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Schools bought millions of Chromebooks in 2020—and three years later, they're starting to break

Schools bought millions of Chromebooks in 2020—and three years later, they're starting to break

In early 2020, as the COVID pandemic moved classes online, school districts found they needed to buy cheap laptops to send their students home. Many people turned to Chromebooks.

Three years later, the US public interest research group Education Fund concludes in a new report titled Chromebook Churn that many of these batches are already starting to go bad. This is potentially costing the districts money; PIRG estimates that "doubling the lifespan of Chromebooks could save taxpayers $1.8 billion." This also generates a lot of e-waste.

One of the big problems is repairability. Chromebooks are on average more difficult to upgrade and repair than Windows laptops. This is partly, PIRG found, because replacement parts are so hard to come by – especially for elements like screens, hinges and keyboards that are especially vulnerable to drops, bumps, jolts and school use in general. Are. come from

For example, the researchers found that nearly half of the replacement keyboards listed for Acer Chromebooks online were out of stock and a third cost "$89.99 or more, which is about half the cost of a typical $200 Chromebook." As PIRG reports, some IT departments have resorted to purchasing additional batches of Chromebooks just for their components.

"These higher costs may cause schools to reconsider Chromebooks as a cost-saving strategy," the report said.

Chromebook Brainstorm also discusses the expiration date of Chromebooks' auto-updates - something users have been complaining about for years.

While Google currently guarantees eight years of automatic updates for Chromebooks, that period officially begins when Google certifies the Chromebook—not when the school actually receives the Chromebook. Which is a process that can take a long time. The report found that by the time a school successfully purchases, receives, installs and deploys a fleet of Chromebooks for students, it is common to be exhausted "after four to five years".

The paper warns, "When the software expires within a few years of device use, schools are left with computer boxes that end up as electronic waste, and even more Chromebooks to buy." " Is necessary."

Those shorter expiration dates make it even more difficult for schools to resell their devices, which means some have to pay even more to recycle them.

PIRG estimates that "doubling the lifetime of the 31.8 million Chromebooks sold in 2020 could cut emissions by 4.6 million tons of CO2e, the equivalent of taking 900,000 cars off the road for a year." The group recommends that Google eliminate the automatic update termination system, that its OEM partners generate a "minimum 10% overstock" of replacement parts, and that components be better standardized across Chromebook models.

It also suggests that Google should make it easier to remove the Chromebook from remote management and install a remote operating system (Linux, that is), which would make resale of the AUE more attractive. The authors write, "Not only is the choice of operating system a consumer right, but it will increase the laptop's resale and reuse value for years."

Reached for comment, Google spokesman Peter Du provided The Verge with the following statement:

The PIRG report kicks off with the refrain I've been banging on "eco" laptop reviews for years: The most eco-friendly gadgets are the ones that last forever.

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