How-To Geek

Mirror Your Computer’s Screen on Your TV With Google’s Chromecast

Want to put your computer’s screen on your TV? You could hook it up with an HDMI cable, but then your computer’s placement depends upon the length of the cable. With Google’s Chromecast, however, you can mirror any browser tab or your entire desktop–wirelessly–in just a few clicks.

Casting from Chrome

This feature is now built into Google Chrome, so unlike the early days of the Chromecast, you don’t need the Google Cast extension to do this anymore. However, you do still have to use Google Chrome. You can’t use another browser like Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

If you just purchased a Chromecast, you’ll first need to install the Google Home app on your phone or tablet and set it up before continuing

To start casting, you can either click Chrome’s menu and select “Cast” or right-click the current page and select “Cast”.

The first time you open the Cast dialog, you’ll see an “Enable casting to cloud-based services like Google Hangouts” option allows you to cast your browser tabs directly to Google Hangouts and other services like Cast for Education, designed for classroom projectors.

For example, if you leave this option enabled and are participating in a Google Hangout video call, you can select the “Cast” option in Chrome and your Google Hangouts call will appear as an option alongside any Chromecast devices. Select it to cast to the other person on the video call.

There’s no downside to leaving this check box enabled. It just gives you more options. Nothing is streamed to Google Hangouts or elsewhere unless you tell Chrome to cast there.

Select “OK, Got It” and you’ll see a smaller Cast dialog in the future.

When casting, you can click the arrow next to “Cast to” to select what you want to share.

When casting from most websites, you can click the little dropdown arrow to choose to either cast only the current tab or your entire desktop.

How to Cast a Browser Tab

To cast a tab, select “Cast tab” and then click your Chromecast in the list. If you don’t select any source, your Chromecast will automatically start casting the tab by default.

It should be automatically detected if it’s online. If it doesn’t appear in the list, be sure it’s online. For example, you may need to turn on your TV if you’re powering your Chromecast through your TV’s USB port.

When casting a tab, you’ll see a blue “Cast” icon to the left of the “X” on the browser tab.

To adjust the volume or stop casting the tab, right-click the page and select “Cast” or click the menu button and select “Cast”. The Cast dialog will reappear, providing a volume control and a “Stop” button that stops casting.

You can close this dialog if you like by clicking the “X”, which will hide it. Chrome will only stop casting if you close the tab or click the “Stop” button.

How to Cast Your Desktop

To cast your desktop, select “Cast desktop” in the list of sources and then click the Chromecast you want to cast to.

When you attempt to cast your entire desktop, you’ll be prompted to choose exactly what you want to share on your desktop and whether you also want to share the audio.

While casting your screen, you’ll see a “Chrome Media Router is sharing your screen [and audio].” message at the bottom of your screen. Click “Stop sharing” to stop casting.

Click “Hide” to dismiss this message. It will reappear when you go back to a Chrome window, allowing you to stop casting.

How to Cast a Supported Website

Some websites–for example, YouTube and Netflix–have special support for the Chromecast. On these websites, you’ll see a special “cast” icon in the video or audio player.

This is similar to how your Chromecast works with YouTube, Netflix, and other supported apps on Android and iOS devices.

You can either click this icon or select the normal “Cast” option in Chrome’s menu. If you use Chrome’s menu, click the “Select source” icon and choose the website from the list.

If you start casting without selecting anything specific on such a site, Chrome will automatically cast from the website instead of casting your browser tab.

Casting from a supported website is different than casting a tab. Your Chromecast will stream the video directly, so performance will be better and smoother than if you were mirroring a tab. The interface will also transform into a sort of remote control with playback controls for the video or audio you’re casting to your Chromecast.

What About the Google Cast Extension?

The Google Cast extension is still available, however, it doesn’t do much. It just provides a one-click toolbar icon you can click to access the “Cast” feature built into Chrome. You can always just right-click the current page or open the menu to access this feature–it just saves you a single click.

In the past, this extension was the only way to cast from Chrome. It also offered additional options, such as the ability to tweak the casting video quality and cast just the audio from a specific tab. These options appear to no longer be available.

The Google Chromecast is a very versatile streaming device with lots of potential, and you can do a lot in a browser tab. On top of that, you can also customize your Chromecast with custom wallpapers.

There’s now even a Chromecast audio, so you can set up whole-house audio streaming with a few Chromecast Audio devices.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 09/8/16

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