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As an avid fan of Google’s smart home ecosystem, I have more than my fair share of Chromecasts and cast-enabled devices. Over time, I’ve picked up several tips and tricks to improve the experience even more and today, I’m going to share them with you.
Allow Your Chromecast to Control Your TV
If your TV supports HDMI-CEC (most TVs produced in the last few years will), then you can set up your Chromecast to turn it on/off and switch power sources when you cast. This makes the whole experience much more seamless than having to find the TV remote every time.
To enable this, you simply need to ensure it is turned on via your TV settings.
TV manufacturers often adopt different brand names for HDMI-CEC although it is the same thing. Luckily, Google has put together a helpful list of these for you to refer to when checking if your TV is compatible.
Note: Some TVs will turn off the power to the USB ports when the TV is off, if your TV does this you won’t be able to turn the TV on with your Chromecast unless you plug it into an actual wall socket.
Stream Free Music
Your Chromecast opens up a world of opportunity when it comes to streaming music for free. Most notably, YouTube and Spotify are both Chromecast enabled with the ad-supported free tier.
Other free streaming services for Google Home and Chromecast include Soundcloud, Mixcloud, and casting audio or video files stored on your phone using an app such as VLC player.
Control Your Chromecast With Your Voice
If you have a Google Home or Nest smart speaker (or smart display), you can use this to control your Chromecast. You will first need to connect the two together.
To enable this:
- Ensure your Chromecast and smart speaker are set up in the same home within the Google Home app.
- Choose the smart speaker or display and go tap the settings icon at the top left.
- Choose ‘Audio’, then select ‘Default TV’.
- Now you can select your Chromecast from the device list.
You can now instruct your speaker to play, pause, skip forward and backward. Keep in mind that you can only choose one default TV per smart speaker or smart display.
Some apps, such as Youtube or Netflix, have advanced integration that allows you to choose what to watch by asking the speaker ‘Hey Google, play [show name] on Netflix’.
Connect Via a Mobile Hotspot.
If you want to cast movies and TV shows whilst out and about, this clever hack will help you use the Chromecast over a mobile hotspot.
You’ll need two mobile phones or tablets to make this work, although only one of them needs to have an active internet connection.
Here is what to do:
- Use the first phone (with an internet connection) to create a mobile hotspot.
- Connect to the mobile hotspot with the second phone.
- Use the second phone to set up the Chromecast, you will need to have the Google Home app installed for this.
- Once set up, you can continue to use the second phone for casting.
Keep in mind that you’ll be streaming over a data connection so ensure you have enough data in your plan else you’ll rack up a hefty bill.
Sync Audio from Chromecast with Google Home Speakers
A feature called ‘Speaker Groups’ allows you to group together multiple cast-supported devices in your home including Chromecasts, Chromecast Audio, and Google Home or Nest speakers.
With this, you can cast audio to the group and everything will play in sync across. At the moment, it’s not possible to cast a video to the group, although I believe this feature is in the preview program in the US so fingers crossed.
In theory, everything should play seamlessly, but in reality, your Wi-Fi network will have an impact. If you are noticing one speaker isn’t in sync, you can use the ‘group delay correction’ option within the device settings menu to resolve this.
Note: I have not been able to include my first-generation Chromecast within groups so believe it is limited to later generations.
Cast Local Media
Most Chromecast users will be playing media from streaming services, however, you can still use your Chromecast to watch media stored on your phone or PC.
My favourite app to do this is VLC player, it supports almost any audio or video file and can stream this direct to a Chromecast, Chromecast Audio, or any Google Home speaker.
Stop Your Family From Controlling Your Chromecast
I’ve been using Chromecasts as my go-to streaming device for years, but even still my family finds it funny to pause or mute my TV shows and watch me rage.
When the Chromecast first launched, I had to put up with this. However, it didn’t take long before Google came to the rescue. Within the menu of each Chromecast, there is now a setting called ‘Let others control your cast media’ with the three options; Always, While Casting, and Never.
By changing this to ‘Never’, the Chromecast will stop sending out notifications to all Android devices on the Wi-Fi network when you are streaming.
Get a Remote Control
If there’s one thing the Chromecast was always missing, it was a remote. Until now at least.
If you haven’t yet upgraded to the Chromecast with Google TV, I can highly recommend this. As well as all the standard Chromecast abilities, it has a full user interface that is controlled from an included remote control.
The remote can also be programmed to control your TV’s basic functions so you can turn it on/off and change the volume with the Chromecast remote.
Stop Google From Tracking Your Activity
Google is quietly tracking your Chromecast usage in the background including which apps and domains you cast. This data is then used for providing personalised recommendations to you and for improving future Chromecast features.
If you’re concerned about privacy, Google has provided you with the option to turn off this tracking. To do this:
- Open the Google Home app
- Select your Chromecast device and choose the settings icon
- Look for ‘Send Chromecast device usage data and crash reports to Google’
- Toggle this on or off as you wish
This is also available for TVs with Chromecast built-in devices under the Chromecast settings in the menu.
Keep in mind that many of the apps you use will also have tracking enabled. For example, if you are casting Netflix, they will still receive your usage data.
See Who’s At the Door Without Leaving the Sofa.
If you have a video doorbell that works with Google Home, you can set it up to stream a picture-in-picture feed from your front door whenever someone is present.
This is ideal if the doorbell rings right in the middle of a film or TV show.
To set this up, you’ll also need to have a smart speaker or display that is linked to the Chromecast. This can be set up in the Google Home app.
You’ll also be able to ask the smart speaker to bring up the feed on your Chromecast at any time using the command “Hey Google, Show [doorbell name] on [Chromecast name]”.
Use Guest Mode
Ordinarily, you need to be on the same Wi-Fi network as a Chromecast in order to cast any media to it. However, that’s not always ideal.
This is why my next Chromecast tip is to make use of Guest mode. This allows anyone in the same room to cast media to the device. It’s ideal if you’re hosting a party and your guests want to put on their favourite playlist.
To enable guest mode:
- Open the Google Home app
- Choose your Chromecast and tap the settings icon in the top corner
- Select ‘Guest mode’ and toggle it to the on position
Your guests should now be able to connect. In the first instance, the Chromecast will attempt to use inaudible audio tones to connect automatically, however, if it cannot detect this then you’ll need to use the 4 digit pin which will be displayed on the ambient screen or in the settings menu.
Personalise the Home Screen
By default, the Chromecast background will display curated images from Google when not in use. These images are stunning high-res photos that will give you a sense of wanderlust. But, sometimes a bit of personalisation is nice.
You can choose from specific image collections such as fine art, Earth and space, and street art.
However, I recommend you take things a bit further and use your own images. If you use Google Photos, you can select an album for a slideshow, choose to show recent highlights, or you can choose specific people and Google will choose photos featuring them from your library.
To change these settings, choose the Chromecast within the Google Home app and go to the settings menu. Look for ‘Ambient Mode’. Here, you’ll be able to change the photos that are featured as well as deciding whether to choose the time and weather.
Cast From YouTube Without a Subscription
Here’s a top tip that Google probably won’t be happy about me sharing. If you have a Chromecast Audio or a speaker with Chromecast built-in, the only way to listen to YouTube is via a YouTube Premium subscription which will unlock the YouTube Music app for casting.
Well, that’s the only OFFICIAL way. I have a workaround for this using the VLC app for Android. Once you have installed the app, go to the video you wish to stream and select the share icon. Choose ‘Play with VLC’ to open the video in the VLC app.
From here, you can switch to audio only and use the cast icon to stream it to your Chromecast.
This was a whistle-stop explanation, if you’d like more details see my full guide to casting YouTube without a subscription.
Use the Reset Button to Easily Resolve Errors
I find my Chromecast to be much more stable these days than when they first launched, that beign said, they aren’t without issues. One of the most common problems is the ‘could not communicate with your Chromecast’ error which occurs during set up.
My top hack for dealing with errors like this is to perform a reset. This is as simple as holding down the button on the Chromecast for around 15 seconds until the light goes white.
This will put the device back to factory settings so you’ll need to set it up all over again, but usually resolves any issues you’ve been having.
A few more tips and tricks to prevent any Chromecast errors are:
- Ensure your Chromecast has the latest firmware, this can be found in the device settings of the Google Home app.
- If using a dual-band router, try disabling the 5Ghz band when setting up your Chromecast.
- Ensure the power supply is turned on and sufficient for the Chromecast (at least 1 amp).
Speed Up Your Connection with an Ethernet Adapter.
If your Wi-Fi network isn’t quite up to scratch, you can give your Chromecast a wired connection thanks to the ethernet adaptor.
This plugs into the Chromecast via the power cable but has both power and ethernet inputs.
Keep in mind that the adaptor will depend upon which Chromecast you have.
For Google Chromecast 1 / 2 / 3 Generation and Ultra, see this adaptor on Amazon.
For the Chromecast with Google TV, there is a suitable adaptor on the Google Store.
Mirror Your Phone or Laptop Screen.
You might be surprised to hear that not every app supports Chromecast. Whilst there has been improvements over the last few years, there’s a handy workaround for casting from unsupported apps.
You can cast your entire phone screen to a Chromecast, to do this, go to the Google Home app and choose the Chromecast. You’ll notice a ‘cast my screen’ button at the bottom of the screen to begin.
If you’re using a laptop, you can also cast an entire browser tab via the Chrome browser. Again, this is useful for casting unsupported content but can also be used for planning holidays together, during presentations, or to play games on the TV.
If you have a Chromecast Audio or Google Home/Nest speaker, you can cast your phone or browser audio only using the same methods.