Google is providing Android app developers with tools that allow their apps to run in the Chrome web browser. But you don’t need to be a developer to use Google’s ARC Welder utility: it lets just about anyone run (some) Android apps on Chrome OS, Mac, Windows, or Linux computers.

When I first wrote about ARC Welder, I noted that one of its limitations was that it only allows you to run one Android app at a time. Loading a second app will overwrite the first.

But it turns out that’s not entirely true: there is a way you can use ARC Welder to prepare multiple apps so that you can run them through Chrome. Keep in mind, ARC Welder is still in beta, many Android apps won’t work with it, and you’ll get the best experience by only installing apps that have already been distributed through the Chrome Web Store.

Want to live dangerously? Here’s how.

arc welder_002

Basically what you need to do is download APK files for the apps you want to install, prepare them with ARC Welder, then load them as “unpacked extensions” in Google Chrome.

More specifically, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Install ARC Welder and download your APK files, as per our previous tutorial.
  2. Launch ARC Welder and choose the “Add your APK” option and select your APK.
  3. It’s a good idea to click “Launch App at this point to test the app and see if it works properly (many apps such as YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, or Netflix may not).
  4. Next, choose the Download ZIP option.
  5. Navigate to the folder where you downloaded that ZIP file.
  6. Unzip the file you just created to a new folder (or the same one).
  7. Open the Chrome web browser, choose “More tools” from the settings menu, and then click on “Extensions.”
  8. At the top of the page, check the box that says Developer mode.
  9. Click the button that says “Load unpacked extension” and select the folder where you just unzipped your file.

That’s it! If everything properly, you should see a new entry in your Extensions list for the app you just installed. It will also show up in your Chrome app launcher.

The process is a bit tedious, and yes, it involves creating a ZIP file only to unzip that file to a new folder. You’ll have to go through these steps for each app you want to install. But once you’ve finished, you can launch any of your installed Android apps from the Chrome launcher menu.

If you’re a visual learner, here’s a video walkthrough of the steps described above:

via AirCooledCafe @ The Verge

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34 replies on “How to run multiple Android apps through Chrome with ARC Welder”

  1. Great tip for an Android newbe! Works very nice. Note that when you press TEST, an unzipped folder is already created inside the folder you specified when setting up ARC Welder.

  2. Thanks for this tip. It’s not necessary to use the Download ZIP option. Instead of steps 4, 5 and 6, you can just copy the folder with the android app that arc welder creates in the arcwelder folder and open that copied folder like you do in step 7.

  3. The biggest question most of us with a Chromebook want to know is how do you ditch ChromeOS altogether and replace it with Android.

  4. The biggest question most of us with a Chromebook want to know is how do you ditch ChomreOS altogether and replace it with Android.

  5. Hi, Is it possible to invoke PDF in another application from my application?. If possible then how to do?

  6. hi, anybody know how to load file from arc welder? for example, i installed A+ VCE , i have to add file vce to A+VCE player but i dont know where i have to put vce file

    1. how did you get A+ to run in ARC Welder? I can’t get it to work. Just goes blank after add apk..

  7. It’d be nice to have a list of working apps. Every app I tried so far gave me black screen.

    1. Visit reddit.com/r/chromeapks. They’ve got an excel linked in the sidebar with a list. Too much work to link it directly, because I’m on mobile, but it shouldn’t be hard to find.

      1. Oh yeah, there’s huge compatible apps button in the corner. And the list even has download links. Thank you

  8. Every app I’ve tried so far I get a black screen with a sad puzzle piece face. Anyone know an app that works for sure that I can use to test to rule out some other issue?

      1. With Network Access?? I Can’t Seem To Connect To The Network From Within… No Internet Access.. Offline Apps.. Help Me Out Please!

    1. Check if WebGL is supported in your PC, it should be, and you should be good to go. If not, there’s problem with your GPU driver

    2. Visit reddit.com/r/chromeapks. They’ve got an excel linked in the sidebar with a list. TCan’t link it directly, because I’m on mobile, but it shouldn’t be hard to find.

      1. You can use a File Manager such as ES Explorer within the invironment to copy files from network shares or cloud services (such as Dropbox or OneDrive). I used OneDrive myself and was able to copy the files needed to the obb directory to successfully launch and play Monument Valley. Though playing the game without a touchscreen wasn’t such a pleasant experience.

  9. This is interesting…

    Have an LS Pixel scheduled to arrive on Monday. Looking to install Linux so that I can use both Chrome OS and Linux. Want to run Inkscape and Gimp on the Linux side. Any plans to update your piece from two years ago on how to do that? Do you think that anything has changed? TIA for any advice.

    1. Nope. Just grab the latest version of the Crouton script and I’m 97% certain it will work on the new model just like it did for the old one.

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