Google Chrome Laptops

Chromebook won’t start: how do I recover it?

white laptop on a green meadow
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As with any computer, Chromebooks can suffer from glitches that ruin the user’s day. With the exception of flames licking from behind the screen, the most cataclysmic catastrophe is when the Chromebook fails to load ChromeOS. If your Chromebook doesn’t start correctly then keep calm and follow our guide on how to recover a Chromebook.

One note of caution before we go any further. If the battery on your Chromebook has fully run down, it can’t take a while for the device to kick back into action. Leave it plugged into the charger for half an hour to see if that brings it back to life, before you proceed with any of the steps below.

Are my files safe if I recover a Chromebook?

It depends. The recovery process removes and reinstalls ChromeOS, and it also erases everything from the machine’s hard drive. If your files are stored within Google Drive or on a USB device, then your data is safe from the Chromebook recovery process.

If your Chromebook does start, but performance is sluggish or there’s a few error messages, then a full recovery is a drastic first step. Instead follow our guide on how to factory reset a Chromebook which may squash the gremlin for you.

There are two methods of Chromebook recovery. Modern machines can do this via the internet but older Chromebooks will need a USB drive. We’ll cover the steps for both options which begin with Recovery Mode.

How to put a Chromebook into Recovery Mode?

Before you begin, unplug any connected devices such as USB drives or mice. The next stage may take a couple of attempts depending on your machine and/or finger dexterity.

Chromebook keyboard layout with Escape, Refresh and Power highlighted in red.

Whilst holding down Esc + Refresh, press then release the Power button (highlighted in red on the image).

If you got it right, a message will appear on the screen.

Alternatively, some Chromebooks use the Maximise button instead of Refresh, so the sequence would be:

Chromebook keyboard layout with Escape, Maximise and Power highlighted in red.

Holding down Esc + Maximise, press and release the Power button (highlighted in red on the image).

If you’re struggling to find the correct sequence for your particular Chromebook then take a peek at the documentation available on the manufacturer’s website.

Recover a Chromebook using the internet

Once you’ve successfully cajoled your Chromebook into Recovery mode, you may see the option to Recover use in Internet Connection. Select it and the machine ask for a few bits of information from you and then gets on with it. After a few moments, the Chromebook recovery process will have completed and the machine is ready for setup. Login with your Google account details and you’ll have the machine running in no time.

If you don’t see the internet recovery option, it’s because your Chromebook doesn’t support that method. Grab a USB stick and get ready to ask a favour from a friend.

Recover a Chromebook using a USB device

This method requires building a bootable USB stick and to do this you’ll need access to another working machine which has a copy of the Google Chrome browser installed on it.

We need to install the Chromebook Recovery Tool, so head to the Chrome webstore at

In the search box, type Chromebook Recovery and it should be the first result to appear.

Chromebook Recovery Tool in the Chrome App Store

Click Add to Chrome , then Add Extension from the pop-up box to install the tool. It does hide itself away, but on Chrome’s toolbar is an icon which looks like a jigsaw piece. Click it and a list of Chrome’s installed extensions will appear. Click on Chromebook Recovery Utility to launch.

Chromebook Recovery Utility start screen.

For this next stage, you’ll need a USB stick which is 8GB or larger. The stick will be wiped during the process, so ensure nothing important is on it. Plug it into the machine then click Get Started.

Chromebook Recovery Tool select Chromebook software screen.

Type your Chromebook’s model number into the search-box or click Select a model from a list and navigate your way through the options until you find your Chromebook. Click Continue.

Chromebook Recovery Utility Insert USB stick.

Click the drop-down box to select the USB drive. Once you’ve heeded the warning about data loss on the stick, click Continue.

Chromebook Recovery Tool creation process in progress.

There are a few stages to this project, there may even be an additional prompt to click, so don’t move too far away from the screen. The USB should be ready in around 15 minutes.

Chromebook Recovery Tool creation process complete

Click OK when the process has been completed and remove the stick. With your Chromebook in Recovery mode (see above), insert the USB and the Chromebook will get on with it. Warning, due to ChromeOS turning off the HDMI during this process, the next image is a little… rustic.

ChromeOS recovery screen if no usb inserted.

It doesn’t take long for the software to recover a Chromebook, so in a couple of clicks, you’ll see a notification instructing you to pull the USB stick and the Chromebook will automatically restart. ChromeOS has been removed and re-installed. Once you’ve logged in with your Google account, the machine will be ready to use.

Chromebooks are resilient machines and their owners assure me that they have a superb reliability rate. You shouldn’t need to recover a Chromebook that often, but Google has made the process very straightforward and far faster than the recovery processes for MacOS or Windows.

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About the author

Lee Grant

I can normally be found attacking things with screwdrivers in my small computer repair business or writing a column for PC Pro magazine.

I am also trying to solve a mystery involving David Bowie.

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