Chrome OS Is Missing or Damaged: How to Fix This Error

Chromebooks rock but even they, occasionally, need a fix

chrome os is missing or damaged

Nora Carol Photography/Moment Collection/Getty Images

Perhaps no error message is more frightening to Chromebook users than "Chrome OS is missing or damaged," an ominous indicator that something may be seriously wrong with your operating system. While seeing these words can cause instant panic, there are some potential solutions available that might get your Chromebook back up and running.

Powering Your Chromebook Off and On

Yes, this is a very simple and obvious step, but you'd be surprised how many folks don't bother attempting it when they first encounter the dreaded error message. You may also be surprised how often it actually works to fix this particular problem. Before moving on to the next troubleshooting method, try powering your Chromebook off and then back on. You may get lucky!

Reset Chromebook to Factory Settings

If shutting your Chromebook off and on didn't work, the next recommended step is to try to factory reset the Chromebook to its original state. In order to do so, however, you'll need to be able to log in to your Chromebook.

chromebook powerwash
Olvind Hovland/Getty Images

Many users encounter the "Chrome OS is missing or damaged" error immediately and don't even have the option to sign in. If you're one of those unlucky folks, you'll want to skip this section of the article. If you are able to sign in, however, follow our step-by-step tutorial to powerwash Chrome OS.

Reinstalling Your Chromebook Operating System

If you've reached this point of the article and are still dealing with the "Chrome OS is missing or damaged" error, it may be time to consider entering recovery mode and reinstalling your Chromebook's operating system.

chromebook recovery utility

Unfortunately, you won't be able to do this without another working computer running Chrome OS, macOS, or Windows, as well as a USB flash drive with a minimum of 4 GB of space. The flash drive can be substituted with an SD card with a similar capacity if your particular Chromebook model contains an SD card slot.

Warning: Just as resetting your Chromebook back to factory settings erases your downloaded files and other personal contents on your hard drive, reinstalling Chrome OS in recovery mode also wipes everything. 

  1. If your working computer is running macOS or Windows, you'll first need to download the Google Chrome web browser if it isn't installed already. Next, launch Chrome and install the Chromebook Recover Utility extension.
  2. Open Chrome Recover Utility. On macOS or Windows, select the LAUNCH APP button now present on the extension page. On Chrome OS, search your installed apps and select the one labeled Recovery.
  3. The Chromebook Recovery Utility interface should now be visible, overlaying your browser window or desktop. Select Get started.
  4. Next, enter the model number of the Chromebook you're recovering or choose it from the list provided.
    1. Important: If you're using another Chromebook to run the recovery tool it's important you don't use the model number of that device by accident, as the recovery tool may present that by default. 
  5. Insert your USB drive or SD card when prompted and select it from the drop-down menu that appears once your external storage device is recognized.
  6. Select Continue.
  7. You will now see a warning message letting you know all data and partitions on your USB drive or SD card will be deleted. Select Create now.
  1. The Chrome OS download process will begin. A progress bar should appear detailing completion percentage and estimated time remaining.
    1. Note: Windows users may be asked to grant permission to Google Chrome to write the downloaded files to your recovery media. If prompted, grant Windows permission to make changes to your USB drive or SD card. 
  2. Once complete, a confirmation screen should appear. Remove the USB drive or SD card and select Done
  3. Return to the Chromebook you're having problems with and disconnect any devices, such as a USB mouse or external hard drive.

You'll now need to enter recovery mode on your Chromebook.

  1. With your Chromebook powered on, hold Esc+Refresh and tap your device's power button. A forced reboot should begin, at which point you can let go of the keys.
  2. After the reboot is complete, a screen with a yellow exclamation point and a message stating "Chrome OS is missing or damaged" should appear. Insert the recently-configured SD card or USB drive.
  3. At this point, you'll be taken through the operating system's installation process. Once complete, your Chromebook should function as it did when you first purchased it. If not, you may have a hardware issue and should contact Google for further assistance.