Chromebooks are delightfully robust machines. Things rarely go wrong, and they can take a real hammering before they eventually give up the ghost. It puts them in stark contrast to most Windows laptops and Macs.
And because Chromebooks are so cheap, it’s not the end of the world if your laptop does go to the graveyard in the sky — you can get a new one for little more than $200.
However, don’t throw away your device just yet. It might still be salvageable. You just need to identify your problem and follow a few basic troubleshooting steps.
Here are seven of the most common Chromebook errors, along with a few tips on how to resolve them. Keep reading to find out more.
1. Chromebook Frequently Crashes or Freezes
If you think that just one tab is causing the issue, press Ctrl + Shift + R to hard refresh the page. If the problem returns, enter Chrome’s menu by clicking the three vertical dots in the upper right-hand corner, then navigate to More Tools > Task Manager, select the tab causing problems, and click on End Process.
On the other hand, if your Chromebook always crashes or freezes, and it doesn’t seem to be caused by one particular web page, the first thing you should do is turn the device off and on again.
If the problem persists, it’s almost certainly the result of a rogue app or extension. Firstly, try closing all your browser and app windows. Open the app launcher and uninstall any recently installed apps or extensions (right-click > Remove from Chrome).
For a more nuanced way of locating a rogue extension, go to Settings > More Tools > Extensions, and unmark every checkbox. Re-enable the extensions one by one until you find the one causing the issues.
If your machine keeps crashing, you might need to reset your device. More on that at the end of the article.
2. Laggy Online Performance
Laggy online performance is usually a symptom of your laptop’s age rather than a fundamental problem that can be fixed.
Some older Chromebooks struggle to deal with the demands of tab junkies. As a rule of thumb, the older your device, the fewer tabs you can run at once. If you insist on using lots of tabs, try a tab management app for Chrome.
Speaking from personal experience, my Chromebook with 2GB of RAM is now approaching its fourth birthday, and it’s starting to struggle. The problem is particularly noticeable when using an app like TweetDeck which consumes a lot of power.
Bottom line: The only solution is to do fewer things on your computer at the same time.
3. Laggy General Performance
If you find your Chromebook lags even when you’re not doing anything online (e.g. when you’re using the calculator or watching a locally-saved video), it could be a sign that you need to update your machine.
Google is constantly releasing new versions of the operating system. They will automatically install themselves whenever you restart your computer, but if you’re the kind of person who leaves your computer running 24/7, you could be a few updates behind.
Check if there’s a small arrow in the bottom right-hand corner of the display. If there is, you have updates to install.
It’s also worth checking whether you’ve accidentally changed to one of the beta release cycles. A bad release can sometimes have adverse consequences on your system. Check our guide to Chromebook release channels for more information.
4. Problems Using a Second Monitor
Oddly, a Chromebook’s default behavior when connecting to a second monitor is not to mirror what you see on your screen, but rather make the second monitor akin to a fully functioning second desktop.
If you live in a tech dungeon and have every wall lined with displays, this might be preferable behavior. For most people, who just want to watch a movie on their TV or broadcast a presentation in college, it’s annoying.
Worse still, it’s not always immediately obvious how to change the setting. You have two options. You can either go to Profile > Settings > Device > Displays and make the appropriate changes, or click on the second screen notification message and make the adjustments there.
You can also change resolution, rotate the image, and center your screen in this menu.
5. Unknown File Type Error Message
Chromebooks don’t support the same number of file types as Windows and Macs.
Here’s a full list of the file extensions they can handle natively:
- Microsoft Office: DOC, DOCX, XLS, XLSX, PPT, PPTX
- Media: 3GP, AVI, MOV, MP4, M4V, M4A, MP3, MKV, OGV, OGM, OGG, OGA, WEB, WAV
- Images: BMP, GIF, JPG, JPEG, PNG, WEBP
- Compressed Files: ZIP, RAR
If your file type is not supported, you have three options. Firstly, you can download a format-specific app from the Chrome Web Store. Secondly, you can upload the document to free file conversion site. Thirdly, you can try and add it to one of your cloud storage providers and see if works.
6. Chromebook Won’t Turn On or Won’t Charge
The first piece of hardware to give up on your device is often the battery. But just because your machine won’t turn on or charge, it doesn’t necessarily mean your battery has reached the end of its lifecycle. Try following these steps before you toss your battery in the bin.
Firstly, establish whether your Chromebook is charging. If it is, let it charge for 30 minutes before attempting to turn it on. If it still doesn’t fire up, you might need to reinstall the operating system. More on that in a moment.
If there’s no power going into your laptop, unplug everything and remove the battery from your device. Then, with the power cord and the battery detached, hold the Power button down for 30 seconds. Finally, put everything back together and charge the computer for 30 minutes.
7. Chrome OS Is Missing or Damaged
This is the most dreaded message in the world of Chrome OS: you’ll need to reinstall your entire operating system.
But don’t worry, that’s not as difficult as it sounds. And luckily for you, we’ve published an extensive guide on how to reinstall a fresh copy of Chrome OS on your Chromebook.
Here’s the TL;DR version:
- Download Chromebook Recovery Utility from the Chrome Web Store.
- Use the app to download a copy of Chrome OS onto a removable media with 4GB storage.
- Press Esc + Refresh + Power on your Chromebook.
- Insert the USB stick.
- Follow the onscreen instructions.
How to Reset Your Chromebook
If you’ve been battling with the issues I’ve discussed, but my tips have failed to resolve your problem, you could try resetting your device.
To begin, click on your profile picture in the lower right-hand corner of your Chromebook’s screen, then select the gear icon.
Scroll down the page and click on Advanced. Next, continue scrolling until you find the Reset section. Finally, choose Powerwash and following the onscreen instructions.
Note: You will lose all your locally-saved data, so make a backup before starting the process!
What Problems Are You Encountering?
In this article, we’ve covered seven of the most common errors that Chromebook users are likely to face.
Unfortunately, as with any troubleshooting process, it’s impossible to cover every eventuality and every solution. But we hope this article has at least helped to set you on the right track.
What problems have encountered on your Chromebook? How did you fix the problem? If you leave your stories, tips, and suggestions in the comments below, you might help a fellow reader!
Image Credit: smithore/Depositphotos
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