How to join the Chrome OS beta program

If you own a Chromebook, you know what makes these laptops so appealing: Their lightweight, browser-based operating system, ChromeOS, will automatically back up your work and protect against the latest security threats while staying up-to-date.

But you can dig deeper into the software. Just like with Windows and macOS, you can choose to switch from the regular iteration of ChromeOS to a beta version that’s still a work-in-progress. By joining the program, you get access to new features before anyone else and help Google fix what’s still not working by providing feedback on any bugs you might run into.

And now is the perfect time to get more involved with the operating system, as the company recently launched the Beta Tester Hub, where it’s made it easier to interact directly with ChromeOS developers and read about what’s new in the software.

But before you don your developer hat, a word of warning: no matter the device or service, beta testing always carries an element of risk and a chance (however small) that a bug might interfere with an app you rely on or which stores you are storing locally. So, if you choose to try and test the software, make sure you back up all your important documents regularly.

To change channel

Unlike other beta programs, Chrome OS doesn’t require you to sign up for anything—joining just requires you to change a few settings on your device.

Open Settings on your Chromebook (click the time in the lower right corner, then the gear icon) and under About Chrome OS, choose Additional details. There, you’ll be able to see the software channel you’re currently on, which determines how experimental the version of ChromeOS your device is running. All users will be on stable channel by default, which is the best choice if you want to avoid bugs and crashes. But if you want to join the ChromeOS beta and test out new features, you’ll need to upgrade to the slightly more unstable version betaor even more buggy development channel.

[Related: Best Chromebooks under $300 of 2022]

But the risk pays off: the beta channel gets new features about a month before the stable channel and is low-risk in terms of crashes and bugs. The dev channel, on the other hand, gets weekly updates and new features as they become available, as well as more issues. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the dev channel, but if you’d rather get a gentler introduction to software testing, we recommend heading over to the beta channel. To make the switch, on the Additional details screen, go to Change channel, make your selection and click the Change Channel button again to change the channel. And don’t worry: whichever you choose, you can always go back.

If you’re moving to a more experimental channel (from beta to dev, for example), you’ll need to restart your Chromebook. But if you’re moving to a more stable channel (such as beta to stable), you’ll need to restart and reset your Chromebook. It will be like setting up your laptop from scratch, so make sure you have all your local files backed up to the cloud.

When you set up your Chromebook again, things will go back to business as usual as soon as you enter your Google Account details, as ChromeOS is largely a cloud-based platform.

Being a ChromeOS tester

If you’ve moved to the beta or dev channels, congratulations—you’re now a ChromeOS tester. While you don’t want to offer any specific feedback, Google will automatically collect anonymous data when early versions of ChromeOS crash or take a hit. This allows its engineering team to iron out issues in time for stable releases of its operating system.

If you wish, you can also report any issues you encounter manually. With the screen where the problem occurs open, press Alt+Shift+I to view the feedback form, where you can describe the bug you encountered (try to be as detailed as possible) and attach any additional information. You can also specify the website you are having difficulty with or attach the misbehaving file.

Check the box labeled We may send you an email for more information or updates and a Google engineer may contact you to ask for further clarification or offer feedback. The other checkboxes in the form give you the option to submit screenshots of your open tabs and background diagnostic information along with your feedback. It’s up to you whether you’re comfortable sending this information to Google, but the more data developers have, the more you’ll help debug the software.

[Related: The best Chromebook add-ons and tricks]

If you want to get more directly involved with the ChromeOS team, Google has now opened up the ChromeOS Beta Tester Hub to anyone participating in the beta program. There you’ll find more information about the new features appearing on your Chromebook, and you can chat with the software engineers if you have any questions.

On the website, you will see a list of new features in the latest ChromeOS beta and the option to report bugs directly to the development team. If you want to invest even more time helping develop ChromeOS in exchange for some goodies from Google, you can apply to become a Product Expert, which will require you to offer more feedback to developers and help other users on the official Google forum.

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