How to Factory Reset Your Chromebook [April 2020]

Factory resetting your Chromebook is never fun, but sometimes it’s a necessary step to fix problems and to get a fresh start if we are selling or giving away our computer.

From time to time, resetting your device is necessary, either for troubleshooting purposes (the device has become too slow, or is experiencing some form of connectivity issue, etc.) or because we’re upgrading or selling our device and need to remove our personal data.

The good news is that it’s rather easy to backup and factory reset a Chromebook. And, because everything is tied to your Google account, as soon as you’re logged back into your account, you’ll have access to every single app, extension, file, and folder attached to your Google profile.

But how exactly do you reset your Chromebook?

Well, as with most functions on Google’s affordable laptop OS, restoring your Chromebook to its default state is near-effortless—in fact, there’s even a keyboard shortcut for the process.

But before we get to that, let’s take care of a couple of data settings first, and back up your Chromebook.

Backing Up Your Chromebook

Before resetting your device, you’ll want to backup your data to avoid losing any important files.

The Chromebook runs Chrome OS, an operating system based on Linux. It’s stable and works well. That said, the Chromebook isn’t really intended for storing a lot of data.

Since most of your files are stored in the cloud using Google Drive, there isn’t much to back up within a Chromebook.

Still, most of us keep the occasional local document, photo collection, and similar files on our devices, and it’s worth taking a few minutes to dive into your local storage to check out what’s stored on the device.

From the desktop of your Chromebook, either tap the small circle icon in the lower-left hand corner of your screen or hit the Search button on your Chromebook’s keyboard.

When you click the small circle icon in the lower left of your screen, the Chromebook launcher will load. Here, you can load your file browser either from the list of your recent applications or, if you haven’t accessed the file browser in a while, by clicking the “All Apps” icon at the bottom of the launcher and finding the “Files” app.

Once you’ve loaded into Files, you’ll see a traditional file browser that can display your various folders and content library.

Along the left side of the browser, you’ll see several different menus, including your Google Drive account and your Downloads folder.

By default, these are the main two areas of your Chromebook, though it’s possible you’ve added additional services or folders to your laptop.

In our test Chromebook’s case, we only have our Google Drive account and our Downloads folder, which contains several screenshots and a few miscellaneous downloads from Chrome.

Not all of the files in our Downloads folder are essential, but the ones we want to keep need to be backed up—otherwise, we’ll lose them for good when we factory reset the Chromebook.

There are two main ways to back up these files:

  1. Google Drive: Any file you upload to Google Drive will be available on any device your Google account is signed into.
  2. Storage Devices (USB, HDD, etc.): Plug your device into the USB port on your laptop, wait for your drive to appear along the left pane inside Files, and drag and drop your content to your drive. Just like with Google Drive above, the transfer process will be shown in the lower-left corner of the window.

Remember, for photo or video files, you can also use Google Photos to upload your content. Photos use your Google Drive storage or can replace your files with slightly-lesser quality versions that won’t count against your storage.

How to Factory Reset a Chromebook

Once you’ve taken your files and storage from your Chromebook and placed them on another drive or storage service, it’s time to reset your Chromebook.

And as usual with Google products, there are a couple of different ways to go about resetting a Chromebook.

Reset Your Chromebook with Hotkeys

Conveniently, all Chromebooks include a hotkey shortcut to quickly and easily reset your device. It can be helpful to use the hotkeys approach if you’re having trouble using or accessing your Chromebook’s settings.

Start by signing out of your Chromebook by tapping the system information panel in the lower right-hand corner of your Chromebook’s display.

In this panel, you’ll find a bunch of different power options, including the ability to sign out of your device by hitting the “Sign out” button at the top of the panel.

Once you’ve signed out of your account, press and hold Ctrl+Alt+Shift+R. This shortcut will load a display that reads “Reset this Chrome device” alongside a helpful explanation of what Chrome calls “powerwashing.”

Powerwashing your device is just another way of saying “factory data reset,” so rest assured, this is the menu we’re looking for. Click the “Powerwash” button—or, if prompted, click the “Restart” button, allow your device to reboot, and then click “Powerwash”—to begin the reset process.

Google may then prompt you to confirm your choice to powerwash the device—if you still want to continue with the reset, simply accept the prompt. After about a minute, your Chromebook will reboot to the standard Chrome OS “Welcome!” display, and you can then re-setup your device.

The account you sign in with will become the “owner” of the Chromebook, so if you’re looking to sell your device, simply power off the machine to be used with its new owner. The new owner can then associate an account with their Chromebook.

Reset Your Chromebook from Settings

As we mentioned above, you don’t have to sign out of your device to activate a Chrome OS powerwash, also known as factory reset.

You can also access the factory reset option from inside your settings menu, and it’s just as simple as we detailed above with the hotkey method.

Tap the system information panel in the lower right-hand corner of your Chromebook’s display, just as we did above, but instead of signing out, tap the settings gear icon to load into Chrome OS’s settings menu.

Most of the settings are hidden behind Google’s “Advanced” label at the bottom of the settings, so go ahead and scroll down to the bottom of their menu.

Click “Advanced,” and you’ll see the settings menu extend. At the very bottom of the settings list, you’ll find two reset options:

  • Reset: This will restore your settings to their default state, but won’t wipe or clear your Chromebook’s storage drive and accounts.
  • Powerwash (factory reset): This will remove all of your accounts, extensions, and apps from your Chromebook, restoring it to its original, out-of-the-box state.

As you can imagine, we’re looking for the “Powerwash” setting. Tapping on that menu will load a menu asking you to first reboot your Chromebook, just as we saw above with the hotkey method.

Following a reboot of your device, you’ll be returned to the menu to powerwash your device. Tap “Powerwash,” confirm your selection with Google, and that’s it—just as we saw above, your machine will reboot after about a minute and you’ll be greeted by Chrome’s “Welcome!” display.

Final Thoughts

Overall, factory resetting (powerwashing) a Chromebook is easier than factory resetting many devices and computers.

And because Google’s operating system is so entwined with cloud services, backing up the files on your device—no matter how few or how many—only take a minute or two of your time. Since people tend to store a lot more files directly on a PC or Mac, backing these machines up typically would take much longer than backing up a Chromebook.

There’s no need to backup or transfer applications or extensions, as everything reloads when you first boot the machine and sign-in. And even the factory reset takes less time than with an iOS or Android device.

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