What Is Chromecast and What Can It Stream?

Chromecast lets you stream video and music to your TV

Getting into streaming so you can cut the cord with cable companies and control your own fate? Chromecast is a good choice to get started.

What Is Chromecast?

Chromecast is a hardware device developed and manufactured by Google that enables you to stream media to your TV wirelessly.

Rather than using a wired connection, you can use the Chromecast device to stream digital music, video, and images over Wi-Fi. If, for example, you have a movie on your phone but want to watch it on your TV, you can use Chromecast rather than a cable to connect it to your TV — and do so without wires.

Chromecast Design and Features

The Chromecast dongle (second generation) was launched in September 2015 and came in various colors. Its circular design has a built-in flat HDMI cable that plugs into an HDMI port on your HD (high-definition) TV. The back of the dongle is also magnetic, so you can attach the end of the HDMI cable when it's not in use to keep the cable tidy.

Chromecast dongles.
Google, Inc.

The Chromecast device also sports a micro USB port at the other end of the device to power the unit. You can use either a spare USB port on your TV or the power supply that comes with it.

The first generation of the Chromecast looked a bit like a USB flash drive. Google released it in 2013 and still supports it, but the company no longer manufactures this version.

What You Need to Get Chromecast Working on Your TV

To stream media to your TV using the Chromecast device, you must have a Wi-Fi network already set up in your home. Using your wireless router, you can:

  • Stream from a mobile device. You can use your phone or tablet to stream content. Before doing so, you must install the Chromecast app or a Google Cast compatible app on your device.
  • Use it as local storage. If you have a music or video library, you can stream this, too. You can share folders on your computer, an external hard drive, NAS (network-attached storage), etc. You have to make sure it's available as a shared resource on your home network.
  • Stream from the internet. If you're using your laptop or desktop computer to stream music and video, you need to use Google's Chrome web browser or a Chromium-based browser like Edge. The critical advantage of streaming this way is tab casting — in simple terms, mirroring what you see on your device to the big screen.

Online Services You Can Use to Stream Music And Video

For digital music, you can use services from your Chrome browser or mobile device such as:

You can stream music videos and other content using these services (and more):

You can receive live television broadcasts through your internet connection using Chromecast as well. A few of the services compatible with Chromecast include:

These lists are continuously evolving as app providers expand offerings and compatibility, so if you're interested in using a Chromecast with a particular service, check its website for updated information.

  • What's the difference between Chromecast and Roku?

    While both devices are used to stream television and film content and sport many of the same features, they use completely different operating systems and user interfaces. Chromecast is owned by Google and runs on Android, and Roku uses Roku OS. Chromecast can use Google Assistant, while Roku comes with a good remote with many features.

  • Is there a monthly fee to use a Chromecast?

    There is no monthly fee required to use a Chromecast. But, you still need to pay monthly fees to use apps like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. If you don't want to pay for the content on these apps, there are some free alternatives like YouTube, Peacock, Tubi, and Crackle.

  • How do you factory reset a Chromecast?

    Open the Google Home app and select your device > Settings > tap More (three vertical dots) on Android or tap Remove device on iPhone > Factory reset > Factory reset. You can also factory reset a Chromecast using the device itself. Keep in mind, factory resets erase all of your data and can't be undone.

  • How do you connect a Chromecast to Wi-Fi?

    If you have a brand new Chromecast, plug it in and visit the Chromecast setup site to get it up and running. If you want to connect to a Wi-Fi network manually, go into the Google Home app and select your device > Settings > Wi-Fi > Forget > Forget network, then connect to the new Wi-Fi network.

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