How to Manually Install or Side Load Apps on Android
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Updated on November 15th, 2016 by Riley J. Dennis.

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 that are extremely useful but not available in all countries. Or maybe you’ll be in an area for a long period of time where you won’t have internet access.

Or the app you want might not even be found in the Google Play Store. No matter what the issue at hand is, it’d be great if you could 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 is rather simple, but it does require a couple of steps, especially when you’re doing it for the first time.

Getting the APK File

manually install android apps
First, you’ll need to download the APK file of the app that you’d like to install — and to do that, you’ll have to find it. APKMirror is a popular source for all kinds of apps. Amazon’s app store needs to be downloaded from its website. Just make sure you trust the website you’re getting it from, because apps installed from locations outside the Play Store is the number 1 cause of malware on Android Has Your Android Phone Been Infected with Malware? Has Your Android Phone Been Infected with Malware? How does malware get on an Android device? After all, most users only install apps through the Play Store, and Google keeps a tight watch over that to make sure malware doesn't squeeze through, right?... Read More .

So you can search the internet for the app’s APK, but be wary of any sketchy-looking sites. If you’ve had the app installed before or have a friend who does, you can also often get the APK through backup software like Titanium Backup How To Complete A Full Backup Of Your Android Phone [1.6+] How To Complete A Full Backup Of Your Android Phone [1.6+] I've been using Titanium Backup ever since I got my first Android device. I love backup applications (for PC and otherwise), and Titanium is as good as it gets. In this short introduction I’d like... Read More .

side load android
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.


manually install android apps
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 under Settings > Security > Unknown Sources.

Once this is enabled, you’re clear to fire up your favorite file browser The 7 Best Free File Explorers for Android The 7 Best Free File Explorers for Android There are a bunch of file management and file exploring apps out there for Android, but these are the best. Read More , locate the APK file, and open it. Android 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!

Did That Work for You?

Assuming you can find an APK, you shouldn’t have any problems whatsoever getting that app installed on your Android device. 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.

This sideloading method will also work for any other files you might want to transfer from your computer to your phone — including photos, videos, documents, etc. Sideloading is just fancy Android speak for transferring a file to your Android phone or tablet.

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

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  1. TINA
    January 7, 2018 at 4:08 am

    Why not simply download and install on your Android phone?? When I started reading the above article I was honestly bewildered (still am) because I've always downloaded and installed APK's on my phone. Am I missing something? There must be a reason for your way of doing this...? ?

  2. Keith Taylor
    December 20, 2017 at 11:57 am

    Thank you so much for this straight-forward set of instructions: it installed the app I needed on the very first try!

  3. Alex
    October 25, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Nice and clear explanation. Thank you.
    In my case, I developed an app using Android Studio, connected my phone via USB cable and when I click "run selected application" it builds and installs the app on my phone and it runs fine. However, when I email the name.apk to myself , as attachment, and install on the same phone it does not run. I am getting message "MyApp has stopped".
    I do have permit to install from 3rd party. Any suggestions?

  4. Chris
    May 21, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    How can I install withouth using unknown sources an app that is shared from bluetooth. My tablet has secured settings

  5. Maszek
    February 1, 2017 at 10:28 am

    I am looking for instructions to install apk files on a new Android device 6.0.1 without ever having to activate google play store and play services--at all. I am not very keen on voluntarily sharing data with google about the apps I am using without knowing where my data are stored, how they are analyzed, who has access to my data, and without possibility to manage or delete them myself.
    My approach to avoid google play worked perfectly on an Android 4.0 device, but regretfully, I had to replace this device.
    The instructions above are written for older Android versions, however, I am able to follow them on 6.0.1. I have allowed installation from unknown sources in security settings. I downloaded a few apk files from reliable sources (F-droid) and copied them onto my device via Android File Transfer into the root folder on my device's internal storage.
    After disconnecting from USB, I access the files through Settings-->storage-->internal storage-->view (the latter step is at the bottom of the menu). I can now see all files in the internal memory. When I tap on any of the apk files I parked here, Android tells me that the file cannot be opened.
    I tried to follow the procedure by parking the apk-files in a folder named Download and also onto a flash memory card, but to no avail.
    I have also enabled developer settings on my device, but that did not make a difference either. Are there any other options worth trying? I have been roaming the www without success, all instructions are written for older Android versions and discussion threads closed. Makeuseof is the one site that appears to be really active.

    • holosim
      May 17, 2017 at 11:36 pm

      I'm having this same issue with the NX-74751 Project Tango platform, running Android 4.4. If anyone has a solution to this issue, i'd love to hear it. I haven't been able to install new apps in almost 10 months.

  6. Steve G.
    January 24, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    One other alternative to getting the .apk *wirelessly* onto your mobile Android device is to simply email it to yourself and download the attachment.

  7. Iulian
    January 7, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    I had trouble with instaling apps from google play store.When I click on one to instaled it sayed download but it kept on going forever without downloading nothing.
    Now with this little trick you teached me it works.Thank you!

  8. ub
    December 13, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    Thanks Danny. Keep up the good work. I have to use manual install because I have a China phone (bought in China) and won't let me use Google Play.

  9. Anonymous
    November 8, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    My Amazon Fire Phone doesn't have the playstore . So I side loaded several apps from , I'm quite satisfied with this site, but kindly share some other reliable sources as well. Where we can get latest android apps (apk).

  10. Collin C
    March 31, 2015 at 1:27 am

    It's a tablet

  11. Collin C
    March 31, 2015 at 1:26 am

    I can't download an apk file that was sent via Gmail from work. I click it in my inbox and says "cannot download file" so how on earth can I install it if I can't download it?

  12. Katherine
    January 9, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    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.

  13. Ethan G.
    December 27, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    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.

  14. Kylee Kanavas
    November 20, 2012 at 2:43 am

    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?

  15. Bror Johansson
    October 12, 2012 at 8:49 am

    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,

  16. Mohammad Hamad
    October 8, 2012 at 6:48 am

    You can also use apps like AirDroid to install an application

  17. cc
    October 6, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    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.

  18. Will L.
    September 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    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.

  19. Will L.
    September 21, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    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...

  20. Lou Gagliardi
    September 17, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    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!

    • Danny Stieben
      September 19, 2012 at 1:35 am

      I'm glad that method worked out for you!

  21. Zenphic
    September 16, 2012 at 3:06 pm

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

    • Danny Stieben
      September 19, 2012 at 1:34 am

      You're welcome, Zenphic!

  22. Hanamichi Kurotsuchi
    September 16, 2012 at 7:12 am

    thank you ma for the extension

  23. Arun Singh
    September 16, 2012 at 2:14 am

    Congrats @danny your post got featured on Lifehackers!!!!!!!1

    • Danny Stieben
      September 19, 2012 at 1:34 am

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

  24. Arun Singh
    September 16, 2012 at 2:12 am

    Congrats @da

  25. Terry
    September 16, 2012 at 12:55 am

    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?

  26. ViGi
    September 15, 2012 at 11:05 pm


    • Danny Stieben
      September 19, 2012 at 1:33 am

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

  27. Emmanuel
    September 15, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    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. :)

  28. lifehacker
    September 15, 2012 at 9:31 pm
  29. lifehacker
    September 15, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    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?

    • vinny
      September 16, 2012 at 2:17 am

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

    • Danny Stieben
      September 19, 2012 at 1:28 am

      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.

    • Danny Stieben
      September 19, 2012 at 1:32 am

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

  30. Saurav Azad
    September 15, 2012 at 8:21 pm

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

  31. Garey Boone
    September 15, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    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.

    • Marcus
      September 15, 2012 at 10:01 pm

      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).

      • Danny Stieben
        September 19, 2012 at 1:25 am

        Thanks for the tips, Garey and Marcus!

  32. Terry
    September 15, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    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.

    • susendeep dutta
      September 16, 2012 at 10:01 am

      Look for Amazon app store which provides a paid app for free one day -

      • Terry
        September 16, 2012 at 1:35 pm

        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.