Google is preparing a local recovery option for Chrome OS that only requires a network connection
Chrome OS offers many unique features that set it apart from most other operating systems. One of the most important is security and the fact that the operating system itself can be completely restored to its original factory settings in just a few minutes. If your Chromebook isn’t functioning properly, a simple powerwash will reset your device and bring it back to a state similar to the day you opened the box.
God forbid you brick your Chromebook and you are greeted with the cringe-worthy recovery screen telling you “Chrome OS is missing or damaged”. Fortunately, restoring a factory image on a Chromebook requires very little work compared to other operating systems. All you need is a USB stick of at least 8 GB, 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 damaged Chromebook and let the restore process take its course. The total time invested will vary depending on your device and your download speeds, but it can be completed in under thirty minutes while you go for 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 have a hard time keeping an eye on external flash drives which is annoying if you need to create a recovery image for a device. Whatever the reason, Google seems to be working on a method for users to perform a full operating system restore with nothing more than an internet connection.
Discovered by our friend Kevin Tofel, the recently added commit points to a “miniOS” kernel on the device that would pull a clean recovery image to the device over a network connection, if available. While this is the first time we’ve seen this, the commit itself opened in April and it looks like a bit of work has been done on the new recovery method. Here is a brief description of the feature that is still under development:
vboot: boot from miniOS recovery kernels to disk
Add VbTryLoadMiniOsKernel () to the vboot API, which boots from a miniOS recovery kernel located on the internal disk. In this boot path, an attempt is made to verify and start this kernel. Recovery is performed from the miniOS kernel by uploading a recovery image over the network. No USB disk is used in the process.
As stated in the commit, this will require some network connection, but it is not clear if this could include a wired connection such as Ethernet to USB-C. Presumably, this will all happen automatically as user interaction with Wi-Fi is not easily accessible from the recovery screen. As long as the process is transparent and the user interface clearly defines what happens to the user, this will be a very welcome addition to Chrome OS. From a consumer perspective, I can imagine this could be another big selling point for the Chrome OS ecosystem. Hopefully Google will find a way to attempt to back up all local files to Drive before the new recovery image is flashed. We’ll be keeping an eye on that to see when it gets merged so we can test it.