Installing non-Play Store Apps on Chrome OS

How to Sideload

Ian Williams
Oct 16, 2020 · 5 min read
Image by author

Play Store access brings thousands of useful applications to Chrome OS.

But sometimes developers flag their apps as being unsupported on Chromebooks, making it necessary to install them from somewhere else (AKA “sideload”).

For sideloading apps, we have two options.

I’ll share a full tutorial for the Linux method and then briefly touch on Developer Mode.

For this tutorial, we’ll be using the InShot’s Video.guru app, which is not available for these devices.

Linux

This method is the safest for your device and the one I recommend using.

You can stay in stable mode and still install non-Play Store APKs.

The only requirement is that you have Linux (Beta) installed on your Chromebook.

Setup

Now go to your Linux settings and select the “Develop Android apps” tab.

Screen capture by author

Enable ADB debugging. You’ll be asked to “Restart and continue.” Click the button and wait for the reboot.

Screen capture by author

After the reboot, Chrome OS will ask you if you really want to enable ADB debugging. Confirm.

Image by author

At the sign-in screen, your Chromebook will now warn that you might have some non-Play Store apps installed.

Naughty! (Image by author)

After signing back in, download whatever APK you’d like to install and rename it something simple.

I went to the third-party app store, UptoDown Market, and downloaded Video.guru from InShot.inc.

After renaming the .apk, we then move it to our Linux files.

Move the APK from downloads to Linux files (Gif by author)

TERMINAL TIME

Now, open your Linux Terminal and type in:

sudo apt install adb

-hit enter when prompted.-

Now add:

adb connect arc

A pop-up will ask if we want to allow USB debugging. Check the box and select OK.

Screen capture by author

Back at the terminal, it’s time to install our application.

ARM processor

Type in this command.

adb install [name of your].apk

As an example, I typed in adb install videoguru.apk.

Intel or AMD processor

This command should work for you.

adb -s emulator-5554 install [name of your].apk

As an example, I typed in adb -s emulator-5554 install videoguru.apk.

If you don’t add the emulator part, Linux will throw you an error: “more than one device/emulator.

You can see the error and the proper way here (Screen capture by author)

The terminal will tell you if you’re successful. Check your launcher for the new app.

Video.guru successfully sideloaded (Image by author)

All done! That’s the way I install apps that I can’t access on Google’s Play Store.

Developer Mode

I do not recommend this way.

If you use the Developer Mode method, you’re making your Chromebook more vulnerable and you have to wipe your data to both enter and exit this mode.

Every time you restart, you’re Chromebook will warn you that you’re unsafe.

The benefit to Developer mode is that you only have to click an APK in your files to install it.

Let’s go over the steps on how to do this.

ON A CHROME OS LAPTOP/2-IN-1

Image by author

ON A CHROME OS TABLET

Since these don’t have built in keyboards, you must follow a different set of instructions. XDA Developers has an excellent guide for this.

Setup

Wait for a few moments, then you’ll be told that the system is preparing for Developer Mode. It might take a while, so feel free to leave it alone.

Image by author

On this HP x360, it took me about 5 minutes to reset.

Sign back into your Google account. Your system will install everything that you’ve backed up, just as if you were in secure mode.

Now, you can download whatever .apk you’d like and install it with a right-click.

Screen capture by author

Remember: This is not the best way to sideload. Using this method exposes your Chromebook to vulnerabilities.

Conclusion

There you have it. Two ways for you to sideload apps onto your Chromebook.

Remember, sometimes there’s a good reason for developers to not make apps available. It can be anything from instability to simply an ugly UI.

To be honest, I’ve run into plenty of problems with “supported” apps on the Play Store, so sideloading is worth a try. It can be a perfectly viable way to cover some software holes in Chrome OS.

Just remember to download only from reputable marketplaces.

Happy sideloading!

Chrome O-Xperts

Getting the most out of your Chromebook

Ian Williams

Written by

Verbally, on my Chromebook, or with the power of the pen, storytelling will always be a passion of mine.

Chrome O-Xperts

Through personal experiences, tutorials, and reviews, we help you get the most out of your Chromebook.

Ian Williams

Written by

Verbally, on my Chromebook, or with the power of the pen, storytelling will always be a passion of mine.

Chrome O-Xperts

Through personal experiences, tutorials, and reviews, we help you get the most out of your Chromebook.

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