Signal is a free, cross-platform messaging service that uses end-to-end encryption to provide a secure platform for exchanging encrypted text, media and calls.

If you are a Signal user or want to try the app, you should install Signal Desktop on your computer to access conversations through the Signal app on your smartphone, or to switch between them on your smartphone and desktop as needed.

But what exactly is Signal Desktop, what features does it offer, and how can you install and set it up on Linux? Here is a guide that goes into that.

What is Signal Desktop?

Signal Desktop is a desktop client for the popular Signal private messaging service. It is available for all common operating systems such as macOS, Linux and Windows and works by linking to the mobile signal app.

At launch, Signal Desktop was essentially a Chrome app that could only be linked to the Signal Android app. However, a few years later it was eventually replaced by a standalone desktop client (based on the Electron framework) that supports linking to both the Android and iOS apps.

In terms of features, Signal Desktop offers pretty much the same functionality as the Signal mobile app, including all of the privacy features. This allows you to exchange text (and media) and make audio / video calls right from your desktop.

How to install Signal Desktop on Linux

Signal Desktop is available for all major Linux distributions like Arch Linux, Debian, Fedora, Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Manjaro, etc. Before you dive into the installation process, however, you'll need to set up the Signal app and run it on your smartphone as this will allow you to set up the desktop client on your Linux computer.

If you're already a Signal user, you probably already have the app on your Android or iOS device. However, if you are new to Signal, you will need to download it to your mobile phone and set up an account with your phone number.

Download: Signal for Android | iOS

Once you're done, you're ready to install Signal Desktop on your Linux computer.

Install Signal on Debian-based distributions

Let's start with APT as it is the preferred package manager of choice for most people and comes pre-installed on all major Linux distributions.

If you're running one of the following distributions: Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and the like, you can install Signal Desktop using APT.

First, get the GPG keys with you wget To securely download the Signal desktop app:

wget -O- https://updates.signal.org/desktop/apt/keys.asc | sudo add apt-key –

Now add the signal repository to your system:

echo "deb (arch = amd64) https://updates.signal.org/desktop/apt xenial main" | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/signal-xenial.list

Update your system's package list and download the Signal desktop client:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install signal-desktop

On the other hand, if you're using Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, Arch Linux, Manjaro, or CentOS / RHEL and have the Snap package manager installed on your system, you can install Signal Desktop with just a single command:

sudo snap install signal-desktop

Install Signal Desktop on Fedora

If you're using Fedora, you can install Signal over Flatpak by running:

Install flatpak flathub org.signal.Signal

On Arch-based distributions

If you are using Arch-based Linux distributions, you can use yay to download Signal Desktop from the AUR (Arch User Repository):

sudo yay -Ss signal-desktop

Related: How to Install and Remove Packages in Arch Linux

With Manjaro installed on your system, you can install Signal Desktop directly with Pacman:

sudo pacman -Sy signal-desktop

How to set up Signal Desktop

If you have Signal Desktop installed on your computer, now is the time to set it up. All you have to do is link it to the Signal app on your smartphone.

First, start the Signal desktop client on your computer. You will immediately see a QR code on your screen.

Open the Signal app on your Android or iOS device to scan this code.

To do this, click the app's menu button and select the settings. Here tap on Linked devices and hit the plus (+) Button to add a new device. On iOS you have to click Link a new device.

When the QR code scanner appears, point your device's camera at the QR code shown in the Signal desktop app.

Once you are done, the Signal Mobile app will ask you to confirm the device association. Click on Link a new device to approve the link.

Now you need to give your new device a name. On Signal Desktop, enter a name and press Complete the linking of the phone Finish Button to complete the process. This name is displayed under the Linked devices Section in the Signal mobile app.

Signal Desktop starts syncing all your contacts and groups through the smartphone app. However, your existing messages will not be synced to the Signal mobile app: you will only see the messages that come in after the desktop client is installed.

Once syncing is complete, Signal Desktop should be running on your Linux computer with access to all of Signal's features.

Unlink the desktop client

If you decide to stop using Signal Desktop in the future, or if you plan to move to a new computer, you can unlink and unlink your account from the desktop client.

To do this, open Signal on your Android / iOS device and go to the the settings > Linked devices.

If you're using iOS, tap that To edit top right and click minus () Button to remove your linked device. If you're using Android, tap the name of your Signal desktop client under Linked devices and tap OK to confirm the unlinking.

Also, if you want, you can delete the existing chats on your desktop client by going into file > Settings, tap delete data click and click Erase all data to confirm.

Successfully running Signal Desktop on Linux

Using the above guide, you should be able to successfully install and set up Signal Desktop on your Linux computer. And then you should be able to use it to chat with your contacts and make audio / video calls.

When you do a lot of Signal and spend most of the day at your desk, Signal Desktop makes it a lot easier to keep track of your Signal conversations – right from your computer.

If you are new to Signal it is recommended that you familiarize yourself with the various features it has to offer.

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About the author

Yash Wate
(15 articles published)

Yash is Staff Writer at MUO for DIY, Linux, programming and security. Before he discovered his passion for writing, he developed for the web and iOS. You can also find his writing on TechPP where he covers other industries. Aside from technology, he likes to talk about astronomy, Formula 1 and clocks.

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By Yash Wate

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