15:50 PDTon October 27, 2020 and last updated 2020/10/28
11:18 PDTon October 28, 2020.
It has been a difficult week for most Chromebooks after Google’s unfortunate attempt to roll Chrome OS 86 onto the stable channel. Shortly after Google announced the major milestone update, I discussed a number of new features and improvements, including accessibility improvements, an improved login screen experience, and an updated gallery app. While some people are enjoying OS 86 with no issues, others are still eagerly waiting for the new update to land on their Chromebook. In a surprising move by Google, the build was silently removed from the update server a few days before the update was complete.
Not all devices received the update before it was put on hold, and the Chrome Unboxed staff put together an excellent list of Chromebooks that were left out before the distribution stopped, including flagship models like the Pixelbook Go. Google’s update database for Chrome OS now shows that the update has been rolled back for virtually everyone (with the exception of a few devices). Google hasn’t made an official statement as to why it decided to stop the rollout, but we did try to get a comment – and we’ll update this post if we hear anything.
This abrupt pause comes after Google recently fixed five vulnerabilities affecting Chrome 86 on all platforms, including CVE-2020-15999, a zero-day memory leak in Google’s implementation of FreeType in Chrome. As many other sources have pointed out, I don’t think that’s why Google removed Chrome OS 86 from its update server. After all, a hotfix update was released to fix the problem even before Google stopped the rollout. A couple of other issues could explain why it was pulled, but to reiterate, we don’t have any official endorsement of any of this.
In my comprehensive analysis of the Chrome OS 86 update, I covered a few issues to watch out for when updating to the new build. One notable flaw is that users cannot print even if the printer is registered on their Chromebooks. I did not encounter this error, but considering how unreliable printing is in general (from my printer at least) I understand how frustrating the situation is. Many parents also report the inability to log into school accounts when a child is managed on Family Link. A few other issues affect Chrome OS 86, but the two bugs mentioned are a big deal for a business and school environment. Think about it: imagine you are a student trying to do homework. Not being able to print when you need it most – or worse, not being able to access your school account to download your homework – will be a big problem.
Let’s say you’ve managed to update your Chromebook to this rather problematic build of Chrome OS 86. Should you roll back? To answer this question, you really need to rate your experience with this version. If you’re not having any issues right now, we recommend keeping these to avoid the tedious process of restoring your Chromebook. However, if you encounter some problems and can’t find a solution online, you can revert to Chrome OS 85 using the recovery image stored on the update server. For more information on restoring your Chromebook, see the instructions on restoring Chromebooks on the Chromebook help page.
I believe Google made the right call to get Chrome OS 86 from the update server. Unfortunate as it is, missing out on cool new features, not being able to print reliably, or not connecting to a school account when managed on Family Link, issues so significant that Google won’t keep them on the stable channel can. Hopefully these remaining bugs will be fixed soon so everyone can enjoy everything that Chrome OS 86 has to offer. I will keep an eye on the situation and update this post if the update continues.
A Google representative reached out to Chrome Unboxed and confirmed that Chrome OS 86 will be available on all Chromebooks by the end of this week. The representative reports, “Things are moving as planned and there are no delays or pauses.” Although Google didn’t state why it took several weeks to roll out, the delay “is not due to an issue in the update or to issues in Chrome OS and an error occurred on the Chrome OS update deployment page that resulted in broadly reporting versions of Chrome OS in inconsistent and incorrect ways. ”
This news surprises me. Given the fatal bugs we addressed yesterday that affect many customers on Chrome OS 86, I imagined Google would stop the rollout until the issues were resolved. Also, I’ve confirmed with several people that despite the version mismatch on Chrome OS updates that serve as Google claims, the update didn’t land on their Chromebooks. Two weeks is a long time, and it’s unusual for Google to roll out a Chrome OS update so slowly unless there’s a problem with it.
Chrome OS 86 should be available for most systems in the coming days. If your Chromebook doesn’t automatically update to the latest software, you can manually check for updates by entering the Chrome OS settings in the shelf’s quick settings, clicking Chrome OS About, and then clicking the Check for Updates button click.
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