How to sideload apps to a Chromebook

Want to use an app for your Chromebook that isn’t on the Google Play Store? You can put it aside!

The main benefit of having a Chromebook is that you can use all kinds of software on it, including Linux software, Android software, and general web applications. Most Android apps, in fact, can be downloaded through the Google Play Store, but what if you want to use a specific Android app that isn’t listed? Well, you can sideload that app.

Just be aware that doing this isn’t easy because you’ll need to switch your Chromebook to developer mode or use ADB Debugging. But all these methods come with their own risks, but if you have the work, you can follow the steps below.

There is no need to install Linux software on your Chromebook. As we explained in our Linux software guide, you can install almost any Linux software on your ChromeOS device as long as you know its final command. Also, ChromeOS web apps, which are just pages, don’t need to be filled out.

How to install apps on a Chromebook with developers

For most people, the easiest way to download an Android app is to install it first on the system. This is intended for developers who want to install and test their software, and using the software may void the warranty on your Chromebook because it is not a supported country.

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You need to press Ctrl + D every time you turn on your Chromebook when you are in a program. Switching to developer mode will also erase your Chromebook and any saved data, so make sure to back up your files first before proceeding.

After doing all these, follow these steps to start downloading the software:

  1. Turn on your Chromebook.
  2. Press the Esc, Refresh, and Power buttons at the same time
  3. A message saying “ChromeOS is missing or corrupted. Please insert a USB stick” will appear.
  4. Press and hold Ctrl + D.
  5. Press Enter when prompted.
  6. Wait for the device to reboot and go through the Chromebook setup process.
  7. You will get a screen saying OS verification is disabled. Now you will see this screen every time you open it.
  8. Press Ctrl + D to restart.
  9. You will now be in developer mode and can continue to install your app on the side.
  10. Open Chrome and download the APK file of the Android app you want to install. APKMirror is a site that lists many APK files.
  11. Go to Files on your Chromebook.
  12. Find the APK file you downloaded, right-click on it, and select Package Installer.
  13. Follow the instructions on the screen.
  14. Once the program is installed, you will see it listed in your launcher.

How to install apps to Chromebook via ADB

If you don’t want to put your Chromebook in desktop mode, you can try using the Android Debugging Bridge, called ADB. This is a professional tool for developers, and it can also be used to install Android apps from an APK file. As part of this process, you will also need to start Linux. This is a multi-step process, and we’ve broken it down for you here.

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Run Linux in the settings on ChromeOS

  1. Open ChromeOS settings.
  2. Select Advanced.
  3. Select Developers.
  4. Start the Linux Development Environment and follow the steps on your screen.

Start Android App development

  1. Go back to the Settings app, and in the search box look for Create Android Apps. Select the top result.
  2. Select Enable ADB debugging then Restart and Continue.
  3. Select Confirm.
  4. When your Chromebook restarts, go to search for Terminal, and select the top results.
  5. Click Penguin and launch it.
  6. Type this command: sudo apt install adb then hit Y and then Enter.
  7. Type adb Connect arc and press Enter.
  8. Click the check box next to Always allow from this computer, and then click OK

Install your program

  1. Download the APK file of the app you want.
  2. Copy the file, or move it to your Linux files folder by dragging and dropping it there.
  3. Open the Terminal program again.
  4. Type the following command: adb -s emulator-5554 install [app name].apk
  5. Press Enter and restart your Chromebook.

As a reminder, installing APK files from unknown sources can compromise your Chromebook’s security. We recommend that you do not download software unless you fully trust the source of the software. Otherwise, it’s safer to stick to official apps from the Google Play Store instead.

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