back to article Why I love my Chromebook: Reason 1, it's a Linux desktop

The fact that I like the Linux desktop will come as no surprise to anyone who reads my work. I mean, I was once the lead writer and editor for a long-gone publication called Linux Desktop. So why is it as I sit at Kubecon North America in Detroit that I'm writing this on an HP Chromebook x360? Simple, because Chrome OS is a …

  1. Mike Lewis

    I'll be buying a Chromebook

    I was going to buy a laptop with Windows 11 until my cousin kept having problems with it crashing. I googled "Windows 11 keeps crashing" and there are a LOT of people with that problem.

    1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

      Re: I'll be buying a Chromebook

      And the problem with Chromebooks is you turn it on, then you have to log in with your GOOGLE account, and only then can start using it.

      I use Firefox and I always remove Chrome if it's installed. Chromebooks make the first more difficult and the second impossible. Until someone publishes a way to totally blow away what's on the laptop and let me put my own Linux on there I'm keeping well away.

      1. Code For Broke

        Re: I'll be buying a Chromebook

        I'm on a roll with downvotes this AM.

        Downvote on the comment about installing "real" Linux on a Chromebook because... Are you freaking serious? Have you tried this new thing called a search engine? Even if Google terrifies you, there are others you can try.

        Wiping out ChromeOS and installing whatever you like is a reasonably simple and commonly performed task.

        1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

          Re: I'll be buying a Chromebook

          Well this site says you can't: https://mrchromebox.tech/#faq (see my other comment further down).

          Unless you know better? I bought one the other year exactly to install Linux. As I couldn't find a way I sent it back.

          They are shit. (Unless you want to see your soul to Google, of course. I don't, but then I live in Europe where privacy matters.)

    2. Code For Broke

      Re: I'll be buying a Chromebook

      Downvote because:

      1. Win11 is the second most popular OS in the world. A lot of people are using it. So, yea, there are going to be a lot of pages on Google all manner of commentary about it, both good and bad.

      2. I use Win11 on two machines. I don't like it. But it's never crashed.

      3. In my experience, a computer that crashes a lot is usually because of cheap RAM or other crappy hardware. I could blame the OS, I suppose. But I don't because I know better.

      1. AlbertH
        Linux

        Re: I'll be buying a Chromebook

        1. Win 11 isn't in the top ten OS worldwide. It's mostly reviled. Even you say that you don't like it!

        2. Boot to broken? Just eight minutes! Win 11 quickly choked on some poorly written (but "certified") device drivers....

        3. Nope. It was a badly written device driver that took down the badly written Win 11. After installation of something rather more stable (Ubuntu), it hasn't crashed since.

    3. therobyouknow

      Re: I'll be buying a Chromebook

      Sorry to hear about these issues. But myself I've not seen these so much.

      I have a Dell 7220 Rugged Tablet running Windows 11. 16gb 256Gb SSD quad core intel.

      It's been pretty solid these last few months since owning it. I think there were a few glitches at the beginning about a few months ago when I started using it but no such issues since then. It doesn't like non-Dell hubs being plugged in on boot but I can cope with that.

      I use it for dev work - Ubuntu WSL2 with ddev and xdebug, works as good as my mac and Ubuntu set ups.

      That said, I really love Zorin OS Pro (based on Ubuntu, with 16.2 based on 22.04), which I run on another tablet x86-64 PC, a Panasonic FZ-G1 MkIII toughpad tablet. The best Linux experience I've had with a touchscreen tablet because minimal rough edges. There are a few niggles but overall it's actually usable as a touchscreen rather than a half-baked nod to it. Couple of tips: use the macOS/iPad theme provided and switch on "use title bar and borders" in chrome to be able to drag its windows around: https://gitlab.gnome.org/GNOME/mutter/-/issues/1603#note_1530687 The brightness control doesn't work yet so the screen isn't as bright as it could be and I'll be raising an issue with Zorin to see if they can help or research it myself. But apart from that - good!

      Zorin OS Pro is smashing! nice to be able to settle on something rather than make a virtue out of distro hopping which takes time away from getting real work done.

      1. Scotthva5

        Re: I'll be buying a Chromebook

        We are a Red Hat shop at work but at home Zorin Pro is our OS of choice. Works well, easy on the eyes and doesn't get in my way. My wife likes it as well after her brief flirtation with Deepin ended in tears.

  2. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

    This is probably the best argument I've heard in favour of Chromebooks yet.

    I mean, it's going to depend on your workload, but I suspect for most corporate management types, this is going to hold true.

    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      The problem with chromebooks is that they have google listening in to everything you do. The fact there's a linux kernel underneath it doesn't suddenly make that ok.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Yes. I've had chromebooks in the past and after a few days discovering that the applications I wanted didn't exist, replaced the OS with Linux.

        The reasons I no longer use any are first that they had insufficient ram and storage - that may have changed in the intervening years - and secondly that my preferred distribution was unavailable for the increasingly more common arm machines.

        1. Lon24 Silver badge

          The problem IME is most Chromebooks don't have an open BIOS so you can install the desired distro of your choice - either because ChromeOS support ended or you need more than a browser - 'cos depending on the cloud may be less reliable than the Texas leccy supply.

          Yes I've Choorooted linux distros on top which is a workaround but not a proper and reliable one.

          Frankly taking those discarded 4 year old business Windows boxes/laptops and putting Linux on gives me a faster, more ram & ssd space for less money with an EOL of probably more than a decade if the keyboard can take it. And Thinkpad keyboards and hinges are a pretty good bet. Plus you can replace bits from ebay if they don't.

          We really need, for so many reasons including the reirement of Moore's Law, need to get beyond the 5/6 year old chuck it in the bin mentality.

          1. MrDamage Silver badge

            But you can put open BIOS into a lot of them.

            https://mrchromebox.tech/

            I've turned many a Samsung Chromebox 3 (Stumpy) into Windows, and Linux boxes, plus as PiHoles.

            1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

              You can't install Linux over new Chromebooks

              Only old ones:

              Q: I want to buy a Chromebook to run Windows or Linux -- which should I buy?

              A: Buying any modern (2017+) Chromebook with the intention of running Windows or Linux is a terrible idea, period. Most can't boot anything other than ChromeOS, and those that can run it poorly. Older models may fair better compatibility wise, but there are still lots of caveats, and it's not recommended to buy a Chromebook as a cheap Linux device. The days where Chromebooks ran Linux well ended with the 2015 models.

              https://mrchromebox.tech/#faq

          2. Code For Broke

            Sorry, I'm going to downvote anyone who implies that putting a different OS on Chromebook is such a terrible hassle.

            I liked that that this one at least mentions the lack of real BIOS. True.

            But take heart, if you want to do it, you can.

            But one of the points of the article is that with the ChromeOS backup to one's Google account, you can quickly swap from one device to another without losing your 'place'.

            You might not like Google's privacy policies, but I think you have to give them credit for creating a computer desktop with such superior continuity.

            1. Necrohamster
              Thumb Down

              @Code For Broke

              You seem to obsessed with giving people downvotes.

              Don't take this personally, but making threats to downvote people makes you sound like an a**hole.

              Play nice with others and they'll play nice with you.

            2. doublelayer Silver badge

              "You might not like Google's privacy policies, but I think you have to give them credit for creating a computer desktop with such superior continuity."

              No I don't. You can do that with Windows and Microsoft services. Turn on Windows, use browser of choice to open Office 365, write documents. Don't store anything on your disk. Yay, same result. In fact, with their integration of OneDrive and automatic backup, you can do a lot more with their system just by signing into a Microsoft account when you set up, and they can restore all your files and programs to allow you an offline version. I don't do those things because I value my privacy, but if I wanted it, Windows would be better than Chrome OS at doing it whether I wanted browser-only or not.

              1. Roland6 Silver badge

                This is the problem with moving targets, things move. Back when Chromebooks were first introduced there was clear ground between the level of application level service continuity Chromebooks offered and Windows. With current versions of Windows (ie. W10 21H2) coupled with 365 things aren't so clear cut. It is just a shame that it has taken MS over 20 years(*) to get to this limited level of beneficial user functionality.

                (*) I say 20 years, because people had been asking for better user-oriented functionality since at least the late 1990's, plus I had several conversations with MS Windows/Office VPs about the matter.

              2. v13

                You should check the security of Chromebooks. You just can't have that with Windows. Chromebooks' security goes down to the hardware.

                Plus, Windows can't synchronize sh*t. When you have two Chromebooks you can logout from one, login to the other and continue working there. Then you can go back to the first one. Windows don't do that. You're mixing backups with true synchronization.

                1. doublelayer Silver badge

                  "You should check the security of Chromebooks. You just can't have that with Windows. Chromebooks' security goes down to the hardware."

                  You are exactly right. Chromebooks' security goes down to the hardware in the sense that, if the hardware's past its expiration date, you don't have security. You can't get that with Windows (yet, but that may change in 2025).

                  "Plus, Windows can't synchronize sh*t. When you have two Chromebooks you can logout from one, login to the other and continue working there. Then you can go back to the first one."

                  If you're using only online services, yes. And if you're only using online services, you can do that on any machine using any browser. You just have to have logged into the same things on both machines, and since so many things use a Google account, that works on anything. Windows, Linux, Mac OS, Chrome OS, you get the same restrictions and the same continuity. The only difference is that three of those can do other things as well. If, on the other hand, you store some data offline on Chrome OS outside the specific Google services, it doesn't autosync.

                  "Windows don't do that. You're mixing backups with true synchronization."

                  Yes, it actually does. I don't suggest using it, but I don't suggest using Chromebooks either. They have integrated synchronization into a lot of their applications and parts of their OS. I know this because, when you don't want it, having that option defaulted everywhere can be annoying and you notice it a lot.

                2. Necrohamster

                  Owning two Chromebooks just sounds like masochism. Got any other life hacks?

          3. v13

            You can install SeaBios on most of them. For newer Chromebooks you don't even have to root them to do it. The installed Bios is able to load a secondary Bios. I rooted an old, end of life Chromebook last week.

            Check mrchromebox.tech about how to do it. That person has fully automated the process.

      2. badflorist Bronze badge

        Worse than Google listening is the CPU which makes writing anything a little trickier than it should be and noticeably less comprehensive than x86/64 as compiling even hll_wrld.c seems like a magic trick.

        Ironically, considering the CPU, they're even worse if you write for embedded because almost nobody writes either IDE's compatible with embedded libraries or there's simply no compiler. So, you have to go digging for other tools to manual make it happen but, those tools won't seemingly exist.

        The best mobile/on-the-go devices I've found for programming anything are used $300 Microsoft Surface Pro's (version 3 and up). Nothing seems to beat x86 just yet, definitely not a Chromebook.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Almost all Chromebooks now are Intel, typical N4000 celerons. The first few Samsung models were ARM, but ARM systems are a litle rarer now

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            I have a Toshiba CB-30 from 2015. It is ARM. I use it when I am travelling sometimes and concerned about security. It is light as a feather, 7 hours of battery.

            Many applications are not available for it, but for write ups it does the job.

            I’m a recent convert to an M2 MacBook Air and the Chromebook isn’t going to replace that any more than a pair of flip flops is going to replace a pair of Doc Martins.

          2. doublelayer Silver badge

            Manufacturers have been cranking out cheap ARM-based Chromebooks for some time now and they're still doing it. The MT8183 is a popular SoC to put in it. This is often for the cheapest devices out there, but that was supposed to be the goal of Chrome OS, so that you could use low-end low-power hardware and still get a good experience. I still find it weird to see Chromebooks with 10-core 12th generation I5s in them, selling for as much if not more as a comparable Windows laptop (with less work required to install a Linux of your choice) and significantly more storage.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I don't mean to be a dick, but...

        Have you used the Internet? Same thing.

    2. Arkeo

      I've got one, a foldable Lenovo powered by an AMD A9. It *is* great and it cost me about € 150 last summer, but I've been using Firefox since the Beta days and Chrome is simply... horrible. I'll either sell it or try installing Mint on it. SABENA. Such A Bad Experience Never Again.

  3. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

    Security

    No security updates after a few years, and Google watching you? Sounds super.

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: Security

      Agree with this.

      A reasonable article but a few comparisons didn't add up.

      Comparing Windows 7 for example - it had a decade of mainstream support. When extended (obviously caveated by expensive, paid for) support ends in 2023 that's 14 years of support that was available.

      Perhaps comparing it to Windows 10 would've been slightly more accurate as both Chrome OS and Win 10 have telemetry. But again from 2015 release to 2025 end-date you get 10 years of support.

      Per my comments to an earlier article this week on El Reg, sweating Windows hardware these days isn't that difficult. I have family running old machines of mine that are 10+ years old and all it took to get them performing better than new was an SSD and occasionally a bit of RAM.

      You can also use the Web-app version of Office products (though it's far from the best experience in my personal experience) to get the same level of pick-up-where-you-left-off capability. I just double-checked this. Opened a document on the Word Web App. Killed the power to said machine and launched it on another and there was the text I'd just typed.

      Like a lot of things, it's horses for courses. If a Chromebook can do everything a user needs and they don't care about it being from Google then absolutely use one but I suspect for many, like me, they just don't have the applications I need on a day-to-day basis. No way could I work in Office Online all day, for example.

      1. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

        Re: Security

        The problem I have with Chrome OS (apart from it being Google) is the same problem I have with Android; perfectly good hardware becomes worthless because of deliberate software obsolescence. I have a 2013 LG phone that would be WEEE if it weren't for LineageOS. Even that isn't a total solution because various "important" packages such as mobile banking or MFA authenticators won't work on non-standard operating systems, so I am OK to log in to the bank on a Samsung tablet that hasn't had a patch in 5 years but not a nightly build of Lineage...

        1. Steve Graham

          Re: Security

          Just so readers know: your problems are not universal ones. My phone runs MicroG LineageOS (i.e. no Google services, no Google telemetry) and is perfectly happy with my banking app and MFA verifier, along with everything else I had on my previous Googlified phone.

          Ironically, my current phone is a Google Pixel...

        2. Adair Silver badge

          Re: Security

          What you do is:

          a. install F-Droid (if not already done)

          b. from F-Droid install Aurora - anonymous access to Playstore, and allows blacklisting of software packages

          c. from Aurora install your preferred banking apps, etc.

          Granted, this is not a panacea - some banking, and other apps, require Google services that are not available through Lineage. If this is a deal breaker then:

          a. wipe out Lineage and resurrect Android, BUT

          b. DO NOT create a Google account, instead

          c. install F-Droid

          d. from F-Droid install Aurora - anonymous access to Playstore, and allows blacklisting of software packages - including Google's own

          e. from Aurora install your preferred banking apps, etc.

          Sometimes compromise is the only way. ;-)

          1. Captain Hogwash

            Re: Security

            Before step (a) maybe try LineageOS for MicroG or another custom ROM image which includes MicroG.

          2. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: Security

            The problem with running Android without a Google account - as I have now done on seven different Android phones (only one of which is mine!) - is that current phones seem to have a non-removable notification on the lockscreen which says something like "Finish setting up Android", and this step cannot be bypassed without a Google account.

            I first did this with a pair of Moto Gs (original ones), found it worked very well, and have continued since. The Gs later had Lineage installed so no problem there (though they are so old that even Lineage stopped getting updates three or four years ago), and the subsequent G5 was fine as well, but the later pair of Nokia 5.3, Moto G31 and Fairphone 4 (from memory - as I said, these are not my phones) all suffer the nag-strip. At least the Fairphone 4 can have Lineage installed, though I might wait a while until the official port is out.

            One of the Nokia owners went to university, only to discover that university relied on several apps* which could only be installed via the Play store**, so ended up having to register with Google. One of the first comments I got after this episode was how much less "nice" the phone was to use, with constant adverts, nag-strips and things being shuffled around without notice, though now that all the required apps are installed, certain services are gradually being turned off again, which might help.

            M.

            *for example, it's impossible to use the launderette without installing the university's launderette app, which you then have to load up with money, book a slot on, and get a reminder when it's your turn!

            **yes, I do know about alternatives, but the certificate installer for Eduroam is one of those things you really don't want to take a chance with, and you can't access university WiFi without an Eduroam login

            1. Updraft102 Silver badge

              Re: Security

              **yes, I do know about alternatives, but the certificate installer for Eduroam is one of those things you really don't want to take a chance with, and you can't access university WiFi without an Eduroam login.

              Makes me very glad my university days were before any student I knew had any kind of cell phone, let alone a smartphone. I was a contrarian then as much as I am now, and now I would never have a Googled or Appled phone for any reason. If a given thing requires me to have one, then that given thing does not exist to me. The moment you tell me I must have something is the moment I decide I must not have that very thing.

              That said, I really have no use for wifi on a phone. The main reason I even own the thing is to provide a mobile hotspot so my various Linux laptops can access the internet via cellular connection. If there is a wifi access point, the phone is superfluous, as the laptop can access it directly.

              If there would be a way for those to connect to the uni network, the phone is irrelevant anyway. If not, I would have to find a way to share that wifi connection (if it would work sans Google) from the phone with the laptop... surely there is a way to do this, though I have never investigated it.

              1. Code For Broke

                Re: Security

                Please let us know about how you interface your stone tablets to the internet?

                1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                  Re: Security

                  By doping the silicon with Boron and Phosphorus

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Security

                  Stone tablets? Luxury! All I got was Tablets 11, which the vendor said was super great and an upgrade from Tablets 10, except Tablets 11 only runs on clay tablets, whereas Tablets 10 can run on stone or clay tablets. You'd think clay tablets would be an upgrade from stone tablets, since you can easily erase them and put new cuneiforms on them, but no, it's not that simple. Clay tablets get smudged and are hard to read after all that smudging. At least, I never had that problem with stone tablets. So as usual in the low-tech tablet industry, it's two steps forward, three steps back. Maybe I'll check out Papyrus 4.1, I hear rumors it blows the Tablets line completely out of the water, and is great for graphics editing. That may be The Future.

              2. Martin an gof Silver badge

                Re: Security

                Long time to reply, but the whole WiFi system works with Eduroam and you can't access your class pages without connecting to the university WiFi, which means certificates need to be installed for laptops too*. Rather to my surprise there was a Python script for download which managed to do this on the OpenSuse laptop he initially took, but then it totally failed to make the required adjustments to the network connection settings - easy to do manually, and presumably entirely automated in Windows - but it took a bit of digging before working out what they were, and a tense session on the phone while I talked nervous student through the menus and which buttons to click and settings to change (mostly in the 802.1x security tab, PEAP and all that jazz).

                Didn't work on the Android phone immediately either, but that was taken to a "helpdesk" and once we'd worked out what they did there, the computer thing was easier (and I managed to find the "manual settings" help page online).

                M.

                *I'm guessing that if someone was "old fashioned" enough to take a desktop computer with them, they'd have to install a WiFi adapter as there are no network sockets in the rooms.

            2. Adair Silver badge

              Re: Security

              Interesting, my Oneplus 6T doesn't generate any nag screens for lack of a Google a/c. nor did the phone before that.

              Maybe you run the setup differently to me, or some phones are more particular than others.

            3. 43300 Bronze badge

              Re: Security

              "*for example, it's impossible to use the launderette without installing the university's launderette app, which you then have to load up with money, book a slot on, and get a reminder when it's your turn!"

              Talk about technology for the sake of it! Twenty years ago it was a case of walk down there and see if there was a washing machine available (more often than not, there was), and stick the washing in.

              I assume that this is a money-saving ploy to reduce the number of washing machines they have?!

              1. Martin an gof Silver badge
                Unhappy

                Re: Security

                I have no idea why they do it, but it seems to be common - the entire student-side of the place is run on Whatsapp, from informal groups for individual Halls to the notices from societies. After a lifetime (near enough) of warning of the necessity to keep personal data close to the chest and never to trust Google or Facebook or <insert other bogeymen here>, new student finds student life is near impossible without embracing all the things they've been avoiding. If I had known this I might have scraped together enough money for a "burner" phone, though I'm not sure how happy student would have been having to carry two devices around :-/

                M.

    2. Col_Panek

      Re: Security

      I bought a 2013 Pixel for $200 (original $1100) and eventually installed Linux Mint on it. Still my best laptop.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Math problems

      "I still have Chromebooks running that are seven years old"

      "the last major Chrome OS security holes popped up and were fixed in 2019."

      "But, Google is expected to separate Chrome OS and the Chrome browser" (implying they haven't yet and the author is running an unpatched browser as well)

      Math... Hmm. 2022, 2019, that's seven right? No?

      The author aside, why are most Chrome OS people such total Bobbleheads?

      Yeah, there is some unix under the hood, and Google bent over backwards to bury it so all you would ever see was their idiotic and failed vision where browsers ruled the universe.

      Now, as Google has largely gotten distracted buy mounting losses, and is merrily swinging the axe on projects with no obvious short or medium term path to helping the bottom line, the Chromebook fans are coming out of the woodwork. They don't seem to want to SAY they are trying to keep Google from pulling the plug on the whole thing, but the timing is, well lets call it fortunate.

      1. keithpeter Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Math problems

        I think the education market is seen as valuable to Google/Alphabet.

        Icon: I'm fine with Slackware on an old thinkpad at present but I could imagine wanting a nice bright HD screen and a useable keyboard when fully retired.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows machines lifespan

    "Unlike Windows machines, which have a lifespan of about three years"

    Really? Says me typing this on an 11 year old Thinkpad x201 bought second hand from Tier 1

    He doesn't half talk a load of gonads at times

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Windows machines lifespan

      I think they mean 3 years in the hands of the unskilled masses. Not folks typically on here, or folks with professional Windows administrators at work.

      Which is about right. Have you had the sad misfortune of being asked to help a non El Reg reader's home machine that is a few years old?

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: Windows machines lifespan

        I consider a reinstall of Windows an absolute fail on my part as an admin, until last week I think I've only had to do it twice in decades of computer repair. I did it intentionally last week on one of my own devices because MS blocked reinstall of an old copy of Streets & Trips via recent updates, so it was easier to reset to Win10 1909, reinstall Streets & rebuild, than it was to figure out a way around MS's bull.

        1. 43300 Bronze badge

          Re: Windows machines lifespan

          Why? If you've got a really clogged-up, messed up system it's often a lot quicker than trying to sort out the mess - particularly if you have Intune or similar to provision it again.

          Only machines I would put a lot of time into are things which are difficult / time consuming to set up - i.e. machines running a lot of specialistm temperamental software, Or servers.

          If it's a bog-standard Windows machine running Office and not much else, why bother spending ages trying to sort it out?

          1. Snake Silver badge

            Re: Windows machines lifespan

            No. Users put HUNDREDS of hours into customizing their machines, from saved documents to bookmarks to wallpaper to mouse preferences. Wipe a machine and the user spends the next several weeks tweaking every aspect of the system to get it back *exactly* as it was before, from updates to patches to every little application - on my main machine, I have dozens of apps.

            I've been tech supporting Windows machines for DECADES now. I / you should be able to fix in place - if you can't, then I'm sorry but hang up your badge of "Tech Support" because you're only a parts swapper, like a bad mechanic. You go to the best mechanics because they diagnose accurately and fix the problem correctly - not junk the car and tell you to buy a new one.

            This machine, my machine, that I wiped wasn't even a tertiary machine in my collection, it's a standby machine for my pied-à-terre. It has 3 things installed: the Adobe suite, Microsoft Streets, and Firefox. That's it, not even documents as those are on an rsynced NAS drive of my main NAS at home. Futzing with this one was one of the few instances that wasn't worth my time, so wipe and reload it went.

            But I respect my user's computers and time too much to do a Geek Squad on them:

            "I erased everything to 'fix' your computer. You'll have to start from scratch....you can thank me when you pay the bill".

            Screw that. I'm not an amateur.

            1. 43300 Bronze badge

              Re: Windows machines lifespan

              If it's a work machine there shouldn't be files saved locally (or if there are they should be using Onedrive or similar, so will be synced). A lot of the settings are likely to be enforced via management solutions, and in many cases other settings (e.g. Edge settings if using Microsoft accounts) will carry across via online accounts.

              Before that, we were using roaming profiles on domain machines, which carried all the settings and files across.

              What you describe might be how you would deal with home machines, but it's not how most businesses would deal with theirs. I normally give it 20 minutes max, then wipe and reinstall - it simply is not a good use of time to spend ages trying to sort issues with most Windows installations, unless they are servers or have some particularly complex setup.

              Just because you 'can' eventually sort out a Windows installation by putting several hours' work into it doesn't mean that this is a good strategy or use or time in many cases.

              1. 43300 Bronze badge

                Re: Windows machines lifespan

                I love how people thumb down comments like this without saying why! If you think that the best way to deal with any and every Windows problem is to spend hours and hours trying to sort it in all circumstances without a reinstall, I am certainly glad not to be working with you.

                1. doublelayer Silver badge

                  Re: Windows machines lifespan

                  I didn't vote on your comment, and your approach is valid for work machines in many cases, but I don't think your comment makes a valid response for two reasons. The first is that they were talking about other users' machines, with the heavy implication that they were in fact home machines. You already mentioned in your comment that home machines would be an exception to your policy, so since that's what they were talking about, it sounds like you already agree.

                  On another note, not every company does everything on a nicely synced roaming profile, and some people store information on their local disk. That may not be anyone who works with you, in which case it's fine, but I'd generally check first. For example, in my job as a programmer, I have a bunch of data on my local disk that's not synced. The important stuff (the code, mostly) is in version control and I have it set up so that, if my disk fails, I won't have lost anything important. Still, I have bunches of temporary or test data there for caching. I don't put it on network drives as it's gigabytes of junk that most people don't need, and I can recreate it in a few hours if I need to, but if I have a choice, I'd rather not rebuild. If IT wiped my disk when they didn't have to, it would be a little annoying.

        2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Windows machines lifespan

          I consider a reinstall of Windows an absolute fail on my part as an admin
          How long have you been using Windows with Microsoft applications installed on it? Wiping the damn OS is often the only way to repair a system should deleting a user profile not do the trick, which it often doesn't because Microsoft like to hide broken settings in all manner of stupid places and often "all users" is the place.

          If you're lucky then you can reset Windows but often in order to restore some hint of prior performance an entire disk deletion and fresh install is the only way to get a system operable again. I'd like to be able to fix them of course, but I don't have enough time or patience to deal with the mess that Microsoft make in an ongoing way with thousands of duplicated files and marginally updated files on a system that's been in use for more than a few years.

          1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

            Re: Windows machines lifespan

            "on a system that's been in use for more than a few years"

            Er... If it's lasted more than a few years without needing a reinstall, then you're not presenting a counter-example, you're proving the point.

            1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              Re: Windows machines lifespan

              True. More than a year, at most two, then? It's staggering the performance improvements that can be had from a wipe and a fresh install.

              1. Snake Silver badge

                Re: Windows machines lifespan

                No, if "staggering performance improvements" are acquired from your wipe, then you don't know how to manage Windows in the first place to avoid the long-term issues.

                Start with auto run at startup apps, go to the Task Scheduler and remove silly startup apps as well, and move on from there.

                1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                  Re: Windows machines lifespan

                  Stopping a few startup apps does not repair the abhorrent mess that accumulates at high speed in the WinSXS directory (.net and library versioning is such a bad joke in Windows). It does not repair the mess that accumulates in the registry over time. It does not repair the mess of lots of windows updates being applied over a long period of time.

                  Registry cleaning tools can help. Disk space cleaning tools can help too. However, in the end the mess is bad enough that a wipe clean and restart is still the most effective resolution.

                  1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

                    Re: Windows machines lifespan

                    You're either making stuff up, or unfortunate enough to be working in the only remaining Windows 98 shop. Either way, I pity you.

                    1. Snake Silver badge

                      Re: Windows 98 shop

                      I agree. If you don't know, or can't, work with the Registry, fixing it and editing it, then you aren't much of a leet h4x0r Windoze admin.

                      That being said, if you have a Windows networked client, one with known and limited installed applications and served documents, for sure wipe-and-replace is the best in that instance - the node was probably commissioned *from* a general image to start with. But for SOHO and personal use? Not a chance, it's repair in place or just admit it's beyond you and give it to someone who really knows what they're doing.

      2. Col_Panek

        Re: Windows machines lifespan

        Many times, and my answer is "I don't do Windows". Then offer to install Linux.

        1. Snake Silver badge

          Re: offer to install Linux

          I'll get downvoted for this, on this forum, but hopefully they politely refuse your offer.

          You have no right to impose your preference on others. Especially when said preference removes them from the ecosystem that they are familiar with and requires them to completely learn a new one, just to satisfy you.

          Just tell them you're sorry, but you can't help them, and have them move on. If other tech support did the bait and switch like you did, "My Android phone has problems connecting." "Too bad, I can only fix it with a new iPhone",, people here would think otherwise of your upvotes.

          1. Gene Cash Silver badge

            Re: offer to install Linux

            Just tell them you're sorry, but you can't help them, and have them move on

            Uh huh. Try dealing with *my* family that doesn't take "no" for an answer. "Don't mess me about, you know this computer stuff! Fix my [underspecced virus-ridden] machine!"

            So my answer is "sure, but you lose Windows, and you don't get root."

            When I am forced into basically involuntary tech servitude, then yes, I do get to impose my preference.

            1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

              Re: offer to install Linux

              It'd be quicker and easier to break the thing with a hammer than to break it with Linux, and the end result will be the same: your family and friends will think you're an arsehole, and won't have working computers because they asked you for help.

              You could just fix whatever tiny thing they have borked in Windows, but no, you'd rather have your rant and do some damage.

            2. TonyJ Silver badge

              Re: offer to install Linux

              "...Uh huh. Try dealing with *my* family that doesn't take "no" for an answer. "Don't mess me about, you know this computer stuff! Fix my [underspecced virus-ridden] machine!"..."

              Not sure how to respond to that other than to say you're the problem not them.

              And that's not a dig. I say this as a person who volunteers at my local library every second Saturday to spend a few hours helping the elderly with their tech.

              There are a number of common themes run through the sessions:

              Teach me everything about everything IT. Sorry that's not what these sessions are for! I've worked in IT for 30+ years and don't know half of it yet so let's try to answer your questions about/fix the issue on the kit you have

              My son works in IT but hasn't got the time to help / talks to me in a language I don't uderstand*

              I am scared if I do something wrong, I'll break it.

              My son/the man in the shop recommended this. I don't know how to use it. Please help.

              How do I do x on device y?

              I try to answer each question as best I can in a way they will understand and I never try to impose my own will on their choices. It isn't my place. I will advise if asked specifically (and they all have Mac or Windows on a PC because it was their when they bought/inherited it - and no fucking way I'd suggest wiping and starting again with Linux).

              *I think you are here. You have set ideas and aren't amenable to helping them.

              Also - where are all these Windows devices that are "riddled" with viruses? I haven't seen on "riddled" since the days of XP and people using the stupid activation bypass applications that borked Windows updates.

              Linux absolutely has it's place in the desktop ecosphere but not everywhere on every device.

          2. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: offer to install Linux

            I think you're right, as long as the same people take a polite refusal when they expect a technical person to fix their equipment. I say that as a person who not only accepts the task, but does so with whatever software the user is happy with. Still, some users can be unreasonable with what they expect a person to fix, leading to similarly unreasonable rejoinders from people who no longer want to put up with that. The people whose equipment I fix understand that I'll fix their equipment in the way they want and are polite and grateful when I do so. I won't do it for people who are rude while making the request or come back to blame me later, and I've not only experienced that before but have heard many stories of it happening to others.

        2. Code For Broke

          Re: Windows machines lifespan

          Listen, we all know what is going to happen if you replace the Windows with Linux on Granny's computer: instead of a phone call or visit once every few months, it will be daily haranguing about "where is...", "how come I can't install...", "please come show me again..." Out of the frying pan and into the fire if your objective was fewer requests for tech support. I think the people who make a big show about installing Linux on the computers of friends and family actually want MORE reasons to be needed.

          1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

            Re: Windows machines lifespan

            No, if you install Linux on Granny's computer, Granny goes out and buys a new Windows machine. It's vandalism, not help.

      3. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Windows machines lifespan

        "Have you had the sad misfortune of being asked to help a non El Reg reader's home machine that is a few years old?"

        Yes, and the machines invariably get through it without replacement. They don't just go bad after three years. Some users can manage to screw them up, but those users can do that in two months, and they can do that to anything (yes, Linux is included for the most destructive users). I've fixed a lot of older Windows machines, and I rarely have to reinstall. When I do, it's usually because a hardware failure occurred, and you can't blame a broken hard drive on Windows. So in my experience, the allegation that Windows machines live for three years is complete rubbish, especially when used to justify devices that come with programmed-in software death dates. There are other reasons not to use Windows, but not every possible excuse is valid.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Windows machines lifespan

          I replace my gaming desktop every seven years or so.

          Yes, it gets upgrades in between (usually a better GPU), but I expect the motherboard to last.

          I've only ever reinstalled Windows due to HDD failure, or because I'm giving the machine to someone else.

      4. Triggerfish

        Re: Windows machines lifespan

        But how well are the same unskilled masses going to do when they try and install something on Linux and find it just doesnt quite work unless you d x, y, z?

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: Windows machines lifespan

          For most folks if they have email & web it is enough, which is exactly the point the orignal article was making - for them a Chrome Book is perfect (Google spying ignored here).

          Throw in the typical sets of stuff that most Linux distros come with (Libre Office, GIMP, etc) and it is good for most folks who cannot be trusted to use Windows without torching it with malware and crapware, also you do not give them root permissions and set updates to automatic.

          If you have someone with a specific need for Windows, or someone who has some reasonable knowledge of how to manage it, then Linux is not a solution for them. But they are not the "unskilled masses" to which I am referring.

          1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

            Re: Windows machines lifespan

            Libre Office is a joke, still - it's the modern version of @aol email addresses, you know anyone using it is not really a computer person. And GIMP? You must actually be joking there? Great program, but terrible UI; no-one who has to ask for family to do tech support is going to be using GIMP.

            1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

              Re: Windows machines lifespan

              You are perfectly free to bend over and have Adobe shaft you for ever more with a subscription to Photoshop.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @Dave314159ggggdffsdds - Re: Windows machines lifespan

              Dead wrong! I'm using them both at home and I've been a computer person for decades. At work I don't give a damn since I'm being paid to use whatever my employer shoves on my corporate computer.

      5. 43300 Bronze badge

        Re: Windows machines lifespan

        When we had to institute working from home in a hurry (using VPNs and remote desktops), we couldn't get enough laptops so for a while had a lot of staff using personal laptops - and I had to talk them through updating them to an acceptable level first! I was surprised just how much ancient crap was out there, still working, Yes, much of it was pretyt slow but it did the job for quite a few months. A fair number were still running W7 and I had to get them upgraded to 10 (and I managed this with all of them).

        Three years is bollocks, frankly!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @43300 - Re: Windows machines lifespan

          Seems your employer doesn't take security very seriously.

          1. 43300 Bronze badge

            Re: @43300 - Windows machines lifespan

            Err - why?

            It's what loads of companies did in March 2020 - using a secure VPN with remote desktops accessed from personal devices was an adequate short-term solution. No data at all was going onto the local machines as everything was done on the remote desktops.

            Of course it wasn't ideal, but it was acceptable in the short term given the impossibility of getting enough laptops quickly (as anyone who tried buying laptops at that time will know - I even looked at getting some Macbooks and dual booting them, but the only ones available had 128GB SSDs which was useless). What do you think organisations in this situation should have done? Shut down until they could get enough laptops?

            It was quite a few months before we were in a position to be able to issue all who needed them with fully-managed laptops as the delivery delays were considerable.

    2. Trollslayer

      Re: Windows machines lifespan

      The lifespan depends on hardware, power cycling etc.

    3. Col_Panek

      Re: Windows machines lifespan

      He refers to the business users' timetable. These are great machines to scoop up: they've been lightly used and are burned in & heavy duty, so very reliable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Col_Panek - Re: Windows machines lifespan

        I personally love these corporate laptops only slightly used that I buy at around 10 to 15% their original price. Just max the memory and insert an SSD if needed and they can run for another decade although not with Windows. For the same price as a Chromebook, you get a more powerful machine with a much better lifespan.

  5. Doctor Trousers

    Windows machines have a lifespan of 3 years? Only because of all the people who buy a new machine whenever Windows starts running like crap instead of just reinstalling their OS.

    I say this as a Windows hating Linux advocate. I'm not saying you're wrong overall, but I really hate to see this kind of perpetuation of premature obsolescence.

    3 years is ridiculous. Just keep backups of anything important, then format and reinstall with the latest installation media when Windows' horrible update system inevitably breaks itself.

    Sure that shouldn't happen, and sure you shouldn't have to reinstall your OS occasionally as a matter of routine, but you do. In the name of sanity quit buying a new PC every 3 years, that's absurd.

    1. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

      Indeed, as a callow youth (more years ago than I care to remember) I worked as a technician at a large high street beige-box slinger, and 90% of my workload was backing up users data (pr0n) and running the factory reset disk. The most difficult bit was convincing punters that their machine wasn't actually broken, it was just crufty software.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Happy

        Ooh! So if I say "Bonzi Buddy" to you you'll start to twitch and gibber in an entertaining way?

        1. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

          Damn you, I definitely need to sneak out for a lunchtime pint now...

      2. unimaginative Bronze badge

        I think a lot of people do not really understand the distinction between system software (and configuration) and the hardware it runs on.

        They also often think that computers get naturally slower as they get older - a bit like a car engine becoming less powerful with age.

        1. captain veg Silver badge

          Re: computers get naturally slower as they get older

          Similarly they don't realise that "refurbishment" often means nothing more than cleaning the case and re-imaging the system software.

          -A.

        2. Stork Silver badge

          Do they, the cars? Any reference to why that should be?

          I have had a Honda Accord for now 15 years and over 200,000 km and don’t feel anything lacking, fuel consumption is the same too. Driver’s seat not so much.

          The family Renault much the same, at 20 years and 145,000

          1. Def Silver badge
            1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

              A bit of an odd article - seems to be trying to drum up servicing business for the publisher's garage.

              The real reason for the lower power is that some of the tiny horses have escaped.

    2. Updraft102 Silver badge

      I used my Asus F8 laptop for most of a decade with Windows XP. After that I upgraded it to Win 7 and finally to 8.1, which was the last version of Windows I used. (It took seeing how bad Windows 10 was to make me think 8.1 was not all that bad.)

      Chrome is an abysmal browser, and an entire OS built around it strikes me as a torture device. I want the absolute minimum Google in my life that is feasible... no Android, no Google account, no Chrome, and certainly no Chromebook.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      I'm using some Dell Latitude laptops that are ten years old. Sure, they are i7 with 16GB RAM so they are still usable. I also have a Surface 2 Pro that is almost ten years old. It's i5 and 8GB RAM make it still a viable machine for many tasks - it can perform Lightroom operations as long as you don't try to perform heavy retouching. It's small and light enough I carry it around along a company laptop when I travel for work, so in my spare time I can take photos and perform preliminary culling and editing it (the pen comes quite handy, even the small screen), to publish some images quickly. Sometimes, there is no enough bandwidth to upload large RAW images in time (images gets backed up on portable disks).

      Of course if you buy already crappy obsolete hardware it won't last long - unless you move most processing.

      It seems someone at El Reg is becoming a true "activist" and and obtusely attempts to trash everything far beyond any reasonable argument trying to embellish his assertion - but it's not a great display of cleverness.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @LDS - I concur.

        15 years old Dell Latitude D630 running latest Linux Mint. Don't get me wrong, I could run Widows but XP is the last supported version.

        P.S. - Windows XP is still running in my VMs.

        1. 43300 Bronze badge

          Re: @LDS - I concur.

          They'll usually run OS versions well beyond the last officially supported version.

          Not tried running W10 on a Latitude D series (have it running on some early E series). Think the oldest machine I have at the moment is an 11-year-old server running Hyper-V Server 2016 and used as a VM host for basic initial testing of things.

    4. big_D Silver badge

      My current company laptop is over 4 years old and still has the original Windows build, it still runs just fine. My 2016 Spectre laptop is the same, works just fine.

      The same goes for my Ryzen Linux box, ribbing just fine, no rebuilds necessary.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Happy

        "Ribbing"?

        What the hell are you doing with it, and do we really want to know?

        1. big_D Silver badge
          Happy

          damned autocorrect! :D

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, most people can still do their day to day stuff on a 10 year old machine.

      As long as it was bottom of the barrel, or worse a netbook.

      That is as long as you slap an SSD in it.

      Basic office computing just doesn't take that much to run, even with the bloat. I'm typing this on a 2013 macbook. The only reason I will be retiring it soon is not being able to update the native OS anymore. Boot it into BSD and it's good until the hardware fails probably. But Firefox isn't what it used to be and I don't trust the version of Safari under OSX as much as I used to.

      1. Robbles

        Re: Yeah, most people can still do their day to day stuff on a 10 year old machine.

        You might want to take a look at OpenCore Legacy Patcher https://dortania.github.io/OpenCore-Legacy-Patcher/ most of the macOS upgrade restrictions are arbitrary and a more recent release can be used easily ( I have Monterey running happily on a 2009 MacPro for example )

    6. AndrueC Silver badge
      Stop

      Sure that shouldn't happen, and sure you shouldn't have to reinstall your OS occasionally as a matter of routine, but you do. In the name of sanity quit buying a new PC every 3 years, that's absurd.

      I can't remember the last time I had to reinstall Windows. You're doing something very wrong if you need to do that. This laptop is over 3 years old and I have had to re-install. My work machine is now over 6 years old (because I'm close to retiring and because I trust it I don't want a new one). That machine has been hammered by a software developer throughout that time (three Linux VMs and typically three or four Visual Studio instances loaded all day) and is still just fine.

      You don't even need to reboot. My laptop only reboots once a month when an update requires it. My work machine gets a power cycle over the weekend but otherwise (VMs and VS instances included) is just hibernated when I'm not working including lunch breaks.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Doctor Trousers - What you are saying is correct.

      Trouble is corporations are lazy/impatient and are ready to pay for an early replacement than paying for competent techies that could maintain those machines. Besides, security has repeatedly told IT that old, unmaintained machines are a security risk and upper management prefers to pay to get rid of this risk.

  6. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Its ironic that official Chromebooks stop getting OS updates after a specific period of time, yet you can take the same Chromebook and install the free Chrome OS Flex on it (also owned by Google) and start getting updates again.

    While Chromebooks are Linux under the hood the Google spyware installed on top doesn't make them any better than running a Android phone which is also runs on top of Linux.

    Plus who know whether Chromebooks and Android will continue to be based on Linux in the future, Google could switch them over to Fuscha kernel at some point, as all Google care about is collecting data and selling ads, they aren't bothered if you can run Linux app on their OS or not.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's why I hate Chromebooks

    google

    I'm sorry, but this article has the feel of a sponsored review.

    1. Lon24 Silver badge

      Re: Here's why I hate Chromebooks

      Nope, it's a reason not to buy that particular Chromebook. First it was presumably thirsty to need to be plugged in whilst working. Connected by a psu that's not up to the job. I can forgive a psu being blown by a Texan surge - but passing it on up to the Chromebook?

      Something not right there especially as it was supposed to be a premium model. Or had just the psu failed and buying a new laptop just to get a new psu?

      If only everything ran off a standard USB-C supply and your local phoney shop let you check and recharge and/or flog you a replacement psu. Will we get there some day?

  8. WanderingHaggis

    Set my mother in law up on a chromebox

    Fed up with the various viral and backup failures she had experienced I got my mother in law a chrome box. Cheap and her stuff is safe - I don't have to keep explaining why windows has changed since 95. It's simple and easy to use, I can even remote to her fairly painlessly without having to install extra software. In short it does everything she needs with out buying / subscribing to lots of extras. Added bonus is the local bodgers don't install all sorts of junk she doesn't understand or need telling her she must have it leaving her upset that her machine is so slow and does weird things. Chrome is a really good option for challenged users.

    1. BenDwire Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Set my mother in law up on a chromebox

      Chrome is a really good option for challenged users

      Surely you mean most users then ...

      /s

    2. the Jim bloke Silver badge

      Re: Set my mother in law up on a chromebox

      Chrome is a really good option for challenged users.

      Thats poaching on Apples turf..

  9. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Meh

    You might have access to a Linux terminal on a Chromebook, but...

    If you run a £350 Chromebook (i.e. something like 2GHz MediaTek with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage) and install Libre Office or Visual Studio Code you're pushing your luck. One thing open at a time to stop stuff suddenly disappearing. Also the keyboard is non-standard enough to trip you over, there's fun to be had with caps lock and copy-paste.

    Sure, it works great as a tablet with a keyboard for your nan to browse or as a way for Google to indoctrinate the next generation of schoolchildren, but don't kid yourself that it's anything more than that.

    If you degoogleise it and put a lightweight Linux distro on it you might get more out of it, but then you're really just buying a chassis - hopefully the one you've bought will allow proper Linux to be installed on it, some don't.

  10. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Big Brother

    It goes in cycles

    I last heard all these anti-MS arguments about 10 years ago from Mac fanboys.

    I'm in no way pro-MS, but if you want to put them down there are plenty legitimate reasons you can use rather than the bullshit "it'll die within 3 years, and don't even think about putting it on the internet or you'll get a gazillion viruses"

    Chromebooks have their place - they're fine if you want an internet terminal and nothing more. For more and more people, that's enough; but that doesn't mean that Winblow$ doesn't also have its place.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: It goes in cycles

      The Linux zealot foam-mouthed hatred of windows on register forums is really great value for comedy. Their bullshit attempts at gaslighting never fail to give a good laugh!

  11. Rob 15
    Thumb Up

    I approve

    I do the same thing - using a Asus C434. I run VS Code and mess around with node development, Firefox is my main browser, occasionally use Inkscape, and run Google's calendar and Keep Android apps. I only drop in to Chrome if I have to, and use it for Google Docs. The OS updates are super quick and not stuffed with 'suggested apps' and other popups/nags. You can also raise bugs directly with Google and track them. The caps lock thing is weird but you get used to it after a couple of hours. Linux apps appear directly in the launcher. I recommend it.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    I use ChromeOS on a chromebox - the most powerful I could get at the time - as I wanted something powerful to run android apps on my large living room screen.

    My issues (apart from the HUGE one that it's really hard to use without a scroll-wheel) is that it's not really Unix/Linux. Sure you can install linux in a VM, and it links via x11 which is good, but my issues with chrome os is the same it would be on windows.

    Just yesterday, I downloaded something, then wanted to gzip it and ssh it somewhere. All the faffing around in the file-mananger? If you've got to do that, and still can't get what you want, you may as wel just be running windows.

    I had to put my chromebox into "developer mode" just so I could get a shell on my own machine, and had to install a half decent set of utils so I could quickly manage things via the shell... OK, So at least it's possible to get a basic unix environment, but it's a battle to do so. Also, many admin files and things are tucked away where it's not even possible to get at them without using shell.

    Oh, and the provided terminal? It's written in javascript.

    The sooner they get rid of the "everything is a chrome browser window" the better.

    No, it might be a linux kernel, but it's not a linux desktop in the way anyone who cares either way would want.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Much/most of GNOME is also written in javascript. It's actually a good choice for dealing with event based human timescale processing.

  14. big_D Silver badge

    Sorry, but no...

    Chromebooks last pretty much forever. Unlike Windows machines, which have a lifespan of about three years, I still have Chromebooks running that are seven years old.

    We tend to replace our Windows systems between year 5 and year 8 at work - heck, we still have a few XP machines from 2007 or so that are managing lab equipment that won't run on anything newer (isolated from the network, of course). At home, my HP Spectre X360 is from 2016 and is still running Windows without any problems. My Linux box is a bit newer, but has been relegated to the cupboard, because it is too energy hungry (Ryzen 7); I currently use a Mac mini M1 and a Raspberry Pi 400 for every day tasks.

    But, with your Chromebooks that are 7 years old, how many of them get monthy critical security updates, running ChromeOS? Google generally bins support after about 3-5 years from release date (not purchase date) on older models, newer ones last a bit longer. Of course, you could be putting a full Linux distro on those older ones, to keep them safe, or running CloudReady on those older devices? It isn't clear from the article, how you are keeping them updated - yes, they will still run without updates, but Chrome has had 7 critical zero day exploits that can be remotely exploited just this year, alone.

    I am an advocate of OSS software, but also use non OSS software for some tasks, but bringout such guff as the "Windows PCs only last 3 years" is just rubbish and damages an otherwise good argument. Heck, my 2010 Sony Vaio is still in a cupboard and it still works fine, I pulled it out a couple of weeks back to re-program my router, after I managed to mess up the settings on it. I upgraded it to the latest version of Mint, while I was at it.

    As to Chromebooks specifically, I would use them, if they didn't use Chrome... ;-)

  15. Francis King
    FAIL

    Linux has problems for code development

    I found some problems with Linux, that I don't have with my Windows machines.

    On certain languages (Rust, Haskell) the extensions loaded into Visual Studio Code need to have an up-to-date version of GLIBC. If your Linux is too old, tough. I upgraded one of my Linux boxes to get the right version of GLIBC. but then it locks up when you move a window to the top of the screen and it maximises the window.

    By contrast, I've had good outcomes from running Windows 10 and 11.

    So, I'm not okay with using a Chromebook, and I would be very suspicious about running Linux.

    For a moment, I was almost a Linux convert.

    1. 桜沢墨

      Re: Linux has problems for code development

      Not sure why you're complaining about having an up to date system, but the other issue is either a VScode issue (of which there are many), or it's an issue with whatever window manager that you're using, which I find unlikely. Either way, it doesn't sound like you spent time to actually figure out the issue, or a fix for it without just reverting back. Considering the fact that I'm a heavy linux user who mods his system all the time and I very rarely come across problems, I will assume that you didn't spend very long to actually try and solve your issue, and instead assumed that because your kernel is linux then it somehow caused an issue. If that's what you did, then yes, a linux distro isn't meant for you, because you might have to actually look up the issue or try to fix it yourself.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Linux has problems for code development

      FWIW - As an Ubuntu user I find it less troublesome to reinstall new versions than update.

      So I keep my important data and own software development on separate partitions, which are also the only things I backup, so they do not get clobbered by a version change.

      Then after a version change, it's just a matter of adding the software packages needed for development etc., which will therefore have the latest libraries. VScode comes as a Snap package anyway, meaning it is self contained and no chance of out-of-date libs.

      One more thing - Ubuntu comes with an always running indexer daemon that monitors and records file system accesses and writes them to a DB, which is a CPU hog and shortens your SSD life. It can be removed but takes a little work. (With the windows equivalent you have no choice).

  16. steelpillow Silver badge

    Cloudy stuff and privacy/security

    True Google will sniff your activity. But you are using cloud shit so you can recover from hardware replacement in a trice. So whoever puts up the cloud shit is sniffing those services anyway. WTF.

    If you really want security, install Chromium OS instead.

  17. 桜沢墨

    Linux isn't the point at all

    The only reason that people use linux is because it allows them to run an operating system that isn't tracking them, that lets them install what they want, remove what they want, and have (almost) no proprietary software. Running linux means nothing if all of those rights aren't respected. Even chromiumos users are still leaking a huge amount of data to google. The operating system also breaks POSIX, meaning that without having to enable special compatibility, you can't even run and develop linux programs. Something that even windows can do. Google would also have you believe that linux is a mode on their operating system apparently, based off that article sent about "running linux." And the hardware itself? Cheap hardware is available elsewhere, and there are still tons of used thinkpads that not only are more repairable, will last longer, and let you run something other than windows, and can even have a librebooted bios. Not to mention the things won't even break in the first place unless they get struck by lightning.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or, you know, you are wrangling Linux servers/clusters/doing network stuff all day

      There are often advantages to working in the native OS of the platform you are wrangling.

      My current gig is a mixed shop, so I have a little windows box on my desk for the windows server stuff, and a laptop I can do the rest with via SSH.

      Privacy has nearly zero to do with it for our deployment. It's nice, don't get me wrong, but I care about being able to push stuff around webservers, storage servers, database servers, and hack on configs offline for those and things like switches and firewall rules. Those line of business services are stable, secure, and efficient. That's why I use Linux. Not for politics or for privacy.

      Desktop Linux is an also ran, and annoyingly it seems to be an ongoing distraction from server Linux, which is holding the roof up. The whole industry wouldn't be here if Linux web and database servers hadn't and weren't running large buisness, academic, and government workloads around the world. The money that keeps the lights on isn't the .001% market share for desktop operating systems. It's the racks full of gear sitting in the dark in a datacenter.

      The fight over alternate OS use on laptops is a tempest in a teacup, all sound and fury.

      1. coredump

        Re: Or, you know, you are wrangling Linux servers/clusters/doing network stuff all day

        > There are often advantages to working in the native OS of the platform you are wrangling.

        Very much so. And unfortunately it can be a hard thing to explain to other folks who aren't used to doing it that way. Either direction, really.

        I respect the people who've learned to be productive with Putty or MobaXterm or similar, wrangling a linux fleet from a windows desktop. I could get things done that way, but never got really comfortable with it.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Linux isn't the point at all

      “The only reason” ??

      1. 桜沢墨

        Re: Linux isn't the point at all

        My bad, typed this one out quickly since I had to go somewhere. There are a lot of reasons to use linux distros and such, but my biggest concern about using chromeos is the tracking that google will impose on you, so I leapt to saying that linux, which could have been referring to the kernel or the whole system we call linux, is just for privacy. I still say that I chromebooks because I don't like chromeos, and if you want a cheap laptop, there are better options. That should have been the main topic of my comment, instead of what I said.

  18. DarkRookie

    And so? All the Google puts into them make them just as appealing as any Windows laptops.

  19. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    This is not your grandfather's journalism

    "Google is expected to separate Chrome OS and the Chrome browser, so even if you can't get Chrome OS upgrades, you'll still get browser updates."

    Hasn't happened yet, and anyway how can the author be sure Google will, or indeed will be able to, provide browser updates for an out-of-support OS?

  20. Gene Cash Silver badge

    You use GIMP?

    I'm sorry. I have to use that POS at times too.

    Only software package I've seen since the MSDOS days that doesn't offer to save your changes when you exit... your choice is "don't exit" or "discard changes"

    The rest of the GUI is of similar quality.

    For example, you can't rename or delete the original printer setup in Gutenprint. It's always "Printer" unless you hand-edit config files. So if you want "B/W Printer" and "Color Printer" you're out of luck.

    Then for color printers, there's a separate setup tab - with ONLY a color/greyscale radio set and that's it - labeled "output". I was tearing my hair out trying to get it to print color. Why the hell isn't that with all the rest of the couple dozen setup items????

    Trash.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: You use GIMP?

      Gimp is a painful example of bloat. Do not begin with an apology when criticising it, there is no need.

    2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: You use GIMP?

      TBF, GIMP is at least a more cromulent program than fucking Libreoffice. I get the very strong impression that the LO fanboys tried a version of MS Office from 25+ years ago, and are convinced nothing has changed since. That's the only possible way they can be happy with the buggy, featureless pile of crap that would be LO if it would actually run reliably.

      Whenever someone says they use LO you know they're either an idiot or a fanboy*.

      *What's the opposite of a fanboy? They're not so much fanboying anything in particular as expressing their irrational dislike for real Office.

    3. therobyouknow

      Re: You use GIMP?

      pinta-project.com worth a look on Linux. Similar to the excellent Paint.NET bitmap drawing program/image editor. The easiest to use I would say.

  21. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Indeed

    Indeed. I have an inexpensive notebook right now with Ubuntu on there. The Chromebook I had was an ARM model, I booted Ubuntu off SD card for it and it was amazing, 22 hour battery life, and I had the nvidia driver still working for full opengl and even cuda support, it was about the speed of a gtx650 (although not terribly useful since I could run like tuxracer and whatever easily, I actually threw qemu-x86-64 user mode emulation on there and it worked, I ran a canon "binary blob" cups filter with it and that ran fine, android studio ran (the bulk of the program with the native arm java, and the couple executables it runs during compiling running the x86-64 binaries.. now I think they ship a version with arm binaries...), but multithreaded apps crashed. 32-bit and 64-bit Intel wine "worked" but anything more complicated than calc.exe usually uses threads, it was typical for the (single-threaded) setup.exe to run fine then the actual program to use threads and inevitably crash.

    The ChromeOS/distro X11 integration stuff was AFAIK not in it the ChromeOS version for that machine when they discontinued support, otherwise I may have simply run a debian install in chromeos to run my stuff.

  22. TeeCee Gold badge
    Facepalm

    Anyone still running Windows 7 is just asking to be hacked unless...

    Yes, but you could update the OS on that hardware without learning rocket science and jumping through hoops. It's not tied to Win7 and doesn't have a best before date.

  23. Whomesir?

    Why so judgemental?

    Why do the comments on Reg articles usually come down to two main topics?

    1. Windows = bad, Linux = good

    2. Big scary company x,y or z should be avoided because they are spying on you.

    1. Users prefer what they are used to in most instances as it’s easier than trying to learn new ways to do what they have always done. I have both Win10 and Linux Mint devices running and they have different uses because IMHO they are great at doing the tasks I’ve assigned to them. Would I go 100% one way or the other? Not a chance.

    2. Unless you want to live off-grid completely in the middle of nowhere then you have to accept that we live in an age of profiling. It used to be that supermarkets tracked your mobile phone signal/Bluetooth or Wi-Fi around the store to see where you’re going but guess what, they don’t need to do that now. What are you going to do, buy everything from small independents? Good luck as I’m sure many of those have cctv.

    Common sense and sensible behavioural practices make for a safe and happy life - not getting all superior over others.

    (Sent from under a rock in a faraday cage with my tin foil hat, via my potato peeler and a wet piece of string)

  24. Grunchy Bronze badge

    “Cloud” means “somebody else’s computer”

    I’ve got a PC with gigabytes of Ram and Terabytes of HDD, why do I need “the cloud” at all? I’ve got enough resources to be completely independent, why would I deliberately ignore that in order to have Google as my landlord?

    I’m really pleased with the “Ghost Spectre” re-imagined version of Windows 10. They disabled all of the Microsoft telemetry and surveillance and figured out how to defer their forced update scheme until Dec 31, 2049.

    Of course this was done for “professional gamers” to stop Microsoft and other bad actors from stealing all the computer resources to run their spyware, “Chrome OS” is 100% spyware: everything you do is given directly to Google spies to examine at their leisure.

    Plus I’ve become a fan of Abandonware, I can download and run Photoshop Elements 9 from archive.org for nothing, same as Adobe Acrobat XI Professional (with the OCR functionality). They can’t even report back to Adobe my activities since Adobe shut down all their old servers in a bid to isolate users. My newest PC is 5 years old, most are about 10 or older, and can boot an M.2 NVME right off a PCIE slot with nothing more complex than a Clover Bootloader.

    The best part of Ghost Spectre is that they blocked Edge completely (without even having to install the “DoNotUpgradeToEdgeWithChromium” registry key), plus I offloaded the Internet Explorer 11. I guess I’m pleased with my Mozilla Firefox browser, at least it’s not the resource hog that Chrome is, or one of Microsoft’s surveillance apparatuses.

    I have never once even considered using any Chromebook, even if it were free. No thanks, man!

    1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: “Cloud” means “somebody else’s computer”

      Honestly, I do wonder about people like you. It's not 'spyware', they're completely open about their data gathering. And, obviously, there's nothing wrong with giving them the data that means you get a much better experience. What on earth is the downside? Do you think a person is looking through the entirely uninteresting data about how long you wasted on here, for example? You remind me of the people who were convinced it was somehow invasive for their emails to be virus-scanned and spam-filtered.

      It's a bit like complaining about your accountant wanting all the details of your earnings and expenses: they can't do the job you employ them for without it.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: “Cloud” means “somebody else’s computer”

        I'll bite.

        "It's not 'spyware', they're completely open about their data gathering."

        No, they're not. They're completely open that they collect data, but what and how and what you get a choice about, they're not clear at all. They've gone to lengths to hide their data collection and circumvent or ignore methods users use to block them, including methods Google put in. For example, the fact that they included switches for location tracking to imply you could turn it off but only respected them if you turned off all the ones in different places.

        "And, obviously, there's nothing wrong with giving them the data that means you get a much better experience."

        What better experience? I don't get more useful search results. I do get ads tailored to something they think I want, which just means that I get the same unwanted advert instead of different ones. The only thing I can claim to get is free or cheaper software, and I don't buy that in many cases, such as when they put Android on phones and get paid well by the manufacturer for their API licenses.

        "What on earth is the downside?"

        The downside is that I don't want them to have and sell it and I don't want others to. These are separate issues. If they have it, there is the possibility for them to get breached and then others have data I didn't want to have. Not giving it to them prevents that option. I also don't appreciate information about me being sold to other companies who might have other motives for having it, and none of which I agreed to. Even if they don't use it at all, I just don't want them to have all this information they don't need, for the same reason that you'd probably get a bit annoyed if I stood in front of your house filming it and taking pictures of you every time you left the front door. Sure, it's not doing any harm as far as you know, but it's creepy.

        "It's a bit like complaining about your accountant wanting all the details of your earnings and expenses: they can't do the job you employ them for without it."

        No, because as you pointed out, they need that to do what I asked them to do. Google does not need my browsing history to perform searches and show me ads, but nevertheless they will collect it if I let them. Since I don't even use Google search, they don't need my data for anything, but nevertheless they try to collect it.

  25. CrackedNoggin

    I’ve got a PC with gigabytes of Ram and Terabytes of HDD, why do I need “the cloud” at all? I’ve got enough resources to be completely independent, why would I deliberately ignore that in order to have Google as my landlord?

    Are you going to lug that around during travel? What happens if there is a fire in your above? Etc.

    1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      "Are you going to lug that around during travel"

      Laptops have that sort of spec.

      "What happens if there is a fire in your above?"

      You buy a new one, log into your account, and it restores everything from backups with minimal intervention required once you've pointed it at the right things.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No....there is another way......

    (1) Linux server at home.

    (2) Linux server at home checks its own IP address each hour, and emails me if a new IP address has been assigned by broadband provider

    (3) Cheap, pathetic laptop running Linux. Everything of value saved on server (see above) using sftp to server

    .....so.....I have my own "cloud"......no "Cloudbook".......no Google.......

    .....isn't open source and Linux wonderful?

    1. logicalextreme Silver badge

      Re: No....there is another way......

      Regarding point 2 — you might want to look at YDNS.

  27. aerogems Silver badge

    The author of this article seems a wee bit behind the times. We're not in the era of single-core CPUs where you had to shove each task through as fast as possible. These days it's rare to find a system with fewer than four cores, and most of those are probably hyperthreaded so you can run a lot of things in parallel. It's become pretty common for computers to be able to last 4-5 years, or more, especially for non-gaming related tasks. Take a first gen i7 system and compare it to a top of the line 12th gen i7 system, and when it comes to web browsing and word processing type tasks, you won't likely see a significant difference outside of app loading times.

    So the idea that a Windows laptop would only last 3-years is a bit laughable and seems like the sort of thing you often find when someone is evangelizing.

    I had a Chromebook for work once, and dear lord did that thing annoy the crap out of me on a daily basis. I couldn't get rid of it fast enough. Granted my work load as a data analyst is probably not the same as a reporter who primarily needs a word processor. I frequently have upwards of 10 spreadsheets open at any given time, maybe a couple other documents, maybe one or two SAP windows, probably some kind of web-based PLM window open, and other miscellaneous things. Chromebooks do not work for these sorts of scenarios unless you want to be single tasking everything.

    I frankly don't understand the selling point of the Chromebook at all unless it's to people who just need something to use as a web browser and maybe light email via a web interface. I don't get why people buy them with i5s or i7s unless the point is to get cheap hardware to put a full Linux distro on. Never been able to find anyone who can provide me with even a couple sample use cases for how you'd benefit having an i5 or i7 using ChromeOS.

    1. His Imperial Flashness

      No processing power

      Chrome Books employ Celeron, i3, snapdragon, or even old athlon processors which are very weak by todays standards. You are correct in sayiing that for menial tasks they are OK, but not for buisiness, education, or heavy computing. Before the Chrome book, I had an Intel Atom laptop. It drove me to madness. So much as to one day throw it like a flat rock skipping on a pond, except on a street of course. I felt much better.....

  28. thejoelr

    Huh? Didn't we just hate Chromebooks?

    This site published a review of ChromeOS Flex, which has linux support, a few months ago and hated it. I'm too lazy to look it up, but I remember disagreeing with it. Pick a lane...

  29. Si 1

    Steam Deck

    I can’t say I’ll be switching to a Linux desktop any time soon, but I’ve been very impressed with the Linux desktop mode on Valve’s Steamdeck. Aside from the fiddliness of an on-screen keyboard the OS has loads of great features, supports all the compressions types I’ve thrown at it (Windows still can’t do anything other than zip files) and Flatpak makes installing stuff a breeze. Not to mention pretty much every Windows app I’ve thrown at it has run, no matter how old.

  30. FIA Silver badge

    Unlike Windows machines, which have a lifespan of about three years,

    It's not the early 2000s, hardware doesn't obsolete itself that quickly anymore.

    My sister is still rocking my Thinkpad from the mid 2000s, running windows 10. You're not playing games on it, but for the odd bit of web browsing it works just fine. (It was shipped with XP and the only real quality of life upgrade was an SSD).

  31. xyz123

    Liking Linux "because its Linux" is like saying "my religion is true, because my religion tells me it's true, and as the one true religion it can't be wrong"

  32. His Imperial Flashness
    Holmes

    Chrome is not a true Linux. It is not a true Windows. It is not a true Android. It is a bastard operating system with hardly any power. I don't recommend any Chrome Book to my students at our college. A cheap $130 Onn Android tablet from Walmart will pretty much run

  33. AndrueC Silver badge
    Stop

    Unlike Windows machines, which have a lifespan of about three years, I still have Chromebooks running that are seven years old.

    I only have a laptop. It gets daily use. It's an HP HP 17-Y002NA bought in January 2018. It came with Win 10 and about a year ago automatically upgraded to Win 11. It continues to operate just fine, thanks. It replaced an older HP that was six years old at the time that a careless swing of a teacup destroyed the screen.

    Why would someone think that the choice of operating system has an impact on device life-span? There are still machines out there running Windows XP. It's the hardware that fails, not software.

  34. Lazlo Woodbine

    Just got a Chromebook after reading this on Friday

    I read this on Friday and decided to try a Chromebook.

    Seeing as I was trading my old phone into CEX I decided to use the credit to buy an Acer Chromebook. Not great spec, but it's all metal like a MacBook, it's got a Full HD touch screen, and runs Chrome OS well enough for my needs.

    From my initial testing I think this is my long sought after perfect on-the-road writing tool, especially as it charges using USB C, so I don't need to lug around the bulky PSU, instead I can use a compact 45w Anker USB-C charger.

  35. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

    Dislike

    I dislike ChromeBooks and ChromeOS because it's development is managed by Google, a company which has a vested interest in knowing everything about you. It's the reason I'm avoiding Chrome (the web browser) like the Plague on my Linux Mint desktop installation.

    I recommend Linux Mint for day to day desktop use but with Firefox as your main web browser.

  36. david 12 Silver badge

    Clickbait article

    And it's worked.

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