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What does it mean to 'Powerwash' a Chromebook?

As a new or potential Chromebook owner, odds are you've come across the term "Powerwash" a time or two. But what does it mean?

Sarah Tew/CNET

A Chromebook running Google Chrome OS isn't a traditional computer, although it has a lot of characteristics we've come to expect from a PC. Yet part of the territory that comes with adjusting to a new operating system is getting used to the (seemingly) odd names for certain features or aspects.

As a relatively new Chromebook user myself, I consistently found myself coming across the word "Powerwash" when researching topics. Eventually, intrigue got the best of me and so began a mission to figure out what this random word meant.

A quick Internet search lead me to this Google support page, where it was revealed that "Powerwashing" a Chrome OS device is a fancy way of saying "factory reset."

Resetting a Chrome OS device wipes all user accounts and locally stored content. In order to preserve any saved files, you only need to move them to your Google Drive folder, wait for it all to sync up, then proceed with the reset.

All in all, wiping a Chrome OS device isn't all that intrusive, as most of what you store on it is stored in the cloud. Signing in to a reset device will sync all of your previous settings, returning the device to a familiar state.

Why would you want to factory-reset a device? Switching from one of the less-stable Beta or Dev channels to Stable forces a Powerwash, is one example. Another would be to troubleshoot any ongoing issues you may be experiencing. Sometimes a fresh install of an OS goes a long way in getting rid of annoying bugs.

So there you have it, folks. Powerwashing a Chromebook doesn't involve taking it to your local car wash and hosing it down. In fact, that would be bad. Very bad.

For more Chromebook how-to content, be sure to check out this page dedicated to all things Chrome OS.