How to Chromecast to a TV From a Laptop or Desktop PC

A closeup photo of a laptop casting a web page to a nearby television.
Jason Fitzpatrick / How-To Geek

You can cast browser tabs, your entire desktop, or start a casting session with a remote service like Netflix or Spotify right from the browser menu in Chrome or Edge.
Click on your browser’s menu icon in the upper right corner, select casting, and select your casting destination to get started.

Chromecasts aren’t just useful for watching TV. They also let you easily cast content from your PC, including mirroring your computer’s screen. Here’s how to cast your desktop, browser tabs, and streaming video.

We’re assuming you already have a Chromecast or compatible device set up, and you’re ready to jump right into using it. If you’re new to the Chromecast and reading this article because you’re considering purchasing one to mirror your PC’s screen or otherwise cast content, you may want to use the Tables of Contents to jump down to the sections “What Do I Need to Chromecast PC Content to a TV.”

How to Chromecast Your Desktop

You can send not just browser tabs and video streams but your entire screen over to your Chromecast or compatible casting device.

This experience emulates screen mirroring tools like Apple’s AirPlay and other screen mirroring tools based on wireless display protocols. The entire selected screen will be replicated on the remote TV.

Casting Your Desktop from Chrome or Edge

You can use either the Chrome or Edge web browsers to mirror your desktop as both are based on the Chromium browser engine. We’re including screenshots here for Chrome but the process is almost identical on Edge (so we’ll simply note the slight menu difference so you can locate the menu).

Open Chrome and click on the three-dot menu bar in the upper right corner next to the Profile icon. If you are using Edge, it is located in the same place, but the three dots are horizontal instead of vertical.

In the drop-down menu, click the entry for “Cast…” If you are using Edge, the casting option isn’t in the first layer of the menu. You have to click on the menu button and then select “More tools” and then “Cast to media device.” At this point, the casting menus are the same for both browsers.

an image of Google Chrome showing the location of the casting option in the main menu.

Once you have selected the casting menu, you will be presented with a list of available devices on your local network that support casting.

Do note, the device must be on to appear in the list as a valid casting destination. So if you have a TV with a built-in Chromecast and you don’t see it on the list, you will need to go power the television on before selecting it as a casting destination.

The default casting behavior is to cast the tab. To cast your screen you must click on “Sources” at the bottom of the casting menu and switch from “Cast tab” to “Cast screen.”  Then select the device you wish to mirror your desktop to.

an image of Google Chrome showing the detailed casting menu with the option to select streaming the tab or the whole screen.

Whether you have a single monitor or a multi-monitor setup, you will be prompted before the casting process starts. For single-monitor setups, you will see a preview of your monitor, an option to toggle the audio on or off, and a “Share” button you must click to begin sharing.

Multi-monitor users see the same options, with the additional option to select which screen they wish to mirror to the remote display.

an image of Google Chrome showing the screen selection options if you have multiple monitors installed.

After clicking “Share” your screen will be cast to the destination device. At that point you can continue to use your computer if you are giving a demonstration or if you’re mirroring the screen to show a hands-off process,  you can park your mouse cursor in an out-of-the-way spot and let the process run.

You may also minimize the web browser to get it out of the way, it will continue to stream the cast in the background.

When you are done casting, you can return to the browser and tap on the casting icon in the toolbar to pull up the list of casting destinations again. Simply select the current casting destination and click it to stop casting.

an image of Google Chrome showing active casting and how to turn the active cast off.

The process is the same on Edge, the icon just looks slightly different but is illuminated in blue during the casting process.

You can restart the casting process at any time by repeating the process above.

When Should (And When Shouldn’t) You Cast Your Desktop?

Each style of casting content from your computer has positives and negatives. Let’s look at screen mirroring, or whole desktop casting, now to highlight when you should and shouldn’t use it.

Casting your entire desktop to another display is best used for the following purposes.

  • You want to show off your entire desktop to a group to give a demonstration that includes elements outside the browser pane.
  • You are casting to mirror your screen to display non-web-based content.
  • You want to watch a video that is only available on your PC using an application that does not support Chromecasting.

Casting your entire desktop should only be used when you have to mirror the entire desktop to achieve your goal, however. You should avoid mirroring your entire PC’s screen when:

  • You can cast the content, such as with Netflix or Youtube, directly instead of by mirroring your PC.
  • You can use an alternative remote solution, such as using SteamLink or GameStream to stream PC game content to your TV.

In short, mirroring your whole desktop to a Chromecast or Chromecast-enabled TV is useful when you must see the whole screen for a proper experience, but there are inherent issues with latency and lag when doing so. It’s great for giving a demonstration or displaying relatively static things like a photo slideshow from your laptop, but it’s not very good for gaming or other activities where low-latency is ideal.

How to Chromecast a Browser Tab

To mirror a single web browser table using your Chromecast, you follow the same steps as mirroring your desktop, albeit with fewer options to fuss with. It’s useful when you only want to display what is in a particular browser tab and remove the visual clutter of the rest of the screen.

Casting a Browser Tab from Chrome or Edge

Click on the three-dot icon in the upper right corner of your browser (it’s the same in both Chrome and Edge). If you’re using Chrome, just select “Cast…” If you’re using Edge, select “More tools” and then “Cast to media device.”

an image of Google Chrome showing the location of the casting option in the main menu.

You will see all the available casting devices on your local network. Simply select the device you want to begin casting the current browser tab immediately to the device.

an image of Google Chrome showing the list of available casting destinations on the local network.

Unlike the desktop casting menu, you do not need to select the screen or even the tab as the default casting function is to send the current browser tab to the selected device. There is also no option to toggle the audio on or off, the audio for that tab (and that tab alone) will be passed onto the receiving device.

To stop casting, you click on the casting button in your browser toolbar and then click on the active device to terminate the stream.

an image of Google Chrome showing active casting and how to turn the active cast off.

As with casting your entire desktop, you can restart the process at any time by repeating the above steps.

When Should (And When Shouldn’t) You Cast Your Browser Tab?

Different casting methods give different results, so you might be curious when you should and shouldn’t rely on casting your browser tab over the other options.

Here are some examples of when you would want to cast just your browser tab to your Chromecast-enabled device.

  • You are giving a demonstration and the only relevant information is within the web page you are looking at.
  • You are using your TV to monitor something displayed in a single browser pane such as an auto-refreshing website with sports scores or some other states you want to keep an eye on.
  • You want to watch video content on your TV that is from sources, such as a small website or file-sharing service, that don’t natively support casting but you can play them in your browser.

Here is when you should avoid using browser tab casting and select an alternative method like desktop mirroring via casting or direct casting.

  • You need access to elements outside the browser pane for demonstration purposes.
  • You want to monitor elements of your computer while watching content on your TV. For example, you may wish to use desktop screen mirroring instead of tab browser mirroring if you want OS-level toaster notifications to pop up where you can see them.
  • You are watching content from a service that natively supports casting.

Browser tab casting is great for those times you want what is in the browser and just what is in the browser. For media playback, however, it’s a bit of a stop-gap measure between casting the entire desktop and direct casting a stream, so let’s look at direct casting now.

How to Direct Cast a Supported Video Service

Direct casting is when you initiate the casting process with a device but the device hands off the actual process to a secondary source.

For example, when you use your phone to pick out a movie on Netflix and then sling it over to your TV by tapping the cast button in the Netflix app, your phone sends the message to your Chromecast or Chromecast-enabled TV and then removes itself from the equation.

The movie doesn’t stream to your phone and then to the TV, the movie streams from the source (in this case Netflix’s servers) direct to the Chromecast device. The benefit of this method is that it is extremely low overhead and doesn’t rely on the initiating device to do any heavy lifting after the request is sent.

How to Start a Direct Cast with Your Browser

To start a direct cast from your web browser, you need to use a compatible browser such as Chrome or Edge.

Visit a website for a compatible service such as Netflix or YouTube. You can also use local media servers that support casting, such as Plex Media Server.

Browse the site until you find content you want to cast to your TV, such as the Saturday Night Live clip seen below. Click on the Chromecast icon on the video’s navigation bar.

A menu will popup that looks very similar to the menu for tab casting options, except with additional media playback controls and information. Select the device you wish to cast your video to.

an image of Google Chrome showing the media control options when direct casting from a site like YouTube.

When you are done casting, you can click on the Chromecast icon in the video navigation bar again and see the currently playing video. Select “Stop casting” to stop the video stream.

an image of Google Chrome showing how to stop casting a direct cast from a source like YouTube.

You can load more videos on the current service at any time using the same method, or you can switch to a different supported service and cast something new.

When Should (and Shouldn’t) You Direct Cast?

Direct casting is the process most people are familiar with when they think of using a Chromecast. Here’s when you should use it.

  • You are watching video or listening to music hosted by a third-party service such as Netflix, YouTube, or Spotify. Direct casting will provide the cleanest experience.
  • You want to use your computer to browse content or playlists, but your TV to watch it.
  • You have local content hosted by a media server application like Plex, and you want to direct stream it from the Plex server after picking it out using your PC.

And here’s when you should not use direct casting.

  • You want to watch or listen to the content on your TV with additional content, such as a group-watch sidebar with chat content from your friends.
  • You’re using a VPN or other tool to circumvent geo-blocking and you need the video to pass through your computer (and the VPN connection) before going to the television.

If it is possible to direct cast content to the Chromecast, we recommend you always do so. And even if you find yourself in a situation like the one mentioned above where you need a VPN, we would recommend solving the problem with a VPN router or other option before resorting to screen or tab casting the content to your Chromecast.

What Do I Need to Chromecast PC Content to TV?

Before we dig into the how-to aspect of mirroring your PC to your TV using a Chromecast or otherwise slinging content over to the big screen, let’s make sure you have the right equipment to get the job done.

A Chromecast or Compatible TV

First, you’ll need a device that can receive the casted stream from your PC. For most people, this will be a dedicated stand-alone device like the Chromecast or the Chromecast with Google TV. Confused about the difference between the two? Here’s what differentiates the Chromecast from Google TV (and how the Chromecast with Google TV combines them).

For additional help once you’ve picked one up, be sure to check out how to set up your new Chromecast or Chromecast with Google TV.

Chromecast with Google TV

This feature-packed player is a great option for streaming media, controlling your smart home devices with Google Assistant, and even playing basic games.

Older generations of the Chromecast, including the Chromecast Ultra, will also work, but if your Chromecast devices are so old they aren’t receiving updates anymore, you may find the user experience is lackluster.

You can also use a TV with a built-in Chromecast. Not all smart TVs offer it, but you’ll find plenty of them on the market at all price points ranging from modestly-sized bargain Hisense sets to wall-filling premium Sony sets. Check your model’s documentation for any mention of the following terms: Chromecast, Chromecast Built-in, Google Cast, or Google TV. Older TVs will call it “Google Cast” and newer TV’s will call it “Chromecast Built-in,” as Google changed the branding.

There is one thing to be aware of when using your TV’s built-in casting functionality. Some TVs support casting, but only for direct cast media streams like Netflix or Spotify. If you have an older Samsung smart TV, for example, you are able to cast Netflix from your phone or computer to your TV. But the TV doesn’t support broader Chromecast functions like desktop mirroring or tab casting. If you are in that situation, you’ll need to purchase a dedicated Chromecast to unlock the additional features.

A Computer with Chrome, Edge, or Compatible Software

In addition to a destination for your casted content, you need software on your computer to cast the content.

You can use Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge web browsers on your respective operating system. Edge is based on the Chromium engine and supports native casting just like Chrome.

There are third-party solutions for casting too. Quite a few media apps like VLC and Plex Media Server support media casting. As far as desktop screen mirroring goes you should stick to using Chrome or Edge. The third-party apps that pop up now and then for the purpose are usually very flaky and poorly supported.

Troubleshooting Your Google Chromecast Experience

For the most part, using the Chromecast is such a hassle-free experience you will rarely need to troubleshoot it. But if you’re running into issues casting from your computer to your TV, here are some troubleshooting tips and tricks.

Your Chromecast Is Behaving Erratically

If your Chromecast is unresponsive or otherwise behaving erratically, you should restart it before doing any other troubleshooting. Because Chromecasts are typically left plugged in 24/7, it’s quite possible it has been months or even years since your Chromecast was fully powered down. (If you’ve ever wondered if leaving your Chromecast on all the time was a waste of money, you’ll be happy to hear it only costs around $2 a year.)

To fully restart your Chromecast, unplug the power cable and let it sit for at least 30 seconds before powering it back up.

When restarting doesn’t solve the problem, you may consider factory resetting your Chromecast. You can factory reset your Chromecast by plugging in the power cable and then holding down the power button until the status light on the Chromecast begins blinking orange or yellow. When it stops blinking and turns solid white, release the button. Set the device up as if it were brand new out of the box.

Your Casting Destination Is Unavailable

If you pull up the casting menu on your computer and the device you wish to cast to is unavailable, either the device is not powered on or there is a network problem.

In the case of dedicated Chromecast devices, that means your device isn’t plugged. In the case of smart TVs with built-in Chromecast functionality, that means they aren’t turned on. Some TVs have an always-on function so you can cast to them even when the TV is “off,” but most don’t and will only appear as a casting destination if the TV is turned on before you pull the menu up.

Network issues can also make a Chromecast appear unavailable. Assuming you aren’t having any other problems with the network or internet access, the most common issue is that the casting device and the Chromecast are on different networks (such as your laptop is logged into your home’s guest network and your TV or Chromecast dongle are logged into the main network, or vice versa).

Less commonly, you’ll run into issues like you’re using a network with “AP Isolation” turned on. AP Isolation is a security feature wherein each client on a Wi-Fi network is isolated from every other client on a Wi-Fi network. This is uncommon in a home Wi-Fi network (although you may have turned it on, not fully realizing what it did). It’s much more common in commercial settings like on a hotel network.

If you’re at home, make sure your Chromecast and casting device are on the same Wi-Fi network with AP isolation turned off. If you’re using your Chromecast in a hotel or elsewhere, consider using a travel router to avoid connectivity issues.

Your Casted Tab or Desktop Is Laggy

As handy as casting your desktop or browser tab is (and as much as Google has improved the experience over the years), it’s still a less-than-perfect experience. You should expect a bit of latency and the occasional video artifacts, even under the best conditions.

You can improve the experience, up to a point, by ensuring you have strong Wi-Fi coverage and your Chromecast and casting device aren’t too far from your Wi-Fi router. Doing things to improve your Wi-Fi signal is great, but if the latency is a deal breaker, you may wish to connect your computer directly to your television.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chromecasting

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article, but there are always additional questions to be answered! Here are some common Chromecast and casting questions.

What Is Casting?

Casting is the process of initiating the playback of locally or remotely hosted content using Google’s propriety remove display protocol Google Cast.

The protocol was first made public in 2013 with the release of the first Chromecast player. In 2014, Google released a development kit paving the way for third parties to incorporate the casting technology into their applications.

Do I Need a Powerful Computer to Chromecast?

If you are direct casting—wherein you are using your computer to pick content on a remote service like Neflix or a local service like a Plex Media Server in your basement—the capabilities of your computer are not important. You use the computer to select what will play and then the service or local server does the heavy lifting and sends it to your Chromecast-enabled device.

If you are casting your desktop or a browser tab, however, the capability of your computer does matter. While you don’t need a beefy gaming rig, by any stretch of the imagination, your computer will need the ability to do whatever activity you are casting, plus some extra capacity for the overhead of processing the video or media stream and sending it to the Chromecast.

That shouldn’t pose a problem in most cases, but if your computer is already struggling before you start the cast then you’ll have a suboptimal experience trying to cast it to your TV.

If you pick up a new Chromecast for your casting needs, don’t trash the old one. Early model Chromecasts are still great for turning your TV into a digital picture frame.

Do Older Chromecast Models Support Screen Mirroring?

All generations of Chromecasts and Chromecast-enabled TVs will support the functions, like screen mirroring and tab casting, we outlined above.

However, the original Chromecast was released in June of 2013 and the hardware is quite dated and underpowered at this point. While you don’t need the absolute newest Chromecast or an upgrade to the more powerful models that support 4K to cast your desktop or tabs, you will likely find that the casting process is a bit laggy and stuttering on the oldest Chromecast models.

Can You Chromecast From a Mac or Linux Computer?

Yes, in addition to Windows PC and Chromebooks, you can cast from any Mac or Linux computer that can run Google Chrome or that has applications with built-in casting support.

Is There a Difference Between Direct Casting from My PC and My Phone?

There is no difference between direct casting from your computer and direct casting from your phone. Whether you pick out a YouTube video or a new Netflix show browsing the respective sites on your computer or using the respective apps on your phone, as soon as you hit the cast button and select your Chromecast device, the process is handed off to the Chromecast which then talks directly to the service.

Which device you use is simply a matter of preference. If you like picking out Netflix shows to binge while playing on your laptop instead of using your phone, feel free to do so.

Do I Need Internet Access to Use the Chromecast?

You, naturally, need internet access to direct cast internet-based content to your Chromecast such as Netflix or YouTube videos.

You do not, however, need internet access to cast local content such as mirroring your PC’s screen or casting a video stream from the Plex Media Server in your basement.

You will still need a router to negotiate the connection between the computer (or local media server) and your Chromecast. If you’re planning to use the Chromecast in this fashion at a remote location without internet access or within a conference room where you can’t easily connect your Chromecast to the hotel Wi-Fi, we recommend bringing a travel router along to use with your Chromecast.

Can I Cast Content from Browsers Other Than Chrome?

Chromecasting requires a Chromium-based web browser. You can cast from Chrome, Edge, and other Chromium-based browsers.

You cannot natively cast from Firefox or other non-Chromium browsers. You will occasionally come across extensions or hacks to create a workaround, but in our experience they work poorly and it’s easier just to keep a copy of Chrome around (even if you don’t use it as your primary browser) just for casting purposes.

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