Just as with any computer or electronic device on the market, there are plenty of reasons a Chromebook will eventually stop working like new but a device reaching its End of Life (EOL) is going to be among the most common. That makes that detail an important piece of information to have for several reasons.
The reason that's the case comes down to the speed at which the gadgets have evolved and continue to evolve. The rate is just faster overall than those running competing operating systems in terms of the sheer number of changes over the years and from month to month.
With new features and improvements generally tracking right alongside hardware changes and the release of new components, new devices launch relatively quickly. In fact, they launch at around the same rate as some Android Smartphones, with new devices updating previous lines on a near-yearly basis. New niches are filled and new devices launched somewhat frequently.
The turnaround rate means that software updates and security updates are applied on a shorter time scale too, compared to the average of 10 years or longer on macOS or Windows. Policies set in place by Google ensure that all of the gadgets will continue to receive updates for six and a half years from their respective initial release date.
Chrome devices do last longer than the average Android device and can continue to be used without the updates but security updates do tend to stop at the same time. So knowing when a device launched is a vital part of knowing when it will receive stop receiving updates and stop being a viable device to use in many circumstances.
Unfortunately, nailing down the release date without a lot of searching isn't necessarily easy to do, sometimes even with significant time spent on the task. Once found, completing the math involved can be a pain. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be difficult to find out when a device is going to reach its EOL.
You can probably skip the longest step if you know the model designation
The first and longest set of steps here can be skipped if the model designation -- and associated model number for those devices that have been part of a series -- is already known. That's probably going to be the case for those who have only just recently purchased a Chromebook or for those who are looking into buying one.
Knowing the exact model number and/or designation is critical to finding the EOL date easily though, so those who already have a Chromebook but don't know that designation will want to review this step.
For those who don't know their Chromebook's designation off the top of their head, it's not always straightforward to work that out either since the system doesn't store that information anywhere that's readily accessible in the software. The model designation is typically shown only on the box the device shipped in or on the receipt for the device, whether electronic or physical. Sometimes it's shown on a sticker on the device but that's not always the case.
So, in those situations, it simply isn't an easy process to find the model numbers or code names needed to look up the scheduled EOL date. It bears pointing out that even the simplest ways to determine the model number won't always return the appropriate designation, depending entirely on the system, regardless. That's especially true for older systems or white label product that's sold by less prominent OEMs.
The two methods for finding the model designation include performing a search for the serial number or looking the device up based on its code name. Code names can be used for multiple devices from more than one manufacturer, although the OEM brand will help narrow things down while the former can be more difficult and will require additional searching via the manufacturer site or elsewhere -- which we won't be covering here.
Discovering the serial number for a Chrome OS device, conversely, is very easy. With the Chromebook turned on, first, users need to ensure they aren't signed in either by not doing so from the start or by signing out. Signing out is accomplished by clicking the clock in the lower-right-hand side of the main UI and then the pill-shaped "Sign out" button rather than the power icon.
Once back at the login screen, holding down the "Alt" and then "V" keys will call forward the serial number, shown as the last digits at the top-right-hand side of the display.
It is actually slightly easier to discover a Chromebook's model designation by referencing its code name.
Returning to the Quick Settings menu housed under the clock at the bottom-right-hand side of the primary UI, clicking or tapping on the gear-shaped icon will load up the settings menu. From there, a further tap or click on the three-dash hamburger menu icon at the top-left of the UI will show a column of options.
At the bottom of those is one labeled "About Chrome OS" and clicking or tapping on that will call up a menu that shows standard information about the gadget with some of the details tucked behind collapsible segments. Selecting the "Detailed build information" option will open a page that shows precisely those details, including a segment labeled "Firmware."
The codename of the device will be featured within the name of the firmware. In the example images, the HP Chromebook x2 used here notes that firmware as "Google_Soraka.10431.75.0." The word 'Soraka' is the codename for the Chromebook used here.
There are two sites that can be used to find the model designation of a Chromebook using its codename. Although Wikipedia can be used too, both the Chrome OS update release tracking tool and the Developer Information for Chrome OS Devices site are specifically designed for providing information based on that detail.
Both of those should be congruent but they aren't always so it's a good idea to check both if a device isn't found on one or the other. The process of looking for a gadget on the sites is the same regardless and doesn't take much time.
On either of the sites, despite their different appearances, pressing down the "Ctrl" key and pressing "F" will bring up a search bar for the page and place the cursor within the bar automatically. Entering the now-known codename for the gadget will automatically scroll down the page to the first instance of the name entered and highlight it-- pressing enter will cycle through instances if the first isn't the desired one.
The code name for the Chromebook we're using is "Soraka" and a quick glance at the row it appears in on the chart of either page shows the gadget is an "HP Chromebook x2."
For some devices, a model number will be shown in parenthesis too, particularly where multiple variants exist or where that Chromebook is part of a series with the same branding -- such as with Acer's Chromebook 11 series. The model designation and model number, if there is one, need to be copied or written down for the next step.
A final expected version number for any given device listed in the chart on the above-mentioned Developer Information for Chrome OS Devices page is shown on that same page -- although in some cases a date is shown.
That is an estimate rather than being exact since Chrome OS updates can take considerably longer or shorter than expected to finally be released. It's also very short-term, typically only showing an expected EOL for a given Chromebook or Chrome OS gadget up to two releases in advance.
Finding the End of Life date
For an exact date based on Google's policies, the search giant does keep a support page loaded with devices listed by the model designation and the EOL date. Navigating to that page and then scrolling down a bit reveals a list of supported Chrome OS gadgets housed under collapsible menus.
The first step here is going to be to find the appropriate Chromebook's brand name and click or tap on that to expand the list. Our device was an HP. The brand is ordinarily found printed or stamped on the outside of a Chromebook, on the display bezel, or on the keyboard.
The list of devices found under a given brand can be either short or long, especially if it's made by one of the most prominent Chromebook manufacturers such as Acer. So the easiest way to discover the proper device to look at is to press the "Ctrl" key and then the "F" key.
That brings forward the page search bar and puts the cursor's focus there. Typing the model name of the gadget -- in our case, "Chromebook x2" -- automatically scrolls the page to that item and highlights it. Following that same row to the EOL column reveals a date in a month and year format. For our Chromebook, that's set for Jun 2024 and that date will represent the last month the HP Chromebook x2 will see an automatic update.
For those looking to scan the list in preparation to buy a new or used Chromebook, there are a couple of key aspects of the listings to make note of. If the EOL date for a gadget has already passed, the date will be shown in a typeface with italics. Those dates set to occur within the current year are featured in a bold typeface.