How to Use Instagram on a PC or Mac

Upload photos from your computer

Image of a laptop computer with Instragram for the Web pulled up on the screen, and a potted plant in the background.

People want to know how to use Instagram on a computer so they can upload photos to the social media app from their PC or Mac.

But the free Instagram app is designed for taking, editing and sharing images on mobile phones, rather than desktop machines. Its special effects or filters for enhancing pictures are a big part of its popularity, so, naturally, a lot of people want to use those filters on their regular computers in addition to their phones.

Instagram App for PC

Historically, using Instragram on the PC has been difficult. Since 2013, Instagram users have had access to their Instragram feed on the web, and they've had some capabilities for saving photos from Instagram. Unfortunately, that web feed and Instagram's website does not allow uploading images directly from a computer; they're simply designed to display what people have uploaded from mobile devices on the Web and to give each user their own area on the website. (You can find your Web area by substituting your Instagram user ID for "username" in this URL: http://instagram.com/username).

A lot of people enjoy Instagram so much that they really want to be able to use a full-featured version on their laptops or desktop computers. That way, they figure they can take photos with a higher quality digital camera, stick the memory card into their computer and upload images to Instagram's website, then use the app's special effects to enhance each picture (or video, which Instagram added in June 2013; see our step-by-step Instagram video tutorial).

The folks at Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) listened. In Spring 2016, the Instagram for Windows apps became available in the Microsoft Store. Of course, it's still only available on Windows 8 and Windows 10 PCs, so older computers still need a workaround in order to post pictures to Instagram.

Workarounds for Instagram on Older PCs and Macs

There has to be a workaround for PCs that don't have access to the Windows Store, right? Well, sort of. Various tech-savvy folks have come up with workarounds, but they aren't for the technologically faint of heart. One solution is to install a special software program designed to simulate a mobile phone operating system on your computer (called a phone emulator) and allow you to run mobile apps that way.

An example of an emulator is the BlueStacks App Player, shown above. You can try downloading the app and installing it on your computer. Once it's installed and running, search for "Instagram" using the app's search interface and install it on your computer. Be advised, though, that many technical glitches have been reported by folks trying to get Bluestacks to work with Instagram on a PC or Mac. Instagram typically will run, allowing you to see photos that other people have uploaded, but you'll still need to install a media uploader in order to upload your pictures to Instagram. An example of such a program is Flume (for Mac).

If you're a Windows users, another app called Gramblr (shown above) offers an uploader that is simpler to install and use, but only if you have a Windows PC. While Gramblr is supposed to be compatible with Macs, it's had a lot of compatibility issues on the Apple side of things. And even on the PC, side there are challenges -- you have to fork over your Instagram password, for example, since it uses Instagram's API.

Perhaps the lowest-tech solution is email--just email the photo you want to share on Instagram to yourself, then access that email on your mobile phone and fire up Instagram.

Yet another workaround for sharing your non-mobile photos on Instagram is to use Dropbox, the free cloud-based storage app, and upload your photos to Dropbox. Then go to your phone or tablet and access your free area on Dropbox, find the photos you want to share, and share them on Instagram. This option doesn't give you access to Instagram's filters for those pictures but does at least let you share them on Instagram.

Other Instagram Apps for PC and Mobile

Plenty of other Instagram-related programs exist for desktop computers (but not specifically for uploading photos to Instagram.) For example, one is called Instagram for PC. It's an older site, and you probably want to navigate it carefully because it seems to be ad-heavy, but if you have an older machine, this app might help you access Instagram on your PC.

And of course you can get Instagram for your mobile phone. Just visit the iTunes App Store (for iPhones) or the Google Play store (for Android phones.)

Apps that are Similar to Instagram

If you want to apply special effects from your computer, try some other photo apps that do things similar to Instagram. Two good ones are Pixlr and Poladroid.net, which run from a standard Web browser and include some cool vintage filter effects.

Instagram FAQs

For the latest info, check out the official Instagram FAQs and User's Guide on its website.

It said in April 2018: "When you take a photo or video on Instagram, you'll have the option to turn sharing on or off for each of the social networks (like Facebook or Twitter) you want to share to."