Google’s Chrome is widely considered one of the most secure browsers around, if not the most efficient, and that’s helped garner a position near the top among browsers. That’s on pretty much any platform. But that’s also led to the creation of Chrome OS — Google’s operating system for Chromebooks. And to the creation of Safety Check, which serves as a way for a user to check their Chromebook on the security and privacy fronts — or at least a way for users to keep tabs on how safe their browsing is.
That latter tool is the one this guide is here to discuss. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
Why would you want to use Safety Check on your Chromebook?
Safety Check is a feature that was first added to deskop Chrome, including the Chromebook platform in version M83. So this isn’t a new feature by any stretch of the imagination. Or, more accurately, a set of features in a singular hub. Although some users may still not have discovered it on their own since it’s buried in the Settings menu. But what it does is fairly straightforward.
Summarily, Safety Check runs an analysis on the safety and privacy settings for Chrome, including passwords, safe browsing settings, updates, and even extensions. And despite how different each of those is, it does it quickly within seconds typically.
The check for updates and safe browsing settings is relatively self-explanatory. The former ensures no updates for the browser are available and helps the user install those. Safe browsing is a set of enhancements to help keep users informed when their browsing habits, including sites visited, are safe or not. With the latest enhancements to that ensuring that downloads are safe before they even start, for instance.
Extension checking is fairly straightforward too. Namely, the browser checks to ensure that none of the installed extensions are dangerous, have been removed from the Chrome Web Store for violations, and other similar issues.
Finally, the password checker scans the deeper web to ensure that none of the passwords being used have been compromised. And it also checks behind-the-scenes databases to ensure that none of the services, products, or sites that users have accounts with have been compromised. If any have, it helps users reset or change the associated passwords.
All of that, of course, is important for the obvious reasons. Primarily, Safety Check ensures that users are safer than they otherwise would be when they browse the web.
Here’s how to run Safety Check on your Chromebook
Getting to the Safety Check tool, to begin with, is the first obvious step to actually running a Safety Check on your Chromebook. And simply running one isn’t necessarily the only step either. But that’s what this first step will discuss before we dive into exactly what you’ll see when you’ve completed it.
- To get started, of course, Chrome needs to be open and running. And, of course, it’s best to start with a fresh tab or window. Although Chrome is engineered to automatically open up the features we’ll need in a new tab all on its own, it doesn’t always. So starting with a fresh tab or window is the easiest way to ensure you don’t accidentally overwrite whatever page you happen to be on
- Once a new window or tab is open, users need to tap or click on the three-vertical dot icon at the top right-hand side of the page to open the overflow menu
- On Chrome OS, the second-to-last option presented will be Settings, just above “Help” in that menu. Tap or Click on Settings
- Ordinarily, in this step for other guides, we’d need to tap or click on the search bar. And then we’d need to search the specific feature we’re looking for. On Chrome OS, users simply need to take a look at the left-hand sidebar. There, the option labeled “Safety Check” needs to be tapped or clicked
- Safety Check has its own card in the Settings menu with a short explanation of the tool. Google also includes a blue button that reads “Check now.” Once checked, that will change to inform users when the last check was. And that will be accompanied by a “refresh” icon for checking again. But, for now, click or tap on the “Check now” button
- The safety check will run, highlighting whether or not your browser is up-to-date, any compromised passwords — with a right arrow to dig into those more deeply, a Safe Browsing check — with another right arrow to adjust settings, and a check of the extensions that are installed. The final of those also has a click or tap action to open extension management in a new tab
What do your results actually mean and what can you do to fix things?
As noted above, the results of a Safety Check are typically fairly straightforward. Particularly if all of Google’s enhanced protection features are turned on. And they are, usually, by default. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that reading or responding to the information is the easiest thing either. Especially for those that aren’t technologically-inclined.
Here, we’ll run down what was checked in each of the results and how to respond if you get a message or failed check. That’s as opposed to a green checkmark, shown in the images above, indicating everything is okay.
Safety Check says my Chromebook needs an update
Now, the first thing the Chrom Safety Check will look for, on Chromebook or anywhere else, is whether the latest updates are installed. As with any OS, updates usually patch the biggest or more urgent problems. So it’s important to get those installed ASAP.
If Chrome is telling you that your Chromebook software (or Chrome itself) is out of date, it’s also going to give you the option to install the updates. And, after installation is nearly complete, to restart Chrome (or your Chromebook) to finish the installation. So, stepping forward from here is arguably the easiest fix in Safety Check.
All you’ll need to do is tap on the “Relaunch” button when it appears. And Chrome will update itself, clearing away that issue. Although, in some cases, it may be necessary to run Safety Check again afterward, following the steps above. Especially if other issues were found with the tool.
My passwords are weak?
Passwords are, of course, the most likely place most users will run into issues. So Safety Check effectively runs through and analyzes those that are saved to Chrome. Specifically, to check whether they’ve shown up in any databases for leaked or compromised passwords. But also checking the relative strength of the passwords.
If you have weak passwords, and you very well might, Safety Check will start by telling you how many there are in the results.
From there, a click on the right-facing arrow icon will takes you to a page containing all compromised or weak passwords. On nearly all of those, as long as they’re a website, web app, or web applet password, Google also provides an outbound link button labeled “Change password.” And, of course, a click or tap on that takes users to the appropriate page to change it.
Tying in with that, Google Chrome will also suggest and save “strong passwords” on most websites via a prompt. That’s when users go to change them.
However, users may also see that some passwords will require them to open up the full-blown app to change the password. And Google Chrome simply can’t do that on its own. Although it’s nice to see that they’re still accounted for, as long as they’re linked to Chrome or Google’s password saving features. Additionally, some passwords that are weak may be out of date. For those, Chrome presents the option to change the saved password via a link below the button.
More options can be found in the three-dot menu next to each individual password as well.
My safe browsing is not turned on
By default, Chrome keeps “Standard protection” turned on. So most users won’t ever see an error message in that segment. But, if you do, that simply means that somehow — accidentally or on purpose — that got turned off. So you’ll want to tap the right-arrow on that portion of the card to turn it back on.
With that said, even if you’ve gotten a green checkmark for this setting, it still may be a good idea to turn on Google’s Enhanced Protection following those steps.
Every other setting on this page should, with near certainty, be left as it is. But, within that menu, there are three options to choose from. The last of those, dubbed “No protection,” is exactly as it’s labeled and isn’t recommendable. Standard protection is on by default. But Enhanced Protection adds more and is more proactive. Not least of all, it checks your passwords in real time and notifies you if one you’re using has been compromised
To turn on Enhanced Protection, you’ll need to tap on the circle-selection set to the left-hand side of that option. Then you can use the back arrow to go back to the previous page in Settings. That’s located at the top left-hand side of the UI.
Problems with extensions?
Now, problems with extensions should be less common since Google has continuously updated its policies and responses surrounding the feature. That’s setting aside all of the extensions the company has removed over the past couple of years. But none of that means that extensions that are safe now always will be. Or that new ones with issues won’t be discovered later on.
To protect users from wayward extensions in Chrome, Google has made checking those part of its Safety Check on Chromebook and elsewhere.
If an extension does require some action to be taken, the check will inform you and a tap or click on that portion of the results will open Extensions in a new tab. From there, you can uninstall extensions that are causing or could cause problems. And, of course, it’s always good to remove any extensions you don’t actually need on a regular basis. Which can also be done from that page.
This works outside of Chrome OS too
Of course, Safety Check isn’t only available on the Chromebook platform. Or on desktop platforms either. Although it can be found in exactly the same place as shown above on Windows, Mac, and Linux. At this point, Safety Check has also made its way to mobile. So by navigating to Google Chrome on your phone, you’ll be able to find it there too.
Specifically, at the very least on Android, that’s found with a tap on the three-dot overflow menu. That’s located at the top-right-hand side of the UI. Then, it’s tucked behind another tap first on the Settings option and then, under “Basics” on “Safety Check.”
Now, it goes without saying that the tool isn’t exactly the same across the board. On Android, for example, there are no Chrome extensions. So it’s not going to check those. But regardless, this set of steps will work precisely the same way across each platform for Google Chrome. For those who want to stay a bit safer wherever they browse.