Here is a cool Chromebook feature some of us didn't know about: you can use the Smart Lock feature on your Android phone to enable Smart Lock on your Chromebook! Once set up, as long as your phone is in Bluetooth range, instead of needing to use your password to unlock your Chromebook you can click an icon to sign in via your phone's credentials. The feature has been around for a while, but it's really improved and even looks nice in a Google Material way.

A few caveats apply: your phone has to be fully booted, and both the phone and the Chromebook have to be connected to the internet so they can communicate through your Google account. If those two conditions are met, it works reliably and makes things more convenient. Of course, Smart Lock isn't the most secure way to lock your Chromebook (or your phone) but offering something that's fairly secure and easy to use is the best way to get folks to lock their devices.

Let's see how to set it up.

  • Make sure your Chromebook and your Android phone are turned on, signed into the same Google account, unlocked, connected to the internet, and that Bluetooth is enabled on both devices. If you haven't set up Smart Lock for your Android phone, you'll need to do that first. Any of the methods will work. (Also, make sure only one Chromebook and one phone are turned on in Bluetooth range of each.)
  • Open your Chromebook's settings and find the People section.
  • Click ScreenLock, then enter your password to confirm you really are you.
  • Click Set up next to the entry that says Smart Lock for Chromebook.
  • Your Chromebook will scan for available Bluetooth devices, and when it finds your Android phone you'll see it listed with a button to use it. Go ahead and click it.
  • On your phone, you'll see a notification that it was found. Open the notification (nothing will appear) to allow the Chromebook and phone to pair with each other over Bluetooth. Then move back to the Chromebook as suggested.
  • A few seconds later you'll see that everything is setup and you're ready to give it a try. Click the button to check it out, and your Chromebook is locked and you can click or tap anywhere on your account picture or click the lock icon to sign in.

Instantly, you'll get an email to your Google account address that lets you know your account has a new device using the Smart Lock feature. If you use a recovery address (and you really should) that address will also get an email. This email tells you which account was used, and which two devices are set up to pass Smart Lock credentials to each other. There's also a link there if you didn't do this yourself and something fishy is afoot.

We'll use device security when it's this easy. That's a win all around.

Smart Lock works with multiple Google accounts, too. As long as all the accounts are signed in on the same phone, your Chromebook can sign in using Smart Lock. For managed accounts (like Google Apps or Google Education accounts) the administrator might have to enable it, depending on the policies in effect.

The same inherent security issues with Smart Lock for your phone apply here. This isn't nearly as safe as signing in manually each time you unlock your Chromebook's screen. And if someone swipes your phone and your Chromebook, they have one more avenue to try and break into your account. If you ever lose your phone or your Chromebook, you should change your Google account password right away. While not bulletproof on the security front, Smart Lock is miles better than not locking your Chromebook at all. Since it's this easy to set up and use, people like us will do it. That's a win for security.

Updated December 2017: Added instructions for the latest version of Chrome.