How To: Check For & Apply Updates To Your Chromebook Or Chrome

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For security and in some cases for privacy too, keeping Chrome up to date is critical. There are countless examples of that to be found and it remains true whether using the browser or the operating system found on Chromebooks.

In fact, that's actually the reason that in both cases, Google has engineered Chrome to inform users when they have an update that's arrived 'over-the-air'. Ordinarily, there's a way to update included simply by clicking or tapping through the associated notification.

Updating via automated prompt is also not the only way to get the newest version of the software. The search giant has provided users with an additional secondary method to access new firmware, built directly into both the OS and browser.

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The chief exception to that is Android, which will always be updated via the Google Play Store. For other platforms, although Chromebooks do have multiple ways to get to the requisite menus, the easy-to-follow steps to check for an update or install one are identical.

Checking manually for an update and applying one

Now, Chrome will typically check for updates at least once per day as long as it's been freshly booted up for that day. In those cases, the browser will inform the user by various methods if there's an update pending. In the case of the desktop browser, that's going to be a bit different from Chrome OS but we'll cover that in a moment.

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As with Android firmware updates or most firmware updates, users can actually gain access to new versions earlier just by checking manually for them.

On Chrome OS, that can be accomplished in multiple ways and the most common is probably to navigate to the settings application and open the "About Chrome OS" option at the bottom of the menu. That's typically found behind a three-dash menu at the top-left-hand side of the UI but both the Chrome web browser and OS can actually be updated directly in browser itself too. Those steps are, as noted above, almost identical.

To begin with, the browser needs to be opened up. Then, after clicking the three-dot menu at the top-right-hand side of the UI — next to the Omnibox URL bar — users need to drag their mouse down to or click on the "Help" option to expand that. Help is typically found at the bottom of that menu.

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Inside of Help, there is an option labeled "About Chrome" or "About Chrome OS" depending on which is in use. That's the tool that needs to be opened.

On Windows machines or another traditional desktop environment, clicking that will automatically begin the update process. Now, the interfaces are slightly different. Both desktop and Chromebook update menus should look nearly identical with no functional differences, regardless.

On Chromebooks or other Chrome OS gadgets, there will be a "Check for updates" button rather than an automatic check. Clicking that will search for updates.

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If an update isn't found, Chrome will respond to inform the user that's the case. If there is an update found, it will automatically start the installation process. That should take, overall, just a few seconds to accomplish. Once done, the changes will need to be finalized with a restart.

Both Chrome OS and Chrome will apprise users to that fact as soon as that last step is ready. A button or link will be shown alongside the notification that will finish restarting Chrome or Chrome OS with the update installed. Even on the full operating version of Chrome, that process should only take a few moments.

Google lets you know you're out of date in Chrome and on Chromebooks but there are differences

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Now, notifications about an out-of-date Chrome or Chrome OS do appear in vastly different places in the UI. On Chrome OS, that's going to appear at the bottom of the main screen, at the right-hand side of the 'shelf'. A pop-up will appear when the update first arrives and the notification will continue appearing at launch for some time.

Even if that prompt is ignored, Chrome OS will continue showing it among other notifications too and that won't be cleared away even if the "Clear All" button is used to get rid of Twitter, Facebook, or App notifications.

A click or tap on that notification will take users directly to the "About Chrome OS" page discussed above.

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On Windows and in other OS platforms, the browser informs users more subtly via icons that take the place of the three-dot menu. Instead of three dots, if an update is available, an icon change and color change will occur.

If the icon is green, there is an update that's been available for up to two days. That's four or more days if the coloration switches to orange. On red, it's imperative that users update since vulnerability and bug fixes have been available for at least seven days.

When an update becomes available on Windows, Linux, or macOS, clicking the three-dot icon will actually reveal an additional UI element in that menu too. It's a button that reads "Update Google Chrome." As with Chrome OS, clicking that will instantiate an update via the "About Chrome" settings page.

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Once the update is installed by that method, users will restart the browser or Chromebook as normal.

If there's an error …don't panic

If for some reason the browser update fails to install, at least on Windows, there is a relatively easy fix. That's also entirely unlike errors on a Chromebook — where re-installing everything will take significant effort. In the latter case, users will want to follow the guides that appear on the "About Chrome OS" page when an error happens alongside the relevant warning message.

Users simply need to navigate via Google to the Chrome download page and download a fresh install at that point. It's important that users back up or finish anything they might be doing that would ordinarily be lost upon rebooting Chrome before getting the new installation started. But the process is straightforward and as long as Chrome is signed into an account, users shouldn't lose much by going that route.