Common Chrome OS problems, and how to fix them

Having problems on your Chromebook or other Chrome OS device? We’ve got all the major problems that Chrome users have come across, and the solutions that make them go away.

It should be noted that because Chrome OS is based on web apps, the line between the Chrome web browser and the Chrome OS can be blurry — unless you’re running Android apps, of course. However, they aren’t the same, and the following problems deal with the operating system specifically.

System-wide issues

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Chrome OS is running very slowly

If Chrome OS is running slowly, your best bet is to just restart, or check for a system update. In most instances, a Chrome OS device should automatically check for updates and download when on WiFi.

You can also manually check by clicking the area with the time on the bottom right, clicking on “Settings” and then selecting the Menu and clicking “About Chrome OS.”

After that, you can click “Check for Updates” and that will then check for the newest updates, and refresh your Chromebook.

Chrome keeps shutting itself down and restarting on its own

This is a serious error that indicates a problem with the operating system. If this happens, you are going to need to fully recover your Chromebook, which means a bit of work. A recovery attempts to save as much data from your current OS as possible. You will need your Chromebook, a separate computer with access to the Chrome browser, and a portable SD or USB drive for saving data.

With these tools ready, you can download the Chromebook Recovery Utility on your separate, functioning computer. This extension will walk you through the process. Launch it and it will prompt you to create a recovery media that you can use to temporarily transfer data and settings. Follow the instructions carefully and use your storage device to move settings to the Recovery Utility and fully reset your Chromebook while keeping as much of your data safe as possible.

I tried updating Chrome OS, but got error messages afterward

To resolve this, start by checking your Internet connection. Ideally, you will have a strong Wi-Fi or an Ethernet connection. Don’t use your data connection for updates! It will run through your monthly data and often causes these error messages.

You can also restart your Chromebook to help. Simply press the power button to shut down (after making sure all your current work is finished), and then when the Chromebook is fully shut down, press the power button again to restart. This helps deal with some of the update errors.

I’m trying to download an important update, but it won’t work

If you have tried to download the same update several times and it refuses to even start, then you need to try rebooting your Chromebook. The easiest way to do this is to simply restart by turning your Chromebook off with the power button and then turning it back on again.

In the event that doesn’t work, then you need to sign out of your account and reset your Chromebook. This will wipe away your settings and hard drive, so make sure everything is saved to the cloud first. When you are ready, hit Ctrl+ Alt+ Shift +R.  You can then press “Restart,” and in the box that appears, select “Powerwash,” and then “Continue.”

I can’t sign into Chrome OS without getting errors

There are a lot of different error messages you can get when a sign-in doesn’t work on Chrome. Rather than going through each of them, we suggest you visit the handy walkthrough Google has for dealing with these sign in errors one at a time.

Generally, we advise that you double-check your password, username, and Google account to make sure all are up to date and functioning as expected because the problem is usually with one of these three.

Be it Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, audio, or other errors, hopefully, this guide has helped you resolve some of your common issues with Chrome OS.  If all else fails, feel free to check out Google’s help page, which features helpful videos and guides to solving other Chrome OS problems which we didn’t mention here.

Browser issues

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My browser tabs are reloading and making everything slow

Chrome OS will occasionally run into a problem where it will keep reloading browser tabs – over and over and over, slowing down everything else. The most comment culprit here is low memory, so try shutting down any browser tabs that you don’t need and see if the problem goes away.

The same is true of apps and programs. Press the “Shift” and “Escape” keys together to open the “Task Manager,” which will show all the apps currently in operation. Close any apps you don’t need or don’t recognize.

Chrome OS is frequently crashing for no discernible reason

When browsing on the web and Chrome OS crashes for no reason, your best solution is to again restart your Chromebook, and then turn it back on.

If that fails, then a web page could be the problem. To fix, be sure to close all your apps, and then hard refresh by pressing Ctrl+Shift+R at the same time. You also can try to hard reset by pressing and holding the power button.

Extensions or apps could also be the cause of crashes, and you can try to remove them to resolve your issues. To remove an app, click the Launcher, and then the Up Arrow. Right-click the app you want to remove, and then click “Uninstall” or “Remove from Chrome.”

To uninstall an extension, Open Chrome, click “More” and then “More tools” and then “Extensions.” After that, click “Remove” next to the extension that you want to remove. You also can temporarily disable by following the previous steps and turning off the extension you want to disable.

Instead of loading web pages, I get weird error messages

If Chrome cannot properly load a web page, it will give you an odd “aw snap!” error that means the web page tried to load but crashed instead. If this is happening all the time, then something is wrong with your operating system or your settings. One of the easiest and hopefully effective solutions is to start closing browser tabs and windows.

If closing a few tabs finally allows you to open a new one, then you have reached beyond your Chromebook’s RAM limits and need to slow down.

Failing extensions can also be a problem. To solve, head over to the main menu (with several horizontal lines), select “More Tools,” and go to “Extensions.” Uncheck all your extensions and see if this solves the problem. If it does, enable extensions again one at a time to find out where the troublemakers are, and delete them.

In the event that all else fails, you can check your internet connection, clear your cache, or try opening a web page in an Incognito window.

Chrome OS keeps telling me “This web page is not available”

This error (assuming you have the web address right) is most often caused by cookie or proxy issues. On the cookie front, it’s probably time to delete them all.

Slim down your Chromebook by clicking on the time in the bottom right, going to “Settings” and choosing “Advanced” Here you can find a “Privacy” section, where you should click on “Content settings.” This allows you to choose various browser data to delete. Select “All cookies and site data,” and then click “Remove All.” Just make sure that you have your online passwords saved somewhere first.

The problem could also be your proxy settings (sometimes indicated by a message about proxy issues). You can change proxy settings, but only if you know what you’re doing. One of the best fixes is to click on the time, head over to “Settings,” find the “Internet connection” section, and check the box for “Allow proxies for shared networks.” If you are using a guest profile on a Chromebook, this will probably solve your problem, but you will have to input the correct proxy settings as prompted after checking the box.

I can’t use my Word docs on Chrome OS

If you have recently switched to a Chrome device and you are finding it difficult to link with any of your old documents, there are several workarounds you can use. Google’s first suggestion is, naturally, to switch to Google Docs. This can solve your problem – and Google Docs can indeed view many Word files – but it isn’t always practical because of tools, formatting, compatibility, etc.

The best option—if your Chromebook supports it — is to head to the Google Play Store and download Microsoft Word. This app functions similar to how it will on Android or iOS, so you should feel right at home.

Another option is moving to Word Online. This is a specific Chrome extension specializing in making it possible to use Office features on your Chromebook and with various applications and is well-reviewed. If you have online Office capabilities, this web-based solution is ideal.

Connection issues

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I can’t connect to a strong Wi-Fi network

Check the bottom right area to make sure that the Wi-Fi icon is full and not covered by an X, which means your Wi-Fi is turned off. You can turn your Chrome OS Wi-Fi on at any time by simply clicking on the icon, selecting “No Network,” and choosing “Turn Wi-Fi On.” This allows you to search for available networks and connect to one.

Particularly old wireless networks may not work with Chrome OS. This is unusual, but if your router is several years old, you may want to try a different Wi-Fi network to see if this works. If it does, it’s time for a router upgrade.

When in doubt, you can also restart your Chromebook. The steps are extra easy. Shut down using the power button, wait for a bit, and then push the power button to start up again. See if your Wi-Fi works now.

I can’t connect to a second screen

You can check for settings problems or other issues by clicking on the area with the time on the bottom right, clicking “Settings” and checking the “Displays” section.  Typically this will show a notification about the connection and an icon of two windows. Click on this and choose “Manage Displays.”

This will give you a number of options to rotate your image, center the image, check the TV alignment, and send the image to multiple screens. See if any of these can help solve your problem.

I can’t hear anything on Chrome OS

First, check for any obvious but sometimes unnoticed issues like plugged-in headphones that may need to be removed before you can hear sound normally. If you are using an audio device like speakers, make sure it is working properly.

If the problem seems to be on the OS itself, then head over to the area on the bottom right where the icon for the time appears. After tapping or clicking there, find the option to adjust the volume via a slider. Make sure the volume is turned up high enough to hear.

You also can try to change the sound input or output. Simple click on the same time area, and next to the volume slider select the right arrow. Make sure you’ve selected where you want the sound to come from. If that does not work, you’ll need to reset your Chromebook following the steps above.

Bluetooth isn’t connecting over Chrome OS

First, keep in mind that not all Chrome OS devices work with Bluetooth – but most do. You can look for the Bluetooth logo in the status area after clicking on the time to make sure if you don’t know – if it appears (even if crossed out) then your Chromebook is compatible.

Make sure your Bluetooth is on and working. If Bluetooth is off (with a bar across the icon), then scan for your accessories by clicking the icon and choosing “Enable Bluetooth.” This will begin the pairing procedure. It’s a good idea to try to reconnect this way even if a device has worked in the past – just disable and then enable your Bluetooth to reset an old connection. Make sure that any codes you have to put in are accurate.

Never forget the physical aspect. Make sure the Bluetooth device is close to your Chromebook, and make sure you’ve properly paired it.

I can’t get my printer to work via Chrome OS

This may be your barrier to success: You need Google Cloud Print via an Internet connection to successfully print. It’s not a problem for Chromebooks, but cloud-ready printers are hit or miss. Find a cloud-ready printer for the best results.

If you are stuck using an old, less compatible printer, Google does have a somewhat awkward workaround. If you are signed into the same Google account on another computer (not a Chromebook), you should be able to create a wireless connection with Google Cloud Print, then use your Chromebook – once again on the same account – to pass a doc through the cloud and print it anyway.

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