Apple users who have Macs, iPhones, and iPads enjoy a high level of integration between these devices. Windows users have every reason to envy this, but there’s good news. If you have a Windows computer (running Windows 10 or 11) and an Android phone or tablet, you can link them together and have a little taste of the integrated life.
How to Connect Your Android Device to Windows
The process of linking your Windows PC with your Android is pretty easy. You’ll first need to download a companion app on your phone and then link the PC from there. For the purpose of this tutorial we’re using a Windows 11 PC.
1. Download the Link to Windows App
To get started with the linking process, go to your Android device and open the Google Play Store app. Search for an app called Link to Windows.
Note: Some brands of phones already have the Link to Windows app pre-installed, for instance the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. The majority of handsets however require a quick manual installation.
Install the app on your device and then open it.
Inside the app, tap on the “Link your phone and PC” button.
From here, we have to go to the Windows 11 system to continue the setup.
2. Link the Two Devices
- On your computer, open the Start Menu and search for the “Phone Link” app.
- With the app open, click “Get Started”
- Next, tick the box labeled “I have the Link to Windows app already”, then click “Pair With QR Code”
- Back on your Android device, you can now tap “Continue” and the camera should activate.
- Point it at the QR code on the Windows 11 computer’s screen and wait for it to recognize it.
- You’ll be asked to give the app the necessary permissions for it to work. It’s best to say “Yes” to everything and to allow the app to always run in the background. If you don’t, it may function poorly or not at all.
- Once you get the “You’re all set!” message, click “Continue” to start using the app.
The first time the app opens, you’ll be presented with several tutorial windows and tips. Read through these if you like or dismiss them to get straight to the app itself.
Start Using Phone Link
Send Text Messages
These days, few smartphone users still send text messages. Since most of the popular messaging apps have Windows desktop clients, there’s no real need to bother with expensive text messaging.
However, text messages are still useful to receive. Especially when it comes to two-factor authentication. By syncing your text messages to the Phone Link app, you can easily see and grab codes directly on your computer where you need them.
There’s no special setup needed for text messages as there is for notifications. As soon as the basic setup of the app is complete you should see your SMS under the Messages tab. You can even send text messages by pressing on the “Send Message” button, if for some reason you ever need to.
View Photos From Your Phone
The Phone Link app offers a fast way to get photos taken with your Android device onto your computer. There’s no further setup required here either. Just click on the “Photos” tab in the Windows app and you’ll see your most recent photos, ready to copy to your computer.
Of course, if you’re an Android user you can achieve a similar result by syncing your Android device photos with the Google Photos app. Then you can simply go to photos.google.com on your PC and all of your uploaded photos will be there.
One of the most useful features of the Phone Link app is the ability to make and receive calls from your computer. Effectively your Windows 11 computer acts as a Bluetooth headset. Naturally, you’ll need a microphone, preferably a headset.
- Select the “Calls” tab on the Windows Phone Link App and click on “Get Started”
- You’ll see a Bluetooth pairing request. Check that the pins match on both devices and then approve the connection.
- The Phone Link app will now ask to send permissions to display calls. Click the “Send Permission” button and then approve the request on your phone.
- After approving call permissions, you’ll also have to repeat the process for call history, by clicking “Send permission” again and once again approving it on the phone.
- Now you can use the dialer in the calls tab to phone whomever you like!
Useful Sidebar Features
The sidebar of the Phone Link app contains a few genuinely useful controls and info icons that allow you to:
- See the battery and signal status of your phone at a glance.
- Toggle your phone’s sound on and off or put it into silent mode.
- Control media playback.
- View notifications.
This is also where you’ll see the connection status between your phone and Windows computer, and below the four button toggles you’ll see your notifications. If you don’t see any notifications on your PC, go back on your phone. Head to “Settings-> Apps-> Link to Windows”. Then under “Privacy” make sure that “Notifications” is set to “Allowed”.
Special Features Limited to Select Devices
All the Phone Link features we’ve outlined so far are universal to every Android device that can run the app, but there are a few special features currently reserved for a few very specific handsets. Microsoft maintains a list of Phone Screen compatible handsets (spoiler: it’s mostly Samsung phones).
- If your phone is on that list you can click on “Phone Screen” in the Phone Link app on Windows and follow the instructions.
- Just as with Notifications and Calls, you’ll have to enable the requested permissions on your phone.
- You’ll also have to keep your phone and Windows computer on the same Wi-Fi network.
- With “Phone Screen” activated, you’ll see a streamed version of your phone screen and can interact with it using the mouse pointer. That includes launching apps on your phone and operating them remotely.
- If you see the Apps tab, that means you’re good to go for running apps remotely. Simply click on the app your want to run and it should launch using screen mirroring. You may have to click the “Unlock” button first.
The final special feature is the ability to drag and drop files between your Android device and Windows. At the time of writing this feature is limited to Surface Duo and Samsung devices with One UI 2.1 or higher.
Phone Link Changes Everything
While Phone Link sounds like a simple app in theory, in practice it may be one of the most useful features in Windows 10 and Windows 11. Eliminating all the little bits of time we sacrifice when checking on our phones during the day can be a fantastic productivity booster and you may wonder how you lived without this helpful software before.
Microsoft will undoubtedly continue to refine what Phone Link can do going forward, but the biggest downside is that there’s no equivalent feature for iPhone users. Whether that’s a limitation imposed by Apple, Microsoft, or both, it’s a shame that iPhone owners who also happen to be Windows users (and there are many) can’t access what should be a universal feature.
Image credit: Google Play Store | All screenshots by Sydney Butler
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