Google's Chromecast might seem complicated, but it isn't.

The whole purpose of Google's HDMI dongle is that it's easy: easy for you to watch a YouTube video on your phone or a Netflix stream on your tablet and then wirelessly fling it to your TV so you can see it on a bigger screen. You can even do this with a web browser tab on your computer. Here's what you need to know to get started.

Note: We're only focusing on Chromecast devices for TVs - not Chromecast Audio, which is a different version of Chromecast for dumb speakers. You can learn more about Chromecast Audio from here.

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Google launched the first $30 (£30) Chromecast in 2013. It's an affordable HDMI dongle that lets you wirelessly "cast" (or fling) content to a television. It basically makes most TVs smart. Then, in 2015, Google launched $30 Chromecast 2. It's faster, more responsive, and just as affordable. And it arrived with an updated Chromecast app.

In 2016, Google introduced the $69 (about £50) Chromecast Ultra, which works identically to its predecessors but uniquely offers the ability to cast 4K streams. Google also offers a $35 Chromecast Audio for dumb speakers.

For more information on Chromecast, check out these guides:

With a Chromecast, you can fling movies, TV shows, photos, and websites from your computer or mobile device to your TV. Simply tap the Cast button in the Chrome browser on your computer or tap the Cast button from a Cast-enabled mobile app on your phone or tablet. The content will instantly appear on your big-screen TV.

You can cast movies, TV shows, and photos from Cast-enabled apps on Android smartphones, Android tablets, iPhones, and iPads. You can also cast entire sites or tabs from the Chrome browser on Windows desktops and laptops, Mac desktops and laptops, and Google Chromebooks. There's no remote required.

To manage your Chromecast devices, go to the Google Home app or use the Google Cast button in your browser.

You need the following in order to use Chromecast:

  • A TV/display with an HDMI input
  • Access to an open power outlet or open USB port on your TV/display
  • Access to Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4G network for Chromecast first generation or Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac 2.4/5G network for Chromecast second generation and Chromecast Ultra)
  • Google Home mobile app on a compatible Android device or iOS device
  • Chrome browser on a compatible Windows computer, Mac computer, or Chromebook computer
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  • Chromecast (first generation): Plug one end of the USB power cable into your Chromecast and the other end of the cable into the power supply and then into a nearby power outlet. If you do not have access to an open outlet, you can also power your Chromecast by plugging the USB power cord directly into an open USB port on your TV. From there, plug your Chromecast into any open HDMI input on your TV.
  • Chromecast (second generation and Ultra): Plug one end of the USB power cable into your Chromecast and the other end of the cable into the power supply. From there, plug your Chromecast into any open HDMI input on your TV, and plug the power supply into an open outlet.

Once your Chromecast is plugged in and powered, you should see the Chromecast screen on your TV. If you do not see it, use the input or source button on your TV’s remote to change the input until you see the Chromecast screen.

On your mobile device, tablet, or laptop, download the Google Home app. Then, follow the app's setup instructions (also available here). The app will automatically find your Chromecast and prompt you to connect it to the same Wi-Fi network connected to your mobile device. It's important that your Chromecast and mobile device are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Otherwise, you cannot cast from your mobile device to your TV.

You will also see an option to name your Chromecast, which is handy if you have multiple Chromecast devices and want to cast to a specific one. If you're having difficulty setting up your Chromecast through the Google Home app, contact the Chromecast Support Team for more assistance.

First of all, make sure you're using the latest version of Chrome by navigating to Settings > About Google Chrome. Then, update your Chrome browser to the latest version. If you're having trouble, here's how to update Chrome. Once that's done, navigate to chromecast.com/setup from the Chrome browser to setup Chromecast for your computer.

This will automatically find your Chromecast and prompt you to connect it to the same Wi-Fi network connected to your computer. It's important that your Chromecast and computer are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Otherwise, you cannot cast from Chrome to your TV. If you're having difficulty setting up Chromecast on your computer, contact the Chromecast Support Team for more assistance.

Cast from your mobile device

Open a Cast-enabled app. In the corner, tap the Cast button, then tap the Chromecast device you'd like to cast to, and wait for the content to appear on your TV. When you're connected, the Cast button will turn colour. You can also cast your Android screen to your TV. Simply open the Google Cast app and tap the navigation drawer. From there, tap the Cast Screen button and select your Chromecast device.

Cast from Chrome on your computer

There are several ways to cast content from the Chrome browser on your computer. First, go to a cast-enabled site like youtube.com or netflix.com, then click the Cast icon in the bottom right corner of the video player, and wait for the site to appear on your TV. Alternatively, navigate to the Chrome Settings menu in the Chrome toolbar, then click"Cast...", and choose the Chromecast device you would like to cast to.

You could also open a tab in Chrome browser, then right click on the webpage, and click Cast. This FAQ page has more informaton about how to cast browser tabs.

Visit this FAQ page to learn more about casting from a Cast-enabled app versus a Chrome tab. Also, Pocket-lint has a guide on 10 ways to enhance your Chromecast streaming experience.