How To Factory Reset Your Chromebook Without The Password

Picture the scene, you fire up your Chromebook only to find the password has either been changed to something you don’t know or you can’t remember it. No matter how hard you try, you cannot figure out the password. Your only option is a powerwash. How can you factory reset your Chromebook without the password?


While it seems unlikely, this stuff happens. I know someone who did this last week and it was that situation that prompted this tutorial. They had changed their Gmail password and saved it in a password manager. As they relied on that password manager, they let it come up with a random password and let it record and save that password. It was only when they went to log into Gmail again the next day that they realized the password manager hadn’t recorded that password change properly.

As it was a truly random password, there was no chance of them being able to figure it out. As you use the same password to log into a Chromebook, you’re SOL.

Another potential situation is buying a used Chromebook where the seller or donator hasn’t powerwashed it. Not only is this dangerous, it stops you being able to log in. As soon as you boot a Chromebook, you are presented with the login page. Without the password or PIN, you cannot log in.

Powerwash a Chromebook without the password

Normally you would only powerwash a Chromebook if it stopped working properly or to prepare it for sale. You can access it from Settings and Advanced Settings but if you cannot log into the Chromebook for any reason, you cannot access those commands.

You could use the Chromebook as a guest but you won’t have access to any of your work and you won’t have Admin access. As soon as you want to make a change or do any work, you’re out of luck again. Powerwashing won’t help you access your work as it will all be wiped but it will allow you to reset the Chromebook and log in. You should then be able to restore it from Google Drive.

Remember, a powerwash is a factory reset. Performing the following steps will wipe everything off your device!

Here’s how to powerwash your Chromebook without the password:

  1. Power on the Chromebook until you see the login screen.
  2. Press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + R to access the reset screen.
  3. Select Restart from the reset window.
  4. Check the box next to Update Firmware for Added Security and select Powerwash.
  5. Select Continue to confirm your choice.

The Chromebook will take a while to perform the factory reset and download any updates it needs. Once done, you will be prompted to log in using your Google account. You’re going to need to reset your password for that separately but that’s a whole other tutorial!

PIN lock and Smart Lock on Chromebook

You could avoid all that hassle with two very neat features of Chromebook, PIN lock and Smart Lock. PIN lock uses a PIN instead of a password which works separately from that password. In the scenario above, if you forget your password, you can use the PIN instead.

Smart Lock is a neat feature of Chrome OS and Android that can automatically unlock your Chromebook when it detects an authorized phone in proximity.

PIN lock a Chromebook

PIN lock is a useful security feature if you don’t want your Chromebook to automatically unlock when your phone is present.

  1. Log into your Chromebook as an admin.
  2. Select Settings and Screen Lock.
  3. Enter your current password to verify before you make changes.
  4. Select PIN or password from the options and select Set Up PIN.
  5. Enter a PIN code and select Confirm.
  6. Enter the PIN again and hit Confirm again.

Now you can unlock your Chromebook using a PIN or password.

Smart Lock your Chromebook

You will need Bluetooth running to use Smart Lock and an Android phone.

  1. Select Settings on your Chromebook.
  2. Select Advanced Settings and Set Up Smart Lock.
  3. Sign in to verify.
  4. Follow the wizard to pair your Chromebook and your phone.

Once complete, every time your Chromebook detects your phone, it will automatically unlock. You will need to keep Bluetooth running on both devices for this to work but it’s very cool when it does!

These settings are all after the fact so will only be useful to prevent having to powerwash your Chromebook in the first place. However, once you learn the lesson of remembering important passwords, you’re unlikely to make the same mistake again!