How to reset a Chromebook

Your Chromebook catch a bug? A simple reset can solve the problem

Acer Chromebook 14 CB3-431-C5FM
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Chromebooks are tricky things. They’re built from the ground up to be portable, fast, and dead-simple to use — more so than Windows laptops. For the most part, they succeed, but like any computer, sometimes things go wrong.

When your PC goes haywire and you need to start over, it’s a huge pain. You need to reformat hard disks, reinstall operating systems, and perform all sorts of laborious setup tasks. Luckily, it’s a bit easier to clean house with a Chromebook (especially our favorites). There are a number of options available, which allow you to quickly reset your settings or perform a thorough “powerwash” that will scour your Chromebook for any problematic or malicious software, while leaving little behind in its wake.

If you’ve run into problems on your browser-based system, here’s how to reset a Chromebook.

Reset Settings to remove customization

This option for resetting your Chromebook will remove any customization you’ve made to your device — background image, display resolution, homepage, themes, et cetera — and disable any extensions you’ve installed. It’s a good option if you’re sure you want to continue using your Chromebook with your Google account, but want to remove some of the clutter or try to fix a nagging problem.

chromebook settings menu reset
Michael Crider/Digital Trends
Michael Crider/Digital Trends

Step 1: Click the clock area, then click the settings ‘cog’ icon.

Step 2: Scroll down to the bottom of the menu and click “Show advanced settings,” then scroll down again. Click the button marked “Reset settings” at the bottom of the page.

chromebook reset settings
Michael Crider/Digital Trends
Michael Crider/Digital Trends

Step 3: Make sure to read the warning in the pop-up menu. If you’re ready, click “Reset.”

Once complete, your Chromebook (and any Chrome desktop browsers connected to your Google account) will be reset to the default settings. It will still be running the latest version of Chrome OS.

Powerwash to remove user accounts and local files

The second option for resetting your Chromebook is rather colorfully called “Powerwash.” This removes any user accounts and local files stored on the machine. It will also reset the machine to the version of Chrome that was originally installed from the factory. Your Chromebook will need to install software updates once you connect it to the internet again.

chromebook settings menu power wash
Michael Crider/Digital Trends
Michael Crider/Digital Trends

There are two ways to access the Powerwash feature. If you can access your account, then go ahead and log in.

Step 1: Click the clock (in the lower-right corner by default), then click the settings ‘cog’ symbol.

Step 2: Scroll to the bottom of the page, then click “Show advanced settings,” then scroll down again. Near the very bottom will be the Powerwash button — click it.

If you can’t login to your Chromebook, then turn it on and get to the login screen. Hold down the Ctrl, Alt, Shift, and R keys at the same time (all four of them). The Powerwash feature will be activated.

chromebook restart powerwash
Michael Crider/Digital Trends
Michael Crider/Digital Trends

Step 3: From either method, you’re now presented with two options: Restart and Cancel. Click “Restart.”

Once your Chromebook boots up again, you’ll be presented with a confirmation message: “Powerwash to reset your Chrome device to be just like new. All user accounts and local data will be removed. This cannot be undone.”

chromebook confirm powerwash
Michael Crider/Digital Trends
Michael Crider/Digital Trends

Step 4: If you’re sure, click the button marked “Powerwash.”

Step 5: On the next pop-up window, click “Continue.” Your Chromebook will reboot again, but this time when it turns back on it will spend a short moment clearing off all data. You’ll then need to set it up, connect to a Wi-Fi network, and log in with your Google account.

Format and recovery, for when things go wrong

If something’s gone wrong with your Chromebook and you can’t even get to the login screen, there’s still one more option: completely wipe the storage drive and restore it from remote media.

Warning: this process will completely wipe the operating system and storage of your Chromebook, making it entirely unusable until the recovery is completed. Google recommends you take a few precautionary steps first.

To complete this process, you’ll need a separate computer running the Chrome browser, and a 4GB or larger USB drive or SD card that you can completely erase. It’s also a good idea to plug in your power cord.

To completely format (erase) the operating system from your Chromebook, hold down the Esc key and the Refresh key (top row, fourth from the left, with an arrow icon that makes a circle). While still holding those keys, press and release the Power key. Keep holding the Esc and Refresh key until you see a screen that says, “Chrome OS is missing or damaged.”

chrome os missing
Michael Crider/Digital Trends
Michael Crider/Digital Trends

Now switch over to your other computer. Insert your USB drive or SD card. Open Chrome and install the Chromebook recovery utility from Google, then launch the app. Click “Get started.”

Enter the model of your Chromebook, which should be displayed on the error screen — it’s the text at the bottom. Make sure to copy the text exactly. Click “Continue.” On this 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 “Continue.” Click “Create now” on the next screen, then wait for the writing process to complete. If the operating system asks you to confirm any software installations, do so.

chromebook recovery
Michael Crider/Digital Trends
Michael Crider/Digital Trends

Click “Done” when the process is finished, then remove the USB drive or SD card and insert it into your original Chromebook. The device will restart automatically and begin the recovery process. When the message “System recovery is complete” appears on the screen, remove the USB drive or SD card.

Your Chromebook will automatically restart. Set it up, connect to a Wi-Fi network, and log in with your Google account. That’s it! You’re ready to go.

If Chrome OS is still leaving you hankering for a standard Windows machine, you could always install Windows on your Chromebook.

Computing

Intel expects Apple to transition Macs to ARM processors in 2020, report says

It has been rumored for some time that Apple could transition away from Intel to ARM processors, but a new report now claims that Intel is aware of the decision and that it could happen in 2020.
Computing

Zipping files on a Chromebook? Follow these four easy steps

Chromebooks support file compression, though they work a little differently than on Windows or Mac. Here's the step-by-step process to zipping files on a Chromebook, and then unzipping them again for extraction.
Gaming

Need to perform a factory reset on your Xbox One console? Here's how to do it

Whether you're upgrading to a One X and giving your old console to a friend, or troubleshooting a technical issue, sometimes your Xbox One needs a clean slate. Here's our quick guide on how to factory reset an Xbox One.
Deals

Here are the best Chromebook deals available in February 2019

Whether you want a compact laptop to enjoy some entertainment on the go, or you need a no-nonsense machine for school or work, we've smoked out the best cheap Chromebook deals -- from full-sized laptops to 2-in-1 convertibles -- that won't…
Computing

Speed up your system by tweaking the startup application in Windows and MacOS

Bothered by programs that automatically start when you boot your computer, or want to add a new one to the list? Here's how to change your startup programs in Windows 7, 8, and 10, along with Apple's MacOS.
Computing

Still miss Windows 7? Here's how to make Windows 10 look more like it

There's no simple way of switching on a Windows 7 mode in Windows 10. Instead, you can install third-party software, manually tweak settings, and edit the registry. We provide instructions for using these tweaks and tools.
Computing

The rumors were true. Nvidia’s 1660 Ti GPU, a $280 powerhouse, has arrived

Nvidia has officially launched the GTX 1660 Ti, its next-generation, Turing-based GPU. It promises to deliver all the performance and efficiency for all modern games, but without stepping into the high price range of the RTX series. 
Computing

Dodge the biggest laptop-buying mistakes with these handy tips

Buying a new laptop is exciting, but you need to watch your footing. There are a number of pitfalls you need to avoid and we're here to help. Check out these top-10 laptop buying mistakes and how to avoid them.
Computing

Great PC speakers don't need to break the bank. These are our favorites

Not sure which PC speakers work best with your computer? Here are the best computer speakers on the market, whether you're working with a tight budget or looking to rattle your workstation with top-of-the-line audio components.
Computing

Confused about RSS? Don't be. Here's what it is and how to use it

What is an RSS feed, anyway? This traditional method of following online news is still plenty useful. Let's take a look at what RSS means, and what advantages it has in today's busy world.
Computing

Everything you need to know about routers, modems, combos, and mesh networks

Modem vs. router: what's the difference? We explain their functions so you can better diagnose any issues prior to contacting technical support. We also talk about a few variants you'll see offered by ISPs and retailers.
Computing

Metro Exodus update brings DLSS improvements to Nvidia RTX 20-series PCs

Having issues in Metro Exodus? A February 21 update for the title recently delivered enhancements to Nvidia’s deep learning supersampling feature and other fixes for low-specced PCs. 
Computing

Limited-time sale knocks $500 off the price of the Razer Blade Pro 17

Looking for an ultra-powerful laptop for yourself or someone else? You're in for some luck. Razer is running a sale on some of its best gaming laptops, cutting down pricing on the Razer Blade 15 and the Razer Blade Pro 17. 
Emerging Tech

Engineer turns his old Apple lle into an wheeled robot, and even gives it a sword

How do you give new life to a 30-year-old computer? Software engineer Mike Kohn found a way by transforming his old Apple IIe into a wheeled robot. Check it out in all its 1980s glory.