Adding custom non-store apps to Windows 8 is something that does not get talked about a lot. Microsoft for one wants Windows 8 users to 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. This is similar to extensions for the Chrome browser, where specific types of extensions, e.g. YouTube video downloaders, are not listed in the store. If you want to download and install such an extension in Chrome, you need to install it from a third party source. And the same may be necessary for Windows 8 as well.
Last but not least, 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.
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.
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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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.