Chromebook: Can a Computer Really be Virus-Free?

Chromebook: Can a Computer Really be Virus-Free?

A Latecomer’s Guide to the Real Advantage of Owning the Chromebook Laptop

Ahh, the future.  You’ve seen it: wonderfully sleek and uncluttered, simple yet technologically so far advanced anything seems possible.  That’s what Google had in mind when they brought to us their Chromebook laptops, devices pared down so as to be so beautifully simple and hassle-free that it would redefine the idea of what a laptop really is.

Chromebook is Google’s idea of the future plus a redefinition of the laptop

According to the makers of Chromebook, the future looks like this: the laptop is a doorway to an online world of apps and content that need exist only in the cloud.  Like the great mysterious wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a Chromebook is merely a doorway to a magical world of opportunity, delight, and mystery.  Like the wardrobe, it’s nothing by itself but rather a portal that whisks you to another world.

But, just as the Pevensie siblings from the beloved children’s book found no use for the wardrobe on its own, we can’t use the Chromebook without the Cloud, either.  Take away Narnia, and the wardrobe is simply a place to hang a shirt or two.  Likewise, take away the Cloud, and Chromebooks are good for little more than playing solitaire or whatever else you can muster up with only 32 gigs of storage and no native applications.

Nevertheless, Chromebooks are catching on.

Schools love Chromebooks.  Google hopes businesses (and eventually you) will too

When Chromebooks first came out in 2011, they quickly became the darling of the education system in the USA.  Schools accounted for 85% of Chromebook sales in 2013 , as reported by Gartner Research.  They haven’t quite caught on with the general consumer, but that’s probably about to change.  The market is opening up for Google in this sector: Chromebook sales are set to triple by 2017 and Google has now set its eyes on business markets.

Google is already beating out Apple in the education sector: in 2014, Chromebooks were the best-selling devices in schools, according to research firm IDC.

No apps, no storage..what’s in it for me?

So why exactly are people buying Chromebooks, besides the fact that they’re shockingly cheap?  After all, you’re giving up a lot of programs you’ve probably been using for years (Outlook, Word).  You’re giving up all these things too:

  • system optimization tools
  • drivers for your old hardware (printers etc)
  • file manager
  • anti virus software

Some liken the experience of using a Chromebook to that of running a browser with a keyboard…and they’re right because that’s really all you’re doing.  And that browser is Chrome.  No other browser is allowed.  In fact, installation of any  software is meant to be totally impossible (of course there are hobbyists who tinker with their Chromebooks).

So again: why buy a laptop that amounts to little more than the Chrome browser with a keyboard?

One reason is that Chromebooks are pretty much virus-proof.  The “how” and “why” of this seemingly impossible idea is explained below.

Why you should love the idea of Chromebook: it’s more virus-proof than anything we’ve ever seen

You may think Google’s motive for developing a laptop that forced users to use Google’s cloud-based storage (which doesn’t come free, after all), Google’s browser, and Google’s app store was clear.  And yes, we grumble at the thought of being tethered to Google world forever, should we choose to purchase a Chromebook.

But for anyone who’s ever sat through endless Windows updates and the issues that come along with them, plus anyone who’s ever dealt with a virus, or paid for anti-virus software…well there’s a another clear advantage of owning a Chromebook it’s said to be virus-free.

The virus-proof factor is a huge draw, but can it really be true?  Can a laptop really be virus-proof?

How “Virus-Proof” works…

Here’s how the Chromebook functions, and how it can be virus-free, in theory:

Viruses like to be installed on your operating system or in software, both of which reside on your computer.  Chromebooks work via web-based apps rather than natively installed software, so that takes care of that.  As for the OS, it’s not writable so there’s really no way for a virus to take hold there, either.

Chromebooks are designed to be used, not maintained.  No software installs, no software updates, no Windows updates, no anti-virus software…no disk cleanup, defragging, or other maintenance issues whatsoever.  Even the OS takes care of its own updates…the user doesn’t even know they’re happening and certainly doesn’t have to enter any passwords to make them happen.

You see, Chromebooks actually operates a double version of the operating system.  There are two copies, only one of which gets updated at a time.  If an update fails (you’ve seen it with Windows countless times), that version of the OS won’t be allowed to run on the laptop.  The OS which is currently being used by the owner is totally non-writable.  Only the copy that’s not being used is writable, for updates.

So to answer the question of the day: yes, it’s possible for the Chromebook to pretty much virus-proof.  You just have to give up the old way of personal computing and move on over to the Cloud.  Google’s cloud, to be exact. After all, The Laptop is The New Factory!