If you buy a Chromebook that has been out for a while, there’s a small chance it could have an issue downloading the latest OS updates. Fortunately, getting your Chromebook to a completely up-to-date state isn’t impossible.
It’s unclear why this failure happens, but if a Chromebook sits on the same build for too long, it simply can’t pull the latest version from Google servers. Instead, it will kick back an error or tell you that the system is up to date when you know it isn’t.
The first solution is the simplest: change channels, then change back.
How to Change Channels on your Chromebook
Open the Settings menu by clicking the system tray and then the gear icon.
From there, click the “About Chrome” option. On the About page, you should see a “Change Channel” button under the “Channel” section. If you’re using the Material Design settings page (as I am in the screenshot below), this option is found under the “Detailed Build Information” section, instead.
On the “Change Channel” screen, switch to the “Beta” channel.
This should force the Chromebook to pull the latest version from the dev channel. After it’s finished and your Chromebook restarts, you can use this same method to move back to the Stable Channel. Just be aware this will force a “Power Wash,” resetting the device back to its factory state.
What to Do if That Doesn’t Work
If your Chromebook still won’t pull the update from the beta channel, you’ll need to use the Chromebook Recovery Utility.
This utility pulls a fresh copy of ChromeOS and installs it on a flash drive, so that you can then re-install the OS onto your machine. You’ll need a 4GB or larger flash drive and your Chromebook’s exact model number to do this. If you try to set it up from your Chromebook, however, there’s a chance it will auto-detect the model number, making it super easy.
From there, the recovery process is basically on autopilot. Again be aware that this will wipe all data on your Chromebook. For a more detailed look at how to use the Recovery Utility, check out the bottom third of our article on how to factory reset a Chromebook.
Getting a Chromebook that won’t update can be frustrating, but with a little time and patience, you can get that new machine up and running on the latest version of ChromeOS. Good luck!