Sometimes, an Android app that you want to install on your Chromebook may simply not be available on the Google Play Store. This could be either because it’s incompatible, or because the app’s developer has tagged it as such due to the experience on your device not being exactly how they prefer to present it.
While admirable, you may just want the darn thing to be installed so you can use it – bugs and all. Today, I’m going to show you how you can install apps from outside of the Play Store on your Chromebook without needing to switch into developer mode.
A quick note on this though – if you do this, you’re potentially putting yourself at risk with bad actor app packages, so please proceed with caution and only install apps you know from developers you trust! Okay, let’s continue.
What you’ll need
To get started, you’ll need your Chromebook (of course), and you also need to have enabled Linux on your device. You can do that by following our quick tutorial. Once you’re up and running with that, then just go and grab whatever app you want to install. We recommend going exclusively to APK Mirror since all of their uploads have been scanned and approved for safety. However, if you’re trying to install Fortnite or something, you can download other apps from their source website.
This is an incredibly useful thing to know as a Chromebook owner who’s looking to take advantage of different apps on your laptop, especially as many game developers simply don’t port their experiences to larger screens. We’re lookin’ at you, Apex Legends! Unfortunately, I did try to install Apex, and it still wouldn’t run because the devs have forced the game to check for Play Store integration, so your mileage may vary.
Setting up Android Debugging
Okay, so you’ve set up Linux support and you also have your app to install. First thing’s first, you’re going to want to go into the Files app and rename it to something simple. Be sure to leave the “.apk” at the end of it as that’s the extension. Then, drag and drop that file to the left-hand sidebar of the Files app into the “Linux Files” folder.
Go into the Settings app on your Chromebook and click the “Linux (Beta)” section. Next, click “Develop Android apps” and press the blue button that shows on the pop-up dialogue box. It should say “Restart and continue”.
Your device will reboot, and after it does, you’ll see the following screen confirming whether or not you want to “Enable ADB debugging”. This is usually meant for developers who want to locally install early test versions of their apps before distributing them to the masses, but we’re going to use it to forcefully install apps for our own needs.
Of course, you’ll tap the blue “Confirm” button to continue. Even though you’ll have a red message at the bottom of your login screen stating that “This device may contain apps that haven’t been verified by Google”, you can sign in as usual before we move on. Again, only install apps you know from developers you trust and this won’t be a problem!
Now for the technical part. Open the “Terminal” app from your Chromebook launcher and type in “sudo apt install adb“. Hit the enter key on your keyboard and wait. You may be prompted to confirm ADB’s installation by typing the “Y” key and hitting enter again.
The next thing you’ll type in after it’s done installing ADB is “adb connect arc“. This will connect you to the Android debugging tool so you can tell it to install your .apk file that’s currently laying in wait in your Linux files folder of the Files app.
You should get a quick pop-up asking you if you want to “Allow USB debugging”, and you’ll obviously say “OK”. Here’s the final step – back in the Terminal app, type in the following, replacing what’s in brackets with the name of your app that’s in your Linux files (don’t include the brackets either).
adb install [name of your app].apk
Type this for ARM processor devices
adb -s emulator-5554 install [name of your app].apk
Type this for Intel or AMD processors
That’s it! You should get a message stating that your app is being installed. Once it’s finished, you’ll find the app freshly installed with its icon in your Chromebook’s launcher. I’d love to hear in the comments what app you needed to or decided to install and whether or not it had Play Store protection and wouldn’t run due to needing a key. Again, Apex Legends clearly didn’t work for us, but I imagine many others will work just fine.
I just want the steps!
1. Enable Linux support on your Chromebook
2. Download whichever app (APK) file you would like to install
3. Open the Files app and rename the app file (leave “.apk” at the end!)
4. Drag and drop the app file into “Linux files“
5. Open the Settings app and navigate to “Developers“
6. Click “Linux Development Environment”
7. Select “Develop Android apps”
8. Let your Chromebook restart and allow ADB debugging
9. Log back in and open the “Terminal” app
10. Type “sudo apt install adb” and hit enter
11. If asked, type “Y” and hit enter to confirm installation
12. Type “adb connect arc” and hit enter
13. Type “adb install [name of your app].apk“
14. If that doesn’t work, type “adb -s emulator-5554 install [name of your app].apk“
14. Open your new app from your Chromebook launcher!