Powerwashing a Chromebook or other Chrome OS gadget is an effectively an easy way to reset the device to a factory state and there are a number of reasons that might be needed. The most common of those are associated with either regaining performance and storage or to clear away private or personal data before selling or having a gadget repaired.
Regardless of why it may be a good idea to do — and there are a number of other reasons it should be done — the Powerwash feature isn’t something everyone is going to have considered or even known about. It’s also very easy to do and takes almost no time at all once learned.
Prep for a powerwash
As is the case with any reset, whether that’s for a computer or a smartphone, there are a couple of housekeeping items to be taken care of before starting. The first is to back-up any and all important files and the first step to that is determining exactly which files haven't been backed up yet.
Preparing to Powerwash a Chromebook is arguably the most important and time-consuming part of the entire ordeal — depending on one's internet speed — but both of the two items that need to be accomplished here can be done at once.
With Chrome OS, that first step is going to be extremely easy. First, the only files that won’t be backed up already to the cloud are going to be those found inside “My Files” directory within the Files application, found in the app launcher under the circle icon at the bottom-right-hand side of the UI.
The My Files directory is at the center of the left-hand column within that app and there may be several sub-directory folders stored there as well.
After locating the files to be backed up — in the example images, a folder called “The Walkthrough File” has been selected — clicking with two fingers will instantiate a ‘right-click’, bringing up a context menu.
Any files that need to be backed up can be cut from inside that menu and then pasted — via another two-finger right-click — into a folder in Google Drive. Files stored in that directory already or in any other cloud service a user has linked should already be backed up. The easiest way to check is to navigate to Google Drive online or on another compatible handset and check for their files.
In this case, those have been moved to a newly created folder in Google Drive called “Backups.” Once the files have been pasted, a progress bar will appear along the bottom of the left-hand directory UI to inform users of how far along the files are in terms of being copied and then synced.
Once synced, and the progress bar is no longer appearing, this step is complete. Users should make note of where they backed up files so that they can be downloaded once again after the powerwash.
With preparations out of the way, actually Powerwashing a Chromebook is very straightforward and shouldn't take more than a few moments.
The option to Powerwash can be found in just one place and there are multiple ways to get there.
While the settings app can be launched from the app launcher, found under the circle icon at the bottom-left-hand side of the main UI, the easiest way to get there may be through the shelf's equivalent of an Android notification shade.
A click on that segment of the UI, where setting details and the clock are shown at the left-hand side of the shelf, will bring up quick settings and a click on the gear icon will bring up the requisite menu.
From there, users should utilize the search bar at the top of the Settings app to search the term "Powerwash." That will bring up two reset choices. The first simply returns all Chrome OS settings to their default toggles and options. The second is labeled "Powerwash." A click on the second option brings forward a confirmation window asking users to restart their device.
Now, a Chromebook won't immediately be reset completely when the restart is confirmed but users are only going to have one more chance to back out. So it's a good idea to make sure all files and documents are backed up before moving on.
Upon clicking "Restart," the Chromebook will do just that and that will take approximately as long as it ordinarily does but instead of loading up Chrome OS, a new UI will present itself. That explains what a Powerwash is in brief and offers the option to either cancel or "Powerwash." Clicking that brings forward a second screen asking for confirmation for the final time.
Confirming will bring forward the one last interface, explaining that a Powerwash is often used when critical errors occur or just to reset the device to a like-new state. A progress wheel will spin throughout and the process itself will likely only take a few seconds to complete depending on the available storage and other similar factors.
Set back up and go
The final UI will disappear and the Chromebook will reboot as normal, just as it did when the device was turned on for the very first time. That means a fresh sign-in will be required and some set-up but that won't be any more difficult this time around either.
In effect, once logged in — assuming options weren't selected or deselected to prevent account syncing — any apps, passwords, site history, and other saved data from the previous installation, including wallpapers and similar customization settings, will be restored. Options can be selected during the initial startup to check and adjust synced data once the startup completes, allowing users to toggle on or off any of the items that have been set to sync.
Syncing should not take more than a few minutes but will not include any files that had been created in the My Files directory. So those will need to be set up again before any backups are downloaded again.
The Chrome OS gadget in question, regardless of whether that's a tablet, Chromebox, Chromebook, or another device, should now run at its peak once again.