How to reset a Chromebook

Everything used to work perfectly on your Chromebook. The speeds were quick. Your media played flawlessly. Now, you’re experiencing lag, and you can’t figure out what went wrong.

If you need to fix specific issues without completely wiping your Chromebook, we provide a separate guide on how to fix the most common problems. However, if resetting appears to be your only solution, we show you how to get your Chromebook running like new.

A note before going in

Chromebooks provide three ways to reset the settings if a simple reboot doesn’t work. Here’s a brief explanation of each method:

  • Hard reset: This resets the hardware settings only, such as the keyboard and camera.
  • Powerwash: This resets the Chromebook back to its factory settings, returning it to its out-of-the-box state. Afterward, you’ll need to link it to your account, redownload apps, and so on.
  • Recovery: This reinstalls Chrome OS from an external source, like a flash drive. Recovery is required when Chrome OS is damaged/corrupted and cannot be repaired.

Now that you’re familiar with these methods, start your troubleshooting by performing a hard reset.

Hard reset a Chromebook

This may not work, but it’s worth a try before returning your Chromebook back to its out-of-the-box settings.

Step 1: Turn off the Chromebook by holding down the Power button.

Step 2: Press and hold the Refresh button and then tap the Power button.

Step 3: Once the Chromebook starts, release the Refresh button.

If your issues persist, move on to the next section.

Powerwash a Chromebook

Chromebook Restart Your Device

Powerwash is your next option. This built-in tool completely resets all settings to return Chrome OS back to its out-of-the-box state. That means it does the following:

  • Removes all customizations — wallpaper, display resolution, homepage, themes, and extensions.
  • Removes all user accounts and local files stored on the machine.
  • Ignores all files stored on an inserted SD card.

This is a good option if you want to remove clutter or fix a nagging problem. However, your Chromebook will need to install all software updates once it reconnects to the internet. This method does not reinstall Chrome OS — you need a full recovery to fix or replace the operating system.

Here’s how you can do this from inside Chrome OS. You can also begin the Powerwash sequence by pressing the Ctrl + Alt + Shift + R keys at the sign-in screen.

Step 1: Click the System Clock on the Shelf and then the cog icon on the pop-up menu. This opens the Settings panel.

Step 2: Click Advanced listed on the left to expand the settings menu, followed by Reset Settings shown at the bottom.

Step 3: Click the Reset button displayed next to Powerwash.

Step 4: Click the blue Restart button on the pop-up prompt to continue.

Step 5: Once your Chromebook reboots, Google presents the message displayed in the screenshot below. To proceed, click the blue Powerwash button.

chromebook confirm powerwash
Michael Crider/Digital Trends

Step 6: Another last chance pop-up window appears. Click Continue.

Your Chromebook will reboot again. When it turns back on, it will spend a short moment restoring the default settings. You’ll then need to set it back up as if you just bought a new Chromebook.

Recover a Chromebook

chrome os missing
Michael Crider/Digital Trends

If you can’t reach the sign-in screen or you see an error that Chrome OS is missing or damaged, you will need to perform a full recovery. This process completely wipes the internal storage device making it completely unusable until recovery reinstalls Chrome OS. Google recommends you take a few precautionary steps first.

To recover a Chromebook, you need a second computer with Chrome installed and an external storage device like a USB flash drive or SD card with 4GB of space or more. You’ll also need to plug in your Chromebook’s power cord.

Step 1: Press the EscRefresh (circular arrow or F3) keys simultaneously. While still holding those keys, press and release the Power key. Keep holding the EscRefresh keys until you see a screen that says, “Chrome OS is missing or damaged,” or “Please insert a recovery USB stick or card.”

Step 2: On another computer, insert your USB drive or SD card, open Chrome, and install Google’s Chromebook recovery utility.

Step 3: Launch the utility and click the blue Get Started button.

Step 4: Enter the model of your Chromebook, which should be displayed on its error screen — it’s the text at the bottom. Make sure to copy the text exactly. Alternatively, you can click the Select a Model From a List option to select the manufacturer and product. Click the blue Continue button when you’re ready.

Step 5: On the following screen, select the USB drive or SD card you inserted earlier — make sure it’s the correct one so that you don’t accidentally erase other drives connected to your computer. Click the blue Continue button.

chromebook recovery
Step 6: Finally, click the blue Create Now button to confirm the recovery image’s destination. Wait for the writing process to complete, and if the OS asks you to confirm any software installations, do so.

Step 7: When the process finishes, click Done and then remove the USB drive or SD card from your other computer.

Step 8: Insert the recovery drive into your Chromebook. Your Chromebook will now restart and begin the recovery process.

Step 9: Remove the USB drive or SD card from your Chromebook when the following message appears: “System recovery is complete.”

Step 10: Your Chromebook will automatically restart. Log in to your Google account to finish setting it up. You’ll need a secure Wi-Fi connection to finish.