A few years ago, I was looking for a Chromebook for a business trip. I wanted something light enough to carry around all day and cheap enough that I wouldn’t mind spilling coffee on the keyboard. I was considering two different models when a salesperson came by to see if I needed help. “You do know,” he said, “that these are Chromebooks? They only work online; you cannot save files to the hard drive.”
Of course, it wasn’t the first time I caught a salesperson making a mistake. But this is an error that seems to have persisted.
Yes, Chromebooks are made to be used primarily online. In fact, when the first Chrome OS laptops were introduced in 2011, there were very few apps that could be used offline, which was a major flaw. But that was then, and this is now.
Currently, apps like Google Docs and Sheets (the basic apps for Chrome OS) can be used both online and offline. In addition, you can store files locally on the laptop’s SSD or, on some models, on an SD memory card.
If you’ve just bought or are considering your first Chromebook, here’s the basics on how to store and find your files on your Chromebook.
Save your files
Saving a file on a Chromebook is a lot like saving a file on 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, you open the Files app (the equivalent of Mac’s Finder or Windows’s File Explorer). From the list on the left, select which folder you want to save your file to, then click 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 retrieve files from Google Drive here.
The Files app comes preloaded with a Downloads folder, but you can easily create your own by clicking the New Folder button in the lower left corner.
Find your files
To find your saved files, follow these steps:
- Click the Launcher button in the lower left corner of the screen.
- An apps window will appear at the bottom of the screen. If you’ve used the Files app recently, it’ll show up just below the search field with other recently used apps. Click here.
- Otherwise, click the “up” arrow just above the search field to see all the apps on your Chromebook and click the Files app.
The Files app also automatically organizes your files into Recent, Audio, Pictures, and Videos folders to make it easier to find these types of files.
Keep in mind that while you can store a fair amount of files, most Chromebooks have a relatively small amount of storage space. Most offer anywhere from 64 GB to 256 GB, although there are still some cheaper machines with 32 GB and some premium systems with 512 GB. You won’t have the same capacity as on a typical Mac or Windows system, but since most Chromebook users store their content in the cloud rather than on their local systems, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Update June 7, 2022, 3:53 PM ET: This article was originally published on September 27, 2019 and has been updated to reflect an increase in storage space on most Chromebooks.