What do I do with an outdated Chromebook?
The best answer: When your Chromebook stops receiving updates, you can still use it. However, you will miss out on updates that may add new features and, more importantly, could protect your device from malware.
What is updated?
If you buy a new Chromebook, you can expect about eight years of automatic software updates. These occur in the background and are applied when you start your Chromebook. You may not even know they are happening, but they are.
People tend to put a lot of thought into these upgrades, and some even use them as part of the purchase decision process: the longer the lifespan, the better the Chromebook will be.
You see, updates can be essential, just like they are for your phone. Also for the same reason: security fixes.
On a Chromebook, the browser is built into the system, at least for now. This means that Google cannot update your version of Chrome without updating the software on your Chromebook. Most updates to Chrome are functional, whether they address a need or add a new feature. However, they often fix a software vulnerability or two, which is much more important.
Google has this to say about using an older model Chromebook that doesn’t get updates:
Older Chromebooks have older hardware parts, and these parts eventually lose the ability to get the latest updates.
If your Chromebook is more than 5 years old, you may see this message: “This device will no longer receive software updates. You can continue to use your computer, but you should consider upgrading.”
If you see this message, your Chromebook will no longer receive automatic software and security updates.
But do you really need to stop using it?
What happens when you no longer receive updates?
The first thing to do if you’re using your Chromebook for school or work (or if it’s provided by your school or work) is to check with your IT department and see if you can continue using it. The administrators will inform you or provide you with a replacement.
If it’s your personal Chromebook, know that you’ll never see new software features, bug fixes, or more malware patches. The latter is probably what worries you the most.
Your Chromebook will still work exactly the same tomorrow as it does today, so you still have plenty of security measures in place, like verified startup, to make sure the software hasn’t been tampered with. That is important to remember.
It’s also important to note that many smart people spend a lot of time trying to bypass Secure Boot protection. Sometimes they can, and if that happens, you are not protected. The same goes for hardware failures.
Not receiving updates means that you will not get any patches that include a fix for a hardware vulnerability. These are not very common, but they do happen.
No one else can decide if these issues are important to you. If so, you should probably recycle your old Chromebook and buy a new one. They’re relatively cheap, and the newer models offer better performance than anything from five years ago.
If you’re okay with knowing that updates have stopped but you’re still protected by things like a secure bootloader, Chrome website malware monitoring, and certificate/privacy warnings, you can keep using it. Just know that any actual flaws present will never be fixed.
There is a third option, but it is not for the faint of heart. You can install the updates yourself.
You’ll need to either build your own version of Chromium OS for your hardware or know someone else who is doing it (each model uses its own specific build) and install it via USB stick or SD card every time you need an update.
This is not something most users are comfortable with, but it is an option if you don’t want to let it go and have the knowledge to do it yourself.
However, I have done it myself and I still think that buying a new model is the best option for most people.