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How to Run Android Apps in Chrome with Google ARC

When you mix a mostly open-source platform with curious developers, you're bound to get a few unexpected results. That's what happened with Google's App Runtime for Chrome (ARC), which started life as a developer tool, but now provides a backdoor for tech-savvy consumers to run just about any Android app on a computer with Google's Chrome Internet browser.

Google provided instructions on the Chrome developer webpage. For what it's worth, running full consumer versions of Android apps on Chrome isn't really what ARC is for, and using it requires a little of technical know-how.

Still, it's definitely possible, and requires three things: the ARC Welder Chrome extension, a computer running the latest version of Chrome (Windows, Mac and Linux all work) and an Android application package (APK) for a program. This is where things might get tricky for an average consumer, since you cannot download APKs directly from the Google Play Store, but you can find them elsewhere online or turn any installed program into an APK on your phone using free apps such as Astro File Manager.

Once you have an APK, here's how to run it:

1. Download the ARC Welder.

2. Launch the program.
Its location will vary, depending on your operating system. Windows users can find it in the Start Menu.

3. Choose a directory.
ARC Welder needs a place to store files, so choose an empty folder somewhere.

4. Open your APK.
It will be in whichever directory you saved it.

5. Launch your app.
Select your settings and see if the app will launch. If it does, you can use it as though it were on an Android mobile device.

For most people, ARC Welder will be a curiosity, but this is actually a very helpful protocol for Android developers. Testing Android apps on computers has historically required specialized software and cumbersome workarounds, but the process should be much simpler now.

Marshall Honorof is a senior writer for Tom's Guide. Contact him at mhonorof@tomsguide.com. Follow him @marshallhonorof. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.