How to Sideload Apps on a Chromebook

Through the Google Play Store, you can download apps to your Chromebook. However, the app you want to install may not be available on the Play Store. This is probably because the app hasn’t met Google’s requirements, and so it hasn’t been added to the company’s platform. If you still want to download the APK program, there are ways to do so with a little customization on your part.

How to Sideload Apps on a Chromebook

Let’s look at the various methods you can use to sideload apps on a Chromebook.

How to Sideload Apps on Chromebook Using Developer Mode

One method of sideloading apps on Chromebook is by enabling developer mode. Developer mode is a special section of Chrome OS that lets users modify the system files of their devices. You can use this feature to access various files such as root files, install other operating systems, and modify Chrome OS’s system files.

This method is not without an element risk so before learning how to enable developer mode, let’s look at some of the reasons you should adopt this approach with caution.

Risks of Enabling Chromebook Developer Mode

Chromebook’s developer mode gives you the freedom to customize your device, but it does come with some risks. Here are some factors that you need to know before enabling developer mode.

Compromised Security

With the Chromebook, Google developed an operating system with outstanding security features. Accessing developer mode means disabling some of these vital safety checks. This will leave your device vulnerable to data and privacy hackers.

Lose of Data

To enable developer mode, you’ll need to erase all the data on your Chromebook. Once you have set it up, you’ll enter this mode every time your system boots up. Therefore, you should be careful about how you exit this feature, as pressing the wrong button could cause you to lose your data again. It would be ideal to backup your files before starting this feature.

Lose of System Control

Once developer mode has been activated, the rebooting process changes significantly. You’ll have less control of system updates as you won’t be able to validate changes made to the operating system.

Invalidates Warranty

Your Chromebook’s developer mode will invalidate your warranty. While you can restore your warranty when you exit this feature, you may find it harder to get your device repaired if the question of warranty validity arises.

Sideloading Apps on Chromebook By Enabling Developer Mode

Now that we have looked at the risks of enabling developer mode, let’s check out how to activate this feature.

  1. Press ESC + F5 followed by the Power button to enter recovery mode.
  2. Tap Ctrl + D when asked to insert a USB drive.
  3. A new screen will open, asking you to turn off OS verification. Hit “Enter.”
  4. Wait for Chromebook to reboot, and a screen will appear letting you know that OS verification is off. Click Ctrl + D to enter developer mode.
  5. Give Chromebook a few minutes to reboot again.
  6. The new window will again inform you that OS verification has been turned off. Press Ctrl + D.
  7. Your device will restart one final time and open to the usual home screen.

Your Chromebook is now in developer mode and is ready for non-Google store app downloads.

Sideloading Apps in Developer Mode

After enabling developer mode, you can now download and install APK apps on Chrome OS. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Go to the app’s website that you want to install and download its APK file.
  2. Navigate to “Files” on your computer and search for the app file.
  3. Right-click on it and select “Package Installer.”
  4. Follow the installation prompts.

Your app is now available on your Chromebook.

How to Sideload Apps on Chromebook Without Developer Mode

Sideloading apps to Chromebook without enabling developer mode has two primary advantages. This method ensures that your device’s security isn’t compromised and prevents the loss of your data. To sideload apps using this technique, your PC needs to have Google Play Support and must be updated to at least Chrome OS 86. Once you have everything in place, you can follow the instructions shown here to download APK apps on your computer.

Enable Linux Subsystem

It’s possible to install non-Android store apps without setting up developer mode on your Chromebook. However, you’ll need to enable Android Debugging Bridge (ADB). ADB is a tool that allows app developers to test their software but can also be used to sideload APKs. For ADB to be enabled, you will have to set up the Linux Subsystem on your machine.

  1. Open “Settings” and type “Linux” in the page’s search bar.
  2. Go to “Linux Development Environment” and turn this on. You will be notified that the download has begun.
  3. Tap “Next,” then input your username and assign disk size. You can leave this with its default value.
  4. Hit “Install” to complete the process and the Linux Terminal automatically opens.

Your Linux Subsystem is ready to go.

Setting Up Android Debugging Bridge

Now that you have installed the Linux Subsystem, you can proceed with enabling ADB.

  1. Open the System menu and tap on the cogwheel icon to enter “Settings.”
  2. Use the search bar to find “Linux” and select “Develop Android Apps” from the dropdown menu.
  3. Toggle the “Enable ADB debugging” to the ON position.
  4. Confirm that you would like to enable ADB, then press “Restart and Continue.”
  5. Wait for Chromebook to reboot the click “Everything” in the window that opens.
  6. Type in “terminal” to open the Linux Terminal window.
  7. Input this command in the terminal window:
    sudo apt install android-tools-adb -y
  8. This should begin the installation process. Once it’s complete, type this command:
    sudo adb connect
  9. When prompted, confirm that you want to allow USB debugging.
  10. Tap “Always allow from this computer,” then click “OK.”

You’re ADB should now be enabled.

Sideloading Apps Without Developer Mode

Now that ADB has been set up, you can download your APK files to your Chromebook. You can rename them before downloading, making them simpler to identify. The new name should end with .apk. Here’s how to sideload an app into Chromebook without enabling developer mode:

  1. Download the app that you would like to install
  2. Move the app file into the Linux folder and apply this command:

    adb install yourapp.apk

    adb install (your app)
  3. The installation process will begin, and your app will be available on your Chromebook.

Expand Your App Options

Installing APK apps on Chromebooks can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. With the help of this guide, you can install these programs efficiently, with or without enabling developer mode. If you decide to use developer mode, remember that you won’t have the same safety measures in place as you did before you enabled this feature.

Have you sideloaded apps on Chromebook? Let us know what method you used in the comments section below.

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