What Is an APK File?

How to open, edit, and convert APK files

What to Know

  • An APK file is an Android Package file.
  • Open one on your computer with BlueStacks.

This article describes what an APK file is, how to open or install one (exactly how depends on your operating system), and why converting one might not be very useful.

What Is an APK File?

A file with the APK file extension is an Android Package file that's used to distribute applications on Google's Android operating system.

APK files are saved in the ZIP format and are typically downloaded directly to Android devices, usually via the Google Play store, but can also be found on other websites.

Some of the content found in a typical APK file includes an AndroidManifest.xml, classes.dex, and resources.arsc file; as well as a META-INF and res folder.

Person looking at an Android smartphone with an APK file on the screen
Lifewire 

How to Open an APK File

APK files can be opened on a number of operating systems but they're used mainly on Android devices.

Open an APK File on Android

Opening an APK file on your Android device just requires that you download it like you would any file, and then open it when asked. However, APK files installed outside of the Google Play store might not install right away because of a security block put into place.

To bypass this download restriction and install APK files from unknown sources, navigate to one of these menus, depending on your Android version:

  • Settings > Apps & notifications > Advanced > Special app access > Install unknown apps
  • Settings > Apps and notifications
  • Settings > Security

Depending on your device, you might need to give a specific app, such as Chrome, permission to install unofficial APK files. Or, if you see it, enable Install Unknown Apps or Unknown sources.

If the APK file doesn't open, try browsing for it with a file manager like Astro File Manager or ES File Explorer File Manager.

Open an APK File on Windows

You can open an APK file on a PC using an Android emulator like BlueStacks. In that program, go into the My Apps tab and then choose Install apk from the corner of the window.

Open an APK File on a Mac

ARC Welder is a Google Chrome extension that's meant for testing Android apps for the Chrome OS, but it works on any OS. This means you can open an APK on your Mac or Windows computer so long as you have this app installed within the Chrome browser.

Open an APK File on iOS

You can't open or install APK files on an iPhone or iPad because the file is built in an entirely different manner than apps used on those devices, and the two platforms aren't compatible with each other.

Extracting APK Files

You can also open an APK file in Windows, macOS, or any other desktop operating system, with a file extractor tool. Since APK files are simply archives of multiple folders and files, you can unzip them with a program like 7-Zip or PeaZip to see the different components that make up the app.

Doing that, however, doesn't let you actually use the APK file on a computer. To do so requires an Android emulator (like BlueStacks), which essentially runs the Android OS on the computer.

How to Convert an APK File

Although a file conversion program or service is normally necessary to convert one file type to another, they're not very useful when dealing with APK files. This is because an APK file is an application that's built to run on specific devices only, unlike other file types like MP4s or PDFs that work on a variety of platforms.

Instead, if you want to convert your APK file to ZIP, you'd use the instructions explained above. Either open the APK file in a file extraction tool and then repackage it as a ZIP, or simply rename the .APK file to .ZIP.

Renaming a file like this isn't how you convert a file. It only works in the case of APK files because the file format is already using ZIP but it's just appending a different file extension (.APK) to the end.

As you read above, you can't convert an APK file to IPA for use on iOS, nor can you convert APK to EXE to use the Android app in Windows.

However, you can normally find an iOS alternative that works in place of the Android app that you want to be installed on your iPhone or iPad. Most developers have the same app available on both platforms (both an APK for Android and an IPA for iOS).

Instead of an APK to EXE converter, just install a Windows APK opener from above and then use it to open the Android app on your computer; it doesn't need to exist in the EXE file format for that to work.

You can convert your APK file to BAR for use with a BlackBerry device by just uploading the APK file to the Good e-Reader online APK to BAR converter. Wait for the conversion to finish and then download the BAR file back to your computer.