Chrome OS offers many unique features that set it apart from most other operating systems. One of the most important of which is security and the fact that the OS itself can be completely restored to its original factory settings in just a few minutes. If your Chromebook isn’t acting quite right, a simple powerwash will reset your device and return it to a state that is just like the day your cracked open the box.
Heaven forbid you actually brick your Chromebook and you’re greeted with the cringe-worthy recovery screen letting you know that “Chrome OS is missing or damaged.” Thankfully, restoring a factory image on a Chromebook requires very little work in relation to other operating systems. All you need is a flash drive that’s at least 8GB, another computer (Doesn’t need to be a Chromebook.), and the Chrome OS Recovery Tool from the Chrome Web Store. After downloading the factory image for your specific device, you can insert the flash drive into your borked Chromebook and let the restoration process run its course. Total time invested varies depending on your device and your download speeds but it can be completed in under thirty minutes while you go get a snack or something.
While this process is relatively painless, it still requires the aforementioned second device and some users may not have immediate access to another laptop. You may even be like me and struggle to keep tabs on external flash drives which is an annoyance if you need to make a recovery image for a device. Whatever the reason, Google appears to be working on a method by which users may be able to run a full OS restoration with nothing more than an internet connection.
Discovered by our friend Kevin Tofel, the recently added commit points to an on-device “miniOS” kernel that would pull a clean recover image to the device over a network connection, if available. While this is our first time seeing this, the commit itself was opened back in April and it appears that quite a bit of work has been done on the new recovery method. Here’s a brief description of the feature that is still a work in progress:
vboot: boot from miniOS recovery kernels on disk
Add VbTryLoadMiniOsKernel() to vboot API, which boots from a miniOS recovery kernel located on internal disk. In this boot path, an attempt is made to verify and boot this kernel. Recovery proceeds from within the miniOS kernel by downloading a recovery image over the network. No USB disk is used in the process.Chromium Commit
As stated in the commit, this will require a network connection of some sort but it isn’t clear whether that could include a hardwired connection such as Ethernet to USB-C. Presumably, this will all happen automatically as user interaction with Wi-Fi isn’t readily accessible from the recovery screen. So long as the process is seamless and the UI clearly defines what’s happening to the user, this will be a very welcome addition to Chrome OS. From a consumer standpoint, I can imagine that this could be another big selling point for the Chrome OS ecosystem. Hopefully, Google will figure out some path for attempting to back up any local files to Drive before the new recovery image is flashed. We’ll keep an eye on this to see when it is merged so we can test it out.