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You’ve probably wished you could control Android from your PC at times. Maybe your phone is at the bottom of your bag, or you’re in class and want a subtle way to message someone. Or perhaps you need to type a lot of text or look at something on a bigger screen.
Fortunately, it’s easy to access your Android phone from a computer. Here are the four best options, from one that’s already built into Windows to a full-screen mirroring app.
1. Control Your Android Phone From Windows 10
If you’re using Windows, then you’ve already got a basic way to access your phone from your computer. This works through the Your Phone app in Windows 10.
Your Phone is a built-in app that enables you to see your 25 most recent photos, send and receive text messages, and manage calls on your PC. Microsoft is also rolling out a screen-mirroring feature, which supports a limited number of devices.
To set up Your Phone:
- Update the Your Phone app in Windows, and install Your Phone Companion on Android.
- Log into your Microsoft account on both devices.
- Launch the app on your phone and PC, then follow the on-screen instructions to link the two.
The setup process can be a little temperamental, but once it’s going it works pretty well. If you just need a quick way to answer texts on your laptop, it’s worth trying.
2. Access Your Phone From a Computer With AirDroid
AirDroid is like a much more powerful version of Your Phone. It gives you desktop access to most of the important features on your phone, and you don’t even need to create an account to use it. While AirDroid is free, you can subscribe to a premium account for even more features.
The service offers a desktop app for Windows and Mac, but you don’t need those since it works in any major web browser on any platform. This is super easy, and makes it safe to use on a shared computer.
AirDroid lets you control your Android phone from a PC over the internet, or via Wi-Fi if both devices are connected to the same network.
To get started with AirDroid:
- Download and install AirDroid on your phone. Accept the permissions requests when prompted.
- Open a browser on your desktop or laptop and go to web.airdroid.com. A page will load showing a QR code.
- Launch AirDroid on your phone and tap the Scan icon at the top of the screen.
- Scan the QR code.
- Tap Sign In (even if you haven’t created an account).
- You’re now connected. Your phone’s features are accessible in the browser window.
The AirDroid web interface resembles a desktop and looks great if you switch to full-screen mode. You can see your available apps and functions on the left, with tools and info about your phone on the right. At the top is a panel that you can use to search for apps, make calls, set alarms, and so on.
AirDroid doesn’t work with third-party apps, so you can’t use Snapchat on your laptop. But that’s the only major limitation. It packs a ton of functionality elsewhere.
You can make calls, plus send and read text messages. It also provides access to the photos and videos stored on your phone, as well as locally saved music.
In addition, there are lots of tools that seamlessly link your phone and desktop. You can wirelessly move data from your PC to your phone, you can enter a URL on the desktop and have the webpage open on your phone, and you can install APK files remotely.
You do need an account for a few features, and some are limited with the free version. The upgrade to AirDroid Premium costs $3 per month, but all aside from the most advanced users should find the free option sufficient.
3. Remotely Access Android From a PC With AirMirror
Once you’ve set up AirDroid you can use AirMirror, which mirrors your phone’s screen inside your desktop browser. To get it, you need to create an AirDroid account (which is free) and use the Chrome browser on your computer.
The setup process is a bit more complicated, making it more for advanced users. It requires you to enable the USB Debugging option in Developer Settings:
- Install the AirMirror app on your phone, and log into your account.
- On your laptop, install the AirMirror Chrome extension.
- Connect your phone to your computer via a USB cable. Enable USB Debugging in the Developer Options in Settings.
- Go to web.airdroid.com in Chrome and click the AirMirror button.
- Your phone screen will appear in the browser window once the two devices are connected. Once it does, feel free to disconnect the USB cable.
You’ve now got full remote control of Android from your PC. Use your mouse or trackpad to scroll and tap, and your keyboard to type. Unlike AirDroid, you can work with third-party apps in AirMirror, and you can also move files to and from your phone using the Save to Computer and Save to Device options.
Because the app mirrors your phone’s screen, you need to keep the screen turned on in order to use it.
4. Control an Android Phone From a PC With Vysor
Vysor works in a similar way to AirMirror, but is easier to set up. This makes it a good option for less tech-savvy users.
Vysor is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS. It comes in free and paid versions. The free version is good enough to give you a taste of what’s on offer, but it’s limited—it includes ads and you can only use a wired connection.
But what makes Vysor great is that there’s almost no setup or configuration process. You must enable USB Debugging, as with AirMirror, but that’s all. Just install Vysor on your computer and connect your phone. Everything happens automatically.
An app is pushed to your Android device along the way. If you ever want to uninstall this, you can do so by going to Settings > Apps on your Android device.
Once complete, you’ll see your phone’s screen mirrored in a window on your desktop. There are handy buttons to take screenshots, record your screen, and control the volume. You can do everything else with your mouse on the virtual touchscreen.
Because Vysor is a screen-mirroring service, there’s no concern about app compatibility. Anything that runs on your phone will be useable on the desktop. This includes gaming, though lag will be an issue in games that need fast reactions.
Other Ways to Control Your Phone From a PC
There are a few other apps you can look at for this purpose. MightyText is built mostly around messaging, similar to Your Phone, while Pushbullet is closer to AirDroid, albeit a more expensive option.
In addition, there’s ApowerMirror, a screen mirroring app similar to Vysor. It comes with a standalone app for Windows and Mac, with limitations on the free version. The upgrade to the full app is pricier than Vysor.
There’s also a free, open source app called Scrcpy, which offers similar features to those you’d have to pay for in Vysor. This sounds perfect, but unfortunately it’s far from user-friendly. The setup process is more involved, and you can only adjust the app’s settings through the command line. Still, it’s worth looking into if you’re a more advanced user.
Your other option is to not control your phone directly, but to use an emulator instead. This lets you to use your favorite mobile apps or play smartphone games on your laptop. See our guide to the best Android emulators for Windows 10 to learn about the best apps for this.
Image Credit: Denys Prykhodov/Shutterstock