How to Run APK Files on a Windows 10 Device
If you’re an Android device owner, you should know that APK files play an essential role in almost every aspect of using your phone or tablet. In fact, all those apps that you can’t live without are actually APK files.
You might be wondering whether these files can be used on Windows 10 devices. By themselves, no; Windows 10 won’t recognize an APK file. However, there are ways to run the APK files on your Windows 10 device. Here’s everything you need to know.
Running an APK File with an Emulator
Emulation is an exciting notion. Ever since the early days of relays and punch cards, people have been excited about it. Although many years have passed since then, emulation hasn’t really gone mainstream. There have been attempts, especially at “translating” console games to the “language” of PC. With so many discrepancies between different devices, emulation was never realized in the right way.
Although smartphones are in no way a simple piece of technology, they are literally smaller than PC devices. That definitely means a lot less energy consumed, which further solves some other emulating issues. All in all, emulation is finally more than possible and attainable.
Although there are many APK emulators available, BlueStacks App Player is the most popular one. Officially, BlueStacks is a way to get apps to work. However, in essence, it pretty much runs a full-on and heavily modified Android OS. In fact, you can even access Google Play Store through it and download your purchased content. As a matter of fact, BlueStacks masquerades as an Android device and is displayed on your Google Play devices list.
How It Works
Once installed and run on your Windows 10 device, BlueStacks loads up in a typical desktop window mode. You’ll get access to various app categories, such as social, games, etc.
Searching for an app, however, will open Google Play Store in the mode you see on tablet devices. Yes, you’ll be able to navigate the interface exactly as you would on an Android tablet device. Yes, you can download, install, and use Android apps on this player. You can run the Chrome (or any other) browser app and use it as your actual browser.
In fact, you can even download and install Apex, Nova, or a similar third-party launcher. You can even set the third-party launcher as the default.
The full Play Store access means more than you might think. This means that you won’t have to go through the trouble of sideloading apps and encountering countless bugs along the way. BlueStacks simply runs the apps for you and does a brilliant job in the process.
It Isn’t Ideal
Still, BlueStacks isn’t an official Android emulator. It’s not running a standard build that Android devices run. Many alterations have been made in order to get the APK apps to work on a Windows 10 PC. Don’t expect apps to crash on you, but don’t be surprised if they do, either.
This is why BlueStacks isn’t used in app development – things will simply render in a different way on BlueStacks versus a real Android device.
Ports aren’t exactly emulators; in other words, they aren’t really “tools that allow you to use Android”. Ports essentially mean installing modified versions of Android on Windows 10 systems. There are two leading choices when it comes to Android PC ports: Remix OS and Android-x86 Project.
Unfortunately, neither one of the two, run perfectly. The UI here isn’t stock Android; rather, it works on the x86 project code that has been modified in order to provide a desktop-like user experience. This isn’t a bad thing, seeing as how you’ll be using the system on a desktop.
Alternatively, you can try running an Android OS using VirtualBox. This is faster than the official Android emulator but isn’t quite as effective and quick as BlueStacks. Plus, you won’t get Google play integration with this.
Running an APK Through Chrome
One of the coolest things about Chromebook is that it can run APK files. It’s a very basic OS, not capable of too much, but it works brilliantly with APKs. How does it do it? Well, the OS is Google Chrome-based, so it has to do something with the world-famous browser, right? Spot on.
Chrome actually has a tool that allows you to test Android apps while in-browser.
But why would you ever run an Android app in this way? Well, it’s simple, really. Every Chromebook power user will tell you that they actively use Android apps on their laptops, for the lack of a better alternative. But why would a Windows 10 user want to run an APK file?
Well, there are certain Android apps that don’t have a web-based equivalent for the browser. For example, Evernote and Snapchat. Then, there are many cool games that you may like to run, even apps that are frustrating to use on the smaller screen. This is actually why some people get Chromebooks in the first place.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to get a Chromebook to get these features. Fortunately, Google Chrome is perfectly capable of doing this on your Windows 10 OS.
Downloading the Tool
Google Chrome doesn’t allow you to run APK files from scratch. There isn’t an apparent feature that allows you to do this just like that. You’re going to have to download the tool called ARC Welder. This tool is a Chrome extension that you’ll find by searching for it like you would when looking for any other extension. Add it to Chrome and you’ll be able to run apps on it, one at a time.
The cool thing about ARC Welder is that it will work on non-Chrome operating systems (macOS, Windows 10, and Linux). However, it’s particularly designed for the Chrome OS. Note that bugs may occur on Windows 10 devices.
Getting Your Hands on APK Files
Now that you’ve downloaded and installed the necessary tool for running Android apps through Chrome, it’s time you got your hands on APK files. There are various APK databases available online. APK files aren’t hard to find. So, just use Google and pay attention to the trustworthiness of the particular APK site you’re visiting.
Running an APK File Using ARC Welder
Once your APK file is done downloading, simply click Add your APK to start testing it. After a few seconds, the app should load.
Then, all you need to do is select the orientation, app resizing, form factor, and similar details. When you’re done, click the Test button in the bottom-right corner of the ARC Welder window. The app should load. Bear in mind that apps may fail to load, crash, and experience various other issues.
Using Android Studio to Run APK Files
If you’re not familiar with Android Studio, then follow along to learn how to set it up to run APK files in Windows 10. You will need to make sure the SDK Tools have been installed on your system.
- Open up Android Studio and select Profile or Debug APK.
- Next, select your desired APK file to run and hit OK.
- Navigate through the APK on the emulated device.
Using Android SDK to Run APK Files
You can also use the Android SDK to run APK files with a minimal download. Make sure to download the Android SDK from the website.
- Click the Start menu and type ‘control panel’ into the Search bar, just start typing, and click on Control Panel.
- Next, click on System.
- Now, click on Advanced system settings, it’s on the right-side of the screen.
- Then, click on Environment Variables.
- Now, select New.
- Type ‘ANDROID_HOME‘ as the variable name and enter the path to you Android SDK folder.
- Now, select the Path variable and click Edit.
- Next, click New and type ‘%ANDROID_HOME%\tools;%ANDROID_HOME%\tools\bin;%ANDROID_HOME%\platform-tools‘ and hit Enter and then click OK.
- Open up a command prompt window and type ‘adb‘ to verify if it’s working.
Is BlueStacks Safe to Install?
Yes, BlueStacks is completely safe. It’s a certified tool and it guarantees that no secondary apps are bundled with it. However, there are risks involved here. Using BlueStacks doesn’t give you the freedom to install any APK file on your computer. BlueStacks is a virtual machine that allows you to download and use Android apps on Windows 10. However, if you don’t download the app from a trusted source, there’s no guarantee that it’s safe.
But yes, BlueStacks, in itself, is 100% safe. Just beware of what you’re downloading once BlueStacks is installed.
What Are APK Files?
Any file that bears the APK extension (.apk) is referred to as the “Android Package file”. They’re used to store the Android apps that are run on Android OS devices. Typically, APK files are stored in the ZIP format and are directly downloaded to Android devices using a service such as Google Play Store. Of course, some websites allow you to download APK files themselves.
Does APK Only Run Android Programs?
The APK files are packages that distribute apps to Android. They exist so that Android devices can read the code stored inside APK files. Running a non-Android program using the APK would mean creating an app that you don’t want to run on Android with the intention of running on Android. Therefore, yes, APK files only work on Android programs.
Are Android Emulators Legal?
Before even beginning the debate regarding the legality of Android emulators, let’s just consider the fact that APK files are available in an open-source format. Yes, that does mean that you can officially and fully legally get APK files to use. How do you run these apps on non-Android devices? Well, emulators are clearly one of the main answers here. BlueStacks, for instance, is certified and 100% safe and legal. Many other emulators are also legal.
How Do I Find the APK from an Android App?
Unlike Windows 10, the strict folder structure isn’t apparent on Android devices. Where you’re able to go to the installation folder on any PC application and see the files, it doesn’t quite work like that on Android devices. If your device is rooted, you can find the APK file for an app that you’ve installed under /data/app. If you’re looking for an APK file for stock apps, you can find them in /system/app or /system/priv-app rooted folders.
Windows 10 and APK Files
There are many ways to use APK files on your Windows 10 device. Of course, you’re going to have to use a tool to install them. Either use an emulator like BlueStacks, run them via the ARC Welder app on Google Chrome, or use a PC port. Either way, there are ways to test, run, and even use Android apps on your Windows 10 PC.
Have you tried any of the given methods? Which one did you prefer? Have you experienced any problems with the APK files? Which ones were you unable to run on your Windows 10 system? Feel free to join the discussion in the comments section below and to add your thoughts regarding the subject.