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December 1, 2017

How to change your software channel on Chrome OS

by John_A

Chrome OS has a stable, beta and developer channel. Here’s what they mean and how to switch between them.

One of the greatest strengths of Chrome OS is its stability: whenever I hand someone a Chromebook or set them up with a Chromebox, I know they’re not going to run into any problems. But for those that like to tinker — like me — there is the option to test new features for Chrome, at the possible expense to stability.

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Every Chrome device shares the same software, with everything working the same from one device to another. Something like the Pixelbook will perform faster in some scenarios than a lower end Chromebook, but everything will look and function the same. Each Chrome device can be on one of three software channels: the stable channel, the beta channel and the developer channel.

Stable channel

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Every Chrome device runs the stable channel out of the box, and that’s the channel the device will remain on if the user does nothing. The stable channel isn’t absolutely flawless — no software is — but it will be the most stable operating system a user could have. The stable channel of Chrome OS is updated at a minimum every six weeks as new versions of Chrome rollout.

Beta channel

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The beta channel is a great middle ground between the rock-solid stability of the stable channel and the super-experimental developer channel. I spent most the last year on the beta channel on various Chromebooks to use Android apps, and things mostly worked without issue.

The beta channel is also a great way for web developers to make sure their websites will still display properly on new versions of Chrome, and address any problems that arise before the update rolls out to the stable channel. Experimental features may be listed inside the settings application, or by visiting the Chrome flags page. The beta channel is updated at least once every two weeks to deliver bug fixes, with OS upgrades coming at least once per month.

Developer channel

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Chrome OS has the developer channel we’ll discuss here, as well as the developer mode that lets users gain deeper system access and install different flavors on Linux. While they sound similar, they don’t have anything to do with each other other than being power-user features on the same operating system. A user can have developer mode enabled, but still be using the stable channel of the OS.

The developer channel is for folks that really like to experiment with new features, with a major cost to stability. The developer channel is updated one or two times per week with new features and bug fixes.

Moving between channels

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Moving between software channels is easy to do. If you’re moving from the stable channel to beta or developer — or from beta to developer — all your data will remain in place. If you’re moving from developer to beta or stable — or from beta to stable — your Chrome device will need to be Powerwashed, erasing your account and any local data you have. Setting up a Chromebook as new is super simple, so even with a Powerwash the whole experience shouldn’t take more than ten or fifteen minutes. To change your Chrome OS channel:

Once logged into your device, click on your account photo in the lower right, then click the gear icon. This will open the Settings app.

Click the hamburger icon on the upper right of the settings window, then click About Chrome OS.

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Click Detailed build information to view which channel you are on.

If you would like to change the channel, click CHANGE CHANNEL, then select the channel you would like to move to.

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Your device will download the software for your desired channel, then reboot and Powerwash itself if need be. And that’s it!

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