How to Use Discord: A Beginner’s Guide (2024)

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Boone Ashworth


Looking for a new place to host your hangouts? Here’s how you can use Discord to text, play, video chat, and more.

How to Use Discord: A Beginner’s Guide (3)

Photograph: Rokas Tenys/Alamy

The communication platform Discord has expanded greatly over the nine-ish years since its launch, growing from a humble bit of chat software into a juggernaut of the social internet. Users love it for texting, voice calls, or video calls with friends or strangers with common interests. It’s like Zoom, but more flexible and fun. It's Slack, but without that feeling that your boss is always checking your online status. Facebook, without an algorithm that prioritizes the types of posts that turned your aunt into a racist.

Discord is primarily intended for gaming and niche interest groups. Since it was originally built for gamers, and you’ll still find a lot of communities dedicated to gaming on the platform. During the pandemic, Discord expanded its reach in an effort to appeal to more than just gamers, and the platform has grown into a space where the conversations reach far outside of gaming territory into music, culture, politics, art, finance, and weirdo AI art.

But that’s a move the company has since walked back, citing the fact that more than 90 percent of Discord’s users still use the platform for gaming. Still, Discord is a multimedia experience, so you can use it to stream videos, play board games remotely with friends, listen to music together, and generally just hang out. The platform is free, though you can pay for some premiums.

It's also a little complicated. Discord is a sprawling, layered platform, with tons of options and settings to wade through. Let’s start with the basics.

How Do I Discord?

You can hop onto Discord on your phone or your computer. There are mobile apps for Android and iOS. On a computer, you can run it in your web browser if you want to keep it simple, or download a desktop client to use the more advanced features like game overlays. There are free downloads for Windows, macOS, and Linux. You can add Discord to Xbox and PlayStation consoles and use Discord’s voice chat on those platforms directly.

The very first thing you’ll have to do after opening the software is choose a username. Discord used to allow you to use any name, then would attach a random string of digits to make it unique. But in May 2023, Discord changed it up, requiring users to select unique usernames instead. You can still change your display name to whatever you want, and will be able to change your avatar and header pics as you please. You’ll have to link your username with an email and password to keep it yours. (Be sure to secure it with a two-factor authentication.)

Next, Discord will prompt you to start or join a server. Servers are the main forums on Discord, and likely what you came to the platform for. Think of them as micro communities, each with different users, rules, and in-jokes. Some are public, while others are private and require an invitation to join. There are servers for your favorite games, bands or music genres, political ideology, or just hubs for sharing some random memes. Whatever you’re into, there’s probably a Discord server for it.

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We’ll get to how to manage your own servers in a minute, but you’ll probably have some more pressing questions when you first log in.

What's Going on Here?

For the uninitiated, the Discord interface can look a little chaotic. Here’s the lay of the land.

There are four main sections on the main Discord interface. On the far left side of your screen, you’ll see the servers that you’re a part of. Each group has its own icon. If you’re on mobile and you don’t see your list of servers, tap the hamburger menu in the top left corner.

When you tap the name of a server, you'll see a list of channels in the panel that appears to the right of the server list. These are all the chat rooms within the server, and each room is about a specific topic. Similar channels are usually nested into a broader category. If you don’t care about a certain topic, you can minimize the category and not see the channels within. Select a channel and the chat window will open up right in the middle of the Discord interface. There, you’ll see the conversation in the selected channel playing out in real time.

To the right of the main chat panel is a list of all the users in that server. You can see who’s online and what their activity status is (e.g. playing a game or listening to Spotify). If you’re on mobile, swipe side-to-side to switch between all the panels. If it doesn’t show up by default, there’s a button to show the member list in the top right of the app, near the search bar.

The blue Discord logo at the top left labeled “Home.” Click or tap this to see your list of friends and any DMs you’ve received.

I Came Here to Talk Smack, Let’s Goooo!

There are two main ways to communicate on Discord: text and voice.

Text channels have a hashtag (#) symbol in front of them. These are the channels where you go for typing. When the name of a channel is in bold font, that means there are unread messages in the chat.

If you’ve been cryogenically frozen since the early ’90s and have never been on a message board before, note that the most recent messages are at the bottom. Some will have other people’s messages just above them in smaller font. When you see that, it means the newest message is a reply to the older one. If you want to reply to a comment or react with an emoji, select the message and look for the buttons to the right of the text. You can also start a thread, which nests more comments below the one you've selected. It's a way to digress on a topic without cluttering up the rest of the channel feed.

Voice channels are usually down toward the bottom of the channel panel (if you don’t see them, keep scrolling). They’re marked with a little speaker icon. Beware! If you click or tap on one of those voice channels, you’ll be instantly connected to the voice chat. Depending on the server’s settings, everybody in the channel might suddenly be privy to your heavy breathing. (Tip: Down by your profile name, there's a mic button. Tap that to mute yourself. It’ll stay muted even when you join new sessions.)

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On the desktop, there’s an indicator down in the lower left corner—just above your username—that says Voice Connected. It means what you think it does. On mobile, there will be a persistent green band at the top of your screen letting you know your audio is connected. To disconnect from the channel, tap Voice Connected and hit the end-call button.

If the server allows it, you can also toggle on your camera for a video chat. The active video screens will pop up in the main panel.

How Do I Log In to All My Stuff?

You can link your Discord account with a number of other platforms—gaming consoles like Xbox and PlayStation, payment services like PayPal, and video platforms like TikTok and YouTube. This is especially useful if you want to bounce between consoles or chat with people while playing cross-platform games. To do so, go into User Settings, then Connections. Click what you want to add and Discord will guide you through linking the accounts.

I Want People to Watch Me Play Fortnite

There are a couple of ways to share your gameplay or stream other videos. First off, you can share your screen in a Voice channel. (You’ll need to have permission from the server admins to share video.) In the bottom left panel, select Share Your Screen. Click the window you want to share and that will take you to a window that lets you choose your preferences for streaming (like prioritizing smoother streaming over quality.) Then select Go Live and you should be set. You can stream gameplay directly if Discord’s application recognizes the game. (If you’re playing anything relatively mainstream, you’ll probably be fine.)

You can also share your game stream directly from Xbox if you have the application linked. Just tap the main Xbox button, go into Parties and Chat, then select Discord. You’ll be able to use Discord’s voice chat and stream your games.

How Do I Avoid Embarrassing Myself?

Check your privacy settings. Discord displays a lot of data about you by default. If you want to tamp down on what everyone can find out about you, take a look at what’s exposed by your privacy settings. Tap or click the little gear icon by your username (User Settings). Go into User Settings, then Privacy & Safety. There, you can tell Discord to filter NSFW messages and servers, decide whether to let strangers message you, and control the types of activity data you send back to Discord.

Discord will also display some of your activity by default. If you’re playing a game, for example, Discord automatically shows what you’re playing to everyone who can see your status. That means all your friends, and anyone in a public server. To control that visibility, tap your profile pic. You’ll be able to choose a status there—Online, Idle, Do Not Disturb, or Invisible. If you want to appear offline and hide your activity, select Invisible. As an extra precaution, you can go into your User Settings, then go down to Activity Settings. Uncheck “Display current activity as a status message.” That will keep your activity out of your status even if you’re set to Online.

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Also, in your Connections tab in User Settings, you will find options for limiting what information about your connected accounts is displayed. For example, if you have a PlayStation or Xbox account linked, you can toggle off whether your username and status on those platforms is shown on Discord.

Know your etiquette. Some servers may ask you to read the rules before you can start posting. Do that! Every group has different policies. If you’re starting your own server, you can make whatever rules you want. But if you’re joining an existing group you’ll want to take some time to figure out what flies and what doesn’t.

That’s Super Skibidi, I’m a Hip GenZer Now. How Do I Find Stuff?

Down at the bottom of the servers panel is an icon that looks like a compass called Explore Public Servers. Open that up and you’ll find some of the top servers across Discord. The big categories are Gaming, Music, Education, Science and Tech, and Entertainment. If you’re in school, Student Hubs can help you find groups and clubs with your classmates.

There are a ton of communities on Discord, some massive and some tiny. The more obscure ones may require invites from people already on the server. Some Substacks, Patreon creators, or Kickstarter campaigns offer access to private Discord servers as rewards for paying backers.

Am I Gonna Get a Bunch of Spam on Here?

Like just about anywhere online, Discord has its share of spam. Sometimes accounts post fake links in channels, or pop into your DMs to try to entice you to download something or click on a link that slaps you with malware. Basic online security practices should be applied here too. Don’t open anything if you don’t know the person sending it to you.

I Have All This Money. Can I Do Anything With It?

The core Discord experience is free, but if you want more room for creative expression, there’s a paid subscription tier called Nitro. Nitro lets you upload files with larger sizes, set up multiple profiles, and decorate your profile with banners and animated profile pics. Nitro also gives you access to custom stickers—a cross between a gif and an emoji that you can use to express specific emotions or react to something outrageous in text chats. There are two plans: Nitro Basic, which has limited features and starts at $3 per month, and standard Nitro which is $10 per month, or $100 a year.

If you’re feeling generous, you can also pay to “boost” a server, which gives the community some benefits that everyone can use. This can mean more emoji, higher audio and video streaming quality, and the ability to upload bigger files. The more users that boost, the more premiums unlock for the entire community.

I Want to Make My Own Server

Whether you want to make a cozy space to stay in touch with a few friends and family members or a massive hub for all the Nintendogs fans that you know are still out there, the creation process is pretty much the same.

Tap or click the + symbol on the bottom of the servers panel. Options will pop up to let you start a server from scratch, or build it from a template. You can make a server geared toward gaming groups, study buddies, community activities, or artists. Name it something cool, and add a pretty picture to serve as your server icon—the thing everyone will see in that leftward servers panel.

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Next, you’ll need to add at least one category to your server. To do this on the desktop, right click somewhere in the channel panel and select Create Category. You can also click the little dropdown arrow up by your server’s name to get the option too. On mobile, tap the three vertical dots up by your server name, then Create Category.

To add channels within categories, just hit the + sign next to the category name. You can choose text or voice for each channel. Up top, next to your server’s name, you’ll see a little dropdown arrow. Select that and go into Server Settings. From there, you have a whole host of options for how to run things.

To let people join your server, click the big blue Invite People button, just above your list of channels. You can invite them directly if you’re already Discord friends, or copy and send a link address that will grant them access. To empower other users to help you moderate the server, go into Roles in the server settings. A role gives certain users whatever permissions you choose. This can mean the power to help you moderate the server by creating new channels or banning misbehaving users. You can call roles whatever you want (maybe “Grand High Inquisitor" or “Central Scrutinizer,” just as some suggestions).

If you plan on growing the space to serve many people, you can turn on Community Server settings. This will require all users to have a verified email address to join, and will allow Discord to scan all media uploaded to the server to filter out explicit content. Go into server settings, then to Enable Community. Follow the next few steps to set up your server’s guidelines and user permissions.

To get some automated help with running your server, check out our WIRED guide to the best Discord bots. If you feel like flexing your creative muscles, mods like BetterDiscord let you customize your server as much as you like.

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Boone Ashworth is a staff writer on the WIRED Gear desk, where he also produces the weekly Gadget Lab podcast. He graduated from San Francisco State University and still lives in the city. Currently, he has opened too many browser tabs.

Staff Writer

TopicsDiscordSocial Networkingchatvideo chatvideo gameshow-to

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How to Use Discord: A Beginner’s Guide (2024)


How do I use Discord for the first time? ›

Creating an Account
  1. If you'd like to create a Discord account and start using the app, you can download Discord via your mobile device: ...
  2. Once the app is fully installed, tap on the app icon to launch the app.
  3. If this is your first time using Discord, press Register to create your account.
Mar 26, 2024

How are you supposed to use Discord? ›

Joining Discord is as easy as using the service on your desktop browser or downloading the free app available for Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows. From there, you join a server by searching for one, accepting an invite, or creating your own. A server is made up of channels that members use for communication.

Should a 12 year old have Discord? ›

Common Sense Media also recommends that Discord users be at least 13 due to its open chat. Because it's all user-generated, there's the potential for plenty of inappropriate content, like swearing and graphic language and images (though it's entirely possible to belong to a group that forbids these).

How do you start a conversation on Discord? ›

To use Discord for chatting:
  1. Sign up for an account or log in.
  2. Join or create a server.
  3. Navigate to the server's channels.
  4. Select a text channel to chat in.
  5. Type your message and press Enter to send.
  6. Engage in conversations with other members using text, voice, or video chat options.
Jun 12, 2024

What do people usually do on Discord? ›

Discord Text Chat

A Discord server can have multiple text channels. They're typically used for the community to ask and answer questions, share jokes and memes, and make conversation without having to use a microphone.

Am I anonymous on Discord? ›

There is a high degree of anonymity on Discord and it is possible that users could receive unwanted contact. However, there are privacy settings that can be adjusted so that only confirmed friends can send you direct messages.

What are some common Discord rules? ›

No harassment, bullying, slurs or aggressive behaviour. There is a zero-tolerance policy for racist, sexist, hom*ophobic, or otherwise prejudiced comments, including disrespectful remarks towards race/religion/political beliefs. No trolling, baiting, discussions in ill faith, posting for shock value, etc.

What is the 13 rule on Discord? ›

Age requirements and responsibility of parents and legal guardians. By accessing our services, you confirm that you're at least 13 years old and meet the minimum age required by the laws in your country.

Why is Discord 17+ now? ›

Discord's Terms of Service requires people to be over a minimum age to access our app or website, so we are introducing a system to verify that users satisfy that minimum age requirement. We do this to keep our users safe and ensure they don't encounter material that's not appropriate for them.

What are the cons of Discord? ›

First, Discord allows users to easily switch between servers, which can lead to distraction or students straying off-topic. This can make it difficult for teachers to keep conversations on track and students focused. Secondly, Discord's moderation tools are not as advanced as other platforms.

How do you get to the beginning of Discord? ›

There are all the steps:
  1. Open "Search" bar.
  2. Select "after".
  3. Type 1000.
  4. Press enter on top right screen.
  5. Select "Old".
  6. Drag your mouse to the first message and press "Jump".

How do I start working on Discord? ›

Claim Your Account. If your new account is not verified, your username will be given a random 5 digits to the end of your username after 7 days from account creation. You'll be able to enjoy all of the chat functions Discord has to offer, but it's important to claim your account by verifying your email address.

How do you use Discord if you are under 13? ›

First of all, COPPA states that if an under 13 has parental permission, they can get data collected, which means they are technically allowed to use Discord. Many ppl under 13 also want to chat. Some children have friends they want to chat with easily during the pandemic.

How do you start texting on Discord? ›

How to start a Direct Message. Type your message in the text box on the bottom, and then hit enter, and it will send. Alternatively, right-click on the user and select "Message" to open the DM channel directly. If the recipient is in your friends list, then you can also open the channel from there.

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