Q I use and like Google’s Chrome web browser, because it works pretty quickly on my ageing laptop. However, recently I noticed that data use on my 3G broadband modem had shot up, amounting to hundreds of megabytes in one day.
I was perplexed, because I hadn’t done anything unusual – I had only dealt with a few emails and done a bit of casual web surfing – and I’m always careful to avoid watching online videos and stuff like that when using the 3G broadband connection.
Later, a friend told me that Chrome updates itself automatically in the background and it occurred to me that this might be the cause. Also, one assumes it slows down my Windows 7 PC while it’s doing it (though admittedly I’ve not noticed any slowdown).
However, I can find no mention of this facility in Chrome’s menus and no way to disable it. Can you tell me how to do it?
A Chrome does indeed update itself automatically, with no effective user control over the process. Worse, Chrome doesn’t even tell the user when it’s doing this so, as you’ve discovered, it can use up large amounts of bandwidth without your knowledge.
It is one of Chrome’s weakest points and an issue Chrome users regularly complain about.
In fact, this is a problem that to a greater or lesser extent affects several other Google programs and it is caused by an invisible software component called Google Update (not to be confused with Google Updater, which comes with both Google Pack and Google Earth and is generally less bothersome).
Surprisingly, it is not possible to uninstall Google Update by itself. If you want to remove it, then Google’s advice is to uninstall all Google applications and wait for “approximately an hour”. During this time Google Update “should be uninstalled automatically”.
While all of that may be true, it isn’t terribly helpful – few people would want to have to uninstall all Google-related programs just to stop their computers auto-updating. Similarly, Google’s statement that Google Update “should be uninstalled automatically” isn’t very reassuring (no confirmation is ever given that it has been removed).
It is possible to disable Google Update, though obviously Google would rather you didn’t and therefore offers no advice on this point.
Fortunately, it is pretty straightforward using Microsoft’s System Configuration utility (sometimes called MSConfig, for reasons that will become plain in just a moment). To do this in any version of Windows, click Start followed by Run, type msconfig into the Open field and click OK.
When the application window appears, click to select the Services tab and click the Manufacturer heading to sort the Service list accordingly. Now scroll down to find those services with Google in the Manufacturer column and click to remove the ticks from those labelled ‘Google Update Service’ (both, ‘gupdate’ and ‘gupdatem’, if listed).
You may also wish to remove the tick from Google Software Updater, but remember this isn’t the cause of Chrome’s silent updates. Click OK and click Restart to make the changes take immediate effect (or you should click Exit without restart if you want to wait until it is convenient for you to shut down your PC).
Remember, some of your Google programs will no longer update automatically, so you may wish periodically to check if newer versions are available. To do this in Chrome, click the spanner icon at the top right and choose the About Google Chrome option.
If the dialogue box that appears detects that an updated version is available, click the spanner icon again and this time you should choose Update Google Chrome.