While most Instagram users stick to the mobile app, there may be times you want to use Instagram on your PC.
At the current time, however, Instagram’s website has some significant limitations. Compared to the app, Instagram on a desktop is very bare-bones.
The biggest limitation is that, on the web version, you can’t create or even read your direct messages — they don’t even appear on the interface. It’s as if the direct message feature, doesn’t even exist. Kind of surprising for such an important feature.
However, there’s no need to panic. While the web version of Instagram doesn’t allow you access to your DMs, there are three different routes to take that will let you use Instagram’s DM features in a desktop environment.
In this article, I will show you a few different approaches and walk you through the process of getting set up with each one.
Plan A: Download the Instagram Windows 10 App
If you have Windows 10, one simple way to get access to your DMs is to download the Instagram app for Windows 10. The app is a way better alternative to the website if you’re using a PC.
This app lets you manage your profile, message with friends, and take photos and videos on the fly with your computer’s webcam and microphone.
Getting this app is as easy as going to the Microsoft App Store and downloading it. Here are all the steps:
1. Click Get, and wait for the download to complete.
2. Start Instagram from your start menu.
3. Allow the app to access your Instagram contacts.
4. Click Sign In at the very bottom. Look closely, because it’s easy to miss.
5. Log in using your Instagram credentials.
Now you’re looking at your Instagram feed, which will look more like the smartphone app than the desktop website.
The important difference? Look in the upper right-hand corner of the Instagram window. There it is — that paper airplane icon.
Tap (well, click – you’re on a Windows desktop now) that icon and you’ll be able to see your direct messages.
Sending messages in the app is very simple. From the DM section of the app:
1. Click on Send Message.
2. In the search field, type the name or username of the person you want to message, and click the circle by the correct person.
3. Click Next when the message window pops up.
4. Type your message and click Send.
It’s just as easy as sending the message from your phone.
Sending Images and Videos
If a regular message is just too passé for you, you feel a selfie coming on, or you have a cat, then check out the image taking, editing, and sending feature of this handy desktop app.
First, however, you’ll need to give the app permission to communicate with your camera and microphone.
1. Click on the camera icon. This is located on the bottom left of your message window or at the top of your main feed.
2. Click Enable Camera Access.
3. Click Yes to confirm.
4. Click Enable Microphone Access.
5. Click Yes to confirm.
Now, (assuming you have a webcam on your PC) you should be looking at yourself as if you were about to take a selfie from your smartphone. Click the button to take a photo or click and hold it to start a video. Once you’ve taken the picture, you can add stickers, captions, and more — just like the mobile Instagram app.
When you’re ready to send it, click Send To. You’ll be redirected to a list of your followers. Select all of the followers that you want to share your new creation with, and then click Send.
Can’t Enable Microphone Access
If you’re anything like me when I first tried to do this, then you’ll keep clicking the Enable Microphone Access button fruitlessly.
For a lot of people, Instagram’s microphone permissions are turned off by default. Thankfully, turning them on is a piece of cake.
1. Hit the Windows key and ‘I’ at the same time. This will bring up your settings.
2. Click Privacy.
3. Click Microphone from the list on the left-hand side.
4. Scroll down to Instagram and make sure the microphone permissions are toggled on. The bar should be blue when it’s on.
After doing this, go back and try enabling microphone access again.
Also, keep in mind that, while it’s more powerful than the website, the desktop app still doesn’t live up to the mobile version.
Rather than simply sharing whatever strikes your fancy, you can take photos and videos on the fly and share them via direct messaging only. You can’t share anything saved to your computer, nor can you take photos and videos on the fly and share them in general.
Plan B: Emulating a Smartphone
Maybe you don’t have Windows 10, or maybe you don’t like the Windows 10 version of the Instagram app.
Not to worry – if you have any modern computer at all, there is another simple way to access your Instagram DMs (and the other great Instagram features as well) on your desktop: by emulating a smartphone.
One of the great things about the Android operating system, which pretty much every non-Apple smartphone uses, is that it is simple to emulate. In fact, there are a number of excellent Android emulators out there, in both free and premium versions.
By installing one of these emulators on your computer, you can download the Instagram app (or most other apps for that matter) and run it on your computer just as if it were a great big smartphone.
(A lot of people do this for Android games, actually, because playing Android games on a 36″ LCD monitor using a mouse and keyboard is often a lot more fun than trying to scrunch everything into a 5-inch screen.)
There are two fantastic Android emulators out right now, and I’ll discuss setting up each of them in turn.
The BlueStacks App Player uses a modified variant of the Android OS designed to work well with emulation. It’s perfect for running apps like Instagram.
Here’s how you can easily set it up:
- Download and install the BlueStacks App Player.
- Log in using your Google account and set up a profile.
- Load the Instagram app through the Play Store.
When you run BlueStacks, it opens up a window that looks like any Android tablet screen. It has the usual Android interface, but you control it with a mouse or touch if you have a touchscreen. As of April 2019, Bluestacks emulates Android N (7.1.2).
From there, you can download and use Instagram seamlessly.
Nox is aimed more at the serious Android gamer who would like to play Android games on a big screen, but it will run Instagram without a hitch. (There are some great Android games that are simply amazing once translated off that 6″ display.) Like BlueStacks, Nox is not a perfect emulation of Android, but it runs apps very very well.
- Download the Nox player.
- Set up the player with your preferences and defaults.
- Load Instagram through the Play store.
Nox runs Android Kit Kat.
Bluestacks has both free and premium support levels, while Nox only has the free level. At the free level, both show occasional ads; it isn’t intrusive or overly disruptive. Bluestacks does offer a premium membership with no ads, better tech support, and custom desktops for $2/month.
I personally use Nox because it “feels” more stable, but both platforms are perfect for Instagram.
Installing Instagram on an Emulator
Let’s walk through the process of installing Instagram on an emulated Android on your PC. For purposes of this walkthrough, I’ll be using Nox but the steps are identical for both emulators.
1. Start your emulator program.
2. Click or tap the Google Play store icon or type “Instagram” in the search bar.
3. Click or tap on Instagram.
4. Click or tap on Install and allow the app access to your hardware.
5. Let your emulator download the app and install it.
6. Launch Instagram normally from your emulator’s home screen and use it as you would on a smartphone.
Just like that, you should be able to use Instagram on your PC just as you would on your smartphone.
Plan C: Using Vysor to Mirror Your Smartphone
Vysor is a handy utility program that lets you connect your Android smartphone (not available for iOS – sorry) to your Windows 10 PC, Mac, or Linux box via a USB cable or wireless network.
You run a utility on your phone to launch the connection and another utility on the PC side to receive the connection, and then your smartphone display is mirrored perfectly to your desktop.
You use your mouse and keyboard to navigate, which makes handling big workflows in Instagram effortless. Best of all, it’s your actual phone, just easier to use — so any changes you make to the local environment and to your file library are made right where they need to be. It’s an extremely elegant solution.
Vysor comes in two versions, free and paid. The free version works well but limits the screen resolution so that your desktop picture is not quite as high-resolution as your smartphone’s screen. In addition, in the free version you have to use a USB cable to tether your device; you cannot connect wirelessly.
The premium version has some other advantages, such as a fullscreen mode, drag and drop file functionality, and the ability to share your Vysor session with people on other computers. The paid version of Vysor costs $2.50 per month, $10 per year, or $40 for a lifetime subscription.
For anyone who uses their smartphone and a desktop PC, it is one of the best investments you can make, and the free version is quite adequate to test the functionality and see if Vysor will work for you.
Getting Vysor set up is relatively straightforward.
- On your Android smartphone, download and install the Vysor app from the Google Play store.
- On your Windows, Mac or Linux desktop, download and install the Vysor app for desktop.
- Connect your Android smartphone to your desktop computer with a USB cable.
- Run the Vysor app on your smartphone.
- Run the Vysor app on your desktop.
- Click “View” in the Vysor desktop app to connect the two machines.
There are a variety of settings you can play with to adjust the display, etc., but the defaults will work just fine.
Sometimes, using Instagram on your PC is just more convenient than having to use it on your phone. Unfortunately, though, the Instagram website simply isn’t as powerful as the mobile app.
As a result, you’ll have to resort to other methods if you want to use Instagram on your PC. Fortunately, it’s easier than you might think.
Now you can run Instagram on your phone, but mirror it to your desktop machine, and work far more efficiently and effectively.
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