Google’s Chromecast is the epitome of a software-first device. Nearly all of its capabilities are defined by software, and usually not even software that is in Chromecast.
But the Chromecast, for all its handheld simplicity, has a single hardware button: an emergency reset button on the back. It is a testament to the importance and reliability of physical inputs on software solutions.
Odds are, most people will never use Chromecast’s reset button. Whether you have an original Chromecast, a second-generation model, or a 4K Chromecast Ultra, this button has only one function: if all else fails, you can revert the hardware to “refresh-to-factory” with a factory-reset. You can hold it to do this. “Box” Settings.
(The process is actually an interesting one: pressing the button forces Chromecast to boot into USB boot mode, where it looks for a local copy of a signed system image and loads it. Entrepreneur users have given this Tried to use to load the system. Their own software on Chromecast too!)
This is not a button press that can be taken lightly: Google warns in bold lettering on its support page that “this action will clear your data and cannot be undone.” This is the only type of thing you will use when you are selling your hardware or running on so many serious issues that the only solution is a clean slate. Even activating it requires more attention than a simple restart, with users holding down the small oval button on the back to make sure they really want to do so.
But it is not the system itself or the mechanism of physical hardware (it is not a particularly exciting button) that is attractive about the Chromecast reset button. Is that there is also a button on it all.
Google’s Chromecast is one of the simplest plug-and-play devices. You take it out of the box, connect it to the power and an HDMI port, and you’re good to go. There is also no remote or power button. You simply plug it in, and it works without any user intervention. Then you need another device to control everything about Chromecast, from the setup you want to stream.
This is except for this one function: because such a simple device that relies too heavily on software is subject to the vagina of software. Maybe you can’t get your Chromecast to connect to your Wi-Fi or your phone refuses to recognize the connection. Hardware is the last resort. This is a way to reset normally, which cannot be compromised by software issues until the physical button is broken or the entire device boots.
And that’s why even on a digitally focused device like Chromecast, there’s still a button to press – just in case.