How To Stop A Chromebook From Being Managed

A Chromebook managed through Chrome Education, Enterprise, or Kiosk & Signage will restrict various activities according to the admin’s policies and settings. If you don’t want such regulations, you should know how to stop it from being managed.

You can stop a Chromebook from being managed by de-provisioning, power washing/factory resetting, or switching to developer mode. A Chromebook with disabled developer mode and forced re-enrollment after a reset may require unbricking or replacing the baseboard.

If you inadvertently log into a Chromebook you own with a managed account, a factory reset or power wash should remove admin access.

Then, you must only use an unmanaged account to log into the device. Read on to see the detailed steps to accomplish this.

1. Ask the Admin to Deprovision the Chromebook

The simplest way to stop a Chromebook from being managed is by asking the admin to unenroll or deprovision the device.

Note that deprovisioning is not the same as disabling a Chromebook. The latter is for lost or stolen Chromebooks, which will essentially make the device inaccessible.

No user can log into a disabled Chromebook unless the admin re-enables it.

Also, anyone using such a device after re-enabling may get auto-enrolled, so the admin will continue to manage the device. Hence, you should get your Chromebook deprovisioned, not disabled.

If you want a managed account to be unmanaged, you can ask the admin to facilitate that, too.

Else, you will have to factory reset or power wash your Chromebook to remove the managed account, after which you can and should use only unmanaged ids to log into the device.

Chromebooks can be managed in three ways:

  • Managed account (e.g., Google Play).
  • Managed device (the Chromebook).
  • Managed device and the user account.

The exact method an admin can use to stop a Chromebook from being managed depends on how they manage an account, the device, or both, and the specific settings.

How To Check if Your Chromebook Is Managed

There are different ways to check how and whether or not your Chromebook is managed. The easiest way is to check if you can see the managed device icon.

You’ll see this icon by logging into your Chromebook and clicking or tapping on the status bar at the bottom right of the screen or where the time is displayed. 

However, not all Chromebooks have the same managed device icon. Still, many are likely to state that the Chromebook device is ‘Managed.’

Such device management covers the Chromebook and all accounts that can use it, regardless of whether those IDs are managed.

Managed Account Vs. Managed Device

A managed account is slightly different from a managed device. A managed account usually manages online access and activities.

So, if you open a Chrome browser or go to Chrome://management, you will know if the account and, thus, the browser is managed by a company, organization, etc.

Even if you use an unmanaged account, the Chromebook device itself may still be managed by an admin.

This is why the ChromeOS browser has the disclaimer, “Activity on this device may be managed outside of Chrome,” even when you don’t use a managed account to sign in.

If you use a managed account, you can go to Chrome://settings/help, and it will show, “Your browser is managed by your organization.” You may also use Google Account Help to know if your id is managed. 

If you own the Chromebook, you can use an unmanaged account, such as your personal Gmail ID, to stop the device from being managed, including the Chrome browser, Google Play, and all other settings.

If you accidentally log into a Chromebook using a managed account, it will turn the device into a managed system.

Also, using any managed account to sign into a Chromebook can override all other IDs logged into the system as guests or other users.

Whenever a managed account is used to access a Chromebook, it will likely affect every other ID.

If the device is managed, all accounts to access the Chromebook will have the admin’s restrictions or settings applied to the activities intended to be regulated.

2. Factory Reset or Power Wash the Chromebook

Suppose you don’t have access to the admin of a managed Chromebook, which may happen in some instances, such as:

  • You have bought a used Chromebook managed by a business, school, etc.
  • You own the Chromebook managed by an organization, and you don’t have any access to the admin.
  • You want to use a Chromebook you may or may not own without the restricting settings of an administration. 

In such cases, you won’t be able to deprovision a Chromebook. The first solution you can try is a factory reset or power wash, which will work only if it isn’t disabled by the admin.

The specific steps have changed a bit over the years, but here is a general overview of what you need to do:

  1. Sign out of the Chromebook to go to the locked screen, press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + R, and hold the keys down simultaneously until the ‘Reset’ prompt appears. You can also access power wash through Chromebook settings for a factory reset.
  2. Click or tap on ‘Restart’ on the ‘Reset this Chromebook’ prompt on the screen. If you have any data on your Chromebook, transfer it to an external hard drive or USB, or upload the files to your Google Drive before initiating the factory reset or power wash.
  3. Follow all the steps and eventually sign into a power-washed Chromebook with your unmanaged Google account. This unmanaged id will become the owner account for the power-washed Chromebook. Continue to set up the device.

Note that the power wash feature isn’t the same as a hard reset for Chromebooks. A hard reset restarts your Chromebook’s hardware, such as the keyboard, touchpad, etc.

This hard reset is not a power wash. It won’t factory reset the entire device and delete everything from the system. 

However, you can’t factory reset a Chromebook if the power wash feature is disabled by the admin. Also, a managed Chromebook may automatically enroll or re-enroll after you power wash the device. Admins managing Chromebooks can force wiped ChromeOS devices to re-enroll during login.

Hence, you have to choose one of the following three solutions to stop a Chromebook from being managed.

3. Switch Your Chromebook to Developer Mode

You can turn off Chrome OS verification to switch a Chromebook to developer mode, which can bypass device management.

This switch is a more elaborate process that also includes factory resetting or power washing a Chromebook.

However, a managed Chromebook may have the developer mode disabled by the admin. This solution won’t work in such a scenario.

Suppose the developer mode is active on a managed Chromebook. In that case, you can use the following steps to enable developer mode:

  1. Press Esc + Refresh + Power simultaneously until the ‘recovery’ screen appears on your Chromebook. You can do this from the locked screen or a Chromebook turned off or on. This shortcut isn’t the same as the hard reset, which is only Refresh + Power.
  2. Press Ctrl + D on the new ‘recovery’ screen to power wash the Chromebook, turn off Chrome OS verification, and enable developer mode. Back up your data before enabling the developer mode because all files will be deleted during this power wash.
  3. Wait for the process to be over, which may take 10 to 15 minutes or so. Depending on a Chromebook’s model and Chrome OS version, you may be prompted a few times to ‘enable’ developer mode with ‘Enter’ or ‘Esc’ to revert to a secure & verified OS. Use Ctrl + D whenever you need to continue and there is no ‘Enter’ option in the prompt.

You can then use an unmanaged account to log into a power-washed Chromebook in developer mode.

However, this option won’t work if the developer mode is disabled by the admin. Additionally, you won’t be able to enable or turn on Chrome OS verification to ensure that the system is secure if the Chromebook has auto-enrolling or re-enrollment activated by the admin managing the device.

4. Unbrick the Chromebook Using a Windows PC

A stringently managed Chromebook may have the factory reset or power wash function and the developer mode disabled.

Contacting the admin and deprovisioning such a device is the easiest way to stop the Chromebook from being managed. The other option is unbricking the device.

Unbricking a Chromebook is basically flashing the ROM to delete or wipe everything, including Chrome OS.

After you flash the ROM and unbrick the Chromebook, you can install an operating system that will work on the device, subject to its specifications. Here are a few examples:

  • Chrome OS Flex.
  • Linux.
  • Windows.

You can unbrick Chromebooks featuring a SOIC-8 SPI flash chip on the baseboard.

You’ll have to take apart the case, unscrew the baseboard, and flip it to access the SPI chip. This process isn’t straightforward for Chromebooks featuring a WSON-8 SPI flash chip.

Also, you may not be able to access the baseboard if your Chromebook has a unibody. Flashing or unbricking a Chromebook is dependent on the baseboard.

The brand or model and any other hardware specifications, such as CPU, don’t determine whether or not the ROM can be flashed. 

Furthermore, flashing or unbricking isn’t subject to an admin’s device management settings.

You will need the following essentials for a flashing setup to unbrick a Chromebook:

  • The Chromebook baseboard name and whether or not the ROM can be flashed.
  • Unbricking hardware, a CH341A USB flash programmer kit with a clip, adapter, etc. 
  • Flashing software for the USB programmer and a flashrom image for the baseboard.
  • A desktop or laptop (Linux or Windows) to flash the ROM and unbrick the Chromebook.

Here’s a detailed guide to unbricking a Chromebook using a Linux device.

If you have a desktop or laptop running Windows, you can adapt the steps to include the necessary changes. Here is a generic approach to unbricking a Chromebook using Windows:

  1. Flip the Chromebook, remove the case, and unscrew the baseboard. Turn the main board over to access the 8-pin SPI chip.
  2. Assemble the USB programmer kit and install its driver on your Windows device. Note the baseboard you have and download the firmware utility script or system image from an online flashrom repository.
  3. Connect the USB programmer’s clip to the SPI flash chip. You can use the tiny dot on the SPI flash chip to know that it is where the first pin is. A USB programmer should have the pins labeled or marked. Its pin 1 should connect to pin 1 of the SPI flash chip.
  4. Run the USB programmer software on your Windows device, select the SPI chip, and flash the ROM with the downloaded script or system image. The instructions or specific steps may vary based on the flashing programmer and software you use.

5. Uninstall the Baseboard, and Install a New One

The last option to stop a Chromebook from being managed is replacing its baseboard.

When an organization enrolls a Chromebook, the process uses the serial number to identify and regulate the device as per the admin’s policies. An admin may also use an additional asset identifier.  

Chrome, Google, or the manufacturer of a Chromebook doesn’t determine the additional asset identifier.

However, any brand uses the original serial number corresponding to the baseboard. Changing the baseboard effectively makes the serial number irrelevant for the Chromebook.

That said, this solution may not be viable or work for all Chromebooks, especially for any recent models that have almost everything soldered to the baseboard.

Such Chromebooks may require you to change not only the baseboard but also RAM, SSD, and other soldered hardware. 

It is possible to remove soldered hardware, but the process makes most turnkey replacements difficult.

The replacement parts or the required technical services to reuse some of the existing hardware may be too costly an option to stop a Chromebook from being managed.

Suppose you have an old or relatively inexpensive Chromebook. In that case, the cost of a new baseboard and other essential hardware may be as costly as a new entry-level or mid-range model, and the latter might have better specs.

Besides, unibody Chromebooks aren’t really upgradeable.