How to Easily Switch To The Canary Channel On A Chromebook

Published by Lamin Kanteh on

It is no secret that Chrome OS is expanding. The operating system is now a lot more than what Google envisioned when it first came up with a competitor to Mac OS and Windows.

No longer an explicitly browser-based platform with a bland and boring UI, Chrome OS has now amassed enough feature set to make it a valuable competitor in a market seemingly dominated by two power-house platforms from Redmon and Cupertino
Making Chrome OS better requires work that is vented through several stages or channels.

The most prominent of these channels is the Stable Channel, which every Chromebook comes with by default and like the name implies, users run the most stable version of new additions to the platform. There is also the optional Beta and Dev channels where additions are first tested before making their way to the stable channel.

However, for those that love to be at the forefront of the newest features coming to Chrome OS, you can switch to a channel called Canary. This is the first node for ideas that are eventually filtered through the previously mentioned channels.

In this piece, I will walk you through easily switching between channels specifically from Stable to Canary and how to revert back to Stable from Canary channel.

How To Switch To The Canary Channel

First things first, your Chromebook will first need to have Developer Mode enable. You can easily do that by following our in-depth guide.

Enabling Developer Mode basically disables verified mode on your device opening up nodes that are so what closed to the mere user.

This allows you to run commands that you can’t if disabled but also comes with risk. Granting yourself access to poke even deeper into your device’s core means Google won’t be able to quantify if the flavor of the OS you are running is viable and policy-compliant.

If you understand the risks of tearing down the defenses on your Chromebook, then after turning on Developer Mode, the next step will be to run a very simple but specific command through the Crosh Shell.

Enable Crosh Shell by pressing Ctrl+Alt+T.

You then need to type in the following command:


Press Enter then Press “Y” (Implies that you want to make the switch} and Enter again.

When you hit enter, your device will immediately make the switch. Your Chromebook might pick up the Canary update immediately but if it doesn’t, go to Settings—->AboutChromeOS—–> CheckForUpdates to manually initiate the update.

Note: The switch completely erases any data you might have stored in your system. It is wise to first perform a backup if you have important files saved.

The process turns your Chromebook into a guinea pig for extremely unstable additions to Chrome OS but you will be on top of the development circle and the first to get a taste of new top of the line features coming to the platform.

How To Revert Back To The Stable Channel

If for some reason you don’t feel like staying on the Canary channel and want to make the switch back to stable, you will be glad to know that this process is a lot more straight forward.
But, before any such changes can be made, your device should be in Developer mode.
If it is, open Crosh Shell and type in the following:


Press Enter
Then Type

 update_engine_client --channel=stable-channel --update

You might be prompted to confirm and doing so should wipe your data and restart your Chromebook. I used the words might and should because when I tried the process on my Dell Chromebook 14, there wasn’t a confirmation to switch and the device didn’t perform a Powerwash of any kind.

Could be I didn’t wait for the update to complete after making the jump to Canary before reverting back to Stable.

But, if you are prompted, just play along. After everything is set and done, you might want to update your device to get the latest stable update from Google.

Note: You can effectively opt to use different channels should you want to test them out, just open the Crosh Shell, type in Shell, the Enter.
After which you can use the following commands for either Dev or Beta.

update_engine_client --channel=dev-channel --update
update_engine_client --channel=beta-channel --update

Adding to that, you can always go back to the standard verified boot mode – which does require another powerwash – without losing access to the canary channel.

Thank you, Dennis.

What are your experiences with the channels on Chrome OS? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Lamin Kanteh

I live, breath, and dream technology. I've only known myself to push the boundaries on what's possible in my mental scope in relation to technology. And having been a writer for the good part of the past three years (covering varying subjects on the major mobile platforms), No place has ever felt more like home than Chrome OS. And as you may know, Chrome OS is ushering us into a future of the unknown and I'm here to help in the process of easing the way into that future via ItsChromeOS.

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Dennis Lockhart
Dennis Lockhart
3 years ago

Like noted, Developer mode does indeed tear down the defenses of your Chromebook.
But, if you don’t like the scary boot screen at every power-up and having your Chromebook ‘rooted’, you can go back to normal verified boot mode, requiring another powerwash, and remain on the canary channel. That’s what some of us do sometimes when we want to check out a feature only on the canary channel.

Jesse Afolabi
Jesse Afolabi
3 years ago

Rightfully so, Dennis. We’ll update the article to reflect this … Thanks for the tip!

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