How To Powerwash A Chromebook

Give your computer a fresh start

an illustrated image depicting someone washing a computer

Oivind Hovland / Ikon Images / Getty Images Plus

Google Chromebooks are known for relatively low costs as well as their simplicity and ease of use. Although Chrome OS is not as complex as macOS, Windows or other major operating systems found on laptops, you may still run into the occasional stubborn issue that can’t seem to be fixed.

In cases like this, restoring your Chromebook to its factory state may be necessary. Another reason you may want to apply this break-glass method is if you’re turning your Chromebook over to a new owner and want to make sure that all your personal information is removed beforehand.

In either scenario, the Powerwash feature can be used to return Chrome OS to its original condition.

What to Know Before You Powerwash a Chromebook

Local files and settings cannot be recovered once a Chromebook has been Powerwashed, so read the following points carefully before proceeding.

  • Although most of Chrome OS files and user-specific settings are stored in the cloud, either associated with your Google Account or located in a server-side Google Drive repository, there are still some locally-stored items that are permanently deleted with Powerwash.
  • Files that are saved to your Chromebook’s local hard drive are often stored in the Downloads folder. The contents of this folder should always be backed up to an external device or to your Google Drive prior to initiating a Powerwash.
  • All Google Accounts previously used on your Chromebook are removed during a Powerwash, as well as any settings associated with said accounts. As long as you have the respective usernames and passwords stored elsewhere beforehand, these accounts can be restored on your Chromebook at a later time.

Start a Powerwash Through the Chrome Browser

Restore your Chromebook to its default factory state:

If you are planning to turn your Chromebook over to a new owner, do not enter your account credentials once the Powerwash is complete. Doing so will re-add your account to the device, which is not something you want to do if it will no longer be in your possession.

  1. Open the Chrome browser.

  2. Click the menu button, represented by three vertically-aligned dots and located in the upper right-hand corner of your browser window.

  3. When the drop-down menu appears, select Settings.

    Chrome’s Settings interface can also be accessed via the Chromebook Taskbar menu, located in the lower right-hand corner of your screen.

  4. Chrome’s Settings interface should now be displayed. Scroll to the bottom and click Advanced.

    A screenshot of Chromebook Settings.
  5. Chrome’s Advanced Settings appear. Scroll down again until you locate the Reset settings section and select the Powerwash option.

    The location of the Powerwash option in Chromebook Advanced settings.
  6. A dialog labeled Restart your device should be displayed, overlaying the Settings interface. Click on Restart.

    A screenshot of the Chromebook Powerwash Restart your Device dialog
  7. Your Chromebook will now be restarted and the Powerwash process will complete. When prompted, sign in with your Google Account credentials and follow the on-screen prompts to set up your newly-restored Chromebook. 

How to Reset Chromebook from the Login Screen

Instead of initiating the Powerwash process via Chrome’s Settings interface, you can also reset your Chromebook from the login screen by taking the following steps.

  1. While on the Chrome OS login screen and prior to authenticating, press the following keyboard shortcut: Shift+Ctrl+Alt+R

  2. A window will appear labeled Reset this Chrome device. Click Restart to begin.

  3. Your Chromebook will be restarted. After returning to the login screen, a new version of this window should be displayed. Click Powerwash.

    We recommend placing a check mark next to the Update firmware for added security option before continuing with the Powerwash process, as it provides better security protection for your device.

  4. The Confirm Powerwash dialog will now appear. Click Continue.

  5. Once complete, you can sign in with your Google Account and follow the on-screen prompts to set up your newly-restored Chromebook.