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How to turn on Chrome dark mode: Everything you need to know

How to turn on Chrome dark mode
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Google doesn't make it obvious how to turn on Chrome dark mode, at least not in the desktop browser. In the Chrome app for Android and iOS, enabling the feature is slightly easier, as we'll explain.

Although a dark mode for websites was added to Chrome way back in 2019, in version 78 of the browser, it remains hidden, which means you won't be able to turn it on unless you know exactly where to look.

That's a shame, because dark mode is a very useful browser feature. By eliminating harsh bright light, it helps reduce eye strain when you're browsing the web, especially on sites with white backgrounds, including many of Google's own services.

Dark mode also helps extend battery life when you're using your laptop or mobile device, because dark sites require less power to display.

We'll explain how to turn on Chrome dark mode in the desktop and mobile versions of the browser.

How to turn on Chrome dark mode in Windows

Like many Windows programs, Chrome will switch to dark mode when you set Windows to use its "dark theme." 

However, this doesn't darken the contents of web pages, so it's far from a "full" dark mode. Here's how to turn it on, anyway.

1. Right-click your Windows desktop and choose Personalize from the context menu.

how to turn on Chrome dark mode - personalize

(Image credit: Microsoft)

2. Click Colors under Personalization and select Dark from the "Choose your color" drop-down menu.

how to turn on Chrome dark mode - colors

(Image credit: Microsoft)

3. Alternatively, choose Custom in the menu and select Dark under the option  "Choose your default app mode."

how to turn on Chrome dark mode - custom

(Image credit: Microsoft)

4. Chrome will now switch to a dark theme, which will apply to the browser's toolbars, tabs, menus, settings, and your homepage, but not to websites.

how to turn on Chrome dark mode - Windows

(Image credit: Microsoft)

How to turn on Chrome dark mode for websites

As explained above, activating dark theme in Windows only makes cosmetic changes to the Chrome browser, but not to the contents of web pages.

Chrome's hidden dark mode, however, is much more useful. It reverses the colors in websites to turn white backgrounds to black and black text to white. It also makes images in pages less garish, so they don't strain your eyes. 

Here's how to turn on Chrome's secret dark mode.

1. Open the Chrome desktop browser and type, or copy and paste,  chrome://flags/#enable-force-dark into the address bar. Press Enter to access Chrome's Experiments page.

how to turn on Chrome dark mode - experiments

(Image credit: Google)

2. The option Force Dark Mode for Web Contents will be highlighted at the top of the page. Click the menu next to this and select Enabled.

how to turn on Chrome dark mode - force

(Image credit: Google)

3. Click the Relaunch button in the bottom-right corner of the browser. When Chrome relaunches, dark mode will be applied to the contents of all web pages.

how to turn on dark mode - all websites

(Image credit: Google)

How to turn on Chrome dark mode on Android and iOS

The Chrome mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android phones and tablets makes it easy to turn the Dark theme on (and off) in the browser. 

However, as with the desktop browser, this only applies to menus and settings pages, unless you combine it with the proper dark mode we've described above.

Here's how to turn on full dark mode on Android and iOS.

1. Tap the three-dot button in the top-right corner of the Chrome app and choose Settings from the menu that opens.

how to turn on Chrome dark mode - settings

(Image credit: Google)

2. Swipe down and tap Theme. On the Theme screen, select Dark and the Chrome browser will turn dark. However, when you load a web page, you'll see it's unaffected by the theme.

3. Type chrome:flags into the address bar and press Enter on your phone or tablet keyboard. Type dark into the "Search flags" search box.

how to turn on Chrome dark mode - search

(Image credit: Google)

4. Tap the menu below the option Force Dark Mode for Web Contents and select Enabled. Tap the Relaunch button in the bottom-right corner to apply the change.

how to turn on Chrome dark mode - enabled

(Image credit: Google)

5. Alternatively, to save you delving into Chrome's settings to turn dark mode on and off, select Enabled for the option Darken websites checkbox in themes settings.

how to turn on Chrome dark mode - darken

(Image credit: Google)

6. Relaunch the Chrome app and go back to the Theme screen (see step 2). You'll now see a check box that lets you Darken websites when you turn on the mobile browser's Dark theme

how to turn on Chrome dark mode - checkbox

(Image credit: Google)
Robert Irvine

Robert Irvine is How-To Editor at Tom's Guide. He has been writing tutorials about software, hardware, websites and other tech topics since the days of dial-up modems, and was previously the editor of Web User magazine. Robert enjoys cooking, and makes a mean sausage casserole, but is definitely not the celebrity chef of the same name.