How to Cast a Chrome Tab for the First Time

Chrome casting

Chromecast’s ability to turn any TV into a smart TV—able to stream movies, TV, music, and more—is pretty cool. But as well as being able to stream content from the web with your Chromecast, you can Cast from your computer to your TV.

It’s not complex, and it lets you turn your TV into a giant monitor you can control from your computer or mobile device. You can Cast your phone screen, a browser tab from your computer, or media from your device to your TV.

If you’re looking for how to set up a basic Chrome Casting, here’s Google’s guide. This post will show you, step by step, how to Cast directly from a Chrome tab to any device you want.

Let’s start with what you can and can’t Cast and what you’ll need to get started.

What is Chrome Casting a tab good for?

Casting a tab is useful when you want to Cast mainly static content, like photos from Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive, and it’s good for viewing a website at a larger scale without the pixelation and rescaling you encounter when you zoom in 250%.

If you want to display a presentation on a larger monitor, it’s a great choice, so you might find yourself Casting from your laptop professionally too.

What is Chrome Casting a tab not good for?

Casting a Chrome tab doesn’t work very well for some videos.

If you’re using something that inherently supports Chrome Casting—say, YouTube—it works pretty well. Chromecast will grab the content directly from the internet and treat the tab as a remote control for the TV. In fact, it stops Casting the tab, which can sometimes cause problems (we’ll get into that later).

But when you’re using something like Vimeo, DailyMotion, or Amazon Prime Video, it doesn’t work so well because those things don’t plug seamlessly into the Chrome ecosystem. Instead of streaming content directly from the web to your TV, you’ll be streaming it through your computer and then from the Chrome tab to your TV.

Depending on your computer and internet connection, that additional layer is a recipe for glitches and other issues. To some extent you can get around this by using the mobile app for the streaming service you’re trying to use. These apps often have native Chromecast support, eliminating the problem. You can also choose to Cast media rather than the entire tab.

What do you need to Cast a Chrome tab?

To make this work, you’ll need the following:

1. Chromecast on your TV

Without this, your browser won’t be able to find anything to Cast to and your TV won’t be able to receive the content you’re Casting.

You can use either the Chromecast dongle or a TV with Chromecast built in. If you’re using the Chromecast dongle, plug the dongle into the HDMI port on the back of your TV—if you have several ports, choose any—and connect it to a power source. You can use a plug socket or connect it to a USB port on your TV.

2. Chrome

You can Cast a tab directly from your browser, but that browser has to be Chrome. You can’t Cast to a Chromecast from Edge, Firefox, or any other browser. You’ll need Chrome 72 or higher. If you don’t have it, you can update Chrome here.

3. Wifi

Chromecast and Chrome communicate over wifi, so you need them both connected to the same wifi network.

You can use the Chrome extension, and it does make things easier, but you don’t need it. Chrome Casting is supported natively inside Chrome.

4. A compatible device

You can Cast from any desktop, laptop, or Android device that meets the system requirements below. You can’t Cast a Chrome tab from an iPhone or iPad, though you can Cast media from those devices.

5. Some minimum system requirements

You can use Chromecast on anything that will run Chrome. But it won’t work well below these system requirements:

  • Windows: Windows 7 or above, Core i3 processor or above
  • Mac: Macbook Pro 2011 or Air 2012 or later, OS X 10.9 or above
  • Chromebook: Works better on Chromebooks from 2014 and later, but no minimum requirements
  • Linux: Too variable to define

If you have all five things covered, you’re all set.

What can you Cast?

You should be able to Cast pretty much any web content: TV shows, YouTube, web pages, presentations… anything that shows in Chrome.

As well as the non-compatible video streaming services mentioned above, there are some exceptions. Some plugins don’t work reliably when you Cast a tab. These include Microsoft Silverlight, Quicktime, and VLC. Since some streaming services rely on Silverlight, they might not work at all—and Casting media rather than a tab won’t solve that problem.

If you can’t download the video files and Cast them from your computer, you can try Casting from a mobile device. Proprietary web streaming services often have apps that support Chromecast even if their desktop players don’t work well with it.

Ready with the content you want to Cast? Let’s get started.

From a computer: Choose Cast in Chrome

This works more or less the same for PCs, Macs, and Linux machines, and for all laptops.

First, open the Chrome menu—the three dots next to your profile picture—and choose Cast from the dropdown menu.

Here are a few useful things you can do from there:

Choose the Chromecast you want to Cast to

The dropdown will offer you a list of potential Cast targets. Depending on how many others on the same wifi network are using Chromecast, that could get complicated, but for most folks there will be just one or two options.

Then choose your Chromecast. If you’re already using Chromecast, the content from your browser will immediately appear on your TV, replacing what you were streaming before. If not, you’ll see it when you switch over to your TV’s HDMI channel or turn your TV on.

Pinning the Cast button to the toolbar in Chrome

You don’t have to do this, but if you plan to Cast a lot, it does make life easier.

Once you’ve opened the Chrome menu and selected Cast, you’ll notice the Cast button appears in your toolbar. But if you’re going to Cast a lot, it’s better to keep it there permanently. You can do that by right-clicking it (CMD-click on a Mac) and selecting “Always show icon.”

Cast video or other media

You can Cast video from a tab by clicking the Cast symbol in the toolbar. The video’s soundtrack will play on both your TV and your computer; all other sounds from that tab will play only from your computer.

Chrome will default to Casting the content within a tab, not the tab itself. It will Cast the video out of a tab without the surrounding graphics, HTML, and so on. Most of the time, that’s good. Why Cast a web page over to your TV if you don’t have to?

But it also means that not everything in the tab will make it over to your TV. That can mean subtitles in YouTube videos and other additional material that might be make-or-break for your enjoyment of the show, movie, or channel.

There used to be a more complex Chromecast control system giving you the option of switching between Casting the whole tab and Casting its contents. That’s been deprecated, but sometimes you still need those subtitles.

If that’s you, never fear. There’s a fix involving the use of Chrome Flags. From your browser’s omnibar:

  1. Go to chrome://flags/#views-cast-dialog and Disable it.
  2. Go to chrome://flags/#upcoming-ui-features and Disable it.

You should now have access to the full controls that allow you to Cast the whole tab.

Stop Casting from your computer

When you’re done, you can stop Casting by clicking the Cast symbol on the right of the omnibar and selecting Stop from the menu.

From an Android phone or tablet: Open the Settings app

Open Settings and select Connected Devices > Cast, then select your Chromecast from the menu.

The Chrome tab on your Android screen will display on your TV.

From there, you can:

Cast media from Android

Click Cast on the video you’re watching and it will be displayed on your TV. You can find the Cast button in different places, depending on what you’re using to watch media—for instance, it’s at the top of the Home screen in the Android YouTube app.

Choose the Chromecast you want to Cast to, tap Play, and your media will be displayed on your TV. To stop Casting media, click Cast again.

Stop Casting on Android

Go to Settings > Connected Devices > Cast and select your Chromecast, then tap Disconnect and your TV will stop showing content from your Android screen.

From an iPhone or iPad: Tap Cast on media

You can’t Cast a tab from iPads or iPhones, but you can Cast media. All you need to do is tap Cast on the media you’re watching. To stop Casting, tap Cast again and select Stop.

Cast from files on your computer

One last thing: if you can download the files you want to watch, you can Cast those from your computer too. To do that:

  1. Open Chrome and select Cast, then click the down arrow next to “Cast to”
  2. Select “Stream a video or audio file,” then “Cast file.”
  3. Choose the file you want to Cast, then the Chromecast device you want to Cast to.

Can’t find the Cast button?

If you can’t find the Cast button on your desktop or laptop, try these steps.

First, make sure Chrome is up to date and that your computer or laptop and your Chromecast device are connected to the same wifi network. This is the “is it turned on?” of Chromecast troubleshooting, so it makes sense to check that box.

Next, see if the Cast button is in the overflow area: the space Chrome sets aside for extensions if you have a ton of them. Click the Settings menu and see if you can find the Cast button in there.

No luck? Then did you reset Chrome? If you recently reset Chrome to factory settings or installed a new version of Chrome, you might have to pin the Cast button to the toolbar again.