How To Manually Install (“Side Load”) Apps On Your Android Device

Android Logo   How To Manually Install (Side Load) Apps On Your Android DeviceIgnoring any “app count” wars between the iOS and Android worlds, one thing is for sure — there are a ton of apps available to install on Android, no matter how you look at it. A large amount of apps are freely available for anyone in the world with an internet connection. However, there are a few apps which are extremely useful but not available in all countries. Or maybe you’re in an area for a longer period of time where your device itself doesn’t have internet.

The app you’d like might not even be found in the Google Play Store — although this is a rare occurrence. No matter what the issue at hand is, it’d be great if you can manually install, or “side load”, apps onto your Android device. But how do you do this?

What Will We Be Doing?

In a quick summary, the easiest way to get apps onto your phone is to download the app itself in .apk format and transfer it via a USB cable to your device’s internal memory or SD card. From there, you can use a file browser to open it and have the Android system install the app. The entire process it rather simple but it does require a couple of steps, especially when you’re doing it for the first time.

Getting the APK File

android manual install app install   How To Manually Install (Side Load) Apps On Your Android Device
First, you’ll need to download the APK file of the app which you’d like to install. Where you get the APK depends largely on how comfortable you feel with wherever you get it. Officially, you cannot get the APK files of any app directly from the Google Play Store. However, there is an extension which can download them — albeit breaking the Play Store’s Terms of Service.

If you’re fine with going that way, then it’s a possible option. Otherwise, you can search the internet for the app’s APK, using search terms such as “side load android”. If you’ve had the app installed before or have a friend who does, you can often get the APK through backup software like Titanium Backup. Essentially, getting the APK file is the hardest part of the entire process.

Transfer to Device

android manual install usb   How To Manually Install (Side Load) Apps On Your Android Device
Once you have the APK file in hand, go ahead and connect your device to your computer and enable mass storage or mount the SD card to the computer like you usually do. Then copy the APK file over to the device; it doesn’t matter where you put it as long as you remember the location. Then don’t forget to safely unmount before you move on to actually installing.

Installing

android manual install unknown sources   How To Manually Install (Side Load) Apps On Your Android Device
Before you can actually install the APK file, you’ll need to tell your device that it can install any apps outside of the Play Store without throwing a fit. You can find this switch in your Settings –> Security –> Unknown Sources. Once this is enabled, you’re clear to fire up your file browser (I personally prefer ASTRO), locate the APK file, and open it. The Android OS should take over, identifying that the APK file is an app, and ask you whether you’d like to go ahead and install it, all permissions accounted for. After a couple seconds, your app should be installed and ready to go!

Conclusion

Provided you have an APK file of the app in hand, you shouldn’t have any problems whatsoever getting that app installed on your Android device. I’m sure there are other ways to manually install Android apps (such as transferring the APK file via Bluetooth instead of a USB cable), but the USB method is the easiest and most commonly used. If you come across any issues, searching on MakeUseOf or heading over to MakeUseOf Answers should be of help.

Do you regularly install an app manually? Are there certain apps you need which can only be installed manually? Let us know in the comments!

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32 Comments -

0 votes

Terry

I bought an Android tablet device and the manufacturer had gone out of business so the registration of the device tries to connect to an offline server. Not being able to run the registration I can’t use the built-in app store. I have been successful with installing apps as described above.

My question is does anyone know of an alternative legit app store that can be side-loaded, is not full of malware or porn, and has the common commercial apps that I can buy? I have looked but could not find the Google Play alternative for Android.

0 votes
0 votes

Terry

Susendeep Dutta,

Thanks! That is exactly what I was looking for, I can’t believe I didn’t know or find that one. I use Amazon fairly often.

Sorry for the double post, for some reason my posts weren’t showing up when reloading the page.

0 votes

Garey Boone

I install apps outside of the play store on rare occasions. I use an app called Easy Installer it will search your entire system for apps that can be installed including the apk files from outside of the play store that you have placed on your device yourself.

0 votes

Marcus

I used to use Easy Installer as well, until I found out that it plays funny with apps that require the Google Services Framework to run (e.g. C2DM push). If you have a file explorer of some sort, just browsing to the file and selecting it will let the phone install it for you(and the phone does all the linking to frameworks and that as well).

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Thanks for the tips, Garey and Marcus!

0 votes

Saurav Azad

yes its quit easy but you have to be careful with .apk file as it may contain malware if downloaded from other sources

0 votes

lifehacker

Why is it that after reading an article on lifehacker I quite often see the same tutorial etc turning up here on makeuseof some days later. Can you not think up your own articles, it is quite obvious that you scan these other sites for ideas. This is not such a bad thing to do for inspiration and direction, but to blatantly re-run the original idea for the article (if not the exact content) is disgusting, especially when not so long ago you and your colleagues were complaining about being harassed by trolls. This is not proffesional, but amateurish. How can you take credit for someone elses ideas and work, not to mention get paid for it?

0 votes

vinny

You are either mistaken or you lied, read the credit in the Lifehacker article, LH featured the MOU article.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

I’m sorry that you feel that may, but I can assure you that this was an original article. I had no idea Lifehacker even had such an article.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Actually, I just saw the article myself, and vinny is right…the Lifehacker article is based off of this one.

0 votes

Emmanuel

I all ways though this was a hard task but it was super simple haha. Coming from developing Android apps for the BlackBerry PlayBook known as BlackBerry Android in a .bar format it was easy for me to side load to the BlackBerry PlayBook. I all ways had to use an Android emulator to test my Android App for native Android devices and test but didn’t have to do that for my BlackBerry tablet. :)

0 votes

ViGi

WHY NEEDS TO BE SO COMPLICATED. JUST OPEN YOUR BROWSER ON YOUR ANDROID PHONE AND SERCH FOR THE APK.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

These instructions were also meant to help people who couldn’t reach the internet on their phone.

0 votes

Terry

I bought an Android tablet but the manufacturer had gone out of business so the registration stalls as it tries to access a server that no longer exists. Since the registration cannot proceed to the Google account setup the marketplace app is not functional.

I have successfully set up a few apps like the instructions above.

Does anyone know of a legit Android Marketplace/Play alternative that can be side loaded, where the store doesn’t contain malware or porn, but I can buy the good commercial apps from?

0 votes

Arun Singh

Congrats @da

0 votes

Arun Singh

Congrats @danny your post got featured on Lifehackers!!!!!!!1
http://lifehacker.com/5943562/how-to-sideload-android-apps

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Thanks Arun! I’m quite happy to see that!

0 votes

Hanamichi Kurotsuchi

thank you ma for the extension

0 votes

Zenphic

Thanks for the tip. I’m still getting the hang of my Android device and these tips help me quite a bit.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

You’re welcome, Zenphic!

0 votes

Lou Gagliardi

I bought the nexus 7. This is my first android device (i was iOS before), and I found out on my own that I could also just email myself the apks. I had two friends that needed an app tested, they emailed it to me and the rest is as they say history. It was so awesome to do!

0 votes

Danny Stieben

I’m glad that method worked out for you!

0 votes

Will L.

I am new still very new to all this. I actually have an iPhone right now, but I am seriously considering switching to Android, because iOS 6 looks idiotic. So whenever I do make the plunge and put these new apps on the phone manually, can the apps be set up to automatically update themselves from the developer? Or does that have to be done manually as well? That would seem to be a pain…

0 votes

Will L.

I am new to this, but if you manually install an app on your phone, will that app then be able to automatically update whenever new updates and fixes come out for it? Or will you need to manually install an updated version? Thanks.

0 votes

cc

I find it interesting that neither you nor any other site that talks about side loading apps mentions what I’ve found to be the most common reason for doing so-mainly that I want to control what my kids install. There might be other ways of doing this but my way is to not set up Google Play on their devices. It’s not hard for them to set it up for themselves but at least when they do they don’t use my credit card.

0 votes

Mohammad Hamad

You can also use apps like AirDroid to install an application

0 votes

Bror Johansson

Is this working in all versions of Android? I have tryed on my Huawei Ideos S7 med Android 2.2 svensk version. I haven´t been able to find this
Settings –> Security –> Unknown Sources. It can be my knowledge in English but probably not. My Android is rooted,

0 votes

Kylee Kanavas

Im not sure if this was already covered but: Can use this process to get an app that is only on ios, on an android device?

0 votes

Ethan G.

Didnt work with some apps on my droid Bionic with the ICS
Some say that there is an existing pakage with a conflicting signature while others just say app not installed.

0 votes

Katherine

i have never sideload an apk file to my pandigital novel 7 inch white. i have a hard time trying to installed apps. i aalways get the message package is not parsing.