The Complete Guide to Chromecast

This is Chrome Story’s guide to Chromecast, Chromecast Audio and Google Cast. If you are new to Chromecast or an existing user looking for in-depth information, this is the resource for you! Beginner to expert!

In this series:

What is a Chromecast

Chromecast is a small device that makes any television a smart TV by connecting it to the Internet. Chromecast allows you to send audio and video content to your TV from your computer, smartphone or tablet. Chromecast is powered by Google Cast, a software platform built and managed by Google.

Here is how it works: You find the content that you want to play using your computer or your phone. It could be using the Chrome browser or an app that supports casting. You touch the Cast icon from your browser (via the Google Cast Extension) or app and the content is sent to your Chromecast, which then plays it on your TV. The content — say, a YouTube video — is not streaming from your laptop or phone. Chromecast connects to the internet, finds your content in a resolution that fits your TV and plays it.

hoopla+chromecast

There are many advantages to that method. You could start a video, from your phone and then take the phone and walk out of the house and get going. The video continues to play because it is streaming from the internet. If you have someone watching the video with you, their entertainment continues uninterrupted. If you were using Bluetooth or any other technology to stream, the playback will stop when you walk away from the TV, and you might also have interruptions when you receive calls or messages.

Here is video demo from Google:

Google Cast

To understand Chromecast better, we should start from Google Cast. According to Google:

 Google Cast is a technology that lets you cast your favorite entertainment and apps from your phone, tablet or laptop right to your TV or speakers.

Google Cast powers Chromecast and Chromecast Audio. This is also available on Google’s Android TV platform. Consider it as software running on top of some basic Google Chrome / Chrome OS code. Google cast is what powers your Chromecast and your Chromecast Audio. It also runs inside those Android TVs which support casting.

With the Google Cast SDK, mobile and web developers can extend their existing app to create compelling, multiscreen experiences. If you are a developer, head over to the developer documentation for Google Cast for more information.

What is “Casting”

Google Cast and Chromecast has added yet another verb to the tech vocabulary. To cast is to send media from any device to your Google Cast enabled TV or speaker.

The source of the media can be any platform, any operating system or any type of device. You can cast from Windows, Linux, OSX, Chrome OS, Android and iOS. That means you could be casting from your laptop, your phone or tablet.

How Does Chromecast Work

Consider Chromecast like an antenna, much like your TV antenna and receiver, but made for the internet. It receives content that services like Netflix and YouTube broadcasts and displays it on your TV.

Under the hood, it runs the Chrome browser, on top of Chrome OS, the operating system from Google. With the help of an HDMI output piece and a wireless network interface, Chromecast receives content sent by sender applications and displays them on the TV. Here is a very good article explaining this whole process and beyond.

The Chromecast was the first popular device to implement the DIAL concept and protocol. DIAL, an acronym for DIscovery And Launch, is a protocol co-developed by Netflix and YouTube with help from Sony and Samsung. It is a mechanism for discovering and launching applications on a single subnet, typically a home network. It relies on Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), Simple Service Discovery Protocol (SSDP), and HTTP protocols. (Read more from Wikipedia.)

Where Can I Buy Chromecast?

In the US, you can buy Chromecast from Google Store, Walmart, and Best Buy.. To know if Chromecast is available in your country, visit this official help article.

What Can You Cast?

The most popular item that is being “cast” is video. However, the ability of Google Cast to present content is not limited to videos. Chromecast Audio is as you read, is used to send audio content to connected speakers. Apart from video and audio, there are plenty of things that you can cast:

  • Photos
  • Browser Tab from Chrome
  • A tab or entire desktop from Chrome OS (Chromebooks and Chromebases)
  • Games

Note: Windows media player does not have Chromecast support yet. There is no information if they will ever add Chromecast support to the Media Player.

What Do I Need To Use Chromecast

You will need a TV with an HDMI port. If the TV can provide power through a USB port, the better. That’s all you need to set up Chromecast. To start watching media, you will need a computer or a mobile phone to send content from.

If your TV does not have a USB port to power Chromecast, you can use the power adapter provided to connect Chromecast to a power source.

Note: Expert users recommend using the power adapter (and ONLY the adapter that came with the Chromecast) instead of the USB port on the TV since USB ports on most of the TVs provide only feeble current.

chromecast-adapter

Setting Up Your Chromecast

It is easy to get started with your Chromecast. Connect it to your TV, connect the power cable, pair it using the app. For detailed instructions for setting up Chromecast using your browser, MacBook, Android phone or iPhone, read the completed guide here: Setting Up Your Chromecast.

How to Cast

The easiest thing to do is to look for the cast icon. Click this icon, select the Chromecast that you want to cast to, and you are good to go. Here is how the cast icon looks like:

cast-icon

How to Cast from Chrome Browser

The Google Cast extension adds a small cast icon to your Chrome toolbar. From any tab, click this icon to cast the content or the entire tab.

cast-chrome

If you are on YouTube, look for the cast icon on the player itself:

youtube-cast-icon

Note: Google is working on adding Google Cast directly into Chrome and Chrome OS. The Google Cast extension will eventually go away. Inbuilt Cast support is already available on Beta and Dev channels of Chrome OS.

How to Cast from an Android Phone or Tablet

To cast from an Android device, look for the cast icon on individual apps. Android users can cast their entire screen too. Scroll down from your notification bar and look for the cast icon there.

chromecast-android-screen

While you are at it, cast the screen, open your camera and walk around, it’ll be fun!

How to Cast from iOS

To cast from your iPhone / iPad:

  1. Download and install the Chromecast app.
  2. On any supported app, look for the cast icon.
  3. Touch the cast icon and choose your Chromecast to start casting!

chromecast-cast-icon

How Control Playback While Casting

After you start casting, the player from where you initiated cast becomes your remote control. You can pause, stop, and reduce volume from the player. For example, if you are casting  a video from YouTube, your YouTube player is what you will use to control playback on your TV.

You will have this control on all the apps that support casting. Some apps will allow you to control playback right from the lock screen. There are even apps that let you do that from your Android Wear watch.

If you ever lose this playback control from the app that you are casting from, (say, you were playing a video from YouTube and the app crashes), open up your Chromecast app and go to the Devices menu. You should be able to pause, play stop and control volume from here.

cast-control-playback

Personalize Your Chromecast

This section helps you tweak settings on your Chromecast. I am using the Chromecast app for Android for illustration. The steps should be almost similar on other platforms.

Note: To access these settings from Google Chrome, click the cast icon and choose Options. On the Options page, click Manage Cast devices.

To access customization options, go to the Devices tab on the Chromecast app. Touch the settings icon (three white dots) on the top right corner on the card for your Chromecast. You should see the following options:

  • Backdrop settings
  • Guest Mode
  • Device settings

chromecast-settings

Backdrop settings

Remember those beautiful images that show up on your Chromecast connected TV while there isn’t anything playing from Chromecast? That is Backdrop.

You can choose content from a variety of sources. There are curated images from Google and options to use your own photos as backdrop.

  • Google Photos: You can choose from your Google Photos albums. I created one specifically for Chromecast and added my favorite photos there!
  • Facebook: Use photos from your Facebook albums. You will need to login and give Chromecast permission to access your photos.
  • Flickr: Flicker albums.
  • Play Newsstand: If you are interested in seeing news headlines while your Chromecast is idle.
  • Weather
  • Art
  • More

Find more information about setting up each of these here.

Guest Mode

Your Chromecast is available to all the devices connected to the same Wifi network. Typically, this is limited to family members. This is good.

What about guests? What if they want to send something to your TV? Sharing your Wifi password is not ideal in most of such scenarios. Enter Guest Mode.

Guest Mode makes your Chromecast available to your guests s ‘Nearby Device’. Guests can choose this option to cast to your TV. Now, to make things safe but seamless, Your Chromecast generates a random 4-digit PIN that is required to cast to it using guest mode. When a device nearby tries to connect, the Chromecast automatically transfers that PIN using short, inaudible audio tones.

If the audio tone pairing fails, your guest will be given the option to connect manually by entering the 4-digit PIN found on your Chromecast backdrop and in the Chromecast app.

To enable Guest Mode, touch Guest Mode from the settings menu (three white dots) and slide it On. A device PIN will be generated and displayed.

chromecast-guest-mode

Change Your Chromecast’s Name

To rename your Chromecast:

  1. Go to the Devices tab on the Chromecst app.
  2. Touch the settings icon (yes, those three dots!) and choose Device settings.
  3. Under Device Info, touch Name.
  4. Enter a new name and touch OK.

Connect Your Chromecast To a New Wifi Network

To connect your Chromecast to a new Wifi network,

  1. Go to the Devices tab on the Chromecast app.
  2. Touch the settings icon and choose Device settings.
  3. Touch Wifi.
  4. Choose the new network and enter the password.

This works only when you have access to current Wifi network that Chromecast is connected to. If you do not have access to this network, you should factory reset your Chromecast and set up Chromecast using the new Wifi network.

Change Timezone and Time Format

  1. Go to the Devices tab on the Chromecst app.
  2. Touch the settings icon and choose Device settings.
  3. Touch Time Zone to choose a new time one.
  4. Touch Time Format to change the time format.

You can change the language also from the same screen. Touch Language and choose the new language.

How to Reboot Your Chromecast

Here is world’s most favorite troubleshooting tip, rebooting. The magic trick that cures most of the tech problems. There is always unplug – re-plug, but here is the real deal, restarting your Chromecast:

  1. Go to the Devices tab on the Chromecast app.
  2. Touch the settings icon and choose Device settings.
  3. On the Device settings menu, touch the settings icon (three dots) again.
  4. Choose Reboot Chromecast.

How to Update Your Chromecast

Chromecast downloads and installs updates automatically. There is nothing that we should do to make this happen. You will see the notification on your TV while Chromecast is updating. You will also see the LED light flashing red while the update is going on.

If you are experiencing issues while updating Chromecast, or if the process takes longer than usual (it typically takes 10 minutes), try the following:

  • Switch off and switch on Chromecast.
  • If restarting it did not help, do a factory reset.

How to Factory Reset Your Chromecast

Looking for a way to start over? Here is how to reset your Chromecast to factory defaults (or Powerwash, if you are a Chromebook user!)

reboot-chromecst

From the Chromecast App

  1. Go to the Devices tab on the Chromecast app.
  2. Touch the settings icon and choose Device settings.
  3. On the Device settings menu, touch the settings icon (three dots) again.
  4. Choose Factory reset Chromecast.

Using Chromecast Reset Button

In case you are unable to reset Chromecast using the app, or the app cannot find the Chromecast on your network, use can use the button to reset Chromecast.

chromecast-power-button

Press and hold the button for 20+ seconds to start the reset. Wait for the Chromecast to reset and show the set up screen on the TV. When Chromecast is waiting for set up, the light on the side will blink white.

Blinking White and Red LED Lights on Chromecast

Here is what all those lights mean:

  • Stable White: Everything is good. Chromecast is connected and ready to receive content, or is already doing that.
  • Blinking White: Chromecast is disconnected and needs set up. Follow the steps to set up Chromecast.
  • Blinking Red: Chromecast is receiving an update. Your should not disconnect it from power. You cannot cast while it is receiving an update.
  • Solid Red: This means error. Try restarting your Chromecast. If that does not help, factory reset the Chromecast.