Wednesday, December 24, 2014

How to improve your Chromecast connection experience

For regular readers, I've been pretty sick the past few days and I apologize for the pause. Thank you for returning. If you're new here, hey, you're welcome, too. And now let us return to my blog.

About a year ago, I bought a Chromecast and I loved it as long it would just work. Often it would work, just as often it would not. The problem was not in the operation, the problem was in the connection and I spent many months trying to figure out what was going on.

See, everytime I turned on my TV, and then turned on Chromecast, I would have to then use the Chromecast app on my phone (my remote control device of choice) to scan the network for a Chromecast device. But most times, my phone just could not connect. Before I found the solution I will present today, I will say that my experience with Chromecast was far worse with Centurylink's router than with my own router when I was a Comcast subscriber. This is true even when the wifi router is sitting right under the Chromecast dongle.

I've made a very thorough investigation of this problem by trying anything and everything that I can find to fix it. I've tried rebooting my phone, powercycling my TV, powercycling the router, powercycling the Chromecast itself, disconnecting the Chromecast from any power for 30 minutes (hey, it worked once) doing a factory reset of the Chromecast, getting my phone as close to the wifi router as possible, toggling wifi on the phone and doing a wifi dance to the heavens in the hopes that this ritual would someday be obsolete. None of that worked.

Except that today, I happened to be reading a forum that discussed the pros and cons of connecting the Chromecast to the USB port on the TV for power (newer TVs have this sort of thing) vs providing power to the Chromecast with a USB/AC power adapter. Although I didn't notice any comments suggesting a difference in performance, I did notice that with AC power, the Chromecast was always powered on.

I read on. No one indicated any problems with using the AC power supply and keeping it there. Hmmm. Where is that power supply? I had no idea where it was. I just went through 3 weeks of moving and delivering a baby daughter. My mind was a mess and I had been really sick for 3 days. A good chunk of my life was in boxes, some of which I didn't pack myself, and they were in the basement.

I went looking for the adapter in the most likely places in the basement to no avail. I searched for pricing on a replacement adapter. There were plenty to be had for reasonable prices, but then there is shipping. So little time, so much to do.

Then it occurred to me that I had plenty of spare power adapters, but many of them were special purpose units for a particular phone. Yes, I was considering the use of a USB/AC adapter originally intended for a phone. I know it's important to use the adapter that came with the box, but consider this: the output voltages of USB adapters are pretty low to begin with and the output voltage of the USB port on a TV are about the same. I don't see how there could be a safety or technical concern, but if you know of one, post a comment.

Anyway, regardless of which AC adapter you use, be sure it's one that accepts a standard USB plug. I just happened to have the original cable that came with the Chromecast already there. All I needed was a better power source, the key point being that the power supply was always on.

So once I got the new adapter ready to go, I plugged in the cable to the power adapter and then plugged the adapter into the wall socket. Then I watched the Chromecast boot up with the TV off. As the Chromecast powers up, there is an LED on the top toward the end that receives the power. Watch that as it starts red and if boot is successful, it turns white. If you get white you're good to go.

Then I did a factory reset and ran through the setup routine again. The first thing you see during setup is a code on the screen and then a code on your phone. If they match, tap, "I see the code." Then you will be prompted to connect the Chromecast to your wifi network. If your wifi network is password protected, you will be prompted for the password, so enter your password at that point.

I know this seems like a lot of effort, but after going through this so many times, I got really interested in making this the last time I have to do this for a long, long time. The bottom line is this: having AC power directly to your Chromecast will yield far greater satisfaction than using the USB port on your TV as a power source for your Chromecast.

It's worth noting that in my search results, I didn't find any discussion of this problem, so perhaps this is an isolated case. But the fact that I had the same experience in two different houses with different hardware, changes in the distance between the Chromecast and the router, and removal of obstructions (walls) between the router and the Chromecast, suggested otherwise.

I believe that this kind of behavior occurs enough to befuddle more than a few Chromecast fans out there, so I hope you find this post helpful and welcome your comments.
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