Common Chromebook problems, and how to fix them

Chromebooks are a great, budget-friendly laptop option, but they aren’t perfect. Any laptop computer is bound to have flaws, and some of the most common problems faced by Chromebook users can feel difficult or even impossible to solve on your own. 

From issues with updates to internet connectivity, troubleshooting your common Chromebook problem doesn’t have to ruin your day. Read on to find out easy fixes to the most frequent issues Chromebook users face.

System-wide issues

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Your Chromebook runs really slow

If your Chromebook feels sluggish, your best bet is to just restart or check for a system update. In most instances, a Chromebook should automatically check for updates and download the latest when on Wi-Fi.

You can also manually check by performing the following:

Step 1: Click the system clock located in the bottom right corner.

Step 2: Click the Gear icon located on the pop-up menu. This takes you to Settings.

Step 3: Click About Chrome OS listed on the left.

Step 4: Click the Check for Updates button. This checks for the latest version, installs the update if available, and reboots your Chromebook.

Your Chromebook keeps restarting

This is a serious error that indicates a problem with the operating system (OS). If this happens, you need to perform a full recovery, which attempts to save as much data as possible.

For a recovery, you need the Chromebook, a separate computer with access to the Chrome browser, and a portable SD or USB drive with 4GB of space or more for saving data.

Step 1:  Install and launch the Chromebook Recovery Utility extension in Chrome on a separate computer.

Step 2: Click the Get Started button in the pop-up window.

Step 3: Enter your Chromebook’s model number and click Continue.

Step 4: Select the recovery media type and click Continue.

Step 5: Click the Create Now button.

Use your storage device to move settings to the Recovery Utility and fully reset your Chromebook while keeping as much of your data as safe as possible.

I tried updating my Chromebook but received an error

To resolve this, start by checking your internet connection. Ideally, you want a strong Wi-Fi connection or an Ethernet connection. Don’t use your data connection for updates. It uses your monthly data and often causes these error messages.

You can also restart your Chromebook to help resolve connection issues:

Step 1: Press and hold the power button.

Step 2: The screen dims and a pop-up appears. Click the Power Off button.

Step 3: Press your Chromebook’s power button to restart.

I’m trying to download an important update, but it won’t work

If you attempt to download the same update several times, try rebooting your Chromebook:

Step 1: Press and hold the power button.

Step 2: The screen dims and a pop-up appears. Click the Power Off button.

Step 3: Press your Chromebook’s power button to restart.

In the event that a restart doesn’t work, you should sign out of your account and reset your Chromebook. This will wipe away your settings and hard drive, so make sure everything is saved to the cloud before you begin.

Step 1: Sign out of your account.

Step 2: Press and hold Ctrl + Alt + Shift + R.

Step 3: Select Restart.

Step 4: Select Powerwash > Continue.

I can’t sign in to my Chromebook without getting errors

There are many different error messages you can get when signing into a Chromebook. Rather than going through each of them, we suggest you use Google’s handy walkthrough for dealing with these errors one at a time.

Generally, we advise that you double-check your password, username, and Google account to make sure all are up to date and functioning as expected, as the problem is usually one of these three.

Browser issues

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My open browser tabs keep reloading and making everything slow

Chrome occasionally runs into a problem where it keeps reloading browser tabs, slowing down everything else. The sluggish performance stems from low system memory amounts typically installed in Chromebooks coupled with Chrome’s heavy memory load, leaving little else for other programs and apps. Try shutting down any browser tabs that you don’t need to see if performance increases.

If you’re still having issues, you can disable memory-hogging tabs and other apps and programs using the Task Manager:

Step 1: Press the Search + Esc buttons (formerly Shift + Esc). This opens Task Manager.

Step 2: Select any app or program on the list — especially those you don’t recognize — that’s consuming loads of memory. Click the End Process button.

My Chromebook frequently crashes for no reason

When browsing the web and your Chromebook crashes for no reason, your best solution is to turn off your Chromebook. Let it remain off for a moment (this clears the memory), and then restart.

If that fails, a web page you frequent could be the problem. Extensions or apps can also cause crashes, requiring removal. Here’s how to remove a Chromebook app:

Step 1: Click the Launcher button located in the bottom left corner.

Step 2: Click the Up Arrow icon to expand your app tray.

Step 3: Right-click on the app you think is problematic and select Uninstall (or Remove from Chrome) on the pop-up menu.

Here’s how to remove an extension:

Step 1: Open the Chrome browser.

Step 2: Click the three-dot More icon located in the top right corner.

Step 3: Select the More Tools option on the drop-down list.

Step 4: Select Extensions on the roll-out menu.

Step 5: Click the Remove button on each extension “card” that you want deleted. If you merely want to temporarily disable the extension, click the toggle instead. Blue is “on” and gray is “off.”

Instead of loading web pages, I get weird error messages

If Chrome cannot properly load a web page, it presents an odd, “Aw snap!” error. If you continuously encounter this error, something is wrong with your OS or settings. One of the easiest and most effective solutions is to close unnecessary browser tabs and windows.

If closing a few tabs finally allows you to open a new one, then system memory is your issue. Chromebooks typically have low memory capacities due to their web-based roots. Meanwhile, Chrome tabs can consume that finite space. Put the two together and you’re forced to regulate tab use.

Failing extensions can also be a problem. To solve that, follow these steps to disable or remove them:

Step 1: Open the Chrome browser.

Step 2: Click the three-dot More icon located in the top right corner.

Step 3: Select the More Tools option on the drop-down list.

Step 4: Select Extensions on the roll-out menu.

Step 5: Click the Remove button on each extension “card” that you want deleted. If you merely want to temporarily disable the extension, click the toggle instead. Blue is “on” and gray is “off.”

In the event that all else fails, check your internet connection, clear your browser cache, or try opening a web page in an Incognito window.

Chrome keeps telling me, “This web page is not available”

Assuming you have the web address right, this error is often caused by cookie or proxy issues. On the cookie front, it’s probably time to delete them all. Be sure to save your online passwords before deleting data:

Step 1: Open Chrome and click the three-dot More button located in the top right corner.

Step 2: Highlight the More Tools option on the drop-down list.

Step 3: Select Clear Browsing Data on the following roll-out menu. Alternatively, type Ctrl + Shift + Backspace to reach this setting.

Step 4: A pop-up window appears on your screen. The Basic tab provides three options, while Advanced extends the list to five. Select the data you want deleted. Click the Clear Data button.

The problem could also be your proxy settings (sometimes indicated by a message about proxy issues). You can change proxy settings, but only if you know what you’re doing:

Step 1: Click the system clock located in the bottom right corner.

Step 2: Click the Gear icon located on the pop-up menu. This takes you to Settings.

Step 3: Under Network, click on your current connection.

Step 4: Click on it again on the following page.

Step 5: Click to expand the Proxy setting.

Step 6: Toggle on (blue) the Allow Proxies for Shared Networks setting.

If you are using a guest profile on a Chromebook, this will probably solve your problem. However, you must input the correct proxy settings as prompted after checking the box.

I can’t use my Word docs on my Chromebook

If you recently switched to a Chromebook and you are having trouble accessing your old documents, there are several workarounds. Google’s first suggestion is, naturally, to use Google Docs. This can solve your problem, and Google Docs can view many Word files, but it isn’t always practical due to tools, formatting, compatibility, and so on.

The best option — if your Chromebook allows it — is to download the Microsoft Word Android app from Google Play. This app functions just as it does on Android or iOS, so you should feel right at home.

Another option is moving to Word Online. This is a specific, well-reviewed Chrome extension specializing in making it possible to use Office features on your Chromebook and with various applications. If you have online Office capabilities, this web-based solution is ideal.

Connection issues

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I can’t connect to a strong Wi-Fi network

Check the system clock to make sure that the Wi-Fi icon is full. If it appears empty (hollow), your Wi-Fi is switched off. Here’s the fix:

Step 1: Click the Wi-Fi icon located next to the system clock.

Step 2: Click the Wi-Fi icon again in the pop-up menu.

Step 3: The Wi-Fi toggle should turn blue as your Chromebook connects to the local network. You’ll also see a list of available networks.

Old wireless networks may not work with your Chromebook. This is unusual, but if your router is several years old, you may want to try a different network to see if you get a better connection. If it does, it’s time for a router upgrade.

When in doubt, you can also restart your Chromebook. Here’s how:

Step 1: Press and hold the power button.

Step 2: The screen dims and a pop-up appears. Click the Power Off button.

Step 3: Press your Chromebook’s power button to restart.

Check your wireless connection to see if the reboot worked.

I can’t connect to a second screen

If you’re having issues with a secondary screen, here’s how you can check the settings:

Step 1: Click the system clock located in the bottom right corner.

Step 2: Click the Gear icon located on the pop-up menu. This opens Settings.

Step 3: Select Connected Devices on the left.

Step 4: Click the Displays option listed under Device.

Here you’ll see several options to rotate your image, center the image, check the TV alignment, and send the image to multiple screens. See if any of these can help solve your problem.

If you’re using a USB-based dock to connect an external display, disconnect the dock, wait a few moments, and then reconnect. If you’re still having issues, the problem may reside in the DisplayLink drivers and need a reinstall.

I can’t hear anything on my Chromebook

First, check for any obvious but sometimes unnoticed issues, like headphones you need to disconnect before playing sound through the speakers. If you are using an audio device like external speakers, make sure they’re working properly.

If the problem seems to be on the Chromebook, do the following:

Step 1: Click the system clock located in the bottom right corner.

Step 2: Adjust the Volume Slider displayed on the pop-up menu. Make sure the volume is turned up high enough to hear.

You also can try to change the sound input or output:

Step 1: Click the system clock located in the bottom right corner.

Step 2: Click the arrow displayed next to the volume slider on the pop-up menu. This icon does not appear if you do not have external sound devices connected to your Chromebook.

Step 3: On the following pop-up menu, make sure you have the correct audio device set as your output.

If that does not work, you’ll need to reset your Chromebook following the steps outlined above.

Bluetooth isn’t connecting

First, keep in mind that not all Chromebooks include Bluetooth, so check the product specifications. If available, the icon appears on the pop-up menu when you click the system clock. A blue icon means the Bluetooth component is enabled, while a gray icon shows it’s disabled. Click this icon if Bluetooth is disabled.

If you’re having Bluetooth connection issues, turning it off and on will reset the connections — just make sure all Bluetooth codes are still accurate and the devices are properly paired. Also, never forget your physical space, as objects and distance can initiate connectivity issues.

I can’t get my printer to work with my Chromebook

This may be your barrier to success: You need Google Cloud Print to successfully print. It’s not a problem for Chromebooks, but cloud-ready printers are hit or miss. Find a cloud-ready printer for the best results.

If you are stuck using an old, less compatible printer, Google does have a somewhat awkward workaround. If you are signed in to the same Google account on another computer (not a Chromebook), you should be able to create a wireless connection with Google Cloud Print. After that, use your Chromebook — once again, on the same account — to pass a document or image through the cloud and print it.

Seek Google’s knowledge

Be it Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, audio, or other errors, this guide hopefully helped you resolve some of your common Chromebook woes.  If all else fails, check out Google’s help page, which features helpful videos and guides to solving other Chromebook problems not mentioned here.

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