QR codes have become increasingly popular in recent years as an easy way to share information quickly. A QR code generator is a popular tool used to create those black-and-white square barcodes, which can contain website links, contact information, Wi-Fi login details, and more. While most people rely on their phones to scan QR codes using their camera and a QR code reader app, you don’t actually need a mobile app to scan QR codes. There are several other methods you can use to scan and read QR codes without downloading an app on your smartphone.
Using Your Desktop Webcam
One of the easiest ways to scan a QR code without a mobile app is using your desktop or laptop’s built-in webcam. Most computers these days come with integrated webcams. As long as you have a webcam, you can use it to scan QR codes right from your computer.
Here’s how to scan a QR code with your webcam:
- Locate the QR code you want to scan and position it in front of your webcam. Make sure the entire QR code is visible in the camera frame.
- Go to a website like webqr and unitag. These sites provide free QR code scanning through your webcam.
- Allow the website to access your camera when prompted.
- Position the QR code in front of the webcam so it’s readable. The website will automatically detect and scan the QR code using your webcam.
- The website will then display the information contained in the QR code on your screen. For website URLs, it may open the site in a new browser tab automatically.
It’s quick, easy, and works great in a pinch when you don’t have your phone handy. Most webcam QR code scanners can read both static and dynamic QR codes, too.
Using a Desktop QR Code Reader App
If you want a more dedicated QR code scanning experience on a desktop, there are various QR code reader apps you can install. Popular options include:
- QR Code Reader – Free app for Windows that works with your webcam to scan codes.
- QR Code Monkey – Free Mac and Windows app with a nice range of features.
- QR Code Desktop Reader – Free and lightweight app for Windows.
- Barcode Scanner+ – Powerful paid app for Mac.
These apps work similarly to mobile apps. You simply launch the app, point your webcam at the QR code, and the app will automatically scan the code and display the contents. Advanced apps like Barcode Scanner+ also let you generate your own QR codes.
Desktop QR code readers provide quick access to QR scanning from your computer without any website required. Look for apps with high ratings and positive reviews for the best experience.
Using Google Chrome Extensions
Chrome users can also scan QR codes directly within the browser using extensions. Two popular options are:
- QR Code Reader – A simple Chrome extension that automatically detects and reads QR codes on webpages through your webcam.
- QR Code Scanner – More advanced extension with tabs for scanning history and generating QR codes.
To use these:
- Install the Chrome extension you want from the Chrome Web Store.
- When visiting a webpage with a QR code, the extension will automatically scan the code using your webcam and display the contents.
- For some extensions, you may need to click the extension icon and click “Scan” to trigger scanning.
These extensions eliminate the need to visit a dedicated QR code scanning website. They provide seamless scanning directly within the Chrome browser.
Scanning QR Codes on iPhone Without an App
Recent iPhone models running iOS 15 or later can scan QR codes without downloading a separate app, using just the built-in Camera app. Here’s how:
- Open the Camera app on your iPhone.
- Point the camera at the QR code so it’s clearly visible in the viewfinder.
- A notification will pop up showing you the contents of the QR code. For a website, tap the notification to open the site.
- For other QR code types like contact info or WiFi logins, the contents will be displayed on the notification itself.
It’s really handy to scan QR codes natively in the Camera app. However, the scanning experience isn’t as smooth as dedicated QR reader apps. Third-party apps are still recommended for frequent QR code scanning on iPhones.
Using Google Lens
Google Lens is an image recognition app that can read both text and barcodes, including QR codes. Here’s how to scan a QR code with Google Lens:
- Open the Google Lens app on your Android or iOS device.
- Point your camera at the QR code so that it’s clearly visible in the viewfinder.
- Google Lens will automatically recognize and scan the QR code.
- Tap the popup to display the full contents of the QR code.
This allows you to scan QR codes without a dedicated QR reader installed. Google Lens is available both as a standalone app and integrated into the Google Photos app. While it’s not optimized specifically for QR codes, it’s convenient if you already have Google Lens installed.
Using Alternative Browsers on iOS
While Safari on iOS doesn’t support QR code scanning, some alternative browsers like Chrome and Firefox do have built-in scanning abilities. To use:
- Install the Chrome or Firefox browser from the App Store.
- Open the browser and navigate to a page with a QR code image.
- Tap the QR code image on the webpage. The browser will automatically scan the code using the camera.
- The content of the code will open in the browser, for example, a website URL.
These browsers help fill the QR code scanning gap left by Safari on iOS. It’s a handy trick for scanning codes directly from web pages without opening another app.
Scanning Without a Camera Using QR Code Generator Sites
If you need to scan a QR code but don’t have access to a camera, there are a couple of workaround options using QR code generator sites.
Some QR code generator sites, like the QR code generator, allow you to enter a URL or text to create a matching QR code image.
So, if you have the URL that a QR code resolves to without being able to scan the code physically, you can create QR code and generate the same QR code on these sites.
Other QR code readers like online-barcode-reader allow you to upload a photo of a QR code to scan it. This allows the scanning of QR codes offline. Just take a clear picture of the QR code with another camera, upload it to the site, and it will extract the contents for you without a live scan.
These methods come in handy when reading a QR code without direct access to scanning it.
Scan QR Codes From Printed Images
You can actually scan a QR code straight from a printed image or document as long as the printout is high quality. The key is using a continuous scan tool rather than trying to snap a picture:
- Locate the QR code in the printed document and ensure the print quality is clear and in focus. Darker inks produce better scans.
- Use a QR code reader app that has a continuous scan mode rather than a single snap scan. Zxing and Kaspersky QR Scanner have continuous scan abilities.
- Hovers the phone camera directly over the printed QR code while keeping the camera at a steady angle. The app will continuously scan until it captures and reads the code.
Avoid shadows and glare on the paper by scanning in a well-lit area. With good print quality and a steady hand, you can successfully scan QR codes from printed images.
Scan QR Codes From Your Computer Screen
Similarly, you can scan QR codes directly from your computer screen without printing using the continuous scanning technique:
- Display the QR code clearly on your computer monitor. Zoom in so the QR code fills up as much space as possible.
- Open your QR reader app and activate continuous scan mode.
- Hold your phone camera steadily over the QR code on the monitor, keeping the phone flat and angled straight at the screen to avoid glare.
- The app will continuously scan the code until it successfully captures the contents.
Make sure to minimize glare by scanning in a darkened room and adjusting screen brightness as needed. Scanning codes from a computer screen comes in handy when you want to quickly test a QR code before printing.
Scan QR Codes From Another Phone Screen
Instead of scanning a QR code directly from your own phone screen, you can also scan QR codes being displayed on someone else’s phone screen:
- Have them open the QR code on their phone and zoom in so it takes up most of the screen.
- Activate continuous scan mode in your QR app.
- Hold your phone camera directly over the phone screen, keeping it flat and steady to avoid glare.
- Your QR app will scan their phone screen continuously until it registers the QR code.
This allows you to cross-scan QR codes from one phone to another. It eliminates the need to capture screenshots or transfer images to share QR codes.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about scanning QR codes without using mobile apps:
How secure is scanning QR codes from unknown sources?
Scanning QR codes from unknown or untrusted sources carries some risk, as malicious links can direct to phishing/malware sites. Only scan codes are shared from trusted sources. Many apps check URLs against databases of known malicious sites.
Can I scan QR codes using Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or video chat apps?
Yes, displaying a QR code on screen during a video call will allow others to scan the code using scanning apps in continuous mode. Just ensure the code is clearly visible with good lighting and minimal glare.
Do Chromebooks and tablets support QR code scanning?
Yes, Chromebooks with webcams can scan QR codes through Chrome extensions or web apps that access the camera. Most tablets also support scanning either natively or through apps, depending on the model.
Can QR codes still be read if they are damaged or scratched?
QR codes can become unscannable if more than 30% of the code area is damaged. Light scratching is okay but deep scratches or marking out large portions of the code can prevent scanning.
How do I know whether a QR code leads to a malicious site?
Reputable QR code readers check sites against databases of known malicious URLs. Avoid scanning codes from unknown sources. Look for “http” vs. “https” in the URL preview to identify unsafe non-SSL sites.
Hopefully, this gives you plenty of options to access QR codes without needing a mobile app. Desktop webcams, Chrome extensions, alternative browsers, and continuous scan modes provide easy ways to read QR codes from your computer, printouts, or other phones. With many methods available, you can scan QR codes anywhere.Tags: how to scan qr codes, how to scan qr codes on computer, where to scan qr codes, why won't my phone scan qr codes