How to add non-Store/Sideload apps to Windows 8

Adding custom non-store apps to Windows 8 is something that does not get talked about a lot. Microsoft  will prefer that Windows 8 users  get their apps from the Windows Store integrated into the operating system and not through third party means. There are however a few scenarios where you may need to add apps directly to the start page without using the store to do so.

App developers for instance need to test their applications before they submit it to the store, which means that they need to have a way to to do on a live system. But that is not the only scenario where this may make sense. Depending on Microsoft’s store policies, certain kinds of apps may not be listed in the store.

Also,system administrators may want to block Windows Store access on the network but deploy specific apps on some or all of the devices of the network or you may just want to play with Windows 8 having full control over it.

How to sideload apps in Windows 8

Windows 8 needs to be prepared before you can sideload apps. The first thing you need to do is enable “Allow all trusted applications to install” in the Group Policy. Keep in mind that the Group Policy is only available in Windows 8 Pro and Enterprise, and not Windows 8 or Windows 8 RT. Users on those systems can change a Registry setting instead.
  • Tap on the Windows key, enter group policy, switch to Settings on the filter on the right, and load the Group Policy on the system
  • Navigate to Local Computer Policy > Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > App Package Deployment
  • Double click Allow all trusted apps to install
  • Switch the setting to enabled and click ok.

This sets the value of the 

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Appx\AllowAllTrustedApps Registry key to 1. If you do not have access to the Group Policy, change the value in the Registry directly for the same effect.

The two other requirements are that the app needs to be cryptographically signed, and that the computer the app needs to be installed on trusts the signing certificate.

If that is the case, apps can be installed with the following Windows PowerShell command

add-appxpackage C:\app1.appx –DependencyPath C:\winjs.appx

The file app1.appx is in this case the app that you want to install, and winjs.appx the dependency.

Additional information about the process are available on Technet.

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