Microsoft has long offered the ability to pair and sync your smartphone with a Windows computer. The idea is to unite the two so that your PC can take on some of the functions and content from your phone, a handy option if you're in front of your computer but your phone is out of reach. This capability is virtually nonexistent for an iPhone due to Apple's walled garden approach. But it works reasonably well with the more open environment of Android.
By pairing your Android phone with Windows, you can use your PC to make and answer phone calls, read and respond to text messages, view photos taken on your phone, and receive notifications.
With certain model phones, you can even run Android apps on your PC. The overall setup process is similar across the board, though I found a few variations between Samsung devices and other Android phones.
In my past experience, setting up the initial linking often proved clumsy and frustrating. But Microsoft has since refined the setup so that it now goes smoother, or at least it should. The folks in Redmond also have updated the old Your Phone app, which syncs and displays the content between your phone and PC. The app is now named Phone Link and sports a more user-friendly design.
Linking and syncing your Android phone works similarly in Windows 10 and 11, though there are some differences. Ed Bott covered the process for Windows 10 in 2021. Now let's see how this plays out in Windows 11 in 2022 with the latest changes and improvements.
How to pair your Android phone with Windows 11
1. In Windows 11, go to Settings > Bluetooth & devices > Your Phone.
2. Click the button for Open Your Phone. The Phone Link app then pops up.
4. Click the Get started button.
5. Confirm the account you want to use for this process and click Continue (Figure 1).
6. On your Android phone, browse to the address www.aka.ms/yourpc. That takes you to Google Play, where you'll be prompted to install an app called Link to Windows. On Samsung phones, however, this app already is built in, so you simply have to update it.
7. Tap the Install or Update button.
8. Open the app and tap the button for Link your phone and PC.
9. On your computer, check the box that says, "I have the link to Windows app ready." You can pair the two devices via a QR code or a manual process, but scanning the code is easier.
10. On your PC, click the button for Pair with QR code (Figure 2).
11. On your phone, tap Continue and give the app permission to take pictures and record video.
12. Aim your phone at the QR code. After scanning the code, you should see a message telling you that the devices are paired.
13. Tap Continue on your phone (Figure 3).
14. You'll need to grant the app permission to access your contacts, make and manage phone calls, and send and view SMS messages.
15. You also may be asked if you want the phone app to be able to refresh while running in the background, which can keep your texts and photos up to date but may chew into your battery charge. If this notification appears, either deny or allow the background refresh (Figure 4).
16. Finish the setup to link your phone and PC.
17. On your computer, click Continue and then click Get Started.
18. You may be asked if you want to select a task to start exploring. Click Skip to instead head directly to the Phone Link main screen (Figure 5).
Now let's look at each of the tasks you can accomplish on your computer with your phone linked.
How to send or receive a text message on your PC
1. Click the Messages heading at the top, and the latest text messages from your phone should appear.
2. Click a text to read it. To respond, type your message at the bottom and insert an emoji, GIF, or image to add some flair.
3. To create a new text, click the button for New Message.
4. Type the name, phone number, or email address of the person you want to text.
5. Then compose your message and send it (Figure 6).
How to make or take a call on your PC
1. Click the heading for Calls and then click Get started.
2. You may be asked to enable Bluetooth on your phone. If so, allow the access and then complete the pairing by confirming the PIN.
3. Next, click the button for Send permission to allow recent calls on your phone to appear in the Phone Link app on your PC.
4. Select a phone number for a recent call and click the Phone icon to call that number.
5. To place a new call, type the name of a contact in the Contacts field or dial the number on the keypad.
Incoming phone calls will appear on your Android phone and in the Phone Link app on your PC, so you can answer them on either device. You don't even need to keep the app open on your PC as it will reside in memory and automatically start each time Windows loads (Figure 7).
How to access your photos
1. Click the heading for Photos.
2. You should see all the recent photos you've shot on your Android phone. If not, click Refresh.
3. Click a specific photo and you can open it in the Photos app, copy it, save it, share it, or delete it (Figure 8).
Run an app
You can run an Android app from your phone on your PC, but only with certain phones. Among the different Android phones I checked, only relatively recent Samsung Galaxy phones seemed to support this option. A Galaxy S8 didn't qualify, but the Galaxy S10e did. Microsoft's Surface Duo also supports this capability. Just click the app you want to access, and it will pop up on your PC. You can also access the home screen on your phone to navigate to it from your PC (Figure 9).
Next, you can check your phone's notifications on your PC. Click the Notifications icon on the left vertical toolbar. The first time you do this, you'll need to grant permissions via your phone. Your notifications then appear on the left sidebar (Figure 10).
Finally, you can manage your linked phone in the Phone Link app. Click the Gear icon in the upper right. At the Settings screen, you can tweak different options for the various categories, enable copying and pasting between your phone and PC, and add or remove a linked phone (Figure 11).