Microsoft introduced support for running Linux applications on Windows computers with the launch of Windows 10. Starting with Windows 11 you’ll also be able to run Android applications on Windows PCs.

While announcing the feature this week, Microsoft noted that Android apps will be available in the Microsoft Store on Windows 11 computers, thanks to integration with the Amazon Appstore. But it turns out that’s not the only way to install Android apps – you’ll be able to sideload APK files to get just about any Android app to run on Windows.

Microsoft developer Miguel de Icaza confirmed sideloading support in a post on Twitter, although details about exactly how you’ll go about sideloading aren’t clear at the moment.

The good news is that this means users will be able to install applications that may not be available from the Amazon Appstore, which only has about half a million Android apps at the moment (not all of which will likely be coming to Windows, since it’s up to developers to submit their apps for inclusion in the Microsoft Store).

So if the app you’re looking for isn’t in the store, you can download it from a trusted third-party app store or directory.

Windows 11 has an Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA) that basically installs an Android Open Source Project (AOSP) build of Android in a virtual machine, but which also allows installed apps to be integrated into the Windows user interface. So rather than opening a virtual Android window every time you want to run an Android app, those applications will show up as resizable windows that can be placed alongside other native Windows applications on your desktop.

You’ll also see shortcuts for Android apps in the Start Menu and on the taskbar. And they’ll support new Windows 11 features like updated support for window snapping and enhanced gesture support for touchscreen devices.

But there are a few things to keep in mind. One is that sideloaded apps will likely have to be updated manually if you want the latest bug fixes, security, or feature updates. That’s something that would normally be handled by the app store, but if you install an app from outside the store, then it’s up to you to keep your software up to date.

Another issue that may arise is that not all Android apps you attempt to sideload will necessarily be fully supported. For example, apps that normally rely on Google Mobile Services may not function properly without the Google Play Store and other Google services installed (and it’s unclear whether it’ll be as simple to sideload those features on a Windows PC as it is on, say, an Amazon Fire tablet).

That means apps like the Google Play Store or Google Maps won’t run without Play Services. But as xda-developers points out, certain third-party apps may be missing some functionality. For example, you can install the Twitter app, but you won’t receive push notifications.

Still, it’s welcome news that Windows 11’s support for Android apps doesn’t begin and end with the Amazon Appstore/Microsoft Store integration.

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4 replies on “You’ll be able to install/sideload Android apps on Windows 11 with an APK”

  1. Well, you can sideload UWPs if you enable some developer options, so it might seem suspicious if what worked for .appx didn’t work for .apk, though my faith in what people will see as suspicious enough to take the risk of raising concern about is nonexistant at this point.
    Personally, I’m not going to take that guy’s (one) word for it. Just to spite that awful twitter profile picture would be reason enough not to, but also I just downloaded fdroid to try it out in the leaked version and it’s not at all clear to me what I should be doing with the .apk after enabling developer mode.

  2. Well it was oblivious that you can sideload. If you can develop, you can install, its just a linux. Only “professional tech” sites like Verge can ask these questions.

    1. It’s still an important distinction.

      If Microsoft tells me that I “can install android apps”, my concern would be that they are limiting this ability to those who acquire the app from a store or platform.

      By saying sideload, it confirms that they’re designing this feature to allow me to install from a file manually.

      It’s helpful that this distinction was made, because I might suspect that Google would try to ensure sideloading wasn’t possible as part of their agreement (perhaps to reduce piracy).

      1. Nah, I think Microsoft is smart enough to understand that people will want to install apk just like arbitrary MSI files. Security must be guaranteed by sandboxing, not by single installation source and ‘thoughtful inspection’.
        The entire idea of Windows now is that you can run anything you want from unified OS, and have good interoperability and security. Not forming closing ecosystem, but the opposite. I pretty much sure that they intend to play much more interesting trick in next couple years, that will also get them back to mobile space, and WSL and ASL are very important intermediate steps.
        And I can’t remember when Google was trying to block sideloading. You need to manually allow it, sure, but the only thing they kind of block is the installation of Google Play Services on the devices without licensing fees.

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