Let’s face it, the Windows Store ain’t all that. The riches on offer in the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store are far greater. There’s more chance of the Pope converting to Judaism than Apple letting you install its apps on other platforms, but it is perfectly possible to run Android apps in Windows using an emulator. We’ll show you how.
How to run Android apps in Windows with BlueStacks
The emulator we’re going to use is called BlueStacks, which has been around for quite some time now. It lets you play Android games and other apps on your PC, as if it were an Android device. There are some caveats, which we’ll come too shortly, but it’s free, easy to install and you basically have nothing to lose by giving it a go.
First, click on the BlueStacks link above and download the software to your PC. During the installation you will see this screen:
Ignore that piece of advice at the bottom. Definitely do not disable your PC’s antivirus under any circumstances. If the installation gets stuck, by all means dip into your security software’s settings and see if you can make an exception to let BlueStacks through, but don’t disable the software entirely. That’s a reckless piece of advice.
Once it’s installed, you’ll be invited to enter your Google account details, just like you would when setting up any other Android device. Interestingly, Google sees the BlueStacks emulator as OnePlus 5 smartphone!
Once the setup routine is complete – it can take a good few minutes – you’ll be presented with the Pika Store, which is how the BlueStacks developers make their money. That store is basically only interested in selling you games, but if you’ve already bought or installed Android apps, you can install them in BlueStacks without paying again.
Click on any app in the Pika Store. You will find it opens a window onto that app’s listing in the regular Google Play Store. Now click the back arrow in the top left corner of that window, and you’ll be sent to the Play Store home page. Click My Apps from the menu on the left-hand side, pick the Library tab and you’ll be able to install any app you’ve previously purchased in the Google Play Store.
Once the app is installed, you can open it from within the My Apps tab of the BlueStacks software. Annoyingly, BlueStacks also puts an icon for the app on your PC’s desktop, but you can switch that behaviour off in the BlueStacks settings.
If you don’t have a touchscreen laptop (or even if you do), BlueStacks provides keyboard and mouse contols for Android apps. This doesn’t always work perfectly, especially in games that rely on you swiping the screen, but it’s largely fine once you get the hang of it.
BlueStacks is an emulator, which is running Android in something known as a virtual machine. This means performance isn’t quite as spiffy as if Android were the main operating system on the device.
You may notice that games, in particular, are stuttery. The BlueStacks help menus provide various means to boost improve, including switching on hardware virtualisation in Windows. This is quite a tricky job, although BlueStacks offers clear step-by-step instructions in its help guide.
Other ways to boost performance are to click on the BlueStacks settings cog, click Settings, and open the Display tab. Here you can dial down the resolution and the DPI (dots per inch), which will make the graphics slightly fuzzier but will help games run more smoothly.
Now read this: Should I replace Android with Salifish OS?