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How to play Android (apk files) on a Chromebook without turning on developer mode, which re-formats you computer.



Crowley's Whipping Boy
Jul 9, 2022
Moderators, please move this to any location if this is not the best place for this guide.

I'm sure some people know how to do this, but I didn't and I assume others don't either. After downloading an Android file for my Chromebook, which I assumed was compatible, I would get an error when I tried to open/play it, saying "Turn on Chrome OS Developer Mode to install apps from sources other than the Play Store"

Installing/playing an APK on a Chromebook used to mean switching your Chromebook. Doing so required a system reset—or powerwash—which took your Chromebook back to a brand new, clean state. It also presented a scary warning each time your Chromebook booted up, and it lowered your security too.

Using your Chromebook’s it’s possible to install Android apps from APK files without setting up developer mode. You just need to turn on Android debugging mode—and that doesn’t need a factory reset.

Enable the Linux Subsystem​

If you haven’t already enabled the Linux subsystem, you’ll need to do that now. It’s simple to do, but it does take a moment or two to complete. Click the notification area (system tray) to open the Settings menu and click the cogwheel icon.

The Chromebook system menu

On the Settings page, type “linux” into the search bar. You’ll see the Linux development environment (beta) entry in the search results.


Click the “Turn On” button. You’ll see a notification that a download is about to take place.

Linux development environment confirmation screen on a Chromebook

Click the blue “Next” button. You’ll be prompted to provide a username. You can leave the disk size setting at its default value. Click the blue “Install” button.

Setting a Linux user name on a Chromebook

The download and installation process starts. It can take a few minutes for this step to complete.

Linux download progress bar on a Chromebook

Eventually, you’ll see the Linux terminal window with a command prompt that contains the user name you chose earlier.

Linux terminal window on a Chromebook

Setting Up the Android Debugging Bridge​

When Linux has been installed, open the System menu and click the cogwheel. On the Settings page, search for “linux.” You’ll see more options this time. Select “Develop Android Apps” then click the slider button alongside “enable ADB debugging.”

The enable Android Debugging option on a Chromebook

This turns on the Android Debugging Bridge. It’s a tool used by developers to test their Android apps as they work on them. We’re going to use the feature to sideload APKs.

You’ll be asked to confirm that you do want to enable ADB. Click the blue “Restart and Continue” button.

Confirmation screen for turning on Android debugging on a Chromebook

When your Chromebook has rebooted, go to where your apps are and click on the terminal icon below, or tap the “Everything” button—the one with the magnifying glass symbol on it—and type “terminal.”, this will bring it up as below - open it.

Searching for the word terminal on a Chromebook

Click on the terminal icon in the search results. A Linux terminal window will open and show your name or user (dave below)@penguin:~$. Type "sudo apt install android-tools-adb -y" (without the ") in the terminal window and hit enter


This installs the Android ADB system. When the installation has finished, type in your IP address and port. I could not figure out how to find my specific port number for my Chromebook so I tried 5555 as listed below, but it gave me an error. After hours fucking around, I found a site that listed default port numbers and tried what they recommended 5554 I think that worked but not sure.

sudo adb connect

I'm actually not sure if that worked, I was have issues and started trying various things such as going to the "Linux Files" in blue below, then clicked on the 3 dots in the upper right in green, then "Managed Linux Sharing" in red and adding a usb thumb drive I entered into my port. The other (possibly the only option) if you can't get that to work is to copy the file or download it to the "Linux Files" folder directly.

As I reinstalled this system I realized that a folder called "Linux Files" will be created. This is where you need to save the .apk file. From here is where you install it as an app via the adb -s emulator-5554 install xxxx.apk "enter" Remember to shorten the name if you want. Lastly, delete the file from all of the Chromebook files..google like to make multiple copies everywhere.

You need to confirm you want to allow USB debugging.

Confirmation window to allow USB debugging on a Chromebook

Select the “Always allow from this computer” check box and click the “OK” button.

If your terminal window doesn’t display “connected to”, (your IP & port) open Settings and navigate to Apps > Google Play Store > Manage Android Preferences > System > About Device. Click on the “Build Number” entry seven times.

The build number field in the about device screen on a Chromebook

This forces your Chromebook to consider you as a developer. Then Reboot.

If that doesn't work.....go online and find someone smarter than me and figure it out.

Now to load the apk file so you can just click/open as if a traditional app:

Open the Linux Terminal app, should be called "Terminal" with your other app and type/hit enter:

adb -s emulator-5554 install father.apk

5554 is the port number I used and "father.apk" the file you saved to the Linux folder - (save the file with a shorter name like father so you don't have to type as much).

The linux window should say "Performing Streamed Install" for 30 seconds, then "Success" At this point the file should be ready and you just need to open the "father.apk" app and run it.

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