Chromebook Hacks to Make the Most of Your Laptop

Make your Chromebook a super computer

Acer Chromebook on a White Desk Next to a Reusable Coffee Cub and a Vase

kaboompics / Pixabay 

Over the past few years, Chromebooks have become so much more than just a Chrome laptop. Google has been quietly adding features to Chrome OS, like the ability to run Android apps and even install Linux. To help you get the most from your Chromebook, we've put together this list of Chromebook hacks you can try out right now. 

These instructions apply to Chromebooks running Chrome OS 53 and above. 

Unlock Your Chromebook With an Android Smartphone

You can unlock your Chromebook with a password or PIN code, but Google has developed another option too: unlocking your Chromebook with your Android smartphone. Once set up, your Chromebook will automatically unlock when a paired phone is nearby and unlocked. 

This feature requires a phone running Android 5.0 or later with a lock screen, Bluetooth, and Smart Lock enabled. Your Chromebook must also be running Chrome OS 40 or later and support Bluetooth.

  1. Navigate to the bottom right of the screen and select the Status area.

  2. Select the Settings icon.

    Status area in Chromebook.
  3. Select Connected devices.

    Connected devices in Chromebook.
  4. Under Connected devices in the right panel, under Android phone, select Set up.

    Connected devices in Chromebook.
  5. Make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your phone, then select your phone under the Select a device dropdown. Select Accept & continue.

    Selecting a device to connect in Chromebook.
  6. Enter your Google password and select Done.

    Password request in Chromebook.
  7. Select Done again to complete setup.

    Confirmation screen of adding a device in Chromebook.
  8. Select the newly added device and select the toggle next to Disabled.

    Enabling Smart Lock in Chromebook.
  9. Enter your password and select Confirm.

    Confirmation of password in Chromebook.
  10. Smart Lock should be enabled. Select either option for further customization.

    Smart Lock is now enabled in Chromebook.

Enable the Google Play Store to Install Android Apps

Google's two operating systems, Chrome OS and Android, haven't always played well together. However, Google has begun merging the two by adding the Google Play Store and Android app support to a range of Chromebooks. Installed Android apps integrate with Chrome OS, but functionality may differ by app and device.

Not all Chromebooks support the Google Play Store and Android apps. Google maintains a list of all supported Chromebooks

  1. Navigate to the bottom right of the screen and select the Status area.

  2. Select the Settings icon.

    Status area in Chromebook.
  3. Select Google Play Store and toggle it on. 

    Google Play Store in Chromebook.
  4. In the window that opens, select More, read the Terms of Service, then select I Agree.

    Google Play Store settings in Chromebook.
  5. Browse the Google Play Store and install apps as you would on an Android device. 

    Screenshot showing Google Play Store running on Chrome OS

Switch to the Beta or Developer Channel for the Latest Features

As Chrome OS is based on the Chrome web browser, it follows a similar, frequent update schedule. Updates include bug fixes, performance improvements, and new features. Before rolling these out to all users, they test them in the Chrome OS Developer and Beta channels.

The Developer channel is primarily for developers, and the Beta channel includes features that aren't ready to be widely rolled out. As a result, these channels are considered unstable and may not be suitable for daily use. If you encounter any problems, you can rejoin the Stable release channel at any time in your Chromebook's settings.

  1. Navigate to the bottom right of the screen and select the Status area.

  2. Select the Settings icon.

    Status area in Chromebook.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the menu and select About Chrome OS.

    Settings page in Chromebook.
  4. Select Detailed build information.

    About Chrome OS settings.
  5. Under Channel, select Change channel, then select either Beta or Developer.

    Detailed build information in Chromebook.
  6. Select Beta or Developer - unstable. (Or to go back to the original setting, select Stable.)

    Choosing which version of Chromebook to use.
  7. Select Change channel to confirm your choice.

    Confirming the change to a different ChromeOS build.

Print From Anywhere With Google Cloud Print

Chromebooks are designed with portability in mind, but that portability could have some downsides, especially when it comes to printing. However, enabling Google Cloud Print lets you print via the internet to any connected printer, whether it's on your current network or not. 

  1. In your browser, head to google.com/cloudprint.

    Cloud Print in Google Chrome.
  2. Select Printers in the left-hand menu pane. If you've previously set up any printers with Google Cloud Print, they'll be displayed here.

    Selecting printers option in Google Cloud Print.
  3. Select Add a Cloud-Ready Printer to add a new cloud-enabled printer.

    The cloud ready printers page in Google Cloud Print.
  4. Select Add a Classic Printer to add a traditional printer connected to a network.

    The classic printers page in Google Cloud Print.
  5. Once you've added a printer, it'll be available from all Print menus in Chrome OS. You can also access these printers from any Chrome web browser you're signed into. 

Link Cloud Services for Easier File Management

Chromebooks typically have low storage capacity. This is intentional, as Chromebooks are designed to be online and primarily cloud-connected. The tight integration with Google Drive means you can access your Drive storage directly from the Files app. However, there's a way to enable this integration for other cloud storage services too. 

  1. Navigate to the shelf and open Files.

    Files app in Chromebook.
  2. Select the three dots at the top right of the window, then select Add new service.

    Settings menu in Files app.
  3. Select Install new service.

    Adding a new service in the Files app.
  4. Supported services will be shown in a popup window. When you locate your chosen service, select Install.

    Selecting a service to add in the Files app.
  5. In the confirmation window, select Add app.

    Confirmation of the addition of a service to Files.
  6. The newly installed service will open. Follow the on-screen prompts to configure the service.

Enable Night Light for a Better Night's Sleep

Like many other operating systems, Chrome OS can automatically change the color of your Chromebook's display. This is in recognition of blue light's potential impact on your sleep. The Night Light feature can be scheduled in your Chromebook's settings. You can also toggle the Night Light on or off at any time from the Status area.

  1. Navigate to the bottom right of the screen and select the Status area.

  2. Select the Settings icon.

    Status area in Chromebook.
  3. Scroll to Device, then select Displays.

    The advanced settings menu in Chromebook.
  4. Under Night Light, use the toggle to enable the feature.

    The Night Light settings in Chromebook.
  5. Use the slider to adjust the Night Light's Color temperature.

    The color temperature setting for Night Light.
  6. Go to Night Light > Schedule, then use the drop-down menu to select Never, Sunset to Sunrise, or Customized

    Setting a schedule for Night Light.

Factory Reset Your Chromebook With Powerwash

Computers get slow over time, and your Chromebook is no exception. If you want to make your Chromebook run like new again or reset it before giving it away, you can use the Powerwash feature. 

Powerwashing permanently erases all data on your device. As most Chromebook services are cloud-based, this shouldn't be too much of a problem. However, you should still make sure you have backed up all your data before continuing. 

  1. Navigate to the bottom right of the screen and select the Status area.

  2. Select the Settings icon.

    Status area in Chromebook.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page (if needed) and expand Advanced settings.

    Reset settings option in Chromebook settings.
  4. Under Reset settings, select Powerwash.

    The Powerwash option in Chromebook.
  5. Confirm the Powerwash by selecting Restart.

    Confirmation of enabling Powerwash.