If you want to show your PC’s desktop on a TV you could, of course, connect it directly with an HDMI cable, but it may not be convenient to have the computer next to the screen. It might be too far away for a cable to reach, for example.
A wireless connection using a Chromecast is the answer and the PC can send the screen from anywhere, whether it is close by or some distance away.
It is convenient for showing off the photos and videos on your computer, sending YouTube and other streaming video to the TV, delivering presentations to an audience, and much more. It can be very handy indeed and there are many uses.
Let’s see how to cast the browser and desktop to the television.
Secret Chrome flags
Start Chrome and in the address box, enter chrome://flags. This displays a collection of advanced settings that are not in the normal Chrome Settings. Some of them are experimental.
Scroll down the list until you come to Enable Media Router. Click it and select Enabled on the list of options.
The Chromecast icon
A new icon appears in Chrome’s toolbar in the top right corner. Click it and a pop-up box in the centre at the top prompts you to select the device. It says Cast tab and below is the Chromecast device.
This menu appears because it is possible to have multiple Chromecasts, one for each TV in your home, so you could have several devices you could cast to on the menu. I have just one device and it is called Chromecast (you name it when setting it up and some people name it after the room it is in).
Select the Chromecast device
After selecting the Chromecast device, called Chromecast in my case, a second or two later the Chrome browser window appears on the TV screen that the Chromecast is connected to.
It even switches on my TV automatically if it is turned off (on standby that is), but your TV might be different, so if you don’t see it, turn on your TV if necessary and select the Chromecast as the input source.
Click the Chromecast button
Click the Chromecast button again to display the pop-up window. Click the left arrow at the top, click the down arrow in the blue bar at the top (next to Cast tab in the second screenshot) and a new menu is displayed.
Cast tabs or the whole desktop
Select Cast desktop instead of Cast tab and it shows the whole Windows desktop on the TV screen and not just the Chrome browser window.
I found it a bit unresponsive when switching from casting the browser to casting the desktop and it tends to get stuck on one or the other. If you have problems, stop casting, close Chrome, wait for the TV to go to the Chromecast screensaver, then start over and this time select Cast desktop.
It just seems to take time to set up casting and to switch, so don’t rush it. Look out for the Cast Device Integration Screen Sharing Request window and click Yes to allow it to share the desktop.
YouTube is special
The Chromecast seems to detect YouTube as special and it treats it differently to regular websites. Go to the website when casting and select a video. It comes up like this and when you click Play Now it plays full screen on the TV.
When mirroring the whole desktop to the TV screen, the refresh rate is a bit low. You would not want to use it for games because it is nowhere near fast enough for action games.
Casting is best for showing off static or slowly changing screens, demonstrating software, showing slides and photos and so on.