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A new Chromebook saved my bacon when my old one died mid-business trip

In just over an hour I was back up and running.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

So, there I was in Austin, Texas, covering The Linux Foundation's Open Source Summit a few weeks ago when -- pop! -- an electrical surge blew out my Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5, a great two-in-one Chromebook/tablet. 


I was on deadline -- when am I not? -- but I didn't have a backup machine with me. I was in deep trouble. But I was already ready for this disaster. Indeed, one of the reasons I've been a Chromebook fan since they first rolled out of the factory is that if a Chromebook dies on you, you can replace it and be back in business in no time flat.

Also: 5 reasons Chromebooks are the perfect laptop (for most users)

You see, if, as unlikely as it seems for me, I was using a Windows laptop, a MacBook or even one of my favorite Dell XPS 13 laptops running Ubuntu Linux 20.04, I'd be in deep, deep trouble. That's because not only would I need to buy a replacement laptop, I'd need to re-install my applications and restore all my documents. 

If I were home, that wouldn't be that big a deal. Besides having almost two dozen PCs in my combination office and lab, my main backups live on a QNAP TS-453BT3 network-attached storage (NAS) drive. But while at my home office, it's available on a Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN), I deliberately keep that machine off the internet. I do not want to see my backups get locked up due to a ransomware attack. 

But I was far from home, my spare PCs, and my backups. But again, I had just lost a Chromebook. That meant the bulk of my work and applications were still alive, well, and on the internet. I just needed another Chromebook to get back to work.

So it was then that I grabbed a Lyft and headed out to the closest Best Buy. There, I found about a dozen different machines. I looked them over and grabbed the best of the bunch.

It was the newest HP x360 2-in-1 14-inch FHD Touchscreen Chromebook. I'll give this unit a full review soon. For now, suffice it to say that it was exactly what this writer needed at the time. Good keyboard, an excellent screen, and more than enough power with its 3GHz i3 processor for my Chrome OS and Linux workloads.

So, about an hour later, I was back in the press room unpackaging my new Chromebook. That done, it took me less than five minutes to plug it in, update it to the latest version of Chrome OS, install Debian Linux Bullseye and my must-have local Linux program, the GIMP image editor,  and get back to work. 

My total downtime from the moment my old Chromebook went pop to getting back to work on the exact same line I had left behind on my new machine was just over an hour. Most of that time was spent riding to and from the store. 

That was it. No fuss, no muss. Good luck trying that on the road with a new machine running any other operating system. 

For me, Chromebooks have long been my default laptop choice. Yes, I still love my Linux laptops, but since I also run Linux on my Chromebooks, that's not a deficit. 

The bottom line is if you use a Chromebook, you don't have to worry about backups or if you leave your Chromebook in the back of a taxi. So long as you can grab another Chromebook and you can get an internet connection, you're only minutes away from getting back to work. 

For me, this alone is Chromebook's true killer feature.

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