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Chromebook auto-update - stop, already!!!

Michael Brown   April 3 2015 09:04:43 PM
Of Chromebooks
I sure do love my Chromebook!  (I got the 2013 Samsung, ARM-based model.)

If you can live within its limitations, it’s a more than serviceable companion on the road.  I mean, a 9 hour battery life, and pretty much guaranteed to be virus-free, all for under $300?  (Yes, I know that they’re nearer $200 in the U.S. but I don’t happen to live there.  I have to pay the inflated, “Australia Tax” prices.)

About those limitations:
  • It doesn’t run Windows or any of its applications.  Everybody will have their own opinion as to whether this counts as a limitation or as a blessing in disguise!!!

  • Severely limited printing abilities.  That’s “limited” as in non-existent, unless you happen to have one of the small list of printers with which Google’s Cloud Print service is compatible.

  • A small (but growing!) number of Chrome apps that will work offline.  This is not the problem that it was a year or two back.  Gmail, Google Calendar and all of the Google Drive apps now work offline.  You just need to remember to offline enable them, and you will need an internet connection to do that.  For all the detractors that are still holding this problem against Chrombooks, I would say try giving the average user a Windows laptop with no internet connection, and let’s see how productive they are with that!!

You can work around many of these limitations by installing a full Linux version alongside ChromeOS.  Sure, this is cheating in a way, but no more cheating than I have with any Windoze PC that I’ve owned in last eight years.  Google “chrome linux crouton” for instructions on how to do this.  Note: requires Developer Mode (of which more in a moment).

Auto-update Woes

One undoubted problem that I’ve been facing with my Chromebook, however, is its auto-update feature.  Normally, I’d tout this feature as a good thing.  The OS keeps itself automatically up to date over the internet.  No need to bother with the nightmare that they call Windows Update.

But damn Google for not giving users any easy way to control when and where this auto-update happens.  According to Google, ChromeOS is clever enough to sense when your Chromebook is tethered to your mobile phone, and it won’t auto-update in that situation.

Sadly, that’s not my experience!  Just yesterday, my Chromebook chewed through over a 100 Meg of my phone’s 4G data in a matter of seconds, before I could stop it.  On another occasion, it went through 400 Meg in about a minute.  (Really, until that time I had no idea that my 4G connection could actually go that fast!)

How To Fix

Anyway, I’ve finally found a way to stop this nonsense, but it’s not a particularly easy way, I’m afraid.  You need to have your Chromebook’s Developer Mode enabled.  (That’s Developer Mode; not to be confused with the Developer Channel, which is something else.)  Setting up Developer Mode on your Chromebook (Google for instructions on how to do it) will power wash (i.e. wipe and resinstall) your Chromebook, so make sure any local data is backed up first.

Assuming that you’re in Developer Mode, here's how to stop the OS from auto updating itself:
  1. Hit Ctrl->Alt->t on your keyboard, to launch a Crosh shell window

  2. Within that window, type “shell” (without the quotes)

  3. Now type ”sudo initctl stop update-engine” (again, without the quotes)

Your Chromebook's auto-update engine should now be switched off.

You’ll need to do this before you tether your Chromebook to your phone, obviously!

Be warned that this setting is not "sticky".  The next time you reboot your Chromebook, the auto update engine will be turned back on again.

Many thanks to "will" for this tip.


1Ballisticheetah  09/25/2015 4:46:44 PM  Chromebook auto-update - stop, already!!!

what do u mean by "reboot"?

2Tom T.  02/04/2016 7:12:19 AM  Chromebook auto-update - stop, already!!!

Good tip! I love my chromebook, which is more of a super fast and light xubuntu machine (Crouton).

3Michael Brown  02/07/2016 8:49:46 PM  Chromebook auto-update - stop, already!!!


I mean power down the the Chromebook down and start it up again. That's a full shutdown, as opposed to just closing the lid, which only puts into sleep mode.

44unix  03/09/2016 9:42:48 PM  Chromebook auto-update - stop, already!!!

Make the command more 'sticky' by adding

sudo initctl stop update-engine

with vim or other text editor to the file ~/.bashrc after entering the shell.

The next time you start chromeos _and_ run the shell command, the auto update will be disabled without further typing.