Fix Chromebook issues: How to reinstall (or recover) your Chromebook OS [tutorial]

Under normal circumstances, you don’t really need to recover your #Chromebook. This guide therefore presumes that you either have encountered a problem with the current setup, or that you’re doing it for curiosity’s sake.

We only recommend that you recovery your Chromebook under these situations:

  • when you’re getting an error message saying “Chrome OS is missing or damaged”
  • when you’ve already exhausted all software troubleshooting
  • when you suspect that bad hardware is causing a problem and you want to see if reinstalling Chrome OS will help.

Keep in mind that reinstalling the Chrome OS or recovering your Chromebook should be the last resort. It works by replacing the current state of the operating system with the default one. The default Chrome OS is generally free from bugs and has minimum bugs so it should work as expected. It basically transforms the software environment of your Chromebook back to when you first unboxed it. Issues due to normal wear and tear won’t be undone obviously. For example, the battery’s loss of capacity will remain even if you re-install the operating system. The same goes through for other components like the storage device (may be SSD or EMM).

Despite the general benefits you get from reinstalling Chrome OS, recovering your Chromebook is not an ideal troubleshooting option. Unless you’ve already performed all possible software solutions including a factory reset, try to avoid recovery as much as possible.

Before we proceed to the main topic though, we would like to remind you that we accept requests for assistance regarding their Windows computers. If you have a problem that you can’t seem to find a solution to, send us your issue by following the link at the bottom of this page. Just remember, windows problems can sometimes be difficult to diagnose so kindly make sure that you give us very detailed description of the problem. You want to mention relevant history that may have led to the issue. The more information that you can provide, the higher the chance of us diagnosing the issue more efficiently. We also expect that you mention whatever troubleshooting step/s that you may have done before contacting us in order to prevent repeating them in our article. Again, the more details you can give us, the faster it is for us to pinpoint the cause and its corresponding solution.

Just like when doing a factory reset, make sure that you back your files up. For reference, here are the steps on how to quickly save the work you’re currently working on:

    1. Press Ctrl + S.
    2. At the bottom, type a name for your file.
    3. In the left column, choose where you’d like to save your file:
      • Downloads (a temporary folder on your Chromebook’s hard drive)
      • Google Drive
      • An external storage device (if you have one connected to your Chromebook)
      • Another cloud file system
    4. Click Save.

Things you need to prepare before you reinstall Chrome OS:

  • the Chromebook with the problem
  • a second device like another Chromebook, or another computer (PC or Mac)
  • a storage device like an external hard drive or USB flash drive with at least 4GB remaining space. Make sure that there’s nothing important in this storage device because you’ll have to convert it into a bootable media that your Chromebook can read. Alternatively, if your Chromebook sports an SD card reader, you can use an SD card to do the same job.

How to reinstall (or recover) your Chromebook OS

Remember, you don’t want to reinstall Chrome OS unless you’ve already tried restarting it or a factory reset. If nothing changes after doing a factory reset, proceed to the steps below.

  1. Prepare the second device. It may be another Chromebook, Mac, or PC. It must be able to detect the storage device you’ll be using to save the new Chrome OS. You obviously need to ensure that this second machine is connected to the internet.
  2. Install Google Chrome browser to it (if you haven’t already). If you already have Chrome browser installed, make sure it’s up-to-date.
  3. Open Chromebook Recovery Utility.
  4. Click Get started.
  5. Click Select a model from a list, or type in the model number of the Chromebook you want to recover. To find this number, look at the bottom of the error message on your Chromebook screen.
  6. Click Continue.
  7. Insert your USB flash drive or SD card into the computer.
  8. In the dropdown menu, choose the USB flash drive or SD card you inserted.
  9. Click Continue.
  10. Click Create now.
  11. When you see a message saying that your recovery media is ready, remove the USB flash drive or SD card from the computer.
  12. Now, go to the problematic Chromebook with the error. Ensure that you disconnect any peripheral connected to it like a mouse, keyboard or external hard drive.
  13. Restart the Chromebook to Recovery Mode by pressing and holding Esc + Refresh key + and Power key.
  14. After a few moments, release the Power key. Once a message shows on the screen, release the two other keys.
  15. You’ll see one of these messages:
    • “Chrome OS is missing or damaged. Please insert a recovery USB stick or SD card.”
    • “Please insert a recovery USB stick or SD card.”
  16. Insert the USB flash drive or SD card that you used to create recovery media.
  17. Follow the on-screen instructions.

In some older Chromebooks, you can access Recovery Mode by pressing a special recovery button. This button is usually located in a tiny hole so you may need to use a thin stick like a paper clip to press it. Once you see a message on screen, you can then proceed to Recovery. If you aren’t sure if your model has a recovery button, consult its manual.

How to return your used recovery media back to its former usable state

Once you’ve successfully recovered your Chromebook, you can reuse the USB stick, external hard drive, or SD card by doing the following steps:

  1. Open Chromebook Recovery Utility.
  2. Click Settings.
  3. Click Erase recovery media.
  4. From the dropdown menu, select the USB drive or SD card you’d like to erase.
  5. Click Continue.
  6. Make sure the storage device you used for recovery is listed.
  7. Click Erase now.
  8. The tool will erase everything on your USB drive or SD card. When you see the message “Your recovery media has been erased,” click Done.
  9. Remove the USB flash drive or SD card from the computer.
  10. Format the storage device using a tool provided by your operating system.


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