Google's Clever Feature to Retrieve Lost Chromebooks

Most people don't know that G Suite has a built in feature to help your school district or organization retrieve lost or stolen Chromebooks. That's right, if you're missing a device, or a whole bunch of devices, you can use the G Suite Admin console to disable unreturned Chromebooks permanently until you get them back in your hands! There are two different methods for G Suite System Admins to retrieve Chromebooks after students and parents have been asked nicely. The one you choose will depend on how many Chromebooks you have and how comfortable you are with command line tools. (Don't worry, ALL of the directions you need are in this post.)

The goal of this process is for anyone who powers up a Chromebook to see a message of your choice and know that they are handling a school-owned device that needs to be sent back.

First, let’s set up the message that will appear on the screen of a Chromebook you have been unable to retrieve:

  • Go to admin.google.com and log in as a system administrator

  • Click Devices

  • Click Chrome Management (on the left)

  • Click Device Settings

  • Select the OU where you want to send the message. NOTE: You can use the same message for the entire account, or if you have your Chromebooks separated by school, you can set a different message per school OU.

  • Under “Disabled device return instructions” write your message. We suggest something like “This device was disabled by X School District. Please return it to ADDRESS Office # xxx-xxx-xxxx”

  • Click Save in the top right corner.

  • Repeat these steps for any OU where you want a different message.


Now that you have your messages set up, let's learn how to push them out! Method 1: Best for Smaller Numbers of Chromebooks OR for Sys Admins without a Comfort Level with Command Line Tools

  • Go to admin.google.com and log in as an administrator

  • Click Devices

  • Click Chrome Devices

  • Select the OU that contains the Chromebooks you want to disable.

  • You can also leave ‘include all organizational units’ selected if you want to affect devices from all OUs.

  • Select the devices you want to disable.

  • You can select the box next to ‘Serial Number’ at the top of the list to select all Chromebooks on that page.

  • Click the Disable Chromebook button on the top right of the page

  • Click ‘Disable’ on the confirmation pop up.

  • Click the right arrow at the bottom right of the page to continue to the next 50 Chromebooks. NOTE: If you have 1000 Chromebooks, that would mean repeating this process 20 times, which is why we recommend Method 2 if you have a large number of devices.

  • When you are ready to re-enable these Chromebooks, you will follow the same steps above, except on step 6, the disable button will be replaced with an enable button.

  • You will have to change the ‘Status’ filter at the top of the list to all to see disabled Chromebooks.

Method 2: Great for Larger Numbers of Chromebooks OR for Sys Admins with Command Line Tool Knowledge

  • Download and install GAM from Github: https://github.com/jay0lee/GAM/wiki This will take some effort, but there is information on their site about installing GAM. Install to an easy to find folder, like c:\GAM

  • In Chrome, go to admin.google.com and log in as an administrator

  • Click “Devices”

  • Click “Chrome Devices”

  • Select the OU that contains the Chromebooks you want to disable.

  • You can also leave ‘include all organizational units’ selected if you want to affect devices from all OUs

  • Click the Export button in the top right corner.

  • Wait for the list to finish exporting.

  • Click on the hourglass to the left of your profile picture

  • Download the csv

  • Copy or move the csv to the folder where you have GAM installed. NOTE: It can be helpful to change the csv name to something short like disable.csv

  • Open a command prompt by clicking on the Windows button (bottom right of your screen) and typing cmd, then press enter

  • Change the directory to where you have GAM installed C: cd\ GAM

  • Type in the following command

gam csv disable.csv gam update cros ~deviceId action disable

  • Change disable.csv to what your csv is named if you did not rename it

  • To enable these Chromebooks later, use the same CSV and type the following command

Gam csv disable.csv gam update cros ~devicIed action reenable The next time a disabled device connects to the internet, it will come up with a message like this and not let anyone log in:


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