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As operating systems go, Chrome OS is arguably the most reliable of them all. You won’t have to deal with the dreaded “blue screen of death,” crashes, viruses, boot failures, or any of the other things that regularly go wrong on Windows, Mac, and the common Linux distros.
That said, things do still occasionally go wrong. More often than not, the cause can be traced back to the user. Perhaps you tried installing Linux and something went awry, maybe you went poking around in the Developer Mode and made an irreversible change, or perhaps you got unlucky and downloaded a Canary Build that crashed the system.
In any of these cases, you might need to completely reinstall the operating system. Keep reading to find out how.
Try a Powerwash
Before taking the drastic step of reinstalling the entire operating system, why not first see if the Powerwash feature can remedy the problem?
The Powerwash is akin to hitting a factory reset button. It’ll delete locally stored user data and restore the Chromebook back to its factory state, but it won’t reinstall the operating system. It’s similar to the new Reset and Refresh functionality in Windows 10.
To Powerwash your Chromebook, click on your profile picture in the lower right-hand corner and navigate to Settings > Advanced > Reset > Powerwash.
Per the onscreen message, if you agree to the Powerwash, your computer will restart. The process should take no more than five minutes.
Remember: You will lose locally saved data. Make a backup before proceeding!
How to Reinstall Chrome OS
If you’re still encountering problems, you’ve run out of options. You need to do a clean install of the Chrome operating system. If you see an onscreen message saying “Chrome OS is missing or damaged,” you’ll definitely need to reinstall the OS. Nothing else will work.
What You Need
Before diving into the step-by-step instructions, let’s take a moment to list exactly what you will need:
- A USB stick or SD card drive (if your Chromebook has an SD card port) with 4GB storage.
Note: The memory stick will be formatting during the process, so back up any important data you have saved on it.
- Another Chromebook, or a Windows or Mac machine, with a copy of the Chrome browser installed.
Note: You cannot make recovery media from the Chromebook you want to reinstall Chrome OS on. Yes, it’s strange. No, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Download the App
Wait, what app? Well, unlike installing a clean copy of Windows or macOS, you need to download an official Google app to make the recovery media. That’s why you need a version of Chrome running somewhere other than the laptop you want to restore.
You can find the app, titled Chromebook Recovery Utility, in the Chrome Web Store (download link below).
Just click Add to Chrome in the upper right-hand corner and wait for the download and installation process to complete.
Download: Chromebook Recovery Utility (Free)
Create Recovery Media
Once the app is installed, launch it from the Apps page of your Chrome browser. Then, in the app’s main window, click Get Started in bottom right-hand corner.
On the next screen, you need to enter your Chromebook’s model number. This allows the Chromebook Recovery Utility to download the most recent functioning version of the operating system for your machine.
You can find the model number on the bottom of your Chromebook. If you see the aforementioned “Chrome OS is missing or damaged” on your machine, it will also be displayed there. If you still can’t find it, make your selection from within the app by clicking on Select model from a list. Click Continue when you’re ready.
Next, the app will prompt you to install the USB drive you want to use. Plug it into your machine and select it from the dropdown list. Remember, any data currently on the card will be lost.
On the final screen, click on Create Now.
Install the OS on Your Chromebook
After hitting Create Now, the app will download a copy of Chrome OS onto your removable media. Depending on the speed of your connection, the download could take a while.
Before you can use the downloaded file, you need to put your Chromebook into Recovery Mode. Press and hold Esc + Refresh, then press the Power button.
After a few seconds, you will see an onscreen message prompting you to insert the USB stick.
When you have inserted the stick, the Chromebook will automatically start verifying the contents of the stick. If you want to abort the installation, you can hold the Power button down for eight seconds during the verification process.
Eventually, the operating system will start to install. It could take a long time for the process to complete.
When the installation is finished, you’ll see the welcome screen prompting you to enter your Google Account credentials and choose a Wi-Fi network. Just follow the onscreen instructions.
Format Your USB Drive
Once you have verified everything is working as expected, you will probably want to remove the downloaded operating system from your USB drive.
You cannot do this using just the typical Windows or Mac methods. You firstly need to return to the Chromebook Recovery Utility you downloaded earlier.
Plug the USB into your computer and fire up the app. In the top right-hand corner of the app’s window, you will see a gear icon. Click on the icon and select Erase recovery media.
Choose the USB stick from the dropdown menu and click on Continue. On the final screen, select Erase Now in the lower right-hand corner.
Once the app has worked its magic, you still need to format the drive using the usual methods for either Windows or Mac.
Have You Reinstalled Chrome OS?
I hope this article has made it clear that reinstalling Chrome OS does not have to be an arduous task. Let’s quickly revisit the steps:
- 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.
As always, you can leave your stories, thoughts, and opinions in the comments section below. And remember to share this article with other Chromebook users on social media.
And remember that Chromebook has a built-in terminal, so take a look at a few commands that all Chromebook users should know.
If your Chromebook needs a replacement rather than a ChromeOS reinstallation, here are five of the best Chromebooks to pick from.
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