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Chrome OS 101 update arrives: What you need to know

Has it really been four weeks since the last Chrome OS update? Indeed it has! And now the Google Chrome OS 101 update is here for all supported devices on the Stable Channel. Google’s main blog hasn’t highlighted what’s in the software update, so here’s what you need to know.

Some pre-announced features are in Chrome OS 101

A few weeks ago, Google noted some updates that were soon arriving in Chrome OS. Some of them you might have even seen a little early.

For example, the Chrome OS (or rather ChromeOS) boot screen no longer blinds your retinas. Google has moved from a bright white screen to a dark one:

Chrome OS 101 boot screen

If you have a Chromebook display or external monitor that supports multiple refresh rates, you can now adjust the rate. Variable refresh rate support, common on gaming laptops and monitors, first appeared in an early version of Chrome OS 101.

If you don’t see the option, make sure to enable the chrome://flags#enable-variable-refresh-rate flag. Even if you do enable it, you won’t see the refresh rate option unless your Chromebook or an external monitor is capable of variable rates.

Variable refresh rate example

The new Productivity Launcher is also available in Google Chrome OS 101. Google publicly introduced this last month in a blog post, but some devices still don’t have it. Once you update your devices to the latest version of Chrome OS, enable it with the chrome://flags/#productivity-launcher flag if needed.

I’ve been using this new Launcher for a few months and it’s leaps and bounds better than the old implementation. You can sort your apps, for one thing, and it’s also more visually appealing. Well, to me it is; your mileage may vary. I may be biased because I’ve wanted sortable apps in the Launcher for a few years now.

Chrome OS Productivity Launcher

There’s something for enterprises

I didn’t know this feature was in the works, but it’s a big one for Chrome Enterprise users. Chrome OS 101 supports network-based recovery. That means any Chrome OS devices needing a factory reset or recovery don’t have to download the latest software.

There is a caveat, though, per the release notes, which I’ve emphasized below:

Network-based recovery provides a built-in recovery mechanism for Chrome OS that doesn’t need external tools such as a USB stick, an Android device, a second computer, a USB cable, and so on. It is available on most of the new Chrome OS devices launching after April 20, 2022.

So this is a feature that will only be useful on very new devices going forward. Even so, it’s a huge time saver in the workplace.

Also for the workplace, but handy for consumers too, is a new Firmware Upgrade feature for peripherals. This is now part of the Chrome OS upgrade functionality and can be used at any time. You’ll find it in Settings > About Chrome OS:

Got a mouse, trackpad, camera, microphone, or some other third-party peripheral? Its firmware should be upgradable by Chrome OS.

Note that Google recently added experimental tests for peripherals in the Diagnostics app too.

Google Chrome OS 102 Diagnostics app

Lastly, Debian Bullseye is now the default version of Linux with Google Chrome OS 101. That’s Debian 11 for those keeping score. Previously, Debian 10, aka Buster, was used for all new Linux containers. You can upgrade those containers from Buster to Bullseye, but now the latter is the default during creation.

That’s my early scan of what you’ll find in this latest software update. However, I’ll keep perusing to see what I might have missed. As always, drop a comment here if you find anything new!

author avatar
Kevin C. Tofel

12 thoughts on “Chrome OS 101 update arrives: What you need to know

  1. After I updated, I noticed that when my Bluetooth mouse connects and become usable, I now get a subtle, brief message at the bottom of my screen to let me know. It’s a nice touch, though I don’t think that it would be all that useful except to tell me how long Bluetooth connections are taking.

  2. Still no new launcher for me 🙁

    You tube would not work for me for 4 hours after the update, might have been my router though, anyone else have you tube not work for a while?

  3. Also another issue since update is Chrome – Linux version (not Lacros) goes all black and not usable on screen maximisation.

  4. You might as well remove the “if needed” from your statement about the productivity launcher and flags–the flag is STILL needed to enable it. (I tried disabling the flag, and after my system restarted, I was back to the old version of the launcher).

  5. One thing I noticed is that chromeOS starts much faster than previous versions.

  6. It appears that the new start-up icon is different for Google’s own hardware. My Pixelbook Go has the new dark start-up screen, but instead of the “chromeOS” logo, it simply uses the colorful “G” logo.

  7. I had the new launcher appear from nowhere yesterday (not really that special is it, just takes up less screen).

    Anyway today it has gone back to the old one, what the doodles is going on?

    I’ve not touched flags or anything like that for years, so it’s not my doing. Google please stop messing with things, only release when everyone can have it and when it’s been properly tested.

    1. Agree with your sentiment. Google seems to do a ton of a/b testing. I ran into the new “reading list” sidebar would come and go at random with a fresh reboot. At least it did until 99/100 (whenever Google released it officially).

      I’m on the Stable branch, it would be nice if these a/b tests were only for Beta or Dev users.

  8. Please tell me how to turn off this stupid new feature: ChromeOS now reorders my icons by moving to the top the icons of whatever apps I use. I already had them (about 45 shortcuts/icons) ordered/arranged exactly how I wanted them after years of use and arranging. What the hell is Google doing now? How do I stop this? By the way, it did not start until today and I did nothing to trigger this stupid new feature and I did not turn this on. How do I turn it off?

  9. Now ChromeOS is automatically taking up more than 10% of the launcher screen with large blocks that indicate files – in my case three files one of which I have not opened in over a year. What the heck is this garbage? How are people supposed to know how to turn off these unwanted changes? Seriously thinking of getting rid of my Chromebook because of horrible moves by Google such as this.

  10. Unbelievable. After disabling ten new launcher flags, my Chromebook is back to not being ruined by Google. Unbelievable that Google automatically turns on new ChromeOS settings literally that make up fake suggestions, for instance: “Forces the continue section of the app launcher to show. If there are no file suggestions available, the suggestions will be faked.”
    It seems a plausible conjecture that Google has now made Chromebooks suck.

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