Yes, you'll be able to sideload Android APKs onto Windows 11

Windows 11 Tiktok Androidstore
Windows 11 Tiktok Androidstore (Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Windows 11 lets you run Android apps directly in the OS.
  • The Amazon store is the first Android one for the new Microsoft Store.
  • A Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft confirms users will be able to sideload Android APKs onto Windows 11.

One of the most significant announcements regarding Windows 11 was the ability to run Android apps directly in the new OS through the new Microsoft Store.

The system is called Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA), and it works whether your PC runs an Intel, AMD, or Qualcomm processor. We also know that Microsoft would be OK if Samsung brought over its store, eventually, as the Microsoft Store is open to anyone, including Steam.

However, one question was about sideloading Android apps, aka APKs – could you do it? The default answer would be "well, duh," as everything else is open on Windows, and you can even sideload UWP Store apps.

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And you would be correct. At least, according to Miguel de Icaza, Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft. While de Icaza is careful to note in his Twitter profile he does not speak for Microsoft, he did respond with an emphatic "Yes!" when asked about sideloading Android apps onto Windows.

Again, none of this is surprising, and our gut told us you would be able to bring your own Android apps over to Windows (it is a crucial function for developers, too). But it is nice to hear that you can do a lot more with Android on Windows 11 if your app is not found on Amazon's store.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • It would have been shocking otherwise, but good to have confirmation. This is great not only for apps not in the Amazon store, but often apps are there, but not the latest version.
  • Being able to side load Android apps into Window 11 is pretty dope. I can't see myself having lots of uses for Android on Windows 11 but I can see myself using it. Choice is good. While Windows 11 and the new app store are some serious tech news, I view them as part of a much larger story that was outlined by Sataya Nadella's comment at the end of the Windows 11 rollout. I have learned over the years to pay very close attention to what he has to say; his voice matters and carries significant weight. What I heard is him slyly going to war over the hearts and minds of developers, creators, and consumers by directly attacking the closed systems used by Apple and Google and if successful will fundamentally alter the computing landscape for the foreseeable future. In terms of Apple's social media model this goes right at the beating heart of how that is used to bind people to their ecosystem. Nadella is clearly making a play for the entire creator community by making the case that their work is theirs and that the Windows eco system is a perfect platform to protect that when he said “there is no personal computing without personal agency" and "a platform can only serve society if its rules allow for this foundational innovation and category creation." In terms of the Apple's and Google's app store models, especially when considered in light of the potential anti-trust action against them over the draconian terms they both use, the new Microsoft store is a real problem for them. If Microsoft can run an app store and receive zero commissions, it becomes far more difficult for Apple and Google to defend what they charge in an anti-trust law suit. Being able to side load Android apps is not a trivial side show, there are lion's teeth in that performance. And then there is the even less trivial ability of major developers, such as Samsung or Adobe, to host their own stores. If this plays out properly the new Microsoft store becomes a universal marketplace. This sounds a whole lot like what Amazon built for third party vendors but instead of selling infinite wampum we are dealing digital wampum. The Windows 11 rollout was all about a very confident Microsoft that has shed its missteps over the last decade and is moving with clear eyed purpose into the future of computing that not only embraces continuously connected computing, cloud connectivity, and enhanced with AI but also is democratizing the underlying economic and social model that guides how all this plays out. This is breath taking stuff. Mr. Nadella is utterly brilliant and the most singularly important person in computing since Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. That short speech is going resonant for the next decade.
  • @Kate-505 If it pans out, time will tell. My gut instincts tell me Android apps on W11 is a big mistake. However, I hope I am wrong. I have no qualms of standing by my words and admitting I was wrong. So for the sake everyone else I hope Microsoft proves me wrong by making it so painless and easy to make native Windows apps - that includes the certification and support processes to get native Windows apps in the store. If they don't Microsoft would have proven me right 🥴.
  • Loved your points! Nadella's comments did have this effect of a significant epilogue and truly presented the vision of Microsoft in this new age and their true value proposition to the computing world, far beyond boring computers that you use in offices to do work stuff. The idea of a universal marketplace (UMP?) is awesome as well, and I really wish they can convince Samsung especially to come in to the Microsoft Store since their apps already come pre-installed on Galaxy Book devices (running Windows) and they work so well together on the Your Phone app and other integrations. It makes total sense to get other people to enjoy their apps on desktop and maybe some take the plunge to get Samsung smartphones for the fully mobile continued experience, or Smart Home devices to integrate with their Windows laptops or desktops. Add to this the massive strides they've made in gaming and the massive ship of Microsoft seems to finally have been turned in the right direction, ready to push forward full steam ahead!
  • Hmmm then hypothetically we can sideload GAPPS and GP Services....
  • Does this mean that Windows now has 2 different avenues for virus infection or are Android apps run in a container like UWP?
  • Subsystems cannot infect the OS. It uses Hyper-V architecture to enable virtualization.
  • Dan, that's presuming Hyper-V is enabled, core isolation etc is enabled by default 🤷‍♂️- these are off by default on W10 atm...
  • I suspect Samsung is presently trying to figure out the best way to get their proprietary Android apps on the Galaxy Book PC.
  • lol that is very likely
  • " system is called Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA), and it works whether your PC runs an Intel, AMD, or Qualcomm processor. We also know that Microsoft would be OK if Samsung brought over its store, eventually, as the Microsoft Store is open to anyone, including Steam." This is how Windows 11 x will run. Win32 app.
  • , "you'll be able to sideload Android APKs onto Windows 11"
    This is why I think they sell Windows 11 Mobile coming. I don't have a logical reason why you want to have Android apps on Windows
  • We can only hope. Smaller form factors such as the Duo or a medium device between the Duo and the Neo, running Windows 11 and able load Android apps and APKs. I doubt Microsoft will make mobile devices that are not dual-screen Surface devices, to maintain their unique style and UI, and avoid the direct visual comparison to the smartphones from other companies.
  • something like a Aya Neo...
  • I agree with KJW23 in one regard, I cannot for the life of me work out what purpose Android apps have in Windows. What use case requires it? Maybe I'm a bit of a nonce but I just simply don't understand why, if you are on a Windows desktop/laptop, you would have any reason to run an Android app. Except MAYBE to play games that aren't available, but that doesn't seem like enough to warrant the OS itself supporting it.
  • "Except MAYBE to play games that aren't available, but that doesn't seem like enough to warrant the OS itself supporting it."
    That's why I hear Blue Stacks is used so much, games. But, in general, I agree. I see this as more of a flex by Microsoft than anything. They did it cause they could. Surely, it doesn't hurt to have it there, but I'm skeptical it will prove useful. That said, I'm open to it. Maybe I'm wrong.
  • I use BS to have my cable box remote App on my laptop, that's it and I use it once every 2 months. I could only see this usefull on something like a Surface Go.
  • Here is a use case: I'm sitting on my couch, using my surface to edit a document, and surf the web, and my phone's in the other room charging, and I want to change the channel on my TV. Oops where's the app for my TV? Here's another use case, I wanna change the music that my house is playing on my Control 4 system, or turn off the lights--that's another use case. here's another -- I'm suddenly curious as to whether my car lease is under it's miles. I can pull the app up and take a look. I could go on all day. none of those Android apps have a PWA, UWP or Win32 option. thank you Android apps!
  • Ah, thanks for the insight, I guess everything I do on my phone I have access to on the web as well so it's never been something I have worried about. But good to hear another's take on it.
  • Speculating wildly here. The new Microsoft app store / platform is something of a trojan horse where one of the unstated goals is to crack the stranglehold Apple and Google have on mobile apps. It is a risky gambit but plausible that having Amazon and Samsung hosting their apps on this platform will create a virtuous cycle where more traffic causes Android developers begin to treat this as a legitimate alternative to the Google app store that can be monetized at sufficient levels. Going further and assuming the previous idea is successful then it becomes plausible to consider forking a version of Android, much like Microsoft did with the Edge browser, that is free of Google acting as the gate keeper to Android Apps. At that point Microsoft effectively has a Windows 11 Mobile with a viable and sustainable app store. Microsoft is too ambitious to be permanently locked out the mobile computing universe and I never thought for a moment they gave up on reentering this space. The problem was how. The only plausible way forward I kept coming up with was to co-opt either iOS or Android. iOs - ha!, that is a non starter. Android is a different story. Nadella's comments are big deal. So is the new app store. This new version of Microsoft, if I am understating the implications of this weeks announcements, is confident and has audacious goals that I can barely get my mind wrapped around. The next 10 years will be interesting times.
  • Well written posts. This may be a Trojan horse in another way. If a developer sees enough action on the Android app then it is possible the developer will see a reason to develop something native or at the very least a PWA.
  • These make a lot of sense. I think you hit the kernel of where they are going. I think irrespective of the specific method, we can see all sorts of evidence of what you are saying: Chredge, Surface Duo, plenty of mobile/Android apps, even Pro X etc. They are on a long march to try to assimilate ARM/Android. It's not like they really have a choice anyway. The company is too big as a software company, and mobile too large as a play, for them to not seek a much bigger role than they have now in it, and they will not get it unless they control a platform, or platforms are somehow rendered less advantageous (e.g. via regulation). The whole thing is basically the reverse of how google forced their way into PC. So google by using "open" (and "free") Android as a way to grab the largest share also laid the foundation for a company that has the resources to challenge them on it later on.
  • Firstly, the word "nonce" is slang for "paedophile" in the UK, so you may want to reconsider its use. As for the issue, I would agree that there won't be many people who run lots of Android apps on Windows - most people don't run many Android apps on Android - but there will definitely be niche cases where at least one app will be used a lot. I'm a software developer and I use Microsoft Authenticator a lot. Having it running on my PC instead of my phone would be very handy indeed. I could use a browser extension I suppose, but I'd rather not have to.
  • It could simply be something. I like the Surface Neo. I can see why you might want to run some Android apps on that device. I never really seen the reason to run with win32 / apps on that device.. I personally believe I don't have any actual evidence I go wait on Zack and Danny Rubino to come up with that. They are version of Windows 11 based on WOCS.
    I'm calling it windows 11 X and Windows 11 Lite to compete with Chromebooks in the educational and cheap PC market.
  • If performance is good, then this seems to kill high end Android tablets, actually this could even kill 300$+ Android tablets, if a Galaxy book Go starts at 350$ with 7c, 4gb Ram and 64gb of storage, then a smaller tablet version should cost the same if not less.
  • As a programmer, this means that I will only need a Mac and PC going forward instead of having an Android device, a Linux device, an IOS device, a Windows device, and a Mac.
  • Yep! The desktop swallows the mobile and evolves into a new thing.
  • Aya Neo and I can have coupon/reward apk installed + PC browser for YouTube and other web apps (script for UI/UX enhancement, stop vid-autoplay, remove ads, and no unnecessary caching and notification).
  • Sideloading. Gee, what could possibly go wrong?
  • What can already go wrong when people can randomly download executables and viruses on any existing pc?
  • Shudder to think how many people are being punked due to random downloading. Best AV, firewall and two factor authentication is almost useless if you actually invite them in. Cunning ones lie in wait before they exploit. MS and its unforced error rate is troublesome.
  • That's true and that's my point, sideloading apks isn't going to make things worse than what people can do now.
  • 99% of apps installed on the average Windows machine is sideloaded. How many people even use the store?
  • Petty identity theft isn't worst of it, nor is selling of personal information and personal safety. Rogue intelligence agents, state actor surveillance and even infrastructure breaches. Ecosystem has built-in backdoors.
  • Trying not to say too much but let your mind run wild like criminals do. Working from home? Ahem, at least one politician routinely looks at what Americans are searching for, abusing position of trust. Most of us are not important enough, thank goodness. Be on your guard.
  • This is a total game-changer. The WSA, together with WSL, and the changes to the Microsoft Store helps to transform the perception of Windows as being unfriendly to developers to being the place to be to get a convergence of apps and different types of developers. You can begin to imagine having different form factors utilizing these features. Hololens, Surface Neo, Surface Pro X, and even smaller-form-factor devices running Windows 11 can also run Android apps!
  • That distinguish engineer created the Gnome project, wine, and MC for Linux.
  • Google are changing from using .apk to a new type of installer, just in time for Windows 11. Android App Bundles are not likely to work on Windows