Microsoft spent years trying to get its own mobile operating system working, but that’s a thing of the past, and now it’s all bundled with Android.
Microsoft makes Surface phones running Android, helps you connect Android devices to Windows, and you can even install Android apps on Windows 11. However, the partnership with the Amazon App Store gives you access to only a handful of useful Android apps. If you want more Android power in Windows 11, you can “load” other apps in just a few steps.
Before you come up with wacky ideas on how to run every Android app under the sun, you should check your system specs. The Windows Subsystem for Android requires at least 8 GB of RAM, but 16 GB is recommended. Your PC also needs a relatively modern processor in the form of an 8th Gen Intel Core i3, AMD Ryzen 3000, Snapdragon 8c or newer. On the storage front, Windows 11 should be installed on an SSD instead of a spinning hard drive.
Even if you don’t want to use Amazon as your app provider, you’ll need to get it from the Windows Store to get the prompt to enable Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA). The PC will reboot after installing WSA, but it’s not done yet.
To download apps, you need to go into the WSA settings to enable Developer mode, which is located under the “Developer” tab. On this same screen you will need to write down the internal IP address, which you will need later. Note that the IP address can only appear when the Android subsystem is running.
Find Android apps
Even if Windows 11 had access to the entire Amazon Appstore catalog, the profits would be slim. As is, you only get a subset of Amazon’s apps. If you want to install something from outside the app store, you’ll need to get your hands on the APK file. You have two options: download apps from a trusted source or save APKs from an Android phone.
If you have an Android phone, getting the APK from your list of installed apps is the safest way. You’ll need an APK extractor app like ML Manager to do this, but you can save and share the file on your PC without worrying about the source.
Even if you have an Android device, it may be worth downloading APKs from a trusted online source. At times, you may get apps that are not hosted on the Play Store, as well as older versions of apps that have been modified or updated with unwanted features. APK Mirror and F-droid are good and reliable options for downloading free apps. If you want paid apps that aren’t on the Amazon store, you’ll have to crank up the Jolly Roger and engage in software piracy, which makes it much more likely that you’ll catch malware.
To install your APK files, you need to play around with a command prompt tool known as Android Debugging Bridge (ADB). Download the platform tools from the Google site. Open a command prompt or terminal from the folder where you saved Google Platform Tools, and you’re ready to connect to your virtual Android system.
First, use the command adb connect ip_address, replacing the “IP address” with the one you copied above. With that done, you can use adb devices to verify that ADB is connected to the Android subsystem. (You can see examples of these commands in action in the image above.) Again, this only works when WSA is running.
With your PC and Android subsystem connected, you can use adb install file_path, replacing “file path” with the actual file path to the APK you previously downloaded. (Again, see the image above for an example.) We’re using the Twitter app as a test here, but it should work the same for any APK. Not all apps will work properly on the Android subsystem, which is still just a preview feature.
After you install your Android app, it will appear in the list of apps on the Windows Start menu like any native Windows app. This is a minor inconvenience, as you won’t be able to tell the Windows and Android apps apart at a glance. However, the uninstall is very easy and does not require a command line. Just find the app in Start, right-click it and choose uninstall. If sideloading adventures go awry and you suspect you’ve broken something or installed malware, you can simply uninstall WSA for Android like you would an app and start fresh.