How to automatically unlock your Chromebook when your Android phone's nearby

samsung chromebook 2 lid detail oct 2014
Image: Rob Schultz

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Google is working hard to kill the password. If you want to live in that future now, you can turn on a feature that automatically unlocks your Chromebook whenever you wander near it with your Android phone in your pocket.

The feature's dubbed Smart Lock, and it recently made its way into the stable version of Chrome OS. Smart Lock uses Bluetooth to connect a Chromebook with your Android phone. When the devices are paired, users can log into their laptops just by pressing a button whenever their (unlocked) Android phone is within range.

While technically still in beta, Smart Lock's dead simple to set up and will make you wish that every device made passwords so painless. For now, Smart Lock only works on phones running Android Lollipop 5.0 or above. (Sorry, doesn't work with Lollipop tablets.) The update is slowly rolling out to phones, so if you don't Lollipop yet just be patient

Like any good beta feature, Smart Lock's buried deep in the caverns of Android 5.0's settings menu. Here is how to dig it out and eliminate one more password nuisance from your life.

Find and turn on Smart Lock

To get started head to Settings > Show advanced settings on your Chromebook, then scroll down to Smart Lock (Beta).

chromebook smart lock settings

The new Smartlock Beta feature can be found in the settings menu.

Click the Turn on button and a wizard will fire up to walk you through the process. Make sure your Android phone is handy and powered on so it can pair up with your Chromebook.

chromebook smart lock start

Let your Chromebook track down your phone to enable Smartlock.

Then click the blue Find your phone button to pair up your phone and Chromebook. Be sure you have Bluetooth enabled for your phone so your laptop can find it.

chromebook smart lock phone

Your Chromebook will find your phone if it has Bluetooth enabled.

Once the Chromebook has tracked down your phone, click the Use this phone button. Your phone will also get a push message to alert you to this pairing. You'll also see a notification if you have an Android Wear smartwatch.

smart lock android

Once Smart Lock is turned on you'll get a push notice on your Android phone.

Another neat aspect to this is that Google will sync the capability across any other Chrome devices you have. So if you have another Chromebook, it now should also be using Smart Lock to let you automatically log in through your phone.

Give it a whirl

Now that the feature's live, it's time to test it out. 

Lock your Chromebook by heading to the status area in the lower-right corner and clicking the padlock icon. On the lock screen you'll see a padlock icon next to the password box. If it's green, it means your Chromebook found your phone and all you need to do is click that green button to sign on.

chromebook smart lock sign in

Just click the green button and you're right back to work on your Chromebook.

It works flawlessly in my tests with a Nexus 5 and HP Chromebook 14. There may be some bugs crawling around with some device configurations, however. If you run into any issues, head to the Chrome help page for support, where you may be able to have a Hangouts chat with a Google device expert.

smart lock android wear Derek Walter

You can't unlock your Chromebook with your Android Wear smartwatch (yet), but you'll at least get a notice the feature is active.

Interestingly, enough even though you supposedly need to have your phone unlocked for this to work, I was able to sign on to my Chromebook using Smart Lock with my phone in standby. It could be just one of those inconsistencies that pops up with a new feature, so your experience may differ.

This type of security setting is far more convenient than a password and it's great to see Google working to make password management as painless as possible. Smart Lock's also another step towards tying Chrome and Android closer together, along with all those new Android apps that run on Chrome

Google just keeps on giving Android users more reasons to consider jumping on the red-hot Chromebook bandwagon.

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