How and When to Powerwash (Reset) Chromebook

This article explains how to reset or Powerwash your Chromebook. We will also explain different types of resets and how and when to use them.

When Should You Reset?

Chrome OS encourages its users to store all their data in the cloud.  This has a lot of benefits and one of them is that you can reset your Chromebook and start over without losing any data.

Hence, you will occasionally see Chromebook experts recommending a reset. There are different situations where a reset is recommended. Based on the situation itself, the type of reset suggested also will vary.

“Chrome OS is missing or damaged”

This is a clear sign that you need to use recovery mode to reset your Chromebook. So, if you have this message on your Chromebook, don’t panic, you can create a recovery media and get your Chromebook back to how it was when you got it.

Backup

This article assumes that you have backed up anything that you have stored on your Chromebook.

if you have signed into Chrome and opted to sync everything, (bookmarks, history, and passwords etc), these are stored in Google Cloud. After the reset, when you sign back in, everything should come back. Anything that you have opted not to sync, will have to be backed up manually.

You will need to back up the contents in the Downloads folder. These files and folders are stored locally on your Chromebook’s SSD and will be erased with Powerwash and Recovery (two types of resets that we will discuss in detail).

Browser Reset

Google Chrome that’s on your Chromebook is similar to Chrome on Windows or Mac, save for a few differences. Occasionally, the settings can get clogged up or a sly extension might take over your browser and start showing advertisements or popups on every page that you visit.

In such situations, you can reset your Chrome browser. This does not affect how your login to your Chromebook, your Chromebook specific settings like your wallpaper or login accounts etc. Your saved bookmarks and passwords won’t be cleared or changed. Here is how to do this:

  1. Open chrome://settings/
  2. At the bottom, click Advanced.
  3. Under the section “Reset,” click Reset.
  4. Confirm by clicking Reset.

Here are the things that will be changed back to their defaults:

  • Default search engine
  • Homepage and tabs
  • The new tab page
  • Pinned tabs
  • Content settings
  • Cookies and site data
  • Extensions (disabled) and themes

Factory Reset aka PowerWash

Powerwash is the official version of Chrome OS factory reset. In this section, I will explain how to do Powerwash and also what happens when you do it.

When to Powerwash

A factory reset erases all the information on your Chromebook’s hard drive, including all the files in the Downloads folder.

One more thing. You will need to log in using the Owner Account to be able to factory reset a Chromebook. This is a Google account that you used to log in to this Chromebook the very first time. Also, after the Powerwash, the Google account that you use to log in again becomes the new owner account, should you use another one.

Factory reset removes all your content, settings and accounts from the Chromebook. You will start over as if it were a new Chromebook. Here is how to do a Powerwash:

  1. Sign in to your Chromebook.
  2. Click your account photo.
  3. Click Settings.
  4. At the bottom, click Advanced.
  5. In the “Powerwash” section, click Powerwash. < more steps>

You can do a Powerwash while you are on the login screen too. Use this keyboard shortcut from the login screen: CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + R

Reset Chromebook using Recovery Mode

Chromebooks experts like my friends Jim and Denny will not agree when I say Powerwash is complete factory reset. Especially if you have gone into developer mode and installed Linux and additional partitions.

In such situations, you need the ultimate reset, using Recovery Mode. Recovery will remove and reinstall the OS.

When to use Recovery Mode

According to the Google Help Center article, you will use the recovery mode in the following situations:

  • You see this error message: “Chrome OS is missing or damaged”
  • You’ve tried other troubleshooting steps and nothing has fixed your issue
  • You’ve asked the experts in our help forum for help fixing your issue, and they recommend recovery

Difference between Powerwash and Recovery Mode

Powerwash resets Chrome OS, the operating system on your Chromebook. It removes anything that you added to the operating system. That includes all the accounts that you signed into and everything that comes with those accounts (extensions, apps, files, and settings etc.).

Recovery Mode resets your Chromebook. That means, it removes everything that was installed on your Chromebook, including Chrome OS (and everything that was part of it) and anything additional you installed, for example, your Linux partition.

How to Reset your Chromebook in Recovery Mode

The first step is creating your recovery media. Install the “Chromebook Recovery Utility” If your Chromebook is working, you can do this from your Chromebook. If not, install the app on another Chromebook, a Mac or a PC and complete the following steps:

  1. Click Get started.
  2. Click Select a model from a list, or type in the model number of the Chromebook you want to recover. If your Chromebook is in recovery mode, it will display the model number along with the error message. You can also find this at the bottom of the Chromebook or at chrome://system
  3. Click Continue.
  4. Inert a USB drive or SD card that you want to use as the recovery media.
  5. From the drop-down menu, select the USB drive or SD card that you connected.
  6. Click Continue and then Create now.
  7. The app will now download and copy Chrome OS into the recovery media. When the app says the recovery media is ready, remove the USB drive / SD card.

Your recovery media is ready. Next step, entering the recovery mode. Here is how to do this on a Chromebook:

Create recovery media for your Chromebook

Press and hold Esc + Refresh Refresh, then press Power key. Let go of Power. When a message shows on the screen, let go of the other keys too. If you have a Chromebox or Chromebit, instructions to enter recovery mode are available here.

When your Chromebook is in recovery mode, you will see one of the following messages:

“Chrome OS is missing or damaged. Please insert a recovery USB stick or SD card.”

“Please insert a recovery USB stick or SD card.”

Connect the USB drive or SD card that you created recovery media on and follow the on-screen instructions. Your Chromebook will now install Chrome OS from the recovery media.

When this process is complete, you can go ahead and set up your Chromebook as a new device. Remember that the first Google account that logs into the Chromebook will become the “owner account“.

Factory Resetting a School or Work Chromebook

Remember, if you’re using a Chromebook at work or at school, you can’t reset it to factory settings. You will need to work with your Chromebook administrator (usually the IT department) to do this.

Hardware Reset

This reset, as the name suggests, resets your Chromebook’s hardware.

As my friend Jim explains, “When you shut down your Chromebook, there is still a trickle charge that keeps the embedded controller (EC) running. A hard reset drops all power to the EC, so when the power comes back on it goes through a reinitialization. Since the EC controls the keyboard, touchpad, battery and all other onboard peripherals, performing this it can potentially fix a wide range of problems”

For most Chromebooks, the following steps will do the trick:

  1. Turn off your Chromebook completely.
  2. Hod down the Refresh and then press Power. Hold these two keys together for ten seconds.
  3. Now release Refresh, and then Power.
  4. The Chromebook will now restart. If it does not, press Power one more time.

A bunch of other Chromebooks might need a different procedure to initiate a hardware reset. You can find them here.

Disable Developer Mode To Powerwash Chromebook

Those who tinker with Chrome OS to access experimental features or to install another operating system on a Chromebook would have turned the Developer Mode on. (Do not confuse this with the Developer channel, which is just a bleeding edge version of Chrome OS). Turning Developer Mode on or off resets a Chromebook. If you have the Developer Mode on, here is how to reset your Chromebook before even it completes booting up.

  1. On the “OS verification is off” message, press the SPACE key. (Normally you would press CTRL + D to skip this screen).
  2. Wait for the Chromebook to complete the reset and reboot.
  3. You will have the Chromebook reset to factory defaults when this process is over.

Also, the Developer Mode will now be turned off with this process. You can always turn it back on, which will take you through another round of factory reset.

Thank you Chromebook experts Jim and Denny for their contributions to this article.

3 responses to “How and When to Powerwash (Reset) Chromebook”

  1. I think I might have messed up My Chromebook permanently. All I get from powering up, is a list of networks to jump on. My wireless network is listed, but if I connect to it, My Chromebook says My Network is not available, while at the same time, showing Me that I Am connected, it’s terrible. I don’t know how to just get my old screen back to how it is, now. I’ve also power washed it, but I can’t seem to get My Chromebook to do anything I want it to do.

  2. I’m scared to powerwash my computer, can you like tell me what will happen like will i just have to put my gmail in it and is that it?? or main question is will it delete the other person tha is logged into their chrome w the same gmail as me?? i updated my chromebook since it said to but now it deleted my account and i dont have access to my main and right now i’m logged as guest i hope you can reply fast because i need finish off my projects. thank you for reading <3

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