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How to Send and Receive Text Messages From a Windows Laptop

Gizmodo Australia logo Gizmodo Australia 2/02/2023 Zachariah Kelly

Apple devices have had support for viewing text messages and notifications from iPhones on MacBooks and iMacs for many years, and for a long time, you couldn't do the same on Windows PCs.

That was up until last year when Microsoft released a new app for Windows 10 and Windows 11 PCs - Phone Link. I've been using Phone Link for about four months now, having upgraded to Windows 11 with the goal of maximising my experience with the new OS (especially after the brilliant 22H2 update).

Let's explain how you can view Android text messages and notifications from your phone on Windows.

How to view text messages and phone notifications on Windows 10 and Windows 11

What you'll need to do first is install Microsoft Phone Link on both your Windows PC and your phone. This app is exclusive to Windows 10 and 11, so if you're still using Windows 7 or 8.1, you'll need to upgrade (which you should be doing anyway, due to support ending). It could also already be installed on your computer, but if it's not, you can search for 'Phone Link' on the Microsoft Store and install it via the client.

As for your phone, you can find Link to Windows on the Google Play Store. Just download it, and we'll get started on setting it up.

Now you'll need to set the app up. We'll walk you through the steps required.

How to setup Windows Phone Link and Android Link to Windows

  • Download both applications, as directed above
  • Open Link to Windows on your phone and Phone Link on your Windows PC
  • On your phone: Now, tap 'Link your phone and PC'
  • On the PC: Click 'Link new device', followed by 'Get Started'
  • On the PC: Tick the 'I have the Link to Windows app ready' box, and then click 'Pair with QR code' (you can also pair manually using a seperate code, without needing to give camera permissions for scanning the code)
  • On your phone: Tap 'Continue', followed by 'Review permissions'.

We're going to take a small break here to let you in on the privacy concerns.  The Link to Windows app requires fairly extensive access to your phone to operate correctly. This includes needing to access your camera (for scanning the QR code), call logs (for making calls from the PC), microphone, contacts, location, music and audio, nearby devices, phone calls, photos and videos (for transferring to your computer) and SMS utility (for sending messages from the app).

The app can function without some of these enabled, but there are some features you won't get on PC without having select features enabled. If a feature isn't working due a privacy permission being not allowed, the PC app will tell you, but keep your personal privacy in mind. If you're curious about the kind of data the app claims to collect and how it treats your data, there's a page on the Google Play Store covering this information.

  • On your phone: Scan the QR code
  • On your phone: You will now be prompted to review wider permissions on the app that we touched on earlier, which are required "to help your phone and PC work together", according to the app screen at this stage. App permissions will appear as popups and you're welcome to not allow the ones that you don't want the app to access (such as photos if you don't want to do image transfers to your PC from your phone)
  • On your phone: You'll now need to let the app refresh in the background, although it does warn you on this screen that this setting can impact battery life. Tap 'Continue' and then click 'Allow' in the pop-up. If this setting isn't enabled, the app will need to be open at all times for computer connectivity to work
  • On your PC: Once you've enabled app refresh, check your computer. You should be told that you're all set.

That's it, really. Your Windows PC should now be able to send and receive text messages, read notifications and get reminders that would previously only appear on your phone.

How to unpair your phone from Windows Phone Link

To unpair your phone from Phone Link, open the PC app, then click the settings icon (a mechanical cog) in the top right corner. Then, click 'My Devices', click the dots in the top right of the device you want to unpair, and click 'Remove', then 'Yes, Remove'.

Can I use phone link on iOS?

At the moment, Link to Windows is only available on Android devices. Sorry, Apple users.

As for the Android users reading this article, I hope you get as much value out of this feature as I do.

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