How to Setup & Use Signal on Mac or Windows PC

May 12, 2018 - 9 Comments

Signal on Mac

Signal is the popular encrypted messaging app that lets you send and receive encrypted messages across platforms, including Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS. This makes Signal an excellent choice if you’re a Mac user or iPhone user that also wants to instantly communicate in a secure manner with someone else on a Mac, PC, Android, iPad, or iPhone. Signal also supports encrypted voice-over-IP for voice calls, image and media messaging, and a variety of other nice features for communication, and for maintaining some security, like auto-deleting messages.

If you’re on a Mac, or Windows PC, and you want to setup Signal on your computer to communicate with other Signal users, the walkthrough below will detail the process.


To get started you will need an iPhone or Android with a valid and active cell phone number, the Signal client for that cell phone, and the Signal client for the desktop. Of course you’ll need internet access on those devices too. The rest is easy.

How to Setup Signal on Mac

This will walk through setting up Signal messenger on the Mac, but the setup process is basically exactly the same for Windows PC and Linux as well, so if you want to set up the messaging client on another platform you don’t need to change much. Here are the appropriate steps:

  1. First, get Signal for iPhone or Android and set it up on your phone, it requires a phone number that can be verified and this is not optional *
  2. Next, download the Signal client for Mac
  3. Install Signal by dragging the Signal.app file into your /Applications folder, then launch the Signal app **
  4. Upon launching Signal, you’ll see a QR code, now you must go back to your iPhone or Android to complete setup
  5. Open Signal on the iPhone or Android, then tap on Settings (it’s the gear icon in the corner)
  6. How to setup Signal on a Mac or Windows PC

  7. Choose “Linked Devices”
  8. How to setup Signal on a Mac or Windows PC

  9. Select “Link New Device – Scan QR Code” and point the phones camera at the QR code on the Mac screen
  10. How to setup Signal on a Mac or Windows PC

  11. Once the QR code is recognized and the connection is confirmed, give the Mac an identifiable name, and that’s it

Now you’re ready to use Signal on the Mac! Or a Windows PC, or whatever else you set it up on.

How to setup Signal on a Mac or Windows PC

Of course Signal is only useful if you have other people that are using it too, so if you like the idea of an encrypted messaging app for private or secure communications, then you’ll want to be sure you have colleagues, friends, family, or anyone else also sign up to use the Signal service. Signal is not able to send SMS text messages or iMessages, or use any other messaging protocol for that matter, it can only communicate with other Signal users, as any other messaging service would break the end-to-end encryption which is one of the benefits of using Signal in the first place.

* When setting up Signal in iOS (and probably Android), it will ask for permission to access your contacts and other information, but this is not necessary to grant permission if it is undesired, as you can manually add phone numbers and contacts to communicate with yourself.

** You may need to bypass Gatekeeper’s warning message depending on how strict your Mac Gatekeeper settings are.

Signal is said to be very secure with end-to-end encryption, though if you’re more of the “trust, but verify” type, and you happen to be a programmer, you’ll be pleased to know Signal is Open Source software and thus you can dig around in the Signal source code if you feel like checking it out.

If this interests you, you might also appreciate our other posts and tips on Security topics and to read other tutorials focused on privacy.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Security, Tips & Tricks

9 Comments

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  1. Ogles of Kansas says:

    I like Signal because it’s on all platforms so I can message Linux and windows and android people all in the same clients. I’ve had coworkers leave the Apple ecosystem due to the Mac issues and most went to Linux or windows 10. So signal is the messages. It’s the closest thing to iMessage there is. I don’t see Apple opening iMessage to windows android and Linux and you can’t text from those, so for now signal is the best solution. The encryption is nice too but frankly everything communicated should be encrypted now due to hacking risk.

  2. Sal says:

    How does Telegram compare to Signal?

  3. jay says:

    Thats strange you’d say Signal can communicate only/ otjer Signal users…!!

    I use Signal to send and receive SMS messages from people all day long who have never heard of Signal

  4. Ian T says:

    No offence intended, Jay; but are you sure you’re not just sending SMS messages in the regular way.

    It’s the same with WhatsApp. You and the recipient both have to have the app on the phone to used the service, but iMessage and SMS messages can still be sent in the conventional way.

    As I understand it – could be wrong – the app “knows” whether the recipient has its equivalent in the same way that iMessage knows whether the recipient is an iPhone user.

  5. David says:

    Followed your setup steps carefully and diligently. Got to step 7…
    “Select “Link New Device – Scan QR Code” and point the phones camera at the QR code on the Mac screen”

    When Signal failed, no matter the number of times I tried (and retried).

    Signal, an app I had hoped to install and use, proves a complete waste of my time. App deleted.

  6. Phil says:

    This also makes Signal “an excellent choice” if you’re a terrorist or other criminal – great!

  7. Flat Earth says:

    It’s also OPEN SOURCE.

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