Did you screw something up on your laptop? Have no fear- just Powerwash your Chromebook.
Chrome OS is known for its stability, security, ease-of-use, and speed.
But sometimes, the user (i.e. you) may install or alter settings on it that make it vulnerable to corruption, hacking, and other issues that require troubleshooting.
So then, you need to fix it.
If you’re not able to find out what’s causing the problem, or you just want to reset your laptop back to factory settings, it’s very easy to do and requires no extra software, tools, or extra knowledge.
In this guide, we’ll go over how to fix up your Chromebook by doing a Powerwash. So you’ll pretty much restore it to factory settings like new (even without a password).
And if that doesn’t work, we’ll go over how to perform a full recovery on your device.
Sound good? Let’s roll.
Last updated: 1/23/21.
Chromebooks are (very) versatile
Unlike Windows-based computers, they’re virtually hack-proof when left in its default state.
If you don’t mess around with things that you have no idea what they do, you should be fine.
But sometimes, you need to alter the settings to get it to do what you want.
For example, if you want to play a few Linux games, install Steam, get the newest Chrome OS features, or even simply just enable Developer Mode, you change the core files and disable the Verified Boot checker (which is basically a program that checks your device’s file integrity).
Chromebooks aren’t completely secure from viruses, hacks, and malware
When you have the Verified Boot checker disabled, files can be compromised without you knowing.
So this can be kind of dangerous if you leave it like that.
Other programs you install when in Developer Mode can also be a host to malicious code or other security holes that can damage your laptop.
Perhaps you installed an alternative operating system, and now you want to delete it (and get your disk repartitioned back to only Chrome OS).
Or maybe you wanted to try out some beta features (such as Android apps via the Play Store), from the upcoming Chrome OS repository and switched your Stable Channel to another one.
Or maybe you want to sell it and completely delete all of your stuff. You want it all removed.
Whatever the case, a Powerwash will clean it up and fix any underlying issues you may have missed.
Therefore, they aren’t 100% bulletproof when they’re altered from default settings.
So, if you mess something up, what should you do? Especially if you have no idea what you’re doing or can’t figure out the problem. You do the following…
But if you don’t mess with Developer Mode, Chrome OS by itself is very stable and safe from malware. That’s why there’s no antimalware software for the operating system.
If you think you have some kind of virus on your system, it may be due to a corrupted Chrome extension.
As you should know by now, the process is called “Powerwashing” it.
It cleans up your laptop and does exactly what it should like.
What this does is force a reset to factory settings as if you just got your laptop and you’re turning it on for the first time. Think back to when it was brand new (assuming you purchased it new).
It’s not as stressful nor as complicated as reformatting a Windows computer.
With Windows, you need to backup all your stuff, reinstall the OS, and import all your stuff again. It sounds easy, but the whole reinstalling programs, leftover registry keys, mismatched file relationships and all the other leftover data on your hard drive from the backup leaves a bunch of files that are a pain to deal with.
This is especially true if you’re OCD about keeping your computer running fast and efficiently, like me.
Windows also tries to install the newest version of the OS, but Chrome installs the default version which is somewhat advantageous if you’re having issues that are related to the operating system. It can really get messy with Windows (as I’ve done it multiple times before). And it’s a pain.
How to perform a Powerwash and factory reset
Thankfully, it’s super easy.
You should Powerwash your laptop if:
- You enabled Developer Mode and might have messed something up
- You tried to install Linux, Steam, games, apps, programs, and something went wrong
- Your laptop is having issues, running slower, won’t run certain apps, can’t perform basic functions, freezes and/or crashes, or just won’t work
- Your SSD is full of files and media that you want to delete
- You switched Channels to try out features from the Chrome repo and you want to switch back
- You installed Linux OS and want to get rid of it
- You think you may have security vulnerabilities on your laptop
- You think you may have a virus or trojan on your device
- You want to sell or give away your laptop
- You want to make your device like new again
Warning: Doing the following will delete all of your local data, so make sure you backup your stuff via a USB drive, or using a cloud-based service, such as Google Drive (you get some free storage upon purchase of a new Chromebook anyway).
There is no way to recover all your personal stuff so be extra careful before proceeding. Again, you’ll lose all your stuff if you don’t back it up.
Note that IF you made a recovery drive, you can try restoring it rather than wiping everything. If you didn’t, be sure to make a recovery snapshot next time so you can fix Chrome OS quickly.
All personal information will be wiped, such as:
- Personal information
- User Settings
- Locally saved pictures, videos, and other media
- Locally saved music
- Internet networks (saved WiFi connections)
- Tied Google Accounts connected to your device
- Account permissions will be deleted
For those who don’t know, “locally” means anything saved on your device- this is composed of, but not limited to, your Downloads folder and any other custom folders you’ve created. This is basically anything you saved on your device that wasn’t there when you first got it.
However, data saved with your Google Account will be automatically sync with your restored Chromebook when you turn it on and log in to your account again. So you can save partial amounts of your stuff depending on what you want to save.
One last note: You should also note that performing this won’t repartition your drive to make it fully dedicated to Chrome OS.
All other operating systems will be deleted and Chrome OS will be the sole OS, but your drive will still be split in half (or however much you partitioned it) between Chrome and other operating systems you’ve installed. If you want all your disk space back, use a full recovery (steps below) to recover your SSD.
If you’ve never installed Linux on your machine, then don’t worry about re-partitioning your drive. Just smile and proceed.
How to restore it back to the default factory settings
Here’s how to Powerwash your Chromebook:
Step 1: Get to the “Settings” tab by opening up your Chrome browser. Click the 3 dots in the upper-right hand corner (they may also be 3 lines, depending on your version of Chrome).
Step 2: In the Settings menu, click on “show advanced settings.” This will open up more options.
Step 3: You’ll see a section called “Powerwash” with a big button that clearly states what it does. Make sure you’ve backed up all your stuff, then go ahead and click it.
Step 4: A popup box will tell you that you’ll need to restart your laptop before you can start. Go ahead and click “Restart.”
Step 5: Your laptop will restart, then it’ll get wiped, and then you’ll be prompted to add a Google Account as if you’re using it for the first time. Your laptop is clean at this point.
Step 6: Log into your Google Account and your apps and personal data that’s stored in your account will be synced to your Chromebook automatically (if not, find the option in the Settings menu to sync automatically and check it).
Step 7: Import all your backed up files via USB.
Step 8: Your laptop is now reset back to factory settings. Go ahead and play around (or attempt to do whatever you were previously trying to do, again).
That’s it. You should be all good to go. This should fix most issues and it should be good as new after you wipe your Chromebook.
Whether you want to uninstall a corrupted app, installed Linux, played around in the Beta Channel, froze your Chromebook, or even if you just want to delete and erase all your personal data, this should fix it right up.
Can’t log into your Google Account to Powerwash it? Forgot your password? Bought it used?
If you’ve forgotten your password, you can still do a Powerwash from another account.
This is also useful if you bought the laptop used and the previous owner still has their account tied to the machine and you don’t know the password for it.
Warning: If you’re using a managed device, don’t wipe it. You won’t be able to enroll your device back into the network if you wipe it. If you happen to be part of a managed network, use this guide instead.
Step 1: Turn it on and let it boot up. Wait until it prompts you to log in to the Google Account, whether it be yours or someone else’s.
Step 2: Get your fingers on the keyboard and press the following keys together until a dialog box pops up. Press “Ctrl + Alt + Shift + R” and wait.
Step 3: You’ll get a warning popup. Read it over and then click “Restart” to delete the Google Account tied to your device and wipe it.
That’s it. It’s pretty much the same as the previous process but this will get your Google Account back on track. This should fix any sync issues you have and resync your account to your device. This is good for apps that corrupted your computer, or if you just can’t login.
Powerwashing didn’t work? Try performing a full recovery.
If your laptop is in really bad shape and you can’t get it to work, or if you’re having issues trying to update it, you may want to perform a full recovery.
This is super powerful and will erase your Chromebook completely.
A full recovery will undergo the same process as a Powerwash, as in it’ll delete all your local data. The difference is that it’ll also install a brand new version of Chrome OS on your laptop and repartition your SSD back to a single drive.
If you’ve installed Linux OS, this is the only method to get your SSD back to how it used to be. It’ll repartition your drive back to its regular factory state, where the whole drive is dedicated to Chrome OS.
If you can’t even get it to perform basic functions or if it just doesn’t work anymore, you should definitely try a full recovery. Make sure you try a Powerwash first though.
You should perform a full recovery on your Chromebook if:
- Your device can’t perform basic functions
- Your Chromebook freezes and/or crashes
- Your device just won’t work
- You’ve installed Linux and want to reformat your drive and repartition it only for Chrome OS
- You tried Powerwashing it and it didn’t solve the problem
Ready to go?
Here’s how to do a full recovery on your Chromebook:
Step 1: Get a USB drive or SD card and insert it into your device. Make sure it’s empty before you do so to avoid complications. It should be at least 4GB in capacity.
Step 2: Log in to your account and launch the Chrome browser. Type “chrome://imageburner” into the address bar (omnibar), and you’ll get instructions on how to create a recovery drive for your Chromebook.
Step 3: After you’ve read the instructions, go ahead and press “Esc + Refresh + Power (yes, the power button)” until your device enters recovery mode.
Step 4: When your device launches recovery mode, navigate to the USB drive or SD card which you used to create the recovery “disk” in Step 2.
Step 5: Follow the instructions. When you’re done, your device will install a new version of Chrome OS and delete all your personal data simultaneously. It’s basically a Powerwash combined with installing a new version of Chrome.
Step 6: When it prompts you, remove the recovery drive from your laptop.
Step 7: Restart your device. Log in with your Google Account. Your stuff that’s stored on your account will automatically sync. If not, you can enable it via the Settings menu.
Chrome OS should now be recovered. Congrats. You did it.
Say “hello” to your like-factory-new Chromebook
These two methods should fix the majority of issues you’re having with your Chromebook. Try a Powerwash first, then try a full recovery if it doesn’t work.
Chrome OS is very stable and secure by nature, so it shouldn’t really get messed up unless you do something to make it so.
This tutorial should fix all your woes and you should be good to go. If not, please leave a comment and I’ll see if I can help you out. Usually, a Powerwash cleans out everything and makes it like new.
If this guide has helped you out, consider saving it as a resource on your favorite social media network. It could help out a fellow Chromie. Tell a friend.
Thanks for reading.