How to Install APKs on a Chromebook Without Developer Mode

With the Google Play Store, downloading Android apps on your Chromebook is surprisingly easy! 

However, there are some Android app APKs that aren’t available via the Google Play Store. These are Android apps in APK format.

The good news is that you can now install APKs on your Chromebook.

While it’s possible to install APKs on your Chromebook using the Developer mode, it’s not an ideal method since it compromises your laptop’s security and files.

Thankfully, it’s now possible to install APKs on your Chromebook without Developer mode. For this, you’ll need to set up ADB functionality on your Chromebook (ADB = Android Debug Bridge).

Once you have ADB on your Chromebook, you can install any APK on your Chromebook. Simply save APKs in your Linux folder, then open Terminal and enter the “adb install filename.apk” command.

Keep reading to find our step-by-step guide on how to install APKs on Chromebook without Developer mode. Before that, we’ll explain why it’s best to avoid the Chromebook Developer mode.

Installing APKs on Chromebook with Developer mode

You can increase control and customization of your Chromebook using the Developer Mode. It’s similar to jailbreaking your phone –– allowing you the freedom to customize your Chromebook outside the Chrome operating system.

With Chromebook Developer mode, you have the ability to:

  • Run developer commands
  • Install more programs and software
  • Have more than one operating system

These capabilities sound great! But what’s the catch? 

Risks of Chromebook Developer Mode

We’ve got a few reasons for you to avoid Chromebook Developer Mode:

Reason 1: Security Compromise

Switching to Developer mode compromises your Chromebook security.

Chrome OS is known for its unparalleled security features. By accessing Developer mode, you’re agreeing to give up Chrome OS heightened security, leaving your data and privacy vulnerable to hackers.

Reason 2: Losing your data

When you enter Developer Mode for the first time, you’ll need to wipe your Chromebook completely. 

Now, every time you boot your Chromebook, you will automatically enter Developer Mode.

Because of this, you’ll need to be careful to exit Developer Mode right away. Pressing the wrong button can instantly re-wipe your Chromebook’s data. 

Reason 3: No control over system changes

Again, if you enable Developer Mode for the first time, the bootup process will change drastically.

This includes less control over system updates. Every time you boot your Chromebook, you won’t be able to validate any changes made to your Chrome OS.

Reason 4: Invalidate Chromebook warranty

Switching to Developer Mode on your Chromebook also invalidates your warranty. 

While you can disable Developer mode to get back your warranty, it will still put you in a difficult position if any damage or defect happens to your laptop.

Entering Chrome Developer mode will also wipe your Chromebook of existing data.

Step-by-step Guide: How to Install APKs on Chromebook Without Developer Mode

Just to let you know, this method will only work if your Chromebook has Android app and Google Play support. 

You should also make sure that your Chromebook is updated to at least Chrome OS 86. 

To update your Chrome OS:

  1. Navigate to Settings
  2. Click About Chrome 
  3. Find your Chrome OS version under “Google Chrome OS”
  4. If your Chrome OS is earlier than Chrome OS 86, click Check for Updates.
  5. Your Chrome OS will update automatically.

And it’s also important that you’re not on any update channel and Developer mode isn’t enabled.

Now onto the exciting bit… 

You can now install APKs on your Chromebook without compromising your security or losing your data and Chromebook warranty.

There are two parts to installing APKs on your Chromebook without Developer Mode:

  1. Setting up ADB
  2. Installing Android APK

Here’s how:

Setting Up ADB on Chromebook

  1. Navigate to Chromebook Settings. On the left menu, enable Linux (Beta).
  2. Once Linux is enabled, navigate to Settings again. 
  3. Click Linux, then under Develop Android Apps, select Enable the toggle for ADB Debugging.
  4. Restart your Chromebook.
  5. You will receive an ADB prompt after the reboot. Click Allow. In case ADB isn’t working, restart the Chromebook again. It should work then.
  6. Navigate to Terminal from your applications and type the following command. This will install ADB platform tools:
    sudo apt-get install android-tools-adb -y
  7. Once installation is complete, connect ADB with Linux on Chrome OS and enter this command on Terminal:
    adb connect 100.115.92.2:5555
    Make sure that you have a stable internet connection for this step.
  8. A prompt will ask you to Allow USB Debugging. Select Always Allow, then click OK.
    Note: If you get an error message “can’t connect to 100.115.92.2:5555 connection refused”, navigate to the Google Play Store and navigate to Manage Android Preferences. Go to System then About Device. Click on “Build Number” at least eight times continuously to enable Developer Options.
  9. Navigate to the System page and open Developer Options. Click enable ADB Debugging.

Note: If you receive a message these messages, enter “adb start-server” in Terminal. Return to Step 7:

  • “Command Not Found”
  • “Permission Denied”

Installing APKs on Chromebook

Now that you’ve successfully set up ADB, you can install any APK on your Chromebook.

This video might be helpful to you:

  1. Download your APK file and save it to the Linux Files tab in My Files.
  2. Open Terminal and enter the command to sideload the Android app. Replace “filename” with the APK file name:  adb install filename.apk
  3. If you receive an error message “more than one device/emulator,” enter this command: adb -s emulator-5554 install filename.apk
  4. And you’re done! You can now access your Android app on your app drawer.

Conclusion 

Some Android apps aren’t available on the Google Play Store. In that case, you need to install the APK file in your Chromebook.

While installing APKs on Chromebook without Developer Mode is a little technical, it’s fairly straightforward if you take our tutorial one step at a time. 

Once you’ve set up ADB on your Chromebook, you can continue to install any APK file on your Chromebook using the “adb install” command on Terminal.

Android apps under the Linux folder run on Android Runtime, so you’ll be sure to get app performance with our guide.