If you own an Android device, you should know that APK files play a vital role in almost every aspect of using your phone or tablet. In fact, all those apps you can't live without are actually APK files.
You might be wondering if these files can be used on Windows 10 devices. By themselves, no; Windows 10 will not recognize an APK file. However, there are ways to run APK files on your Windows 10 device. Here's everything you need to know.
Run an APK file with an emulator
Emulation is an exciting concept. Since the early days of relays and punch cards, people have been excited about this. Although many years have passed since then, emulation has not really become mainstream. There have been attempts, in particular, to "translate" console games into the "language" of the PC. With so many discrepancies between different devices, emulation has never been done the right way.
Although smartphones are by no means just technology, they are literally smaller than PC devices. This certainly means much less power consumed, which additionally solves other emulation issues. In short, emulation is finally more than possible and attainable.
Using the BlueStacks emulator
Although there are many APK emulators, BlueStacks App Player is the most popular. Officially, BlueStacks is a way to run apps. However, in essence, it pretty much runs a fully-featured, heavily modified Android operating system. In fact, you can even access Google Play Store through it and download the content you have purchased. In fact, BlueStacks pretends to be an Android device and shows up on your Google Play device list.
How it works
Once installed and running on your Windows 10 device, BlueStacks loads in a typical desktop window mode. You will have access to various categories of applications, such as social networks, games, etc.
However, searching for an app will open the Google Play Store in the mode you see on tablets. Yes, you will be able to navigate the interface just like you would on an Android tablet. Yes, you can download, install and use Android apps on this player. You can run Chrome browser app (or any other) and use it as real browser.
In fact, you can even download and install Apex, Nova, or a similar third-party launcher. You can even set the default third-party launcher.
Full access to the Play Store means more than you might think. This means you won't have to worry about loading apps and encountering countless bugs along the way. BlueStacks just runs the apps for you and does a brilliant job in the process.
It's not ideal
Still, BlueStacks is not an official Android emulator. It does not run a standard version that Android devices run. Many changes have been made in order to make APK apps work on a Windows 10 PC. Don't expect the apps to crash on you, but don't be surprised if they do either.
This is why BlueStacks is not used in app development – things will just be rendered differently on BlueStacks compared to a real Android device.
Ports aren't exactly emulators; in other words, they're not really "tools for using Android". Ports basically means installing modded versions of Android on Windows 10 systems. There are two main choices when it comes to Android PC ports: Remix OS and Android-x86 Project.
Unfortunately, neither works perfectly. The UI here is not stock Android; rather, it runs on x86 project code that has been modified to provide a desktop-like user experience. That's not a bad thing, considering how you'll be using the system on a desktop computer.
Alternatively, you can try running an Android operating system using VirtualBox. It's faster than the official Android emulator, but not as efficient and fast as BlueStacks. Also, you won't get Google Play integration with this.
Run an APK through Chrome
One of the coolest things about the Chromebook is that it can run APK files. It's a very basic operating system, not capable of too much, but it works wonderfully with APKs. How is it ? Well, the operating system is based on Google Chrome, so it must do something with the world famous browser, right? Place on.
Chrome actually has a tool that lets you test Android apps in the browser.
But why would you run an Android app this way? Well, it's simple, really. Every veteran Chromebook user will tell you that they actively use Android apps on their laptop for lack of a better alternative. But why would a Windows 10 user want to run an APK file?
Well, some Android apps don't have a web equivalent for the browser. For example, Evernote and Snapchat. Then there are plenty of cool games you'd love to run, even frustrating apps to use on a smaller screen. This is actually why some people get Chromebooks in the first place.
Don't worry, you don't need to get a Chromebook to take advantage of these features. Fortunately, Google Chrome is perfectly capable of doing this on your Windows 10 operating system.
Google Chrome does not allow you to run APK files from scratch. There is no apparent functionality that allows you to do this just like that. You are going to need to download the tool called ARC Welder. This tool is a Chrome extension that you'll find by searching for it like you would any other extension. Add it to Chrome and you can run apps on it, one at a time.
- Open Chrome and go to the Chrome Web Store.
- Now type ARC Welder, select it, then click Add to Chrome.
3. Next, just make sure it's turned on by checking your Extensions.
The advantage of ARC Welder is that it will work on non-Chrome operating systems (macOS, Windows 10, and Linux). However, it is particularly designed for 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 tool needed to run Android apps through Chrome, it's time to get your hands on the APK files. There are different APK databases available online. APK files are not hard to find. So, just use Google and pay attention to the reliability of the particular APK site you are visiting.
Run an APK file using ARC Welder
- Once your APK file has finished downloading, simply click Add your APK to start testing it. After a few seconds, the app should load.
2. Then all you have to do is select orientation, app resizing, form factor and similar details.
3. When finished, click the Test in the lower right corner of the ARC Welder window. The app should load. Keep in mind that apps may fail to load, crash, and experience various other issues.
Use Android Studio to run APK files
If you are unfamiliar with Android Studio, follow it on how to configure it to run APK files in Windows 10. You will need to ensure that the SDK tools have been installed on your system.
- Open Android Studio and select Profile or Debug APK.
- Next, select the desired APK file on your computer to run it and press Okay.
- Browse the APK on the emulated device.
Using the Android SDK to run APK files
You can also use the Android SDK to run APK files with minimal download. Be sure to download the Android SDK from the website.
- Click it Start menu, type 'control panel' in the search bar, just start typing, then click Control panel.
- Then click System, this will take you to a new screen.
- Now click on Advanced system settings, it's on the right side of the screen.
- Then click Environment variables…, it's at the bottom of the tab.
- Now just under the User Variables section, select New…
- Type 'ANDROID_HOME' as variable name and enter the path to your Android SDK folder.
- Now, also within the User Variables section, select the Path variable and click Edit…
- Then click New, taper ‘%ANDROID_HOME%tools;%ANDROID_HOME%toolsbin;%ANDROID_HOME%platform-tools‘, frappé Enter then click Okay.
- Finally, open a command prompt window, type 'adb' and press Enter to check if it works.
Is BlueStacks safe to install?
Yes, BlueStacks is completely safe. It is a certified tool and it guarantees that no secondary application comes with it. However, there are risks involved here. Using BlueStacks does not give you the freedom to install an APK file on your computer. BlueStacks is a virtual machine that lets you 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, by itself, is 100% safe. Just beware of what you download once BlueStacks is installed.
What are APK files?
Any file with the APK extension (.apk) is called an "Android package file". They are used to store Android applications running on Android OS devices. Typically, APK files are stored in ZIP format and are directly downloaded to Android devices using a service like Google Play Store. Of course, some websites allow you to download APK files themselves.
Does APK only run Android programs?
APK files are packages that distribute applications on Android. They exist so that Android devices can read code stored in 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 we even start the debate on the legality of Android emulators, let's just consider the fact that APK files are available in an open source format. Yes, that means you can officially and fully legally use APK files. How do you run these apps on non-Android devices? Well, emulators are clearly one of the main answers here. BlueStacks, for example, is certified and 100% safe and legal. Many other emulators are also legal.
How to find the APK from an Android application?
Unlike Windows 10, the strict folder structure is not apparent on Android devices. While you can access the install folder on any PC app and see the files, it doesn't quite work that way on Android devices. If your device is rooted, you can find the APK file of an app you installed under /data/app. If you are looking for APK file for stock apps, you can find it in /system/application ou / 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 will need to use a tool to install them. Use an emulator like BlueStacks, run them through 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 suggested methods? Which did you prefer? Have you encountered any issues with 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 add your thoughts on the subject.