Q. Now that I’ve installed the “Anniversary Update” to Windows 10, how do I get my Android notifications to show up on my PC as promised?
A. The free upgrade to Microsoft’s operating system that shipped last week includes some nifty features, but the most surprising one benefits mobile devices running another company’s operating system.
(Consider this yet another sign of how little the Microsoft of 2016 has in common with the Microsoft of 1996.)
To have your Android phone’s notifications show up in the “Action Center” list of notices and alerts that pops up from the bottom-right corner of the screen, you first need to put down your computer, pick up your phone and install Microsoft’s free Cortana app for Android.
Open the app, sign into the same Microsoft account you use to sign into your Win 10 PC, tap the menu button at the top left, and then tap “Settings.”
Tap “sync notifications” on that screen, and you can choose what Android alerts will pop up on your PC after granting this version of Microsoft’s personal assistant access to various types of data on your phone.
You get four main categories of notifications, any of which you can disable: missed calls, text messages, low-battery alerts, and updates from individual apps. You can and should edit that last set–just as you would with smartwatch notifications–so you’re not getting interrupted on your computer by trivialities or by redundant updates from Android versions of apps that you already run in Windows.
(You may see a notice that some of these notifications are only available to Windows Insider members. As I am not a Windows Insider but can use all of these features, that text appears to be out of date.)
Once you’ve got everything configured as you wish, you can ignore this Android app. You don’t need to start using Cortana on your phone, and you can also remove the two shortcuts it will have added to your phone’s home screen.
You shouldn’t have to do any special setup on your computer, assuming you already enabled Cortana in Windows 10.
The phone-to-PC ties don’t run as deep as they do with the Continuity feature Apple introduced in iOS 8 and plans to advance further in this fall’s iOS 10 and macOS Sierra. You can’t, for instance, answer a call on your computer, although you can answer text messages there.
And while dismissing a notification in Windows also dispels it from your phone, you can’t do much else with that alert–even if you do have a Windows version of the Android app installed and running.
For instance, although I have Twitter’s app running on a Windows 10 tablet, clicking on a mirrored notification from the Twitter app on my Android phone only causes Cortana to open on the computer and show the text I already saw in the Action Center.
Future updates to this feature–much of which is labeled as beta in the Android app–may fill in those gaps. For now, what you have is a simple way to stay on top of what’s happening on your phone while keeping that device in your pocket.
And if your phone is not in your pocket, Windows 10 can help with that too. Say “Hey, Cortana, can you find my phone for me?”, and your phone should vibrate a moment later as a map in the Action Center shows its location.