Yesterday, reports swirled of a few Pixelbook devices that were essentially ruined after an update to Chrome OS Beta 87.0.4280.24. Android Police reported the cases being reported directly to them and have found evidence of a handful of others with the same problem on Reddit and in the Google Product Forums. Thus far, there is no simple resolution, no quick fix, and no real way for the affected users to get relief on their now-defunct Pixelbooks.
It seems Google has already found the issue related to the TPM in the Beta update, but this now-fixed bug doesn’t really do much to assist those users who have already been impacted. The bug doesn’t just cause the devices to be unusable, it also causes enough chaos to render the Pixelbook incapable of entering recovery. For reference, if you can get to the recovery mode on any Chromebook, you can undo just about any issue you may have. Without the ability to get into that state, these Pixelbooks are quite literally dead, left incapable of powering on or booting with a completely garbled screen.
While we’ve seen hardware issues with Chromebooks for sure, this may be the first time an update caused such a catastrophic failure that has no chance of being undone. Sure, there are warnings about heading to the Beta, Developer or Canary Channels of Chrome OS, but Google’s own support page about these channels offers no warnings whatsoever that you may completely brick your device. In fact, the only real warnings present have to do with data loss for locally stored files. We’ve put countless Chromebooks in every channel possible and over the years we’ve never had an issue a Powerwash or recovery couldn’t solve.
I understand the need for warranty windows and extended coverage when it comes to hardware failures. I understand that companies can’t replace defective screens, batteries or hard drives forever, but none of that should apply to manufacturer-initiated updates. If a user is in the Beta Channel where there was no clear warning from Google – but instead almost an invitation to try out features a tad bit early – it is unacceptable for a software update to ruin a device and there be no action taken to rectify the situation.
If Google didn’t publicly encourage users to try out these other channels and instead put up stern warnings about device updates possibly destroying your hardware, I’d say shame on the user. But that is not at all the case and nothing that these users did should put them at fault for the current state of their Pixelbooks. Put plainly, Google needs to make this right. They did reach out to Android Police to say that they’ve yet to reproduce the issue on their end and are actively looking into it, but there’s no indication that anything will be done to help out the hapless users that are affected.
All in all, there are likely very few completely-bricked Pixelbooks stemming from this issue, so it wouldn’t take too much for Google to simply send out warranty replacements regardless of whether or not these devices are covered. Again, this isn’t damage due to negligence or activity that is frowned upon by Google. This happened due to a bad update issued by Google and now we have Pixelbook users left high and dry with no clear path forward. It is unfortunate, but this isn’t impossible to fix and Google could easily create some good PR by just extending warranty replacements for these users. Will they? We just don’t know at this point, but I’m really hoping they step up and do the right thing, here.