How to Reset (Powerwash) a Chromebook to Factory Settings

chromebook powerwash
© Getty Images #475157855 (Olvind Hovland). Getty Images #475157855 (Olvind Hovland)

This tutorial is only intended for users running Chrome OS.

One of the most convenient features in Chrome OS is called Powerwash, which allows you to reset your Chromebook to its factory state with just a few mouse clicks. There is a multitude of reasons why you may want to do this to your device, ranging from preparing it for resale to just wanting to start fresh in terms of your user accounts, settings, installed apps, files, etc. No matter the driving force behind your desire to Powerwash your Chromebook, the process itself is extremely easy — but can also be permanent.

Due to the fact that a powerwashed Chromebook cannot recover some of its deleted files and settings, it is important that you fully understand how it works before going through with it. This tutorial details the ins and outs of the Powerwash feature.

While the majority of your Chrome OS files and user-specific settings are stored in the cloud, with settings tied to your user account and files saved on your Google Drive, there are locally stored items that will be permanently deleted when a Powerwash is performed. Whenever you choose to save a file to your Chromebook's hard drive as opposed to Google's servers, it is stored in the Downloads folder. Before continuing with this process, it is recommended that you check the contents of the Downloads folder and anything important to your Google Drive or to an external storage device.

Any user accounts stored on your Chromebook will also be deleted, along with the settings associated with them. These accounts and settings can be synced with your device again following a Powerwash, assuming that you have the required username(s) and password(s).

If your Chrome browser is already open, click on the Chrome menu button — represented by three vertically-aligned dots and located in the upper right-hand corner of your browser window. When the drop-down menu appears, click on Settings. If your Chrome browser is not already open, the Settings interface can also be accessed via Chrome's taskbar menu, located in the lower right-hand corner of your screen.

Chrome OS's Settings interface should now be displayed. Scroll down and click on the Show advanced settings link. Next, scroll down again until the Powerwash section is visible.

Remember, running a powerwash on your Chromebook deletes all files, settings and user accounts that currently reside on your device. As mentioned above, this process is not reversible. It is recommended that you back up all important files and other data prior to committing to this procedure.

If you still want to proceed, click on the Powerwash button. A dialog will appear stating that a restart is required to continue with the powerwashing process. Click on the Restart button and follow the prompts to reset your Chromebook to its default state.

Please note that you can also initiate the Powerwash process from your Chromebook's login screen by using the following keyboard shortcut: Shift + Ctrl + Alt + R