With the holiday shopping season starting and Black Friday just around the corner, you’re likely to see some great deals on Chromebooks. But before you pounce on that deep doorbuster discount, there’s an important date you need to check first: a Chromebook’s expiration date, aka its Auto Update Expiration date.
Because Google can only guarantee Chrome OS and browser feature support on non-Google hardware for so long, every device currently has a date on which it stops receiving updates — its AUE date. If you’re interested in a particular model with an unbelievable low price, it’s best to find out the AUE date before you buy. (It’s also a good idea to do this if you’re buying a used Chromebook or passing on a gently used one to a friend or family member.) The good news is, Google makes it extremely easy to find out the date for any Chromebook.
For more on Chromebooks, here’s how they differ from laptops, why most people should get a Chromebook, and the best Chromebook deals for students.
How to check an AUE before you buy
Getting the AUE date for any Chromebook is as simple as finding its name on a list. Google maintains a full list of AUE dates for all models. Just head to the list, find the make of your Chromebook or the one you’re looking to buy or pass along. Click on the make and the model list will drop down with its AUE date.
According to the policy page, Google will publish a model’s AUE date after its release, so you should always be able to find a specific Chromebook before making a purchasing decision.
Read more: Best Chromebook for 2021: Acer, HP, Asus, Lenovo and more compared
How to check your AUE on your Chromebook
Already own a Chromebook and want to know how long you have for updates? You can check for your model on Google’s list that I noted above or you can find it right on your Chromebook. There are several ways to get to the information, but essentially you just have to dive into the settings menu to find it.
Open up your Chromebook’s settings menu by clicking on the time in the lower right of your screen and then clicking on the Settings cog icon. At the bottom of the left navigation panel (you may need to click the three bars at the top left to open the panel), you’ll see About Chrome OS. Click that, and then on “Additional details.” That’s where you’ll find your AUE date.
However, now that you know it’s in the About Chrome OS area, you can also just search your Chromebook for it and go straight there. Press the Search key, assuming you haven’t changed it to function as a Caps Lock key, and search for “About Chrome OS.” You can also two-finger swipe up from the bottom of your screen to bring up a search bar, or there’s a search icon at the top right of the settings menu you can use. As I said, there are several ways to get to the info.
What happens when a Chromebook reaches its AUE?
Currently, once your AUE date arrives, the Chromebook will no longer receive software updates from Google. These include security updates, bug fixes and new features. And with those updates, things like Chrome OS and browser apps and extensions might no longer function properly. So while you can still use a Chromebook past its AUE date, its usefulness will deteriorate.
Part of the issue is that the Chrome OS and Chrome browser are deeply connected. At the moment, this means that not getting a Chrome OS update also means not getting a browser update. Google, however, seems to be at work on separating the two. With the two separated, you might miss out on new OS features, but the Chrome browser would stay up to date. Google CEO Sundar Pichai may have even hinted at this separation in a tweet in March.
Google is also working on extending these dates and, as of November 2020, it announced new models would have longer lives, which roughly translates to anywhere from seven to eight years or more. However, the date varies from device to device and isn’t necessarily determined by when the device was released or by when you bought it.
The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2, for example, was released this March and has an AUE of June 2028. That’s a good long time for a new Chromebook, but things are trickier when buying an older or second-hand model.