If you want to manually install an Android application, you will need to know how to install the APK files. This guide will show you how.
If you want to install apps on your Android device, you’ll usually visit just one place - the Google Play Store.
This is the Google-controlled market for apps, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Non-compliant applications often fall through cracks, making it difficult to trust the applications you install. It also doesn’t have all the apps, with some developers choosing to bypass the entire store (and Google control).
An alternative is to install the application files (called APK files) directly. If you are installing an application from a trusted developer that is not in the app store, you may want to do so. If you want to know how to install APK files on Android, follow this guide.
Installing unknown source applications on Android 10 and later
Android has a number of security mechanisms in place to try to protect you from installing rogue application files. Unknown source applications, for example, are applications that are installed manually from a trusted source. This usually means an app that isn’t from the Google Play Store or a third-party marketplace, such as Amazon Appstore.
If you try to install an unknown source application from an APK file, Android will block you. To work around this, you’ll need to allow Android to install unknown source apps on your device.
The steps to do this will vary slightly, depending on your version of Android and the device manufacturer. This guide assumes that you are running a device running Android 10 and later.
To install unknown source applications on Android:
- Open settings the application on your Android device.
- In the settings menu, tap Applications.
- Touch Special access to the application (or Advanced > Special access to the application).
- Touch Install unknown applications.
- Select an application to use to install the APK file - your browser and file management applications are the best option here.
- Click on Allow from this source slider to allow the installation of APK files through that application.
Installing unknown source applications on Samsung devices
Samsung devices run Android, but the company likes to do things a little differently. If you want to install unknown source applications on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, for example, the steps are different.
To install applications from an unknown source on Samsung devices:
- Open settings the application.
- In the settingsTouch Applications.
- Click on three-point menu icon.
- Touch Special access.
- In the Special accessTouch Install unknown applications.
- Tap the slider next to the web browser or file management application in the list to allow the APK to be installed on it.
Where to download APK files on Android
At this point, you should be able to install APK files on Android. The next step is to find the files to install.
Before you begin, however, consider this advice. APKs can be dangerous, especially if they ask you for permission to record your personal data, control your device settings, or perform tasks (such as calling or texting your contacts).
You should only download and install APK files from a trusted source. If you’re not sure, stop. There are third-party markets that offer some protection, but you may want to look elsewhere. If you are willing to take a risk, the best bet to download APK files is to find an APK download site.
Some sites are better than others. In particular, sites like APKMirror (owned by Artem Russakovskii, founder and former owner of the Android Mirror news site) should be reliable enough to be used. APKPure is another long-term alternative that offers APK downloads.
You should also make sure that the APK file you are installing is from a trusted developer. Please check all reviews and do a quick Google search to confirm this before continuing.
When you’re done, use sites like APKMirror or APKPure to locate the APK files you want to install and download. Once the APK files are on your Android device, you can install them using a file explorer.
How to install an APK file on Android
Once you’ve downloaded an APK file to Android, you can install it. This should be a fairly simple process, and the steps should remain the same for most versions of Android.
To install an APK file on Android:
- Open the file explorer of your Android device. If you can’t find it, download and install the Files by Google app first.
- Find the APK file in the file explorer and select it.
- The APK installation menu will appear - tap Installation. On Samsung devices, this may appear as a pop-up window.
- Allow time to install the application.
- Touch Completed or Open once the installation is complete.
You may also see additional steps, depending on your device and the permissions required for the application. Follow any additional instructions on the screen as needed.
Use your Android device safely
The above steps show you how to install APK files on Android, but as I mentioned, it is not always the safest option. You should only download APK files from sources you trust. If you’re unsure, use a trusted third-party marketplace, such as Amazon Appstore.
This article is only useful if you want to upload APK files to Android. It’s much harder to install newer AAB application files, and right now we recommend that you only try to install applications that use this format through a marketplace like the Google Play Store. You may also be able to find an alternative APK for an AAB application file using an APK download site.
Found a suspicious APK site? You can block the website on Android at any time to avoid reloading. If you want to keep your privacy, you can also hide your Android apps.