How To Use The Chromebook Recovery Utility

My cousin bought a Chromebook for her daughter for Christmas. When she turned on her Chromebook for the first time, she was greeted by a screen announcing that the “Chrome OS is missing or damaged.” Luckily, recovery from this error is a lot easier than it sounds. My cousin said that she was able to do it and it only took her about a half an hour. I’m here to tell you how to make a Chromebook Recovery Tool. This is actually something that should be done by every Chromebook owner. I admit that I neglected to do this, but my cousin’s tale made me make this this a priority.

bove is what the error would look like. The area that is circled is the model number of your Chromebook. Make a note of it, you’ll need this later in the process.

If your Chromebook does display this error, of course you’re not going to be able to make the Recovery USB stick using the damaged Chromebook. Instead, you can use another Chromebook or you could install the recovery tool on a Windows, Apple, or Linux machine.

Creating the USB is very easy. Make sure that you have a USB flash drive or SD card (I will just refer to a flash drive and SD card to as “card” for simplicity) that has at least a 4GB capacity. I would use 8GB or higher. The recovery creation process will erase your card and you won’t be able to use it for any other purpose during its time serving as a recovery tool. Don’t worry, you can later erase the card and then use it for other purposes.

Creating a recovery USB on a Chromebook

The instructions below are for creating a recovery USB on your Chromebook or on another Chromebook. If you have no access to a Chromebook (any Chromebook), skip to the next section for instructions on how to create a recovery USB on another computer.

  1. If you don’t have the Chromebook Recovery Utility installed on your Chromebook, press the SEARCH key (the key with the magnifying glass) on your keyboard and then type “Chromebook Recovery Utility” and then add it to your Chromebook.

  2. Launch the “Chromebook Recovery Utility” by finding “Recovery” in the Apps Launcher or just type “Recovery” and the application will launch.

  3. Follow all the prompts. This is very easy to do. It is not as hard as you think.

  4. When you’re prompted for your Chromebook’s model number and if you’re not sure, you can let the utility auto-detect it for you (as long as you are actually on your Chromebook) or you can choose from a list, which will let you choose from a list of manufacturers and then from a list of Chromebooks made by that manufacturer.

  5. When you’re prompted for the USB flash drive or SD card, make sure that you have one that is more than 4GB. The USB drive should not be plugged into the blue USB port.

  6. The Utility will then go through preparing your card for use. It will download the image needed for the card (so make sure you have an Internet connection), placing the image on the card, and then verifying the image.

When the utility has completed, it will tell you that you can remove the card and then you’re good to go.

Creating a recovery USB when you can’t access your Chromebook

The easiest way to create your recovery media on a non-Chromebook computer would be to install Chrome on your computer (Windows or Apple) and follow all the directions in the above section. Of course, you can’t tap the “SEARCH” key on a non-Chromebook computer, but you can just use the App Launcher and then search for “Chromebook Recovery Utility” and then follow the rest of the instructions.

If for some reason you’re unable to install Chrome on another computer, you can download and install a tool for Windows from the following URL:

Once you install and run the tool, you will prepare the image the same way as instructed in the previous section. You won’t be able to “auto-detect” the Chromebook model, so you will either need to know the exact model number or choose it from a list. If you choose to type in the exact model number, it will auto-fill as you begin typing as seen in the image below:

Reinstalling Chrome OS from the Recovery media

You will then recover the infirmed Chromebook by plugging in the card and following the directions. I did not try it because it will completely erase the currently installed OS and replace it with the image on the card. You could also do this if you’re planning on selling your Chromebook and wanted to return it back to a factory image. Make sure that the Chromebook you are recovering is plugged in before starting the recovery process.

If you receive an error when trying to recover it is likely that your recovery media is out-of-date.

Keep your recovery media up-to-date

You will need to keep your recovery media updated. Every time there is an update made to Chrome OS you will need to update your recovery media.

Using your USB drive/SD card for something else

If you’re done using your card as a recovery device you will need to use the Chromebook Recovery Utility to clear your card. You cannot just format the card and use it for another purpose. It must be erased via the Chromebook Recovery Utility before it is used for anything else.

More information on creating your recovery media, including how to create an image if you’re using Linux

Instructions on how to recover your Chromebook.