Are Chromebooks Useless Without An Internet Connection?

Chromebooks have garnered a reputation for being overly reliant on the internet for their functionality. Given that Chrome OS is designed as a cloud-first operating system, it’s natural to wonder if Chromebooks are useless without an internet connection.

Contrary to this belief, Chromebooks aren’t useless without the internet. Many apps and tools on a Chromebook can be used offline, allowing you to access emails, listen to music, play games, work on documents, watch movies, and more. However, most offline activities require some presetting.

Basic Offline Features on Chromebooks

Chromebooks come with several pre-installed apps that can be used offline:

  • Chrome Browser: While you can open the browser, it won’t be functional without the internet.
  • Google Search Bar: Similar to the browser, it requires an internet connection to be useful.
  • Google Keep: You can write, edit, and read notes offline. Changes will sync once you’re back online.
  • Calculator: Fully functional offline.
  • Files: Access and manage locally stored documents, music, videos, and other files.
  • Gallery: Use this for basic photo editing, managing media, playing music, and reviewing PDFs offline.

These basic functionalities mean Chromebooks retain some utility without an internet connection. However, their full potential is unlocked with a bit of preparation.

Preparing for Offline Use

1. Games

Many games can be played offline on Chromebooks. For example, Angry Birds 2 is available for offline play. Games on Steam Link can also be played offline, but you must enable offline mode when you have an internet connection. Remember, not all features or games may work offline.

2. Gmail

You can read, reply to, and search emails offline if you enable Gmail’s offline mode:

  • Open Gmail settings and find the Offline option.
  • Enable offline mail and choose how many days of emails you want available offline (7, 30, or 90 days).
  • Emails composed offline will be sent once you’re connected to the internet again.

3. Google Workspace

Many Google Workspace tools can be used offline:

  • Drive: Enable offline mode in Drive settings. Recently opened files will be saved for offline use.
  • Docs, Sheets, Slides: Make individual files available offline via Google Drive or the Files app.
  • Google Docs Offline Chrome Extension: Allows offline editing. Ensure documents are ready for offline use by checking their status.

4. Microsoft Office

While you can’t use the desktop versions of Microsoft Office on Chromebooks, you can use Microsoft 365 apps offline:

  • Ensure the files you need are downloaded or opened before going offline.
  • Use the Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides extension to work on Microsoft files using Google Workspace tools.

5. Microsoft Outlook

Enable offline mode for Microsoft Outlook:

  • Open the Outlook web app, go to Settings > Options > General > Offline Settings and check the box to enable offline mode.
  • You can read, reply, and send emails, and manage your calendar and contacts offline.

6. Offline Apps

Many Chrome Web Store and Google Play Store apps support offline modes. Download and install these apps to use them without an internet connection.

Additional Offline Capabilities

Browsing Without Internet

Save web pages for offline viewing:

  • Right-click on a web page and save it as an HTML file to your Chromebook’s storage.

Offline Reading

Read books offline using:

  • Google Play Books: Download books and make them available offline.
  • Kindle Cloud Reader: Download and pin books for offline reading.

Play Music

Play music offline using:

  • Locally saved files.
  • Spotify and YouTube Music (premium subscriptions required).

Watch Movies

Download movies and shows for offline viewing using:

  • Google Play Movies: Download content through the app.
  • Netflix: Use the Netflix app to download available content for offline viewing.
  • VLC Media Player: Play various video formats stored on your Chromebook.


While Chromebooks are optimized for internet use, they are far from useless without an internet connection. With a bit of preparation, you can use Chromebooks for various offline activities, making them versatile and useful devices even when you’re not connected to the web.

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