extension. In addition, if you have an older, pre-2021 Chromebook, you can extend your support once it reaches its AUE. So if your Chromebook will see its support end within the next two years, you'll get more years of support. I think this makes Chromebooks the best computer deal going around.

Some people make fun of Chromebooks, saying they're only useful when they're connected to the internet. That's not true. For example, you can still write documents in Google Docs without a connection. Besides, modern Chromebooks make dandy Debian Bullseye Linux workstations if you switch Linux on. I use Linux on my Chromebooks on every business trip. I'm doing it today from Bilbao, Spain, at Open Source Summit Europe.

Besides, most Windows and macOS users don't use local software anymore. Take Microsoft Office 2021, the standalone, old-school PC version of Office. It doesn't even show up in office software market studies. The top office program today is Google Workspace, with 50.3 percent, then Microsoft 365 with 45.4 percent, and somewhere buried in the noise, you'll find Office 2021. Get the point? Except for hardcore Linux and open source users – hi! – we've already moved to a cloud-based desktop. And the oldest, best, and now most long-lived of those is ChromeOS on Chromebooks. Chromebooks really are the best of all worlds. They're inexpensive, run forever, double as long as Linux PCs, and now you can use one through secondary school to college graduation and beyond.

No, they're not good for everything. High-end graphics and video people still need their Macs, and gamers still want juiced-up PCs, but for most people, most of the time, Chromebooks work just fine. ®

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