2019 has been the Year of Dark Mode. This is one of the most requested features for apps, including browsers and social sites. Slack, Outlook, and Messenger have already jumped on board, as well as Chrome.
Chrome has been experimenting with dark modes for a while and began rolling them out piecemeal a year ago. But there’s still no unified control to turn on dark mode across all your devices. Instead, you’ll have to use a different method for each operating system.
If you already know what dark mode is and you just want to turn it on, choose your OS and get started below:
- How to enable dark mode for Windows 10
- How to enable dark mode for Mac OS
- How to enable dark mode for Android
- How to enable dark mode for iOS
If you’re less familiar, let’s start with a quick look at what dark mode is and what it’s for.
Dark mode: What is it?
Dark mode flips the colors you’re used to seeing on your screen, presenting you with a view that’s high-contrast but low-brightness, by turning the backgrounds dark.
Here’s Chrome in normal, light mode:
The same page in Dark Mode:
(Note that flipping Chrome’s UI to dark mode doesn’t always flip the websites you visit. That depends on whether they have a dark mode too. If their developers haven’t created one, Chrome won’t automatically display one; to generate one in Chrome you’ll need an extension. More on that later.)
Dark mode: What’s it for?
Dark mode is designed to be better for your eyes if you spend a long time looking at screens. Bright screens can make your eyes feel tired. And there’s evidence that exposure to blue light causes irreversible eye damage over time, as well as messing with your circadian rhythm and spoiling your sleep pattern.
Dark mode can also make it easier to focus on the screen and to read text, and can improve battery life in mobile devices with OLED screens.
For most users, dark mode seems paradoxically brighter—you can pick out what’s happening on the screen more easily. At the same time, your screen will produce less light in general, hopefully saving your battery and your eyes.
Ready for an OS-specific walkthrough?
How to enable dark mode for Windows 10
To enable Chrome dark mode in Windows 10, you’ll need to have Chrome 74 or later.
Windows 10 users got dark mode a whole Chrome build later than Mac OS users. But they have more control over it. Windows 10 users can switch dark mode on and off in Chrome without changing their OS settings.
If you want to turn on dark mode OS-wide, you can do so in two simple steps:
- Go to Settings in the Windows menu and select Personalization, then select Colors.
- In the Choose your default app mode, select Dark, and you’re done.
Chrome automatically themes itself to match the dark mode you’ve enabled for your whole OS. Several other apps will turn dark too, automatically theming themselves in the same way as Chrome.
But what if you don’t want to turn everything dark—just Chrome?
You can turn Chrome dark all by itself. Here’s how. (You can do all this with Chrome open, you’ll just have to restart it to see changes.)
First, find the shortcut you’d normally use to launch Chrome and right-click it. It might be on your desktop or in your taskbar.
Next, select Properties and you’ll see the Target box: the text that describes where Chrome is stored on your PC. It will probably look something like this:
C:Program Files (x86)GoogleChromeApplicationchrome.exe
All you’re going to do is add this text to the end of that Target box:
So the result looks like this:
C:Program Files (x86)GoogleChromeApplicationchrome.exe --force-dark-mode
Your Chrome installation might be somewhere other than the C drive, or the Target text might look different. Just make sure there’s a space between the .exe and the double hyphen before “force-dark-mode,” or it won’t work. Click OK to save changes.
Finally, close Chrome and reopen it, and you should have dark Chrome and light Windows.
To undo this, right-click on the shortcut, return to the Target box, and remove the “–force-dark-mode” text.
How to enable dark mode for Mac OS
Mac OS Mojave has a system-wide dark mode. Enable that and Chrome will automatically self-theme to match it.
To enable dark mode in Mojave:
- Open System Preferences and select General.
- At the top of the General Preferences menu is the toggle for Appearance, with two options: Light and Dark. Select Dark and you’re done.
If you’re using an older version of OSX, you can’t enable a system-wide dark mode and there doesn’t seem to be an independent toggle. Take a look further down this post for information on how to use themes and extensions to achieve a dark Chrome. If you really want, you can use the #enable-force-dark flag in Chrome Canary, but that involves a big sacrifice in stability.
How to enable dark mode for Android
If you’re running Android 10, dark mode is supported by your phone’s OS and you should be able to simply turn it on. Just open the Settings menu, choose Themes, and select Dark.
If you’re running an earlier version of Android, you’ll need to use Chrome Flags to turn it on.
To do that:
- Open Chrome and type chrome://flags/ into the address bar.
- When Flags opens, search for “dark mode” and you’ll get two results: Android web contents dark mode at #enable-android-web-contents-dark-mode, and Android Chrome UI dark mode at #enable-android-night-mode. You will need to enable both to get a satisfactory dark browser.
If you pick the first option, it changes how Chrome interacts with websites. With it enabled, Chrome will check whether there’s a dark version of each website you visit and display it if there is. If there isn’t, Chrome will simply invert the site’s colors. Enable this option, restart Chrome, and you’ll get a dark browsing experience with a light browser UI.
The second option, Chrome UI dark mode, lets you darken the browser interface itself. To set this up:
- Enable the flag and then restart Chrome and open Settings.
- Go to Advanced and open the Themes menu. (If you don’t see the Themes menu, update Chrome. Themes are a recent addition to the app.)
- Select Dark and Chrome’s own UI will go dark, though search results and websites will still be light.
It’s worth remembering that flags are experimental and might not always work.
For example, even with both dark mode flags enabled, you might find that some websites still display elements of their pages in light colors. Right now there doesn’t seem to be a solution to this.
How to enable dark mode for iOS
iOS 13 users have a system-wide dark mode to which Chrome will self-theme once it’s enabled. You might already have this. Apple doesn’t always alert iOS users of new features if they’re upgrading an existing iOS install. So to find out, go to Settings > General > About > Version. If you have iOS 13 you can enable the system-wide dark mode.
To turn it on:
- Open your Control Center and hold down the Brightness indicator: the icon with the sun symbol next to the on-screen volume control.
- A full-screen control interface will pop up, with an Appearance toggle in the bottom left of the screen. By default it’s set to Light; tap it to toggle to dark mode.
If you have an earlier version of iOS you can still enable a form of dark mode. To do that:
- Go to Settings on your iPhone or iPad, scroll down to General, and select Accessibility.
- Select Display Accommodation, then Invert Colors.
- Choose Smart Invert to enable dark mode across the system, including Chrome.
There’s no Chrome-based dark mode control for iOS. If you can’t get a satisfactory dark browsing experience using the control panel on your iPad or iPhone, it might be time to consider an extension.
Other options for using a “dark mode”
Chrome themes and extensions are designed to import third-party functionality into Chrome. Dark themes have been available for a long time, but they typically affect only Chrome’s UI: the browser might look dark, but all the websites you visit will still be light.
Some extensions, by contrast, offer something nearer to a true dark mode, inverting color palettes and muting them or selecting the dark or nighttime versions of websites you visit inside a darkened UI. It’s worth checking out Dark Theme for Chrome, which despite its name is an extension that automatically selects the dark or nighttime version of websites you visit.
We’ve found Dark Reader useful too. Unlike Dark Theme, which relies on the websites you visit to provide it with dark themes, Dark Reader recasts the color schemes of all the websites you visit and lets you control the color parameters yourself, right in the browser. (Here’s our full review.)
And some systems allow you a workaround. For example, if you’re a Mac user, you can achieve a system-wide dark mode using Night Shift in Displays alongside a Chrome Theme.
Of course, though a combination of extensions, themes, and OS workarounds can deliver something close to a dark mode, there’s a reason Chrome rolled out its own. This MacGyver approach always felt like it was more trouble than it was worth, and left users concerned that new Chrome updates could stop their dark mode tools from working properly. If you can set up dark mode natively, you can’t go far wrong.