Readers like you help support Android Police. When you make a purchase using links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read More.

Chromebooks, since their inception, have had a reputation as being particularly secure against viruses and malware. Quoting Google, the ChromeOS operating system uses "the principle of 'defense in depth' to provide multiple layers of protection" to keep systems safe. These layers include everything from frequent updates with guaranteed support for years to built-in encryption and restricted sandbox environments for web pages. There's a lot to unpack here, and though the answer to the classic virus infecting your Chromebook is "slim to no chance," there are other ways that bad actors might attempt to hijack your laptop.

Can Chromebooks get viruses?


The short answer to the Chromebook virus question is: No, you don't have to worry about viruses infecting your laptop in the same way that Windows PCs are susceptible. ChromeOS primarily operates by opening a separate sandbox environment for each web page and web app, effectively shutting it off from the rest of the system. Even if you visit a nefarious web page, anything directed your way should not be able to access the rest of the system.

If something does make it through, some other measures are in place to extinguish the fire. Chromebooks receive frequent updates with security upgrades baked right in to prevent malware effectiveness, and the standard verified boot feature does a full system scan each time you power up the system. If it finds something nefarious, it will automatically repair the affected portions and present you with a working OS. If you find that ChromeOS is still having issues, you can quickly enter a recovery mode that lets you roll back the system to a time before malware was able to infect.

Chromebooks have multiple layers of protection against viruses and other malware.

Furthermore, Chromebooks have built-in encryption measures for data stored locally. While most people rely heavily on the cloud when using a Chromebook, many of the best Chromebooks have switched from eMMC storage to fast SSD storage with a higher capacity. That makes it more tempting to store files locally, and you can have some peace-of-mind knowing your data isn't easily accessible.

With that out of the way, it's important to stress that Chromebooks aren't completely immune to malware. Even high-end models like the Acer Chromebook Spin 714 that we favorably reviewed can run into issues if you're not proactive.

Acer"" data-modal-id="single-image-modal" data-modal-container-id="single-image-modal-container" data-img-caption="""">
Source: Acer
Acer Chromebook Spin 714
Premium pick

The high-end Acer Chromebook Spin 714 is the best you can buy today as long as budget allows. It has a durable convertible design, it's powered by Intel's 12th Gen Core CPUs, and the 14-inch touch display with FHD resolution is joined by a built-in active pen for inking.

What other types of malware should you watch for?

Lenovo IdeaPad 5i Chromebook Hero Image

While viruses in the traditional sense might not make much of a splash when in contact with a Chromebook's layered security, other forms of malware might attempt to hijack your data. These can range from shady Android apps or Chrome browser extensions to phishing attempts via email or webpages.

The Google Play Protect safety net does a great job of scanning all the great Chromebook apps available from the official Google Play Store, and unless you're using a third-party app store you shouldn't need to worry about the apps and extensions on your Chromebook. The official store isn't completely immune from trickery, however, and you should always be wary of what you're downloading no matter the source. Does something look off? Explore further to see if any other users have left reviews or comments. In any case, apps and extensions also run in a container that's sealed off from the rest of the OS.

For this reason, nefarious apps will likely attempt to target you, the user, first rather than attempting to damage the operating system. This could be something like stealing information that you've entered within the fields in an app, or it could be something more complex like a keylogger watching everything that gets typed. Extensions can help to improve your web browsing experience, but the same threats can come if you don't stick to the official Google Play Store. Check out our picks for best Chrome extensions to get you started.

How to protect your Chromebook from malware

hp-dragonfly-pro-chromebook-review 19

Although Chromebooks have many safeguards in place to keep ChromeOS free from malware, some might still squeak through from time to time. In most cases, you'll have to close the app or web page to flush the sandbox containing the problem. To keep your Chromebook as safe as possible, there are some general rules to follow.

Most people won't need to enable Developer Mode on their Chromebook, and indeed you should avoid it unless absolutely necessary. It's intended for advanced users who know their way around the internal workings of their device, and it should be a rare requirement for the majority of Chromebook users.

You should also stick to the official Google Play Store when it comes to finding apps and extensions. In most cases you'd need to enter Developer Mode to install unofficial apps, so it will likely be a non-starter to begin with for most people.

Perhaps most important is to keep your Chromebook up to date. Avoid delaying patches and updates for any length of time; if you see that an update is available, just install it.

How to fix an infected Chromebook

HP Chromebook x360 13b review front stairs

Despite your best efforts, malware can sometimes still attack. If you find that a website has hijacked your system and won't allow you to simply close the page — often accompanied by a message that you need to pay hijackers to continue to use your Chromebook — you can unlock it by performing a hard reset.

On most Chromebooks this is achieved by turning off the system then holding the Reset button while powering on the device and until it boots. If this doesn't work, Google has laid out further steps for specific Chromebooks. From there, open Chrome again but avoid hitting Restore. This will prevent the malicious site from loading again. Close this prompt and carry on with browsing.

If your Chromebook reaches the point where it's unresponsive and you suspect something is up with ChromeOS (whether due to malware or a wonky update), you can enter recovery mode to get the system turned back to a point where it was working properly. Our guide on how to recover lost data on your Chromebook can walk you through all the steps.

Similarly, you might want to give your Chromebook a full reset for a fresh look. We've also put together a handy guide on how to factory reset your Chromebook that explains why and how it's done.

Security is just one reason to buy a Chromebook

Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5i

The most premium Chromebooks available today come with the same level of security as even the best cheap Chromebooks, so there's no need to worry about spending more to land a secure system. Chromebooks excel at being nimble and portable, with varying levels of performance to suit a wide range of workloads.

That's reassuring, but is a Chromebook really for you? If you're on the fence about investing in a new laptop, we've put together an article that attempts to answer whether you should buy a Chromebook. And if you are ready to commit, our collection of the best Chromebooks is constantly being updated with the best hardware available today.

Source: Lenovo
Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook (13")
Best overall
$360 $430 Save $70

Lenovo's 13-inch Flex 5i Chromebook is an ideal blend of convertible versatility, strong performance, and FHD touch display. The keyboard is comfy, it's flanked by quality top-firing speakers, and there's a decent selection of ports to work with. Best part? You can reliably find it for about $350.