How to Use WhatsApp on Your Computer

Enjoy a larger display and the use of your keyboard while chatting

WhatsApp displayed on laptop screen
Shutterstock

Founded in 2009 by two ex-Yahoo! employees, WhatsApp has experienced incredible success as a completely free method for sending texts and files, as well as making phone calls, to anyone else with the app.

The app is truly multiplatform and is available for a wide variety of phones, including iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Nokia, and Windows devices. If you're like many users, you might not realize you can use it in yet another convenient way, too: on your laptop or desktop computer.

WhatsApp has provided a web client for some time now, so you can access the WhatsApp interface from your computer right in your browser window. In May 2016, the app's makers also launched a standalone desktop client, referred to as WhatsApp Desktop, available for Mac OS X 10.9 and up, and Windows 8 and newer. You can use WhatsApp from a phone, through the website, and via the WhatsApp Desktop app.

WhatsApp Web Versus WhatsApp Desktop

The two apps are very similar, but the WhatsApp Desktop version offers two unique features, and the web client is much more mobile.

With WhatsApp Desktop, you can use keyboard shortcuts during your chat, and notifications can be sent directly to your desktop. It also seems more robust and more like a typical program; after all, it is a regular program that's installed like any other.

WhatsApp Web, on the other hand, is much easier if you're new to the program. All you have to do is log in to the website from any browser through their link. All your messages instantly appear no matter what computer you're using, where it is, and whether it's public or private.

Otherwise, both versions of WhatsApp operate exactly the same and let you send pictures, text, files, and more.

How to Use WhatsApp From a Computer

If you don't have the mobile app, you'll need to download it before setting up WhatsApp to use on your computer.

Then, visit WhatsApp Web for a browser version, or download the desktop program via the Download WhatsApp page.

If you're using the desktop version, select the download link that corresponds with your computer's operating system (Windows or Mac).

Once opened, the desktop program and web client will show a large QR Code.

WhatsApp QR code on a Mac computer
  Vanessa Sands
  1. Open WhatsApp from your phone.

  2. Navigate to Settings > WhatsApp Web/Desktop.

  3. Scroll down and choose Scan QR Code. Your phone might ask for permission to use the camera. Allow it.

  4. Hold your phone up to the computer screen to scan the QR code. It will do everything automatically; you just have to point the camera in that direction.

    Three iOS WhatsApp screens showing WhatsApp Web/Desktop button, Settings button for camera permissions, and the QR scanning interface
    Vanessa Sands
  5. The WhatsApp client will open immediately and show you any messages you already have on your phone. You can then close down WhatsApp on your phone and use it from your computer.

More Information on WhatsApp Desktop and Web

WhatsApp initially generated revenue by charging for downloads — a one-time fee of $.99 for iPhone users and an annual $.99 charge for Android users. However, WhatsApp hit the big payday in 2014 when Facebook acquired it for $19 billion, and the company did away with fees. In February 2016, WhatsApp announced that a billion people were using the messaging platform.

WhatsApp offers some fun features that make it worthwhile to experiment with. WhatsApp Desktop allows you to browse your hard drive for photos, videos, and documents that you can send right in the chat interface. Make sure the receiver is using the latest version of WhatsApp Desktop to ensure the most recent features are enabled.

If your computer has a webcam, you can access it directly in the interface to take a photo that you can send via chat. Another feature unique to WhatsApp Desktop is voice-recorded messages. Start a recording by clicking on the microphone on the bottom right of the interface, and record a verbal message.

Additionally, given WhatsApp’s huge user base, you probably already have friends who use the service, so you can start interacting and chatting right away.

Limitations

While WhatsApp Web and WhatsApp Desktop are convenient to use while you’re on your computer and enable you to chat comfortably using your keyboard, there are some limitations. Several features available on your mobile device are not available on your computer.

For instance, with WhatsApp Desktop, you don’t have the option to invite people from your address book to join WhatsApp. You also can’t share your location or a map, which are two key features in the mobile version.

You must have WhatsApp installed on your phone to use the WhatsApp Web and WhatsApp Desktop clients. The application syncs directly with your mobile device, so a Wi-Fi connection is necessary to avoid racking up data charges.

Also, you can have either WhatsApp Web or WhatsApp Desktop open at any given time — not both; having both open automatically shuts down the program not being used.