How to Fix “Network Not Available” Error on Your Chromebook

HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook

How to Fix “Network Not Available” Error on Your Chromebook

Key Points

  • Chromebooks are known for their portability and convenience as they run on Google’s cloud-based operating system.
  • One method to fix the ‘Network not available’ error on a Chromebook is to force an update by signing in to guest mode and using a command terminal.
  • Another method is to recover the operating system using a USB flash drive and the Chrome Recovery Utility.
  • Changing router settings, such as switching from 5GHz to 2.4GHz and disabling advanced Wi-Fi security, can also help resolve the network error.
  • Additional workarounds include power washing the Chromebook, connecting in guest mode, replacing or reseating the Wi-Fi module, using a USB Wi-Fi adapter, or using an Ethernet cable.

Chromebooks are handy devices that run on Google’s cloud-based operating system. They’re known for their portability. But what happens when a brand-new Chromebook refuses to connect to a network? Many Chromebook owners struggle with a “Network not available” message on their Chromebooks.

It usually appears during the setup steps where you need to sign in to a Google Account. It’s incredibly frustrating when your Chromebook won’t connect to your network, especially when every other device in your home can connect without any problems. If you’re constantly getting this error message from your Chromebook, you came to the right place.

Below you’ll find some easy-to-follow methods to fix the “Network not available” error on your Chromebook. Before you know it, your Chromebook will be able to connect to your network and you’ll be able to use it as intended. Let’s get into it.

Method #1: Force an Update

Google frequently releases updates for ChromeOS that fix a wide variety of bugs. To fix the problem, we can force your Chromebook to check for a system update. To do that, we will need to sign in to guest mode, which means skipping the setup steps for now.

Use a Command Terminal to Force an Update

Sign in to guest mode. Open Google Chrome. Press CTRL + ALT + T to open a command terminal. Next, type “autest” and press Enter. The command will force your device to check for an update.

A command terminal code to force a Chromebook to update.
If your Chromebook doesn’t automatically update, you can force it to check for updates.

Confirm the Changes

To confirm, open Settings and select About ChromeOS. It should show say an update is available. Download the update and then click on the “Restart to Update” button when it’s complete. You can also force a restart by holding down the refresh key and power (only do this after the update is complete).

A Chromebook being updated to the latest version.
If an update is available, ChromeOS will install it. Restart the system for the changes to take effect.

When your Chromebook restarts, it should be using the latest ChromeOS version, and the “network not available” issue should be resolved. Of course, this will only work if your Chromebook can still receive updates.

Method #2: Recover OS from a USB Flash Drive

Another way to fix the pesky “Networking not available” on Chromebook issue is to reset and recover the operating system using a USB flash drive. To do this, you will need a separate computer to download the files and move them to a USB flash drive that has at least 8GB of storage.

Create ChromeOS Installation Media

To recover ChromeOS, install Chrome Recovery Utility a Google Chrome extension. Then, insert the USB flash drive into your computer. In the Chromebook Recovery Toolkit, type in your Chromebook’s model or select it from the list.

An image showing ChromeOS recovery toolkit.
Restoring your Chromebook is one way to fix problems with the Wi-Fi.

When prompted, select the USB drive. The wizard will download the installation media to the USB drive. Once the installation media is created, it’s time to prepare your Chromebook for a fresh install.

Boot into Recovery Mode

Press ESC + Refresh and the Power button to enter Recovery Mode on your Chromebook. It should show a screen asking to insert a USB recovery drive. Insert the USB flash drive from earlier. The installation will start automatically.

ChromeOS Recovery Mode
Once the installation media is detected, ChromeOS will start the installation process.

When it’s complete, you’ll see the “Welcome to ChromeOS” start page. Recovering ChromeOS is a good way to clear out any bugs and improve performance on your Chromebook. It should get rid of the “Network not available” error.

Router Settings to Change

Some Wi-Fi settings could be interfering with your Chromebook and blocking the connection.

Switch from 5GHz to 2.4GHz

Not all Chromebooks can connect to 5GHz Wi-Fi networks, which may be the reason it’s giving you a network error. Most modern routers will only broadcast on the 5GHz band.

A Wi-Fi network split into 2.4G and 5G.
Splitting your Wi-Fi network is a good idea for Chromebooks that don’t support 5GHz.

To do that, enter your router’s settings and change the Wi-Fi network to broadcast at both 5GHz and 2.4GHz. Ideally, there should be two networks, one for each band. Your Chromebook should be able to connect to the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network. If you want to make your Wi-Fi faster, read this article.

Disable Advanced Wi-Fi Security

Wi-fi security modes.
Some Chromebooks are only compatible with Wi-Fi networks that use WPA or WPA2 authentication methods.

Most routers are now equipped with advanced password encryption protocols. It’s best to set the authentication mode to WPA2. WPA3 may be more secure, but it’s not compatible with older devices. On the subject of passwords, it’s a good idea to reset the Wi-Fi password to something simpler. Some older devices won’t connect to networks if the password contains special characters.

Restart Your Router

Restarting your router often fixes network issues. You can restart a router from within the router’s settings but it’s easier to simply unplug the power.

Unplug the power cable, wait 30 seconds, and then reconnect it. The router will require a couple of minutes to establish an internet connection. Hopefully, your Chromebook will be able to see the network now. You can follow this guide for specific instructions.

Alternative Methods

Power Wash and Reset the Chromebook

Power washing a Chromebook will delete all data on the hard drive and reset everything back to factory defaults. Before you do this, make sure to backup your important files. To power wash a Chromebook, open Settings, and scroll down until you find the Reset Settings option. Click on the Reset button and follow the on-screen prompts to reset your Chromebook.

A screenshot of the option to reset your Chromebook.
Resetting your Chromebook will remove all apps and reset it to factory settings.

If you’re on the login screen, press CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + R and click on restart. When your Chromebook reboots, select Powerwash and Continue. The process will only take a few minutes and it will clear out bugs and improve performance on your Chromebook. For a detailed tutorial, read this article.

Connect to the Network in Guest Mode and Restart the Chromebook

Most people who encounter this error report that their Chromebook can connect to their network in guest mode. On the Chromebook setup page, there should be a button in the bottom left corner to log in as a guest.

Chromebook guest mode button.
Signing in as a Guest, connecting to the Wi-Fi network, and restarting your Chromebook can force it to stay connected on your main account.

If it’s there, start your Chromebook in guest mode, connect to your network, and then restart your Chromebook. When your Chromebook restarts, it should automatically connect to the saved network, and you can log in with your main Google Account.

Replace or Reseat the Wi-Fi Module

This method is a little more advanced. We only recommend doing this if your Chromebook’s warranty has expired and you can accept the risk. Since every Chromebook is assembled differently, there’s no go-to tutorial that works for this.

However, the main idea is to disassemble your Chromebook, locate the Wi-Fi module, and remove it. In some cases, simply removing the module and reconnecting it can force it to work again. On the other hand, the Wi-Fi module could be broken, in which case, you’ll need to find a replacement part for your specific Chromebook. ChromeBookParts has a wide range of Chromebook replacement Wi-Fi modules.

Other Workarounds

If none of the above methods get your Chromebook to connect to a network, here are some workarounds.

Attach a USB Wi-Fi Adapter

The best workaround for a Chromebook that refuses to connect to a network is to use a USB Wi-Fi adapter. Bear in mind, that not all Wi-Fi adapters work with Chromebooks, so double-check the compatibility before you buy one. Buying a separate USB Wi-Fi adapter can not only get rid of the “Network not available” error but also improve the internet quality of your device. There are plenty of small form factor USB Wi-Fi adapters that you can use with your Chromebook.

Use an Ethernet Cable

Most Chromebooks don’t have an ethernet port. However, you can buy an inexpensive USB-to-Ethernet adapter that should do the trick. This method works best if you use your Chromebook on a desk. The upside to this workaround is that an ethernet connection should be much faster than Wi-Fi.

Use Guest Mode

Most people who encounter the “Network not Available” error on their Chromebooks report that using guest mode fixes the issue. Granted, in guest mode, none of your data will be saved. For example, your passwords, history, and bookmarks won’t be saved. Nevertheless, if you need basic internet functionality, guest mode could be your only option.

Wrap Up

The “Network not available” error has been plaguing Chromebook users for a long time. Hopefully, the fixes outlined in this article will resolve the problem for you. When all else fails, you can always return your Chromebook and buy a different model. It seems like this error is more common on Lenovo Chromebooks. If you can’t return your Chromebook, the only alternative is to use a USB Wi-Fi adapter.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my Chromebook saying network is not available?

It’s a software bug or a problem with your Wi-Fi module. Updating your Chromebook should fix the issue.

How do I fix Chromebook network problems?

To fix Chromebook network problems, update your Chromebook, recover ChromeOS from a USB stick, or power wash your Chromebook.

Why is my Chromebook not connecting to Wi-Fi?

It could be because your router is broadcasting a 5GHz network and your Chromebook only supports the 2.4GHz band.

How do I forget a Wi-Fi network on a Chromebook?

Open Settings and navigate to the Network tab. Click on the current Wi-Fi network and then click on Known Networks. Under All Networks, you’ll see a list of previous Wi-Fi networks. Click the three dots and select Forget to remove that network.

Why can't my Chromebook find my home Wi-Fi network?

It could be because your home Wi-Fi is broadcasting at 5GHz and your Chromebook is not compatible with that band.

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