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.

Resetting a Chromebook can fix most simple system problems that cause a slow-down. We’ll show you how to Powerwash for a quick fix and then how to format and reset your Chromebook.

With these methods, your Chromebook will most likely be back to its perky, out-of-the-box self in no time.

Powerwash for a clean start

Arif Bacchus/Digital Trends

Powerwash is your first option for resetting a Chromebook. This built-in tool completely resets the machine to the version of Chrome OS that was originally installed at the factory. That means it removes any customizations you’ve made to the device — background image, display resolution, homepage, themes, and extensions. It also removes all user accounts and local files stored on the machine, but it doesn’t remove any files stored on an inserted SD card.

This is a good option if you want to keep using the Chromebook with your Google account but want to remove clutter or fix a nagging problem. However, your Chromebook will need to install software updates once it connects to the internet again after a Powerwash.

Here’s how you can do this from inside Chrome OS. Keep in mind that you also can Powerwash by pressing the Ctrl + Alt + Shift + R keys when you turn it on.

Step 1: From the pop-up menu, click the System Clock, followed by the Cog icon. 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 this message: “Powerwash to reset your Chrome device to be just like new. All user accounts and local data will be removed.” If you’re sure, click the blue button marked Powerwash.

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 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

chrome os missing
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 removable media.

Please be aware, however, that this process will completely wipe the OS 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.

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, a prompt to click Done will appear. Once you click Done you can safely take the USB drive or SD card out of your other computer.

Step 8: Inserting the recovery drive into your Chromebook will automatically cause the device to restart and begin the recovery process. Remove the USB drive or SD card when the message “System recovery is complete” pops up. Then your Chromebook will automatically restart, and you’ll have to set up the system again. Once set up, it’s time to log in using your Google account. You’ll need to have a secure Wi-Fi connection to complete this final step.

And that’s all there is to this simple process. If you prefer to have the more conventional Windows software in addition to Chrome OS, it’s just a matter of installing Windows on your Chromebook.

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