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If you are an Android user, you have surely come across a file format -APK files- and have asked yourself many questions about it, especially about its usability and security. An APK file is commonly seen when downloading and installing apps that are not on the Google Play Store. There are many reasons why you have decided to download such applications on PC. Some Android apps don’t have a web-based counterpart for the browser. Also, gamers prefer to play on a larger screen than on a smartphone, or the games may be outdated. In all those cases, the games must be taken from a place other than the Google Play Store and most likely they will be in APK format. Downloading the APK file is only half the job. You must know how to open APK files on PC and what tools to use to run them.
Run an APK file with an emulator
Emulation is an exciting notion. Since the early days of relays and punch cards, people have been excited about it. Although many years have passed since then, emulation has not become widespread. There have been attempts, especially to “translate” console games into PC “language”. With so many discrepancies between different devices, emulation was never done the right way.
Although smartphones are by no means a simple piece of technology, they are literally smaller than PC devices. That definitely means a lot less power is consumed, which further solves some other emulation issues. All in all, emulation is finally more than possible and achievable.
Using the BlueStacks emulator
Although there are many APK emulators available, BlueStacks App Player is the most popular. Officially, BlueStacks is a way to make apps work. At its core, though, it pretty much runs a full, heavily modified Android operating system. In fact, you can even access the Google Play Store through it and download your purchased content. In fact, BlueStacks masquerades as an Android device and shows up on your Google Play device list.
- Once installed and running on your Windows 10 device, BlueStacks loads in a typical desktop window mode. You will get 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 seen on tablets. Yes, you will be able to navigate the interface exactly as you would on an Android tablet. 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 real 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 default.
- Full access to the Play Store means more than you think. This means you won’t have to go through the hassle of downloading apps and encountering countless bugs along the way. BlueStacks just runs the apps for you and does a brilliant job in the process.
Still, BlueStacks is not an official Android emulator. You are not running a standard build that Android devices run. Many modifications have been made to make APK apps work on a Windows 10 PC. Don’t expect apps to crash, but don’t be surprised if they do either. This is why BlueStacks is not used in app development – things will just render differently on BlueStacks than on a real Android device.
Ports aren’t exactly emulators; In other words, they are not really “tools that allow you to use Android”. Ports essentially mean installing modified versions of Android on Windows 10 systems. There are two main options when it comes to Android PC ports: Remix OS and Android-x86 Project.
Unfortunately, neither of them work perfectly. The user interface here is not stock Android; Rather, it works on code from the x86 project that has been modified to provide a desktop-like user experience. This is not a bad thing as you will be using the system on a desktop computer. Alternatively, you can try running an Android OS using VirtualBox. This is faster than official android emulator but not as effective and fast as BlueStacks. Also, you won’t get Google Play integration with this.
Run an APK through Chrome
One of the best things about Chromebook is that it can run APK files. It is a very basic operating system, it is not capable of doing much, but it works brilliantly with APKs. As it does? Well, the operating system is based on Google Chrome, so it has to do with the world famous browser, right? Correct. Chrome actually has a tool that allows you to test Android apps while in the browser. But why would you ever run an Android app this way? Well, it’s simple, really. All Chromebook power users will tell you that they actively use Android apps on their laptops, for 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 plenty of great games you’d like to run, even apps that are frustrating 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 get these features. Fortunately, Google Chrome is perfectly capable of doing this on your Windows 10 operating system.
Unloading Arc Welder
Google Chrome does not allow you to run APK files from scratch. There is no apparent feature that allows you to do this like this. You are going to have to download the tool called ARC Welder. This tool is a Chrome extension that you will find by searching for it like you would when searching for any other extension. Add it to Chrome and you can run apps on it, one at a time.
- Open Chrome and navigate to the Chrome Web Store.
- Now, type ARC Welder, select it, and then click Add to Chrome.
- Then just make sure it’s activated by checking your Extensions.
The great thing about ARC Welder is that it will work on operating systems other than Chrome (macOS, Windows 10, and Linux). However, it is specially designed for Chrome OS. Please note that errors may occur on Windows 10 devices.
Get your hands on the APK files
Now that you have downloaded and installed the necessary tool to run Android apps through Chrome, it is time to get your hands on the APK files. There are several 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.
- Then all you need to do is select orientation, app resizing, form factor, and similar details.
- When you are done, click the Test button 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 other issues.
Using Android Studio to run APK files
If you’re new to Android Studio, follow the steps to learn how to set it up to run APKs on Windows 10. You’ll need to make sure the SDK tools have been installed on your system.
- Open Android Studio and select Profile or Debug APK.
- Next, select the desired APK file from your computer to run it and hit OK.
- Browse through 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. Make sure to download the Android SDK from the website.
- Click the Start menu, type ‘control panel’ in the search bar, start typing, and then click Control Panel.
- Next, click on 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 on Environment Variables…, it’s at the bottom of the tab.
- Now, just below the User Variables section, select New.
- Type ‘ANDROID_HOME’ as the variable name and enter the path to your Android SDK
- Now, also within the User Variables section, select the Path variable and click Edit…
- Then click New, type ‘%ANDROID_HOME%tools;%ANDROID_HOME%toolsbin;%ANDROID_HOME%platform-tools’, press Enter, and then click OK.
- Finally, open a command prompt window, type ‘adb’ and hit Enter to check if it’s working.
Final words: How To Run APK Files On A Windows 10/11 Device
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