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PIN Unlock Is Coming to Chrome OS

The Smart Unlock feature for Chromebooks makes it super easy to log back in to your Chromebook: you just need to have your Android phone with you. 

But what if you use an iPhone or a Windows Phone? Or what if prefer being able to log in using a more controlled method?

There’s a new feature coming to Chrome OS that will make it easier to log in to your Chromebook from the lock-screen: PIN Unlock.

pin unlock chromebook lock screen

Quick Unlock in Chrome OS

Because my Google account password is long I hate letting my Chromebook lock. Each time it does it requires some serious elastic finger gymnastics to unlock my device.

Sure, I could change it to something simpler, of course, but that sort of defeats the purpose of having a secure password.

Thankfully it seems there are Google Chrome OS developers who encounter the same issue, as in the latest Chrome OS Canary builds a new pin lock feature is being tested.

As you might have already guessed this feature will let unlock your Chromebooks using a four digit pin instead of your account password.

Right now Google only plan to support PIN Unlock at the lock screen and not at the login screen that you see when you boot up your device.

A Chromium developer explains: “It’d be great to support login as well, but there are some security considerations that have to be thought through and addressed first.”

Setting up PIN Unlock

You can see more about the feature in the screenshots peppered throughout this post. As this feature is only in testing there’s no guarantee that it’ll make its way to the Stable channel anytime soon.

It’s also interesting to note that the current ‘Quick Unlock’ settings only has three options:

  • Password
  • Pin or Password
  • No Authentication

Does this mean the phone-based unlocking is going away?

A desktop notification will appear to highlight the new feature to users, but only once it’s considered stable enough for wider testing.

Which brings us to how you can try it.

Enable Pin Unlock on Chrome OS Canary

To try Pin Unlock for Chrome OS for yourself you’ll need to be using a Chromebook running the very latest Google Chrome OS Canary builds.

Enable the Quick Unlock Pin flag @ chrome://flags/#quick-unlock-pin followed by the Material Design settings @ chrome://md-settings/ and reboot as prompted.

Chances are this feature will filter down into the dev channel very soon so if you’re not on Canary rest assured you’ll get to play with it soon.

Big thank you to Auspicious Pagan

  • InauspiciousPagan

    Smart unlock is still there. Also, this will work in the dev channel too. Should also note that you’re not limited to numbers and can use letters or a mix of both.

    • So…. It’s basically an alternate password…

    • namesale

      thnks.. I thought it was BS to just limit to numbers. Since chromeOS is now becoming a real OS it should have a real password option to unlock.

      The one thing its missing is a real file explorer. google needs to beef up file explorer.

  • OMG! YES!

    I didn’t end up buying a Chromebook because of this! Now that this issue is fixed, I can finally buy a Chromebook. Too bad I can’t find any good and new one as of yet

    • RMP

      They’re all good.

      • Of course they’re not all bad but most don’t have the combination of things that I want. Can every Chromebook run 50 tabs? Does every laptop have a 13″ screen?

        I don’t need a Chromebook. It’d sure be nice to have one but I’m waiting for the right moment as of now

    • z0phi3l

      You’d have to be a moron to pass up on a Chromebook over a non issue as this

  • hzd

    Gah, really Chrome OS team ! There are more every day standard computer usage issues that need fixing or amending rather than stuff like this, if your to goddammed lazy to type your own password then what has the world come to. . .

    Let’s fix the file browser system and allow native windows drive networking without having to jump through hoops to set it up ( when Chrome OS melds seamlessly with other file structures on networks more and more people will jump knowing its easy tompick up where they left off ), fix the horrific handling of zipped files and give us a native UI for handling these file types, add a fully fledged flexible Video player that support more common file types !

    Sort out the god awful app tray / google now botched half arsed integration and so on. . . .

    Really FML some.of the chrome OS devs really don’t seem to know how to better use their talented teams to improve basic functions over what should be spit and polish.

    Finish the meat then play with fancy afters !

    • z0phi3l

      You do realize there are MANY people working on this and that not everyone codes the same parts of the OS?

      You must be one of those idiots that cries when a game releases a cosmetic change and starts whining about “broken” things like you are doing here

      • hzd

        I realise this, however you always see low priority issues get pushed out above and beyond general computing issues, spit and polish comes after basic functionality ( this how most systems are built as far as I remember from my programming days ).

        Chrome OS has come along way but still has a long way to go.

  • Just_Joe

    I was just thinking about this–again–today. Having a quick & [not too] dirty unlock will make the lock screen much more usable. (Yes, some of us do have long passwords/phrases, and not wanting to repeatedly type it in has nothing to do with being “lazy”. It’s called “productivity”.)

    • Iiari

      And it will be so much easier in tablet form with something like the Asus Flip. I have a long Google password which is a pain in that mode. Also great for something like, oh, I don’t know, a future convertible model?

  • First step toward convergence between Chrome OS and Android: Android app compatibility, which already happened. Second step: make Chrome OS look and feel more like Android. This is definitely a step in that direction.

    If Chrome OS is able to take up Android’s niche, then it’ll be in a position to replace Android.

    • ChrisGX

      I think you are correct that over time Chrome OS will come to look and feel more like Android as Google proceeds with the effort to realign its OS offerings. But what possible reason has Google got to replace Android with Chrome OS? That is a genuine question and you may care to set out your reasons.

      At a deep level Chrome OS and Android are rather similar systems. Both use the Linux kernel and according to Google it tracks the LTS mainline releases as sources for its own system software development efforts. So, today, roughly speaking, taking into account the most recent changes to Chrome OS:
      Chrome OS = Linux kernel + Chrome OS libraries + (container based) Android application execution environment,
      Android = Linux kernel + Android libraries + ART
      And, it has been announced that the container based Android application execution environment, shortly to be deployed as a component of Chrome OS, will be a full implementation of the Android Framework and ART (less the kernel components).

      Given that Android is an OS platform for small/limited devices and its job is to host Android apps it is hard to see any benefits of moving to Chrome OS on such devices. The current arrangement is the optimally efficient one – you only get what you need to run Android apps and nothing more. Bringing Chrome OS libraries to Android devices – I take that as implied by the suggestion that Chrome OS could be a candidate to replace Android – would increase memory requirements, perhaps substantially – not a good approach to small device design. And the only advantage conferred by the presence of Chrome OS libraries is the ability to run Chrome OS apps, which, on a small device, would be overkill. Also, while running Android in a container is a good technical solution for bringing Android app compatibility to Chrome OS, where memory requirements are not an issue and the small penalties in execution efficiency of container based virtualisation will go unnoticed due to the ample processing power normally on tap, the justification of moving to container based execution on small devices is weak – once again it increases memory requirements (although not necessarily by a lot) with the sole dubious advantage of being able to execute the same Android apps already running today, apparently satisfactorily, in containers. I’m not sure that would be the best use of container virtualisation tech.

      Google has already said it intends to implement more advanced sandboxing techniques in its OSes as time proceeds, so that is a virtual certainty, but I would not expect the current realignment of Android and Chrome OS to go as far as the replacement of the former by the latter.

  • Kylie

    and this is why I’m glad I run GalliumOS.

  • Lachlan

    This great news! I shared exactly the same problem, and this is perfect.

  • jeffmaz

    I’m using the phone unlock, pairing my phone and Chromebook. Not sure why this would be better.

    • Никита Кабаков

      read the article please.
      1. it’s not perfect
      2. phone could be off, not near

  • Tony

    This just got a flag in developer mode on my latest ChromeOS (dev) build: Version 54.0.2824.5 dev (64-bit). Pretty nifty, but I think it could have used some more layers to distinguish friendly locations/devices.

  • AnoNYC


  • feren CEO

    Well, it’s not the best, but at least it’s something to fill the gap once Apps gets axed in 2018…

    • Um, that doesn’t effect Chrome OS.

      • feren CEO

        There again, Chrome on Windows, Mac, Linux, etc still has it’s sign in lock screen does it not?

        • No. The Chrome on the desktop allows you to sign in within a tab or small window but it’s not a requirement.

          • feren CEO

            I was sure there was a button to lock Chrome with your Google Account in the user menu…

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