Use Google Authenticator (2FA) without a phone - PC, Mac (2023)

As online accounts become more susceptible to hackers and cyber attacks these days, the demand to improve your account security has become more and more important. And two-factor authentication (2FA) is a small step towards achieving that goal.

With 2FA, you need to enter a second password in addition to your regular account password. The second passcode is usually a numeric code that changes periodically and is generated from a different source (for example, an app on your smartphone). By simultaneously authenticating through two different sources, the service confirms your identity and allows you to access your account.

Google has its own version of the two-factor authentication service, which is currently supported by a number of third-party online services. The official Google Authenticator app is only available on iOS and Android platforms, with some third-party alternatives available for BlackBerry and Windows Phone. Implements the time-based one-time password algorithm (TOTP) and HMAC-based one-time password algorithm (WARM) to generate unique 6-digit authentication codes for each of the linked accounts and does not require internet access to function.

While two-factor authentication is a more secure option, it can sometimes feel a little inconvenient to open a smartphone app every time you want to log into a specific account or online service on your computer. Furthermore, if you somehow lose access to that smartphone, the process to restore access can be complex; sometimes even resulting in a temporary failure.

But in this article, we are going to explore some solutions to use Google Authenticator directly on the computer. These solutions will also help solve the two problems we discussed above. You no longer need a smartphone to authenticate while using your computer. And if you ever lose any of your 2FA-enabled devices, you still have a backup device to generate 2FA codes.


Desktop Clients for Google Authenticator

Following are some of the best Google Authenticator alternatives for Mac and PC:

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Authy (Mac, iOS, Android, Chrome)

authy is aRFC 4226/RFC 62382FA based client supporting Google Authenticator available for macOS, iOS and Android. It also has an app and a Google Chrome extension, so it can run on just about any desktop operating system.

Setting up the app is pretty easy. After installing the app, you will be asked to register a new account using your mobile number and email address. Authy will then send an SMS to the registered cell phone, containing a One Time Password (OTP). After logging in with OTP, you can start using Authy like the original Google Authenticator app.

One of the best things we've found about Authy is that it lets you back up the list of 2FA-enabled accounts you've linked through the app. During initial setup, the app prompts you to enter the backup password, which is used to encrypt the backup locally on your device, before uploading it to its servers.

Once the backup is complete, you can restore it to any other device by logging into the Authy app with your registered phone number and providing the backup password. The backup would be decrypted locally on your new device, giving you access to 2FA codes for all your previously linked accounts.

With Backup & Sync enabled, you can simply link to a particular 2FA-enabled service by scanning its QR code using the smartphone app and accessing its authentication code on all your associated devices. And once a specific account is linked, Authy can generate 2FA codes for it offline, just like the original Google Authenticator app.

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You can also set a master password to prevent unauthorized users from accessing the Authy app. Unlike the backup password, you can set different master passwords for different Authy apps (Chrome, macOS, iOS or Android) that you use on different devices. Once Master Password is enabled for a specific Authy client (e.g. Chrome app, macOS app, etc.), you will need to provide the Master Password each time you launch that client.

While they have a dedicated Mac client to manage your two-factor keys (the Windows version will also be available soon), the Authy Chrome app feels like a real standalone app and includes all of the product's features. On the other hand, the Authy iOS app is TouchID enabled, which can be used to prevent unauthorized access to your two-factor keys. In addition, the Android app also includes PIN or Fingerprint ID protection.

Allauthentication appsare available for free download from their official website.


Authenticator (Chrome)

Authenticator is a lightweight but powerful Chrome extension that works with services supported by Google Authenticator and gives you the option to import or export your linked services where two-factor authentication has been enabled. You can also sync data from your Google account if you are signed in.

Alternatively, you can add new online accounts to Authenticator by enabling them for 2FA. It can be a manual entry where you need to provide the account name and secret key, or it can automatically import the same details by selecting the QR code image provided by the specific service.

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The extension allows you to access 2FA codes for your linked accounts by clicking on the extension icon next to Chrome's address bar. There is also the option to add a security password to prevent unauthorized access to your token codes.

authenticatoris a free Chrome extension available from the Chrome Web Store.


Autenticador GAuth (Chrome)

GAuth is a simple Chrome extension that generates TOTP tokens implementing HMAC-based OTP and has been tested to work with the Google Authenticator service. Configuring GAuth is very easy. But since it doesn't have the ability to scan QR codes, you have to manually provide the account name and secret key for each account. Most services provide the secret key in plain text along with the QR code. However, if the secret key is not available separately, you will need to decode it from the provided QR code using a QR code reader on your smartphone. After decoding the secret key, follow the steps below to add a 2FA account to GAuth Authenticator.

  1. installAutenticador GAuthChrome Web Store extension.
  2. Launch GAuth Authenticator in Chrome and click the Edit icon in the top right corner.
  3. Click the Add button below and enter the name of the account or service you want to link and provide the secret key you just decoded in the second field.
  4. Click the Add button again.

You should now be able to see how the TOTP codes are generated for that specific account.


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WinAuth (Windows)

WinAuth (short for Windows Authenticator) is a portable, open-source, RFC 6238-based HOTP code generator for Windows that supports 2FA services based on Google Authenticator. Supports adding and viewing multiple authenticators, each of which can be locked with a different password. In addition, data remains encrypted with a master password and locked on your computer or Windows account or a YubiKey.

You can also import or export linked accounts inURI key formatand also import keys from Authenticator Plus for Android.

WinAuth can be downloaded for free from the official website.

Where to use two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication is a vital step in increasing the security of your online accounts. It supports various online services including banking services, business exchanges, cloud storage solutions and email services. Several gaming websites also implement Google's two-factor authentication.

Do you know of any other third-party desktop clients for Google Authenticator? Let us know in the comments below.

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