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How to link your Android phone to your Windows 11 PC

By linking and syncing your Android with Windows 11, you can intercept phone calls, text messages, and more on your PC. Here's how.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
Reviewed by Min Shin
Messages window for Phone Link

Link and sync Android phone with Windows.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Pairing and syncing your smartphone with your Windows computer is a capability that can come in handy. 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.

By pairing your Android phone with Windows 11 through Microsoft's Phone Link app, 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.

Also: The 12 best Windows laptops 

However, there's now another option beyond Microsoft's Phone Link app, one that comes from Intel. Using the Intel Unison app, you can link your Android phone with Windows 11 and view photos, send messages, take phone calls, and transfer files on your PC. Unison is compatible only with Windows 11, so this won't work on a Windows 10 PC. Your computer also must be running the Windows 11 22H2 build released in late 2022.

How to use Microsoft's Phone Link

Linking and syncing your Android phone with Microsoft's Phone Link 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 for Windows 11 in 2023 with the latest changes and improvements.

1. Check that the Phone Link app is installed

In my past experience, setting up the initial linking often proved clumsy and frustrating. Back then, the app was known as Your Phone. But Microsoft has since refined the app so that the setup with Phone Link goes smoother, or at least it should.

If you've been updating Windows 11 consistently, the Phone Link app should already be installed on your PC. To check, go to Settings > Apps > Installed apps. Scroll down the list and look for Phone Link. If you don't see it, then download and install it from the Microsoft Store.

Also: How to uninstall Windows 11 on your PC

Next, go to Settings > Bluetooth & devices. Click the button for Open Phone Link and then click the button for Android.

Phone Link in Windows 11

Open Phone Link in Windows 11.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

2. Pair with QR code

On your Android phone, browse to the address www.aka.ms/yourpc. Tap Continue. At Google Play, tap the Install or Update button. Open the app and tap the button for Link your phone and PC. 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. On your PC, click the button for Pair with QR code.

Window for Pairing with QR code

Pair with QR code.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

3. Grant the app permission to access your information

Aim your phone at the QR code. A message should then tell you that the devices are paired. Next, grant the app permission to access your contacts, make and manage phone calls, and send and view SMS messages.

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.

Also: How to easily scan a QR code in Android 13

Tap Done on your phone and Continue on your computer. Your phone and PC are now linked.

Notification that PC and phone are now linked

Your PC and phone are now linked.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

4. Skip start exploring

The Phone Link app may ask if you want to select a task to start exploring. Click Skip to instead head directly to the main screen.

Skipping start exploring

Skip the tasks.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Now let's look at each of the tasks you can accomplish on your computer with your phone linked.

Send or receive a text message on your PC

Click the Messages heading at the top, and the latest text messages from your phone should appear. 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.

Also: How to turn on live captions in Windows 11

To create a new text, click the button for New Message. Type the name, phone number, or email address of the person you want to text. Then compose your message and send it.

Composing a message

Compose message.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Make or take a call on your PC

Click the heading for Calls and then click Get started. You may be asked to enable Bluetooth on your phone. If so, allow the access and then complete the pairing by confirming the PIN. Next, click the button for Send permission to allow recent calls on your phone to appear in the Phone Link app on your PC.

Select a phone number for a recent call and click the Phone icon to call that number. To place a new call, type the name of a contact in the Contacts field or dial the number on the keypad.

Also: The best Microsoft Surface PCs make me forget Apple exists

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.

Receiving phone call notification

Receive phone call.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Access your photos

Click the heading for Photos. You should see all the recent photos you've shot on your Android phone. If not, click Refresh. Click a specific photo and you can open it in the Photos app, copy it, save it, share it, or delete it.

Accessing photos

Access photos.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

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. 

Also: The best Samsung phones you can buy

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.

Running a Sudoku app

Run an app.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

View notifications

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.

Viewing notifications

View notifications.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

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.

Accessing settings
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

How to pair your Android phone with Windows 11 using Intel Unison

Intel states that Unison works only on Evo-powered laptops running on the company's 13th Gen processors. The Evo designation means that the PC has passed strict requirements from Intel, and such machines should have a label that identifies it as meeting these specifications. However, many people have reported that they've been able to install Unison on older, non-Evo computers. I got it working on an Intel 8th-Gen non-Evo laptop, so you may want to try this on your PC even if it's an older model.

Also: How to screen record on Windows 10 or Windows 11

First, download and install the Intel Unison app from the Microsoft Store. Open the app and click the Accept & Continue button. Decide if you want to share crash data and statistics with Intel. You're then asked to pair your phone and PC. Scan the QR code with your phone and then tap the link to download and install the Unison mobile app from Google Play.

Downloading the Unison mobile app from Google Play

Download the Unison mobile app from Google Play.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Open the app on your phone. Give it permission to access your contacts, photos and videos, and SMS messages. Tap the button for Scan QR code and scan the code displayed in the Windows app.

Setting up the mobile app

Set up the mobile app.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Verify the connection by confirming that the code displayed is the same on both your PC and mobile device and then click Confirm on your PC.

Verifying the connection

Verify the connection.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Tap the Get Started button. The Intel Unison app on your PC displays icons for transferring files, managing photos, sending messages, syncing notifications, and making calls.

Transfer files from PC to phone

You can transfer files from your computer to your phone. As an example, perhaps you have photos on your PC that you want to copy to your phone to use as wallpaper. In the Windows Intel Unison app, tap the File Transfer icon. Then click the Add Files icon in the PC app.

Also: How to transfer files from your Android device to your Windows computer

Upload or drag and drop files from your PC that you want to transfer to your phone. On your PC, the Unison app shows the names of the files that have been transferred.

Transferring files from PC to phone

Transfer files from PC to phone.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

The transferred files accessible from the Received screen in the mobile app. Tap a photo in the mobile app to open, copy, or remove it.

Viewing files on phone

View files on phone.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Transfer files from phone to PC

To transfer files from your phone to your computer, select the Transfer Files option and then tap the heading for Sent. Tap the arrow icon at the bottom of the screen. Using the menu, you can transfer files taken with your camera or files already on your device. Tap the Camera option to snap a new photo and then tap the checkmark to OK the picture.

Taking and transfering a photo of the Hulk

Take and transfer a photo.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Tap the Files button to choose an existing photo or other file from your phone. Select the files you want to copy. Any files you transfer appear in the Sent section of the mobile app, while the PC app indicates that the files have been successfully transferred.

Transferring an existing file

Transfer an existing file.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

View photos from your phone

To view the photos on your phone, click the Gallery icon in the sidebar in the Unison app in Windows. You can view your phone's gallery by photos, videos, or specific albums. 

Also: How to transfer photos from your iPhone to your Windows PC

Click the Download icon at the top to download them to your PC, where you can access them from the Downloads folder. Choose Save As to download them to a location of your choice. Click a specific image to open, download, save, or delete it from your phone.

Viewing photos from a phone

View photos from your phone.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Send and receive text messages

You can send and receive text messages from your phone using the Unison app on your computer. Click the Messages icon on the sidebar. Click the Compose a new message icon to start a new conversation or select an existing conversation. Type your message and click the Send icon when finished.

Sending a text

Send a text.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

When you receive a text, a notification appears in Windows. You can dimiss the notification or enter and send a reply directly in that notification.

Responding to notification

Respond to notification.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Make and receive phone calls

To make and receive calls on your computer, you'll need to enable Bluetooth and pair your phone to access your contacts if you haven't already done so. Follow the on-screen steps to do this. You should then see your contacts appear in the Calls screen on the Unison app on your PC.

Also: Forget the MacBook Air: This Windows alternative weighs less and does more

Select the person you wish to call from your contact list or enter the number on the keypad. After the call has connected, click the down arrow next to the red icon. From there, you can mute the call, display the keypad, switch the call to your mobile phone, and end the call.

Making a phone call

Make a phone call.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

To receive a call, make sure the Unison app is running on your PC, either on the screen or in the Windows System Tray. When a call comes in, a notification appears on the screen. Click the Receive call button to answer.

Receiving a phone call

Receive a phone call.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

View notifications

To view notifications from your phone on your PC, click the Notifications icon in the sidebar. Scroll down to view all the latest notifications. Click the ellipsis icon and you can collapse or delete the notifications.

Viewing Notifications

View Notifications.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Customize settings

To tweak certain options, click the Settings icon on the sidebar. Go through the three categories: General, Notifications, and Messages & Calls to review the existing settings and make any necessary changes.

Customizing Settings

Customize Settings.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET
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