So, the Chromebook Recovery Utility isn’t working for you.
In this complete tutorial, we’ll try to get your problem solved!
- The common errors with the recovery utility
- How to fix “stuck” or “unable to unzip file” errors
- What to do if the recovery utility isn’t writing, downloading or failing verification
- How to create a recovery USB on Windows, Mac, and Linux
- And more
If you’re still stuck, post a comment below and I’ll try to help you out ASAP.
Sound good? Let’s get your Chromebook Recovery Utility fixed!
What’s the Chromebook Recovery Utility?
The Chromebook Recovery Utility is a tool made by Google that basically does exactly what it says- it “recovers” any device running Chrome OS.
You should use this tool if:
- You’re having problems with your Chromebook, Chromebox, or any other device with Chrome OS as the operating system
- You’re getting crashes, freezes, or errors constantly
- You get the “Chrome OS is missing or damaged” message
- Your Chromebook constantly crashes, reboots, or never starts
- You get a white screen after you turn on your Chromebook (WSOD)
The Recovery Utility creates a backup of Chrome OS and lets you use it whenever you need to restore or fix Chrome OS.
Although Chromebooks by nature are already very stable and rarely have problems, this tool still exists just in case for those rare instances.
What do you need to recover? Is it necessary?
Chrome OS automatically updates new software in the background and applies it to your Chromebook whenever you restart it.
This keeps it updated against the latest online security threats, adds new features, etc.
But when something goes awry, that’s when you can recover it.
Recovering your device will take some time. Is it really needed at this point? Or can you force restart your laptop and avoid this process altogether to save you time?
Try easier techniques and everything else first
I’d suggest trying everything you can first. Restart your device with a hard reset. Drain the battery. Enter recovery mode and see if you can restore it. Do what you can.
But if your Chromebook is bricked, then we’ll use the Chromebook Recovery Utility (CRU).
The Recovery Utility is an external image state that’s downloaded onto an external USB, SD card, or external hard drive.
You then keep the drive in a safe location until Chrome OS crashes or starts throwing errors.
In this case, you’d create the image on another workstation and then use the drive on your bricked Chromebook.
Chrome OS is more than just Chromebooks
Something to note: Chrome OS means any device that runs the software.
This includes both Chromebooks and Chromebox. You can recover either device with the Recovery Utility.
That’s all you really need to know about the tool. Let’s go over how to use it.
Can you reinstall Chrome OS?
Yes, you can restore your copy of Chrome OS by doing one of two methods:
- Make a recovery drive using the Chromebook Recovery Utility
- Do a Powerwash
Either method should fix any problems with Chrome OS. They basically install a new copy of the operating system automatically onto your Chromebook.
We’ll start with the traditional recovery. If that fails, then a Powerwash may be necessary. Both are covered in this tutorial.
Note that Chrome OS has no recovery “disc” or software key like Windows.
Chrome OS is open-source software that you can easily reinstall. Just use the Recovery Utility or Powerwash your Chromebook.
How do I create a recovery USB drive for my Chromebook?
First, you’ll have to create a recovery drive for the future event that your Chromebook crashes.
Or if your device has already crashed, you can still create a USB from your Windows, Mac, or Linux phone to use in your Chromebook.
Whatever the case, you’ll only need a few things to create the recovery device:
An 8GB or larger USB drive or SD card – 4GB drives may cause errors (make sure there’s nothing else saved on the device)
- A Windows, Mac, or Linux to work from
- A Chromebook or Chromebox that you want to recover
Note: The USB or SD card you use will be deleted during the process, so make sure it’s blank or move the files to another device.
Make the recovery file
Here’s how to create the recovery USB:
Step 1: Add the Chromebook Recovery Utility to Chrome. You can do this on any computer running Chrome OS. You can download it from the Chrome Web Store here.
Step 2: After it’s added to Chrome, run the tool. You can find it in your list of Chrome extensions, which you can access by going to “chrome://extensions” in your browser. Launch the tool.
Step 3: Read and follow the on-screen prompts to set up the drive. The first thing you’ll have to do is identify your Chromebook.
Simply type in your Chromebook’s model number that you want to recover. You can find it on your Chromebook’s error screen or choose it from a list of models.
Don’t know your model? Find out what Chromebook you have.
Step 4: Plug in your USB drive or SD card. Once you plug it in, you’ll see it appear on the screen. If no drive or card is found, try another port or disconnecting it and reconnecting it.
You’ll see text that reads “No USB drives or SD cards found” until it detects a drive. You also can’t proceed as the “Continue” button is grayed out until you plug in a drive.
Step 5: Click the “Create now” button on the next page and the Chromebook Recovery tool will build the recovery image and save it to the drive or SD card automatically.
It defaults to a .bin file saved onto your computer. If you’re on Windows, you’ll see a .bin file in your Downloads folder, or whatever your default folder is. Some people convert it to an .iso file for use on Windows computers to restore Chrome.
This may take a few minutes. You can follow the progress bar on the screen. Thankfully, it’s not too slow. You should be done in a jiffy. Keep your computer online and powered on during the entire process.
Don’t shut down or close out of the process as this can fragment the download and you’ll have to start over. If something happens, it’s best to restart fresh as you don’t want to corrupt a backup of Chrome.
Step 6: After it’s done, you’ll see a text that says “Success! Your recovery media is ready.” When you see this screen, you can remove the USB drive or SD card from the computer.
Click “Done” to exit the Recovery Utility. You also have the option of creating another drive, but we’ll skip that.
How do I use the Chromebook Recovery Utility?
Okay, so now you should have an SD card or USB with a copy of the recovery file for Chrome OS.
Now we can use that USB to restore your Chromebook.
Note that the .bin file saved on your Windows computer (or whatever you used to make the drive) should STAY there.
This means you should see a file in your Downloads folder (assuming that’s your default folder) after running the recovery app. The USB drive should NOT have the .bin file saved on it.
Don’t move the .bin into the USB as this will cause problems later. The .bin should remain on your other computer- not your Chromebook. And not the drive you just downloaded.
So let’s move on and actually use the CRU tool.
The first thing you’ll want to do is enter recovery mode on your Chromebook.
How do I boot my Chromebook into recovery mode?
You can boot your system into recovery mode by doing the following steps.
Press and hold “ESC + Refresh + Power” for a few seconds, and then let go of the Power button. You’ll then see a prompt on your screen.
You can let go of the other keys when you see this screen.
Note: Be sure you disconnect all USB drives, SD cards, HDMI cables, or any other external peripherals. Otherwise, you’ll get a message that says “Please remove all connected drives and start recovery.”
Step 1: Go to your Chromebook and shut it down. Let it completely shut down. It should still be showing the “Chrome OS is missing or damaged” error on the screen.
Step 2: Connect your USB drive or SD card to the Chromebook.
Step 3: Turn on your Chromebook.
Step 4: You’ll see a different screen the next time you boot it up. Follow the on-screen prompts to recover Chrome OS.
You’re done! By now, you should have a fresh copy of Chrome OS and be able to get past that error screen.
How do I create a Chromebook recovery USB from Windows?
If you’re on Windows, the process is exactly as described above.
Just launch the Chrome Browser on your Windows computer, download the Recovery Utility, make an image, save it to a USB drive, and that’s it.
You can use the tool and make a .bin file on Windows, Mac, or Linux machines.
Pretty much any device that runs Chrome will have access to creating the file you need to restore your Chromebook.
Running the Chromebook Recovery Tool using Linux
If you have Linux on another workstation, you can easily download the tool and run the recovery.
- Start Chrome Browser.
- Download the tool here.
- Enter the command prompt.
Enter these commands, one per line:
- $ sudo chmod 755 linux_recovery.sh
- $ sudo bash linux_recovery.sh
They’ll allow you to execute the script to create the recovery file.
- Read the on-screen prompts to create a recovery drive.
- Take the recovery drive and put it aside.
Enter Recovery Mode on your Chromebook (press “ESC + Refresh + Power”, then let go of the Power key after a message appears- read the directions above).
- Plug in the recovery drive.
- Follow the on-screen directions.
That’s it! You’ve just recovered Chrome OS using Linux!
What do I do if Chrome OS is missing or damaged?
You should first try to check if you’re in Developer Mode (Dev Mode).
When your device is in Dev Mode, you’ll get the error screen. You can exit Dev Mode and the error will disappear.
The second reason would be because it really is damaged. In this case, try to recover Chrome OS using the tool by following the directions above.
The last reason would be to Powerwash it. If none of the above solutions work, you may have to just wipe everything and start over entirely.
See the Powerwashing section for more details.
Chromebook Recovery Utility for Android
There’s solid evidence that Google is working on the Recovery Utility for your Android phone.
This means you can create a recovery drive using a supported Android OS device.
As of early 2020, this code is still just sitting there and it seems Google is still working on it. The recovery app has no official Android version at this point.
There have been some strange workarounds that I’ve seen online, such as people downloading the CRU software and porting it into their Android phone.
And then trying to create a drive by plugging a USB into their phone. But there’s no solid evidence that this works as it’s not officially released yet.
Let me know if you find a working solution.
There’s currently no CRU APK file
Because there’s no official release yet, there’s no official Recovery Utility apk for Android yet.
With time, this should roll out and you can download the apk file to your phone to run CRU.
Is your Chromebook Recovery Utility still not working?
Here are some common errors that may pop up when you’re trying to recover Chrome OS.
Find the error message you’re getting and see the troubleshooting solution.
This error means usually can be fixed by formatting the USB drive or SD card you’re using to save the recovery media. Take the drive and plug it into your Windows computer and reformat it.
You can just right-click on the drive after Windows recognizes it and select “Format.”
Choose FAT32. This will erase the drive and reformat it to the correct type.
Then try running the tool and downloading the image again.
If that doesn’t work, plug in the drive once again and launch the recovery app. Then find the text that says “Erase recovery media” on the screen- it should be tucked into the settings/options in the recovery tool.
Then click on “Files” and reformat the drive. You can do this on any computer running the Chrome Browser.
This means that the download failed because of a hiccup in the WiFi or ethernet connection.
Double-check that your connection to the Internet is up and running and that you’re online. Then try downloading the recovery utility tool again.
Try these quick solutions to fix it:
- Restart your modem
- Disconnect and reconnect to your network
- Try connecting to another network
- Use your phone’s hotspot
- Restart your computer
If you’re still getting the “download interrupted” error, you may have some other problem with your connection.
If your Chromebook can’t connect to WiFi, you’ll have to fix your WiFi connection first.
Or if you can’t connect and you’re getting weird messages in your browser, like the “DNS Lookup Failed” or “DHCP” errors, there may be something else going on.
“An unexpected error has occurred”
If you get this error message, the main reason is that the recovery drive is corrupted or fragmented.
Try plugging it into your other computer and checking to make sure all the files are deleted.
Then download another copy of Chrome OS and try again. You can also try using a different USB drive or SD card because it could be damaged.
This error is a blanket message that comes up when Chrome OS has no idea of the exact reason.
This is one of the most common prompts that show up when the Chrome recovery tool is not working properly.
“Please remove all connected devices and start recovery”
This one is self-explanatory: Unplug all your connected peripherals and try again.
This means anything you have plugged into your Chromebook’s ports:
- External mouse or keyboard
- External TV or monitor
- SD card
- USB drives
- External hard drives
- USB peripherals
“The device you inserted does not contain Chrome OS”
This message shows up only when your Chromebook can’t detect the recovery image on the drive.
Try doing the following:
- Wipe the drive on your Windows or Mac computer. Run the recovery tool again and download another copy of Chrome OS.
- Use a different USB drive or SD card.
Thankfully, if your Chrome Recovery tool isn’t working because of this error, it’s easy to fix. Probably the easiest one out of them all.
“The security module on this device is not working”
This error means that you’re probably using a borrowed or loaned Chromebook from a school or work environment.
By default, they block any actions that enable Developer Mode, Powerwash, or recovery mode attempts.
These can also affect the permission on your system and what you can and can’t do. If it’s blocked, there’s really no way to bypass the block without contacting your school or work network admin.
“Unable to unzip file“
This error message shows as the recovery tool tries to create the USB but encountered a problem.
There’s no exact reason behind this, as it seems to happen randomly without official documentation from Google or the Chrome team.
However, I did some research online and found a few solutions that seem to work. Try these:
Check free space on your Chromebook
Probably obvious, but you need at least 8GB of space on your Chromebook to download the file.
As it downloads and zips the file, you’ll need more space than the minimum to ensure the file can download first- before zipping.
Make sure your Chromebook has at least 8GB of available space. 16GB is recommended. If the screen goes black and the process terminates, this is likely because your Chromebook doesn’t have enough space to complete the recovery.
Check free space on the drive
The drive you’re using needs at least 4GB of free space at the minimum.
Not all drives have the amount of free space they advertise on the package, believe it or not. There’s actually a few percentage points lower than what it says on the box.
So if you’re using a 4GB USB or SD card, try using at least an 8GB drive instead. Or 16GB if possible.
A drive that doesn’t have enough free space will cause problems during the file creation.
Make the recovery before the problem
If you made the drive after the problem happened that crashed Chrome, this could cause errors later on.
The point of recovering it is to create the drive before the problem occurs. I’d suggest trying all the other solutions for the “unable to unzip file” error first.
Then if nothing succeeds, you may have to Powerwash your device.
Reformat the drive
Make sure that the drive is formatted correctly as FAT32. You can format the drive easily on Windows. Other formats can throw errors when you run the tool.
Wipe the drive
Ensure that there are no other media or files saved on the USB/SD card.
The tool erases the drive during the process, but you never know when there’s some rogue file, virus, or malware that can disturb the process.
So to be safe, just erase the drive before you run the app.
Run as an admin
When you run the Recovery Utility on Windows, make sure you run the app as an ADMIN.
This means that after you run the tool and the prompt comes up that asks for admin permission (“Are you sure you want to allow this app to make changes to your computer?”), click ALLOW.
You can also do this by right-clicking on Chrome on your desktop, and then choosing to “run as administrator” and clicking ALLOW when the prompt shows up.
Windows will prompt you every time software attempts to modify your computer by default. The Chromebook Recovery Utility needs to run as an admin to be able to unzip the file.
Use a different computer or drive
If all else fails, create the recovery image on a different computer.
Or try using a different USB/SD card.
This will rule out the source of the problem. If it suddenly works on a different computer, then it’s the previous computer’s fault.
If it suddenly works using a different drive, then there’s something wrong with the other drive you were using.
How long does it take to recover a Chromebook?
The entire process should only take about 20-40 minutes on average.
The longest part is simply waiting for your Chromebook to complete the recovery. Downloading and creating recovery media is easy and fast.
But the actual process of restoring Chrome OS will take some time depending on your CPU speed and hardware.
If you’ve been stuck for hours (or days), that’s definitely not normal.
You can check the process of recovery by pressing:
- “CTRL + ALT + F2” to see the current status.
- “CTRL + ALT + F3” to see percentage complete.
This will tell you how much longer it will be until the recovery is complete. Well, it doesn’t specifically say any ETA, but you can see how much of the process remains and how much is completed.
If Chrome is stuck and you see a message that says “Systems recovery is in progress,” you should probably just start over with a Powerwash. Remember that Powerwash and Recovery Mode are two different things.
No errors? Just a blank, white screen?
Powerwashing will restore it back to factory conditions while Recovery Mode allows you to plug in your recovery media to restore Chrome.
This may be the only way to fix a blank white screen when you boot up your Chromebook. This is a bug that you’d be hard-pressed to encounter- AKA the “WSOD” on Chrome OS.
You can try restoring, but you probably can’t really do a single darn thing! This screen freezes up your system and bricks it. Restoring doesn’t work because you can’t even get past the blank white screen.
If restoring doesn’t work, then you may have to just do a Powerwash.
The only drawback with this is that it erases everything on your hard disk, so that’s something to keep in mind. But if recovery fails, you may have to just stick to your guns and restart the system.
All of these seem to be related to the same issue and there are multiple solutions to troubleshoot these common errors.
The Chromebook Recovery Utility isn’t writing
If the progress shows that the software is stuck at 0%, this also could be normal. It can take up to 40 minutes to start writing.
I’d suggest giving the app at least an hour to write because it could be an issue with the progress bar updating rather than the machine getting stuck.
But if you wait a long time and it still doesn’t do anything, you can try the following steps to troubleshoot it.
We’ll want to re-download the image build in case the previous one is corrupted. And we can verify some other steps also.
There are a lot of reports from readers here that all relate to the same problem:
- System recovery process won’t progress
- Being stuck in a non-stop loop after running the tool
- Chromebook freezes or stops progress randomly
- Gets stuck loading with the “recovery in progress” message
- Being stuck in the recovery utility
- Recovery gets stuck at 0% or 10%
- Recovery stops at Step 3
- Black screen after USB recovery drive is inserted into the device
- Update lasting for hours or days
- Becoming completely bricked during the process
Try these steps in order to fix it.
Step 1: Create the image on a Chromebook
Not everyone may have options to do this.
But if you have a spare Chromebook laying around or you can quickly borrow one, you can download the CRU extension and make a recovery file there.
As you’d expect, Chrome OS works best with Chromebooks.
This seems to work nearly 99% of the time when the recovery drive is made on an actual Chromebook. It’s smooth and extremely easy.
Step 2: Redownload the image
If you can’t do it on another Chromebook, then proceed with Windows or Mac. Delete the old media drive completely. Then download the build again.
Step 3: Reboot Chrome
After you have the image downloaded, go ahead and quit Chrome on your PC or Mac. Then launch it again as an admin.
You can do this by right-clicking on Chrome, and then choosing “Run as admin” on a PC.
Step 4: Launch the recovery app
You can find it under “chrome://extensions” in the address bar.
Step 5: Create the media
During the process, on the first screen where it says “Create a recovery media for your Chromebook,” don’t click on “Get started.” Look at the top-right of the window and click on the gear.
Then click on “Use local image” and choose the .bin file you downloaded earlier.
If you don’t see the .bin file, you may need to change the file viewer to “all” media or “.” to see it.
Check the file extension. If it’s saved as .iso, rename it to .bin.
The Chrome Recovery app only reads .bin file extensions, so you have to name it properly. Using an .iso is useless because the app will never find it.
Note: The app creates the image as an .iso, but it distributes it as a .bin. Neat, huh?
Step 6: Restore Chrome
After the drive is created, go ahead and try to restore your Chromebook.
This should fix the 0% progress error.
If you’re still stuck, you may want to verify that everything’s done correctly:
- You have enough space on the drive (8GB or more)
- There aren’t any other files on it
- You’re doing the steps in order
- You’re using admin privileges on your PC
- You’ve checked that you’re using the latest version of the app
- The image is a .bin and not an .iso
- You’re not using a generic, SanDisk, or Kingston drive
You’ve allowed enough time for the system to make progress (it can take up to an hour to get “unstuck” from 0%, 10%, or “step 3” during the creation process.
Didn’t work? Try reformatting to MBR
You can try to reformat the drive from GPT to MBR as a last resort before you Powerwash.
By default, many flash drives use GPT. However, as the app description states, the media recovery is created for MBR formatted drives.
Reformatting from GPT to MBR may fix the errors that crop up.
Here’s how to do it on a Windows PC:
Step 1: Plug in your USB drive to your Windows computer.
Step 2: Launch the command prompt.
Step 3: Type the following commands, one line at a time. Hit Enter after each line:
- list disk
Step 4: You’ll see a list of your USB disks. Find the one that you’re trying to use as a recovery drive. It should show up in the list by the amount of storage space it has.
Step 5: For example, if your flash drive has 32GB, it’ll show up as “Disk 1 32GB” on the list. So you’d type “select disk 1” to choose it.
Step 6: After the disk is selected, type “clean” and hit Enter. This erases the disk and preps it for reformatting to MBR. Allow it to do its thing. Wait a few seconds.
The disk is ready for reformat now.
Step 7: Hit the Windows key on your keyboard to bring up the Start menu.
Step 8: Type “create and format hard disk” and you’ll it show up in the list. If you have an older version of Windows, you may want to do a search for how to access this screen. It’s usually under Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Create and format hard disk partitions.
When you access this screen, you’ll see a window that lists your disks and shows the unallocated/allocated space.
Step 9: Find the disk you just reformatted. You should see that the bar next to the disk is black (for “unallocated” space).
Step 10: Right-click on the bar and choose “Create new volume” and navigate through the on-screen prompts. You don’t need to change anything. Leave them as their default values.
When you’re done, the bar should turn from black from blue, which means it’s been set for allocated, formatted space. The disk is prepped for MBR from GPT and now should be good to go.
Now, try again from the start using this newly reformatted drive. Run the CRU again on your PC and create the drive. Put your Chromebook into recovery mode. Then plug in this drive and see if it fixes the error.
Do a Powerwash
If you’ve already tried the Chrome Recovery Utility and you can’t get past the error screen, your Chrome OS may really be corrupted, fragmented, or just seriously broken.
A Powerwash is a final solution to recover your Chromebook.
This essentially erases everything on your device and brings it back to the factory defaults.
Since your Chromebook is bricked anyway, it’s worth a shot because you’re stuck.
You can’t really do much if all you see is an error page, right?
You can Powerwash your Chromebook by following this tutorial. It’s easy and goes through all the steps.
It should take you no longer than 20 minutes max.
And even if you’re not getting the “Chrome OS is missing or damaged” screen (or other errors), you can still Powerwash your laptop.
You can Powerwash even if you can’t sign in to your account.
Chrome recovery and SanDisk drives
There have been reports from various sources that SanDisk doesn’t work or isn’t compatible.
So if you’re using an SD card or USB drive made by them, it probably would be worth your time to try another manufacturer.
I don’t know why this is, but some people were able to create the recovery partition after using a different drive.
The same goes for these drives that are unbranded or “store brand.”
If you buy a generic drive from Fry’s, MicroCenter, etc., they may be store-brand and made by SanDisk. Thus, they can fail to create the image.
I’ve also heard reports that some Kingston drives may not work.
But they seem to have a better success rate than SanDisk for running the CRU.
What flash drives are compatible with Chromebook?
As long as it’s not some random unknown brand, it should work with your device.
Dell, HP, and Acer Chromebook Recovery Utility software
While these are different makers of Chromebooks, they all run the same operating system.
So it doesn’t matter if you’re using a Dell, HP, Samsung, Lenovo, Dell, or whatever other brands.
They all use the same recovery app, which is the one listed above in this tutorial.
If you need to recover your Chromebook, use the Chromebook Recovery Utility by Google.
It’s the only official app made exclusively for Chromebooks (and ChromeBox) and works across most devices running Chrome OS.
This means that unlike PCs, each manufacturer doesn’t have their own “special tools” installed on the device (i.e. bloatware) or have their own recovery tools for download. If you have a Chromebook, use the Recovery Utility.
That’s the only one you need- and the only one that exists. And officially supported.
Chromebook Recovery Utility alternative
As mentioned above, there’s no alternative to the Recovery Utility that’s officially supported.
This means that if the recovery tool isn’t working for you, your only choices are to figure out and troubleshoot a solution or do a Powerwash.
Unfortunately, third-party developers haven’t put out any alternatives to the app yet. Maybe they can’t. Because this is critical stuff. Who knows.
Regardless, since Chrome OS doesn’t allow you to download and run executables (.exe) which you may be used to on PC, there’s no alternative software to download.
There’s just one single tool floating around that actually works- well for most people
The tool could use an update
As many users who download the tool experience errors right away, it could definitely benefit from an update.
Especially now that Chromebooks have become so prevalent, users are encouraged to back up their data.
And savvy users who want to protect their purchase make recovery media for the future to be prepped.
As of now, the app hasn’t been updated since September 2018.
Perhaps whenever Google gets around to it, the tool will be a smoother experience for all.
As you can see from posts like this, people want an update!
- You can check out the support forum and post your question to receive replies from product experts.
- You can also check out the troubleshooting center hosted by Google.
Did you recover your Chromebook?
That’s all folks.
Were you able to get the recovery tool up and running?
Did you recover Chrome OS? Or are you still having technical problems?
You can drop me a comment below and I’ll help you out if you are. Or if you found this tutorial to be helpful, let me know also =].
Tell a friend who may find it useful!
Thanks for reading!