How to Use WhatsApp on Your Computer

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

Using WhatsApp on desktop
Chat comfortably on your desktop or laptop computer using WhatsApp. Shutterstock

Chances are you’ve heard of, or are already using, WhatsApp. It was founded in 2009 by two ex-Yahoo! employees and 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 multi-platform, available for a wide variety of phones including iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Nokia, and Windows devices. However, did you know that you can also use WhatsApp on your laptop or desktop computer?

WhatsApp has provided a web client for some time now, meaning that you can access the WhatsApp interface from your PC right in your browser window. In May of 2016, they 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. This means you can use WhatsApp from a phone, through the website, and via the WhatsApp Desktop app.

WhatsApp Online vs WhatsApp Desktop

So what’s the difference between WhatsApp online and the WhatsApp desktop client? They are very similar, however, the WhatsApp Desktop offers two unique features, and the web client is much more "mobile."

With WhatsApp Desktop, you have the ability to use keyboard shortcuts during your chat, and notifications can be sent directly to your desktop. It also seems more robust and like a normal program because, well, it is a regular program that's installed like any other.

WhatsApp online, on the other hand, is much easier to start using. All you have to do is log in to the website from any browser through the link you'll find in the next section below, and all your messages instantly appear no matter what computer you're using, be it your own at home or a public one.

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

How to Use WhatsApp From a Computer

As previously discussed, there are three ways to use WhatsApp. We're assuming you already have the mobile app, but if not, go ahead and download it. You'll need it to get started using WhatsApp from your PC.

Then, to use WhatsApp from your PC, visit either the WhatsApp Web page for a browser version or download the desktop program via the Download WhatsApp page.

If you're using the desktop version, make sure to select the download link that corresponds with your computer's operating system; either the Windows or Mac link.

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

Screenshots showing how to log in to WhatsApp on a computer using the mobile app
  1. Open WhatsApp from your phone.

  2. Navigate to Settings > WhatsApp Web/Desktop.

  3. Scroll down and choose Scan QR Code.

  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.

  5. The WhatsApp client will open immediately, and show you any messages you already have on your phone. You can now close down the WhatsApp app on your phone and use it from your computer.

More Information on WhatsApp Desktop and WhatsApp Online

WhatsApp initially generated revenue by charging for downloads — a one-time fee of $.99 from iPhone users and an annual $.99 charge for Android users. However, it hit the big payday in 2014 when it was acquired by Facebook for $19B so, there is no longer a fee to use the program. In February of 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, or 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’re able to 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, it's likely that you have friends who are already using the service, so you can start interacting and chatting right away.

Limitations of WhatsApp Online and WhatsApp Desktop

While WhatsApp Online and WhatsApp Desktop are convenient to use while you’re on your computer and enable you to comfortably chat 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 in order to use the WhatsApp Online and WhatsApp Desktop clients. The application syncs directly with your mobile device, so be sure to be connected to a Wi-Fi network in order to avoid racking up expensive data charges.

Also, you can only have either WhatsApp Online or WhatsApp Desktop open at any given time; having one open with the other will automatically shut down the one not being used.