Component Updater


The Component Updater is a piece of Chrome responsible for updating other pieces of Chrome. It runs in the browser process and communicates with a set of servers using the Omaha protocol to find the latest versions of components, download them, and register them with the rest of Chrome.

The primary benefit of components is that they can be updated without an update to Chrome itself, which allows them to have faster (or desynchronized) release cadences, lower bandwidth consumption, and avoids bloat in the (already sizable) Chrome installer. The primary drawback is that they require Chrome to tolerate their absence in a sane way.

In the normal configuration, the component updater registers all components during (or close to) browser start-up, and then begins checking for updates six minutes later, with substantial pauses between successive update application.


For the purposes of this document:

  • A component is any element of Chrome's core functionality that is sometimes delivered by the component updater separately from the browser itself, usually as a dynamically-linked library or data file.
  • A crx file is any file in the CRX package format.

Adding New Components

This document covers the work that must be done on the client side. Additional work is necessary to integrate with the Omaha servers, and is covered in Google-internal documentation.

This assumes you've already done the hard work of splitting your functionality out into a dynamically-linked library or data file.

Create a CRX Package Signing Key & Manifest (Non-Google)

All components are delivered as CRX files (signed ZIP archives). You need to create a signing key. If you are a Googler, follow the instructions at http://go/newchromecomponent for maximum key security. Otherwise, you can create an RSA key pair using openssl or a similar tool.

You will additionally need to create a manifest.json file. If nothing else, the manifest file must specify the component's version and name. If you plan to release the component using Google infrastructure, this file can be generated for you automatically.

Writing an Installer

The “installer” is a piece of Chrome code that the component updater will run to install or update the component. Installers live at src/chrome/browser/component_updater.

You will need the SHA256 hash of the public key generated in the previous step, as well as the CRX ID, which consists of the first half (128 bits) of that hash, rendered as hexadecimal using the characters a-p (rather than 0-9a-f).

New components should use component_installer if possible, as this provides you with transparent differential updates, version management, and more. You must provide a ComponentInstallerPolicy object to a new ComponentInstaller. is a good example to work from.

Components need to be registered with the component updater. This is done in RegisterComponentsForUpdate.

Bundle with the Chrome Installer (Optional, not recommended)

If you need the guarantee that some implementation of your component is always available, you must bundle a component implementation with the browser itself. If you are using ComponentInstaller, you simply need to make sure that your component implementation (and a corresponding manifest.json file) are written to DIR_COMPONENTS as part of the build. The manifest.json file must state the version of this component implementation, and the files must be bitwise identical to the contents of any update CRX with that version for that platform, as the system will attempt to apply differential updates over these files.

This option is not recommended, because:

  • the browser should generally not depend on any particular component's existence
  • bundling increases the installer's size
  • the actual gap between install and receipt of updates should be < 5 minutes
  • bundling increases the complexity of the solution

Note that you can always start simple and bundle later, if it becomes required.

Implement On-Demand or Just-In-Time Updates (Optional)

Contact the component_updater OWNERS.