XDA Basics: How to reset a Chromebook before selling or to fix software problems

XDA Basics: How to reset a Chromebook before selling or to fix software problems

Google’s Chrome OS is an intuitive, simple interface to navigate. Of course, even the best operating systems have the occasional bug or issue that pops up. If you’ve recently encountered bugs on your Chromebook, you might be concerned. Luckily, most errors and bugs are easy to troubleshoot. In this article we’ll discuss how to reset your Chromebook to prepare it for selling, or to fix software issues. However, before we do that, it’s a good idea to verify you actually need to reset your device.

What can you try to troubleshoot before resetting?

Power Chromebook off and back on (quickest option)

Occasionally you can fix issues by simply powering your device off and then turning it back on. Press and hold the Power button until the device turns off, then wait a few seconds and press the Power button again to turn it back on.

This option will likely only fix the issue if there was a small glitch or bug, but it’s also the least time-consuming option and it doesn’t hurt to give it a shot.

Turn off Chrome extensions individually

Occasionally, the bug on your Chromebook could be caused by a rogue Chrome extension. While extensions are incredibly powerful, they can also cause some strange behavior with Chrome OS sometimes. If you’ve noticed particularly strange navigation issues, try turning off each Chrome extension individually and see if this fixes the issue. This can be a bit time consuming if you have a lot of extensions, but it often solves the problem without the need for a factory reset.

If neither of these options work, you may need to reset your Chromebook.

How to reset your Chromebook (Powerwash)

Before attempting this step, be aware this will erase all locally stored data on your machine. Make sure to back up anything you wish to keep to an external drive or cloud storage service. You can find the option to Powerwash your Chromebook in the Settings menu, or simply follow these instructions to use a shortcut:

  • Sign out of your Chromebook.
  • Press and hold Ctrl + Alt + Shift + r.
  • Select Restart.
  • In the box that appears, select Powerwash and then Continue.
  • Follow the steps that appear and sign in with your Google Account. Note that the account you sign in with after you reset your Chromebook will be the owner account.
  • Once you’ve reset your Chromebook:
    • Follow the onscreen instructions to set up your Chromebook.
    • Check if the problem is fixed.

This process can be a bit more time intensive if you have a lot of data stored on your device locally. If you store most information in the cloud, this shouldn’t take more than five to ten minutes to complete. Powerwashing fixes most issues so if you received the Chrome OS is Missing or Damaged message for instance, this will hopefully do the trick. Powerwashing will also set your Chromebook up like new if you intend to sell it.

Powerwash in settings on Chrome OS

How to reset a Chromebook by reinstalling Chrome OS (most severe issues)

If a simple reboot or Powerwash doesn’t work, you may need to reinstall Chrome OS entirely. This option should only be attempted if the first two suggestions didn’t work. Reinstalling Chrome OS requires access to another Chromebook, Mac, or Windows PC. You’ll also need a spare USB flash drive or SD card with around 8GB of free space on it.

If you’re ready to take the plunge and reinstall Chrome OS for scratch, here’s how to do it:

  • Using the Google Chrome browser on another computer, download and install the Chromebook Recovery Utility by selecting Add to Chrome in the Chrome Web Store.
  • Launch the program. You’re asked to provide the Chromebook model number, which you can enter manually or choose from a list.
  • You may be asked to grant permission to make changes to your USB flash drive or SD card. Simply click Yes.
  • Plug the USB flash drive or SD card into the Chromebook, and then follow the on-screen prompts to download Chrome OS to your external drive or card.
  • Once the download is complete, remove the USB flash drive or SD card.
  • With the Chromebook powered on, hold Esc+Refresh on the keyboard, then press the Power button to reboot in recovery mode.
  • At the Chrome OS is missing or damaged screen, insert the SD card or USB drive containing Chrome OS. You should then go through the operating system’s installation process.

Chrome OS recovery utility in Chrome store

This process should restore your Chromebook to like-new condition, just as it came out of the box. If you continue to get any error messages, it’s likely you have a hardware issue that needs repairing by the OEM you bought from. Most OEMs like Acer offer some type of warranty coverage, so reach out and find out what options you have.

Hopefully you feel a bit better now about resetting your Chromebook for any purpose. Most of the time issues are easily repaired via a quick reboot or Powerwash. Make sure that before you attempt any options, you back up all of your personal data to prevent loss, even if you plan to sell the device after resetting.

If you have any additional questions about fixing any issues with your Chromebook, drop them in the comments. If you’re looking to take your Chromebook game to the next level, check out our guide on Android apps for Chrome OS.

About author

Jeff Springer
Jeff Springer

Applied mathematician with a love for Android. I am interested in inverse problems for imaging and integration with camera software for mobile phones.