How to Post to Instagram with a Web Browser by Spoofing the User Agent

Here's a method for posting to Instagram from a desktop or laptop that doesn't involve any third-party apps or installing plugins. It uses a feature built into several modern web browsers.

Instagram is designed primarily as a service to be used with mobile devices. But there are all sorts of reasons you might want to post photos from a desktop or laptop computer rather than a phone. You can, of course, send the photo from your computer to your phone and upload from there, but that gets cumbersome pretty quickly.

There are, however, ways to post directly from a computer, and I’ve been putting together a series of guides for several good methods. Some use third-party apps and services. Some use emulators. This is a guide on how to use a regular web browser like Chrome or Safari without needing to buy a separate app or install a browser plugin.

Using Instagram with a Desktop Web Browser

You can access the Instagram website with a regular web browser on a desktop or laptop, but as you’ve no doubt already found, it’s a stripped down version.

When you’re logged into your account through the website on a desktop browser, you can view photos, like photos, and even comment on photos, but one thing you can’t do is post new photos. There’s no way to upload them–the usual camera icon isn’t there, like this:

But there’s a way to alter the behavior of your browser to make Instagram think that you’re accessing it through a mobile device. It’s taking advantage of two things. The first is that Instagram now has a special version it shows to mobile devices that includes the upload function. The second is that you can convince the Instagram site that you’re accessing it from a mobile device even if you’re using a desktop web browser. It’s using what’s known as user agent emulation or user agent spoofing (sometimes just UA spoofing). When you access the site with this method, it looks very similar to the regular version you see in a web browser, but you’ll notice that it now includes the camera icon for creating new posts:

I’ve put together guides on how to do it with the major browsers; they’re below.

Limitations

Before we get to the how-tos for specific browsers, it’s worth mentioning some limitations of this method.

This method emulates a mobile device accessing the Instagram website. It is not the same thing as using something like Bluestacks to emulate running the Instagram app.

That’s important because not every feature of the Instagram app is available through the Instagram mobile website. You can upload a photo and add a caption, but there are some basic Instagram features that aren’t available through the web interface.

Filters. You don’t have the option to apply filters.

Multi-photo posts. Instagram recently added the option to include multiple images or videos in a single post. That’s not available through the website–you can only upload one image at a time to create a single post.

In-photo tagging. You can still tag someone in the comment section, but you can’t tag someone within the photo.

Editing captions after publishing. To edit a post’s caption after it has been published, you’ll still need to use the mobile app.

User Agent Spoofing with Instagram

Basically, the user agent is a piece of code that the browser sends to the website to tell it information about the browser and operating system you’re using. If you have your own website and have used something like Google Analytics to track what browsers your site’s visitors are using, that’s where that information comes from. In case you’re interested, here’s an example of some of the information that’s sent to websites I might visit when using Chrome on a Mac:

Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_12_5) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/58.0.3029.81 Safari/537.36

The method used here changes that information to match a browser on an IOS or Android device. And that, in turn, tells the Instagram site to display its new mobile version.

Modern browsers have a way to test what a site looks like with different devices and browsers. It’s designed mainly to be able to test responsive designs to see how they look on mobile devices. And it’s a feature that can be used here to make the Instagram website things that we’re accessing it through a mobile device rather than a desktop browser.

I’ll go through it with some of the major browsers below. I’m doing it on Mac; Windows versions are very similar.

For all of these, log into your Instagram account through the web browser first (technically it doesn’t matter whether you’re logged in first or not; it just simplifies these guides if you are).

Posting to Instagram with Chrome

Go to View > Developer > Developer Tools.

That’s going to open the Developer Tools panel. Depending on the layout of your screen and browser, it might pop up in a separate tab or might be at the bottom of your active tab. It doesn’t matter which.

You’ll see a lot of code, menus, and tabs. For this, you can safely ignore nearly all of it. Look for the small icon at the top left that shows a phone and tablet (yes, that’s what those are….).

Click on it. The browser window will now transform to the dimensions of a specific smartphone or tablet.

You can change what phone using the drop-down menu, although it really doesn’t matter too much which preset you use here so long as it’s a standard mobile device.

So it now looks just like the mobile app. And, importantly, you can now see the camera icon. So you can use it just like the mobile app–use the camera icon to create a new post by browsing for a new photo and uploading it.

Posting to Instagram with Safari

Go to Develop > User Agent > Safari – iOS 10 – iPhone.

If you don’t see the “Develop” option in the menu, you can enable it by going to Preferences > Advanced and checking the box at the bottom for “Show Develop menu in menu bar.”

The page should refresh and show the camera icon at the top, like this:

Posting to Instagram with Firefox

Until recently, you needed to install a plugin to do this with Firefox, but that’s changed with recent versions. So make sure you’re using the latest version of Firefox first.

First, go to Instagram.com and log into your account.

From Firefox’s main menu, go to Tools > Web Developer > Responsive Design Mode. (You can also use a keyboard shortcut to toggle it. On Mac, it’s CMD+OPT+M.)

You should then see a small, responsive version of the site that includes the add photo button. (You might need to refresh the page.) If you want to use a larger viewport, click on the bar at the top that says “no device selected” and choose a device with a larger screen).

Posting to Instagram with Microsoft Edge / Internet Explorer

Press F12 to open Developer Tools.

Find the Emulation tab and choose a mobile device from the list of options.

Other Browsers

The better modern browsers have some variation of this kind of development mode user agent emulation, but I haven’t tested it on every browser. I’m focusing mainly on the most common (thanks to user agents, I know that 92 percent of visitors to my site use either Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, with the remaining 8 percent split among various other browsers).

If it doesn’t work on your browser, Chrome is probably the simplest multi-OS option. Or if you’re using a Mac, Safari works just as well.

Troubleshooting

This is a running list of troubleshooting ideas that I’ll add to as users report issues with the upload/camera icon not becoming visible.

  • Can’t see the camera icon. If you’re using Firefox (or another browser not mentioned above), make sure you’re not using the Firefox function that only changes the display port. It’s a two-step process on Firefox, and you’ll need to change the user agent either with the manual method (link above) or a user agent spoofing plugin.
  • Can’t see the camera icon. After you’ve changed the user agent, refresh the page. I’ve found it usually does that itself, but it’s possible that it might have done that. It’s also potentially possible for browser caching to be showing you a non-refreshed version, so you could try clearing the browser cache and then reloading.
  • Don’t have the Develop menu in Safari. If you don’t see the “Develop” option in the menu, you can enable it by going to Preferences > Advanced and checking the box at the bottom for “Show Develop menu in menu bar.”

View Comments

  • I'm using Opera and with an add on I'm able to use the mobile version in the browser. I can also upload pictures, however I can't upload png, only jpeg. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance. :)

  • i used this trick but failed. Then i tried to change the phone model as you said. didn't work. Then i tried again with pages reloaded...

    IT WORKS. btw, thanks a lot!

  • I have been using the user agent spoofing technique to post to Instagram for the past year or so (I figured this hack out myself, aren't I smart!) but in the last couple of days it suddenly stopped including my captions. I'd go back and check my photo and see there is no text and no list of tags.

    Also when browsing on my Mac it no longer allows posting comments, and doesn't even register the Like button, user agent spoofing or not. The little heart will turn red when I click it, but if I refresh and scroll to the same photo it will be as if I never clicked on it.

    I will never understand Instagram's crusade against desktop browsers. They should face reality and accept that users will use their service in unexpected ways. Some of us old fogeys still like our DSLR and mirrorless cameras but also want to post to Instagram. How about embrace that instead of fight it?

  • At first, this worked perfectly fine, but since a couple of days it just won't upload my pictures. I've tried both Chrome and Firefox. I've tried posting without any text, I've emptied the cashe, removed cookies, still nothing is happening. Do you have any idea what could be the problem?

    • It worked for me in Firefox about thirty minutes ago. Click on tools, go to Web Developer, down to Responsive design Mode. Choose the phone, Then refresh the page. Then I get out of Responsive Design Mode. Gives me full page. I have the + sign on the bottom for inserting photos.

      • Thank you for answering. It's still not working, so I guess there's something going on with my browser. I'll look into it further.

        • Has to be your browser. Just tried it in Firefox a few minutes ago and it worked for me. Good luck.

  • THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Been searching the WEB for a few days and nothing has worked Finally came to your site. Used the Firefox version and it worked great. Keep up the great work. You've got it covered.

  • I select iphone, but don't see the camera icon on the menu. I can toggle between phone and desktop settings, but still can't operate it like it's on a mobile platform.

  • It worked, but I can't add a caption with hashtags. Very frustrating. I have to edit the post on a smartphone. I've tried the Safari User Agent trick; I tried entering Response Design Mode on Safari, I even tried using an iPhone simulator with Xcode on a macOS desktop -- no method let me add a caption. I can type a caption with a photo, but the caption does not save with the post.

    Anyone else have this issue?

      • I've tried it just now in Chrome and see what you mean. There seems to be a new display problem, with the top section with the caption and image being mostly obscured. I was able to still click within that section and paste text, and it stuck when posted. But you can't really see what you're typing. Not sure if there's a solution possible on the users' end.

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