Gone are the days when you needed an emulator to run Android apps on Windows. Windows Subsystem for Android allows you to install Android apps on your Windows 11 machine easily. Unlike some of the best Chromebooks that come with the Google Play Store preinstalled, installing Android apps using Windows Subsystem for Android isn’t that easy. Windows Subsystem for Android was announced during the Windows 11 launch, but Microsoft hasn’t made it available on all Windows 11 builds. However, there is a clever way to install Android apps on any Windows 11 PC.
Windows Subsystem for Android works the same way as Windows Subsystem for Linux, which Microsoft introduced in 2016. Both WSL and WSA use virtualization technology to install and run apps.
Installing Android apps on Windows 11
You can install Windows Subsystem for Android using the installer package or by signing up for the Beta or Developer builds in the Windows Insider Program (it works only in the U.S. or by changing the region in settings). This guide focuses on the former.
Installing the Windows Subsystem for Android
To install WSA, we’ll use the Microsoft Store Generation Project website. It retrieves the packages from the Microsoft server, the same server that Microsoft Store uses to install apps on your Windows PC, and is completely safe to use.
- Head to store.rg-adguard.net.
- Copy the following link and paste it into the URL box: www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/windows-subsystem-for-android/9p3395vx91nr
- Click the drop-down arrow to the right and select Slow.
- Click the check mark to search for files.
- Scroll down and click the largest MSIX bundle to start the download. The latest version, as of writing this (2204.4000.8.0), is 1.34 GB.
- When the download finishes, go to the file’s location.
- Right-click on the file and click Rename.
- Add the text .appx at the end of the file and press Enter.
- Double-click on the file and click the Install button.
- Once finished installing, the Windows Subsystem for Android launches.
Installing an app store: Aurora Store
Now that you’re done installing WSA, you may think the next step is to install the Google Play Store and Play Services for a fully-blown Android experience. However, it’s not that easy. When WSA was first announced, people started searching for ways to install Google Play Store on the same. That’s when someone fumbled up on a script that allowed installing the Play Store and other Google Services in a jiffy. It was later discovered that the scripts were injecting users with malware and malicious scripts, as reported by BleepingComputer.
There are many safe Play Store alternatives. One of our favorites is the Aurora Store. As it’s possible to sideload apps on WSA, it’s easy to install Aurora Store first and then install your favorite apps.
- Get the stable Aurora Store APK from its official website.
- Install the Android Debugging Bridge. Refer to the Windows: Manual Setup section in our ADB guide.
- Navigate to the Platform Tools folder, right-click, and select Open in Terminal.
- Open Windows Subsystem for Android, go to Developer, and turn on Developer mode.
- Once turned on, Android’s Developer options pop up in a window. Close it, and you’ll see a string of numbers separated by periods and a semicolon.
- Go to the Terminal and type adb connect number. Replace number with the number you see in the Developer mode section. For example, adb connect 127.0.0.1:2000.
- Once done, it returns connected and asks you to allow USB debugging. Click Allow to proceed.
- Move the Aurora Store APK to the Platform Tools folder.
- Enter adb install AuroraStore_4.1.1.apk in the Terminal. Here, 4.1.1 refers to the version number, which could differ depending on when you’re reading this. Make sure to copy the exact file name and paste it into the Terminal.
- Once done, open the Start menu. You’ll find Aurora Store in the Recommended section. Alternatively, you can search for it using the search bar.
Now that Aurora Store is installed and ready to go, the next step is to open it, set it up, and install your favorite apps. Installing apps from the store is similar to the Google Play Store.
Setting up Aurora Store
Here’s how to set up the Aurora Store.
- Click the Aurora Store icon to start the application.
- Accept the Terms of service and click Next.
- Check Session installer and click Next.
- Choose the app’s theme and accent, and click Next.
- Grant all the required permissions and proceed further.
- When you’re done, click Finish.
- As WSA lacks GApps, the Sign in with Google option won’t work, so click Anonymous.
- You’ll then see the Aurora Store homepage.
- To download an app, click an icon and the Install button to start the download.
- Once done, you’ll see a window containing the package installer. Click Install.
- Once an app is installed, you can find it in the Start menu’s Recommended section or All apps.
- Here’s Instagram running on WSA.
Like many Google Play Store alternatives, Aurora Store also has its shortcomings. One of them is app availability. However, you can counter it by manually installing APKs from APK Mirror using the adb install command.
Installing WSA by enrolling in Windows Insiders
The other method involves signing up for the Windows Insider Program. Installing the Beta or Developer versions allows you to try out upcoming features at the expense of overall system stability. Regardless, it is an option if you don’t want to rely on third-party tools. All you need to do is sign up for Beta in the Windows Insider Program, change your region to the U.S., and search and download the Amazon Appstore in Windows Store.
Beta and Developer builds could be unstable and may not be feasible for daily use. Once you receive an insider build, there’s no going back to stable unless you do a clean installation of Windows.
Windows Subsystem for Android is still limited
With the recent release of version 2207.40000.8.0, WSA is now available to try out in Japan and Germany. There’s still a long way to go before the feature makes it to the stable release. Still, as the support is expanding, it may arrive in your region sooner than expected.
One of the recent updates for Windows Subsystem for Android upgraded the Android version to Android 12L. WSA is a great tool for developers and enthusiasts who want to run Android apps on their Windows computers. However, an everyday user who may not be well-versed with app sideloading might end up using the Amazon Appstore, which lacks popular apps. Therefore, the overall WSA experience may feel underwhelming and gimmicky. We hope Microsoft adds more depth and functionality to it until its stable release on Windows 11.