How to switch release channels on your Chromebook

Jack Wallen explains the difference between the different ChromeOS channels and how to change from the default.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer

Chromebooks are a brilliant tool for those who prefer a simpler, faster, and more reliable way of being productive. They are cost-effective, user-friendly, and will often outlast other laptops running traditional operating systems.

When you buy a Chromebook, the installed operating system is called ChomeOS. What you might not know is that ChromeOS offers three different "channels" you can select from. Those channels are:

  • Stable - this default channel is fully tested by the ChromeOS team of developers and is updated every two or three weeks. The stable channel is the most stable channel available and is the best option to avoid crashes and other types of issues. This is the channel most people will want to use.
  • Beta - the Beta channel gives you a peek into upcoming features for ChromeOS with a fairly low-risk scenario. Although not as reliable as the Stable channel, Beta is still pretty solid and is updated every week with major updates happening every four weeks.
  • Dev - this is the developer channel that includes all the latest ChromeOS features. The Dev channel is updated once or twice a week and will contain bugs. If you're looking to be the first to get new features and don't mind having to deal with the fairly regular set of issues that comes with using releases that aren't fully tested or ready, the Dev channel is for you.

You're probably wondering which channel you should use. The answer is pretty simple… Stable. Why? Because most likely you don't want to have to deal with the problems associated with using untested/unproven software. However, if you really want to gain access to some of the new features, while still retaining a modicum of reliability, go with the Beta channel. On the other hand, if you like living on the edge (or you have a spare Chromebook lying around) give the Dev channel a try. The times I've tested the Dev channel have resulted in experiencing some cool features that may (or may not) become a part of the Stable channel in the months to come.

Personally, I generally run the Beta or the Dev builds for ChromeOS, but you should decide how much new features matter to you.

That being said, let's find out how to switch channels on ChromeOS.

How to change your ChromeOS release channel

Before we do this, know that changing channels will delete any files you've saved to local storage. If you do save any files to your Chromebook hard drive, either save them to an SD card or upload them to Google Drive, otherwise you will lose them. With that said, let's change channels.

1. Open Settings

Click on the system tray in the bottom right corner of your desktop. Click the gear icon near the top right of the popup to open the Settings app.

2. Locate Additional details

At the bottom of the Settings left sidebar, you should find the About ChromeOS entry (Figure 1).

The ChromeOS Settings window.

The ChromeOS Settings window gives you access to the About ChromeOS section.

Image: Jack Wallen

In the About ChromeOS section (Figure 2), click Additional details.

The ChromeOS About Chrome section of Settings.

The About ChromeOS section in the Settings app.

Image: Jack Wallen

3. Change your channel

In the resulting window (Figure 3), click Change channel.

The Channel Change button in ChromeOS Settings.

Changing channels in ChromeOS is quite simple.

Image: Jack Wallen

In the popup window (Figure 4), select the channel you want to use.

The ChromeOS channel selector.

The ChromeOS channel selector popup allows you to select which channel you want to switch to.

Image: Jack Wallen

In the resulting window (Figure 5), click Change channel and Powerwash.

The Change channel and Powerwash button in the ChromeOS Settings app.

Don't continue unless you've backed up any files saved to local storage.

Image: Jack Wallen

After clicking Change channel and Powerwash, your Chromebook will go through the process of switching channels and rebooting to apply the changes. Once the system reboots, you will be required to log back in with your Google account. Upon successful login, you can start using your Chromebook again, with the new channel ready to deliver a different experience (depending on the channel you've selected).

Congratulations, you've just switched channels on your Chromebook. If you find the channel you've selected is too unstable, you can always switch back to the Stable channel in the same manner.

Editorial standards