Chrome OS 101: How to save and retrieve files

About three years ago, I was buying a Chromebook for a business trip. I wanted something light enough to wear all day and economical enough that I didn't care so much when I spilled coffee on the keyboard. I was considering two different models when a sales representative came to see if I needed help. "You know," he said, "these are Chromebooks, right? They only work online; you can't save any files to your hard drive."

It wasn't the first time I could find a sales representative by mistake, of course. But this is a mistake that seems to have persisted.

Yes, Chromebooks were created to be predominantly used online; In fact, when the first Chrome OS laptops were introduced in 2011, there were very few applications that could be used offline, which was a big flaw. But that was then, and this is now.

Currently, applications such as Google Docs and Sheets (which are the basic applications for Chrome OS) can be used both online and offline. In addition, you can save files locally on the laptop's SSD or, with some models, an SD memory card.

If you have just purchased your first Chromebook, or are considering one, these are the basics of how to save your files to your Chromebook and find them again.

Save your files

Saving a file in a Chromebook is very similar to saving a file in macOS or Windows. You can save a file in two ways:

  • Press Ctrl + S or
  • Right-click on the image or file you want to save and select "Save as …"

Either way, it will open the Files application (the equivalent of the Mac Finder or the Windows File Explorer). Select in which folder you want to save your file from the list on the left and then click on the Save button in the lower right corner. (If you want to rename the file, you can do so in the field to the left of the Save button.) You can also save and recover files from Google Drive from here.


chrome os 101 how to save and retrieve files

The Files application comes preloaded with a Downloads folder, but you can easily create your own folders by clicking the New folder button in the lower left corner.

Find your files

To find your saved files, this is what you should do:

  • Click on the Initiator button in the lower left corner of the screen.
  • An application window will emerge from the bottom of the screen. If you have used the Files application recently, it will be displayed just below the search field with other recently used applications. Click on it.
  • Otherwise, click on the "up" arrow just above the search field to see all the applications on your Chromebook, and click on the Files application.

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The Files application also automatically organizes your files in Recent, Audio, Images and video folders to make it easier to find such files.


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Note that while you can save a reasonable amount of files, most Chromebooks come with a relatively small amount of storage; You can probably expect 32 GB or 64 GB, unless you go to a premium device like Google Pixelbook. Therefore, it will not have the same capacity it would have in a typical Mac or Windows system. But neither is it limited to working online.

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