WhatsApp is the instant-messaging app of choice for many smartphone users, but when your battery is dead or you don't have your phone to hand you can suddenly find yourself isolated with no access to your messages. By logging into WhatsApp on a computer, however, you can ensure you are always contactable, especially while you're at work.

Although it is possible to install WhatsApp on a tablet, and arguably on a computer using the same process with Android virtualisation software, it's not something we'd recommend. The WhatsApp app can be active on only one device at a time, which means to have separate instances on your phone and tablet you must have two separate accounts. Leaving aside the fact your contacts won't know on which account to reach you, there's also the small problem that you need a unique phone number to set up each account.

WhatsApp Web is a far more attractive solution for ensuring you can read and respond to messages on any device. It's completely free to use and requires only a small amount setup, after which you stay logged in until you actively log out. We'll take you through the short process below.

Log into WhatsApp in a web browser

  • On your smartphone launch WhatsApp, tap the three dots icon and choose WhatsApp Web
  • Tap the + icon in the top right corner to launch your smartphone camera
  • On the device on which you want to access WhatsApp head to web.whatsapp.com
  • You should now see a QR code on your tablet or PC display; point the phone camera at this to connect the two

WhatsApp Web QR code

WhatsApp Web will automatically launch in the browser, and will remain active until you logout either on your computer or on your phone.

You can achieve this on your phone by returning to the WhatsApp Web menu and choosing Log out from all devices, or on your PC by tapping the three dots icon at the top of the conversation thread, then choosing Log out.   

How to install WhatsApp on a computer

Rather than logging in through the browser, WhatsApp now also offers a desktop client for PC or Mac that can be downloaded from whatsapp.com/download.

Click the green Download button to download the installer file to your computer, then find that file in your Downloads folder and double-click it to install. On a Windows PC you should follow the steps in the installer' on a Mac simply drag the WhatsApp icon to your Applications folder.

WhatsApp Desktop App

Launch the WhatsApp desktop app. As in the web browser version of WhatsApp Web you'll be prompted to scan a QR code, so take your phone, open the settings menu and choose WhatsApp Web. Then point the phone's camera at the QR code displayed onscreen.

The app will keep you logged into WhatsApp until you choose to log out.