Google updates Chrome regularly with new features, security updates, and more. Chrome downloads those updates and installs them automatically. But how often does that happen? It depends—turns out the Chrome update process is pretty complicated.
Major Stable Versions Every Six Weeks
Chrome is developed in the open and anyone can install the unstable versions. But, when it comes to the Stable branch, builds are released roughly every six weeks. For example, Chrome 73 was released on March 12, and Chrome 74 was released on April 23rd—six weeks to the day.
While it hasn’t always been like this—originally, Chrome updates were pretty sporadic—the Chrome team committed to six-week release intervals back in 2010 and has been relatively consistent since then. Sometimes releases come in four weeks, other times in eight. But generally speaking, it’s always somewhere right around the six-week mark.
It’s also worth noting that Google can adjust the stable release schedule around Chrome “no meeting weeks” and holidays.
Security and Bug Fixes When Necessary
While you can pretty much count on major version releases coming out regularly, bug fix and security updates are much less predictable. Just combing through the Stable release update changelogs shows that there have been three updates since Chrome 73 was released on March 12th, and there’s no discernable interval between each release. That’s pretty much par for the course for these types of updates.
But at the very least you can count on Chrome getting a few bug fix and/or security updates in between major releases.
Chrome will install both major stable updates and smaller updates automatically when they’re available. You can always open the menu and head to Help > About Google Chrome to check for and install any updates immediately, too.
When Is the Next Version Arriving?
If you’re curious when the next major version of Chrome will be released to the stable channel, check the Chrome Platform Status website. This also shows you when the current stable version became stable, as well as information about the unstable versions of Chrome being tested in the Beta and Dev channels.
Chrome OS Also Updates Every Six Weeks
Like the major browser releases, Chrome OS is updated roughly every six weeks. While the version numbers and features generally mirror that of their browser counterpart, Chrome OS releases usually happen a week after the browser update.
So, for example, Chrome 73 was released on March 12, but Chrome OS 73 didn’t land on the stable channel until March 19th.
Otherwise, Chrome OS follows the same basic release process as the Chrome OS browser. The primary exception here is that the rollout schedule may vary depending on the particular Chrome OS device—it may take a few weeks to hit some devices, as each one is slightly different.
How Chrome Update Channels Work
There are four branches of Chrome development: Canary, Dev, Beta, and Stable. Those are in order from least stable (Canary) to most stable (um, Stable).
Eventually, the features that first show up in Canary should make their way to the stable channel—that’s why a lot of users who want to get a glimpse into the future run multiple version of Chrome on their computers. It’s also really cool to see features progress as they make their way through the release channels.
Every six weeks, a Canary build is set as the new milestone stabilization branch. This is where new features and enhancements are designed and implemented. It remains here for two more weeks, at which point it’s pushed into the first beta release. After two more weeks in the beta channel, a feature freeze is put in place—that means all features destined for the stable channel should be code-complete. This is also the reason why we see some features that were initially planned for a particular stable release get pushed back to the next major build.
For the remaining four weeks of the beta stage, new builds are released weekly up until the stable release. The Thursday before the stable version is pushed out (which generally happens on Tuesdays), the latest beta build becomes the release candidate. At that point, all stable features are finalized and merged with the stable branch.
For testing bug fixes, Google also has another build called a “Stable Refresh.” That’s a stable release falling outside of the regular release schedule and is used to fix critical issues that just can’t wait.
Stable Releases Roll Out Slowly
All stable Chrome releases follow a staged release schedule (save for Linux, which is pushed to 100% at the time of release). The desktop versions—Mac and Windows—are released in four states: 5%, 15%, 50%, and 100%. That’s why different users get updates at different times.
Android follows a similar schedule, albeit with one additional step: 1%, 5%, 15%, 50%, and 100%.
iOS follows a different pattern than the other two, with the update rolling out to all users over a seven-day period: Day 1: 1%; Day 2: 2%; Day 3: 5%; Day 4: 10%; Day 5: 20%, Day 6: 50%; and Day 7: 100%.
These staged rollouts allow Google to pinpoint issues before they reach all users, thus stopping the rollout and resuming it once the problem is corrected.