An Apple TV connected to a TV enables you to stream the Mac’s desktop or media files and watch on a big screen. Here is how to stream the Mac desktop or videos to a TV without Apple TV.
There are many smart TVs that have built in features to enable devices to connect to them, display programming guides, play media and show streaming video on demand services. There are also dongles to plug into any type of TV that provide these features like Chromecast and Apple TV.
With an Apple Mac and an Apple TV plugged into a smart or dumb TV, it is very easy to mirror the Mac’s screen on a big TV, but the Mac does not have any support for any other dongles or smart TVs.
This is a problem because I have a TV in the lounge with an Apple TV plugged into it. However, I have another TV in another room with a Chromecast dongle. How do you stream from the Mac to the Chromecast to see the Mac and videos on the TV?
Cast an Apple Mac to a Chromecast
If you have Chrome browser on your Mac, it is possible to connect it to a Chromecast that is attached to a TV, smart or otherwise. Both are Google products of course, so you might expect it. All you need to do is to go to Chrome’s menu and select Cast. A new icon appears in the toolbar and you can select the Chromecast and choose whether to send just the current browser tab, the desktop or a file to the TV.
If you are on YouTube, an Play on TV icon appears in the video controller toolbar at the bottom to enable Chromecast too. This is great when streaming videos because only the video is sent to the TV and not the whole web browser tab with all the clutter. You see just the video on TV.
The security features in macOS Catalina have caused problems for casting in Chrome. It is possible to send the contents of a browser tab or a YouTube video to a Chromecast and TV, but you cannot send the desktop. There is a menu option to select it, but it does nothing. This makes casting limited to what can be displayed in Chrome browser.
Some people have managed to solve the problem by opening System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy. Select Screen Recording in the list and enable sh on the right. You might need to enable sh in Accessibility too. The problem is, some people don’t have an item called sh or enabling it does not solve the problem.
Enable screen recording for Chrome
There is a solution and it is possible for Chrome to cast the Mac desktop to a Chromecast by enabling some hidden settings.
Enter chrome://flags into Chrome’s address box and enable:
- Focus Mode
- Load Media Router Component Extension
- Connect to Cast devices on all IP addresses
- Mirroring service.
Restart Chrome after making these changes. Then open System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Screen Recording. Google Chrome now appears and can be enabled.
Now you can select the desktop for casting in Chrome and it appears on the TV. System sounds come from the Mac and not the TV though.
Stream to Chromecast or TV with JustStream
JustStream (website | Mac App Store) is an alternative and in some ways it is better than casting with Chrome. The Mac app enables you to stream media like videos or to mirror the Mac desktop on a TV and it supports Chromecast on any TV, plus direct connect to televisions like Samsung Smart TV, Roku TV, LG TV, Apple TV, and Sony TV.
The app adds an icon to the menu bar on the Mac and clicking it opens a panel. At the top in the Screens section is the Mac’s screen. Selecting this and then selecting your Chromecast or smart TV at the bottom mirrors the Mac desktop on the TV. I only have a Chromecast, but smart TVs will appear on this menu too.
The TV shows a live picture of the Mac’s desktop. I found a delay of about 5 seconds between the Mac’s screen and what appeared on the TV screen. This prevents the TV from being used as a computer monitor, but it is OK for showing off videos, apps, images and so on, such as in a business presentation or showing off your photos to family and friends.
Click the Plus button in the JustStream panel and you can select media files like videos and build up a playlist of items to watch on the TV. This worked well and there are useful controls for adjust the audio volume, play position, subtitles, audio track selection and so on.
In JustStream settings, you can choose to capture the mouse cursor, mouse clicks, scale the image to fit and select the resolution when mirroring the Mac desktop to a TV.
Can your Wi-Fi network cope with streaming? There are options to select the quality of the video stream, the bitrate and the buffer size. The default Original quality and Auto bitrate should be fine, but if the video playback is not smooth, you can experiment with lower bitrates.
The free version of JustStream will stream up to 40 minutes and then drop the connection. However, you can start it again and watch another 40 minutes. Buy the full version for $19.95 and this limitation is removed and there are no interruptions to the playback.
I have been using the free version and it works fine. I recommend you try it to check that it works with your smart TV or Chromecast before paying for the full version.