On September 14th, 2023, Google announced Chromebooks would receive 10 years of support after PIRG called to extend support. Schools may be left with questions unanswered by Google’s announcement post. Ultimately schools and their IT staff know what works best for their unique circumstances. The following FAQ is provided as a resource for schools to aid in their decision making.
Frequently Asked Questions
What did Google announce?
According to Google’s announcement: “Starting in 2024, if you have Chromebooks that were released from 2021 onwards, you’ll automatically get 10 years of updates. For Chromebooks released before 2021 and already in use, users and IT admins will have the option to extend automatic updates to 10 years from the platform’s release (after they receive their last automatic update).” It also notes, “For devices prior to 2021 that are eligible to receive extended updates, some features and services may not be supported.”
Why did Google make this announcement?
In April, PIRG released our Chromebook Churn report, which found that these popular laptops are not designed to last. Our findings were covered by the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and Education Week, along with dozens of outlets. Our report made several recommendations to stop the Chromebook churn, including extending support for Chromebooks to 10 years. As a result, more than 10,000 supporters signed a petition, joining a coalition of nonprofits, Parent-Teacher Associations and teachers asking Google for longer-lasting laptops. The tech giant listened. Extending support will save millions of dollars and prevent tons of e-waste from being disposed of. Learn more.
How do schools discover the expiration dates of different Chromebook models?
What happens to Chromebooks released before 2021?
According to the announcement, “For Chromebooks released before 2021 and already in use, users and IT admins will have the option to extend automatic updates to 10 years from the platform’s release (after they receive their last automatic update).” It also notes, “For devices prior to 2021 that are eligible to receive extended updates, some features and services may not be supported.”
What should schools do with their Chromebook models whose software recently expired in June or August 2023?
Models that recently expired will not resume receiving updates until 2024. Schools have two interim options while they wait for updates. Schools will need to decide which option is best for their unique security needs.
Option 1: Keep using expired laptops while relying on existing security protections
- Google’s announcement claims, “Even if a Chromebook no longer receives automatic updates, it still comes with strong, built-in security features. With Verified Boot, for example, your Chromebook does a self-check every time it starts up. If it detects that the system has been tampered with or corrupted in any way, it will typically repair itself, reverting back to its original state.” While our report found that expired Chromebooks can lose access to secure sites such as state testing websites, often this follows a lack of updates to the device’s browser. Every district is unique, but few secure websites will begin blocking Chromebooks that have expired for less than a year. At an unspecified date in 2024, Google will resume providing updates for these expired devices.
Option 2: Retain expired units in storage in the interim, but do not use them until Auto Updates are re-enabled in 2024
- Schools can opt to keep recently expired units in storage, or use them in situations with lower security requirements. At an unspecified date in 2024, Google will resume providing updates for these expired devices.
Should schools extend the replacement cycle of Chromebook given the longer support timeline?
Ultimately, schools and their IT staff know what works best for their unique circumstances. Longer-lasting software support can allow schools to keep laptops in use for longer to benefit both budgets and the environment. We all want to teach students how to have a sustainable relationship with technology, where they gain digital literacy while also understanding how to take care of devices and avoid waste. Repairing, maintaining and keeping in use longer-lasting Chromebooks can reduce environmental impacts while modeling sustainable stewardship to students.
How does the 10-year software support benefit schools and IT staff?
Extending support will save up to millions of dollars and prevent tons of e-waste from being disposed of. Our report found across the 48.1 million K-12 public school students in the United States, doubling the lifespan of Chromebooks could result in $1.8 billion dollars in savings for taxpayers, assuming no additional maintenance costs. Learn more.
How can schools sell or recycle their Chromebooks once they reach the end of their usefulness?
The three “Rs” — reduce, reuse, recycle — are in that order for a reason. Consider refurbishing services which might purchase decommissioned units. Longer software support may mean laptops retain value for longer. Remember to remove the device from management before recycling or reselling. If schools can’t sell their laptops, it’s critical to recycle and dispose of them properly. Less than 9% of e-waste is recycled in the Americas, according to the UN. If a product isn’t designed to last, our environment pays the price. Schools should contact their Chromebook vender to determine if they offer e-waste recycling services. You can review guides from the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Education and national e-waste recycling services such as Call2Recycle.
How can schools and IT staff stay informed about the extended software support and updates?
To stay informed about the extended software support and updates, schools and IT staff can refer to Google’s Help Center, the Admin console, or the Settings menu on their Chromebooks. These resources will provide detailed information about the latest updates, including how to enable the extended support for older Chromebook models.
Director, Designed to Last Campaign, PIRG
Lucas leads PIRG’s Designed to Last campaign, fighting against obsolescence and e-waste and winning concrete policy changes that extend electronic consumer product lifespans and hold manufacturers accountable for forcing upgrades or disposal.
Scarsdale Public Schools, Director of Technology and Innovation
Before joining Scarsdale in July 2022, she was Director of Technology at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Manager of Digital Media and Learning at Bank Street College, and an Innovation Fellow at the Edlab@Teachers College.
Jeannie began her career in special education as a middle school teacher and technology coordinator at PS188X in New York City. She completed a master’s degree in Digital Media Design for Learning at New York University and a master’s degree in Elementary Education at Mercy College.