How to Install APK on Android

Have an Android app not on Google Play? Install it from its APK

What to Know

  • Allow Chrome to install unknown apps by going to Settings > Apps > Menu > Special access > Install unknown apps.
  • Install a file manager (such as Cx File Explorer or File Manager) so that you can find the APK file after you download it to your phone.
  • Download an APK file and open it to install it. Alternatively, transfer the APK Installer from your computer using USB.

If you want to use an app from outside of the Google Play Store, you can install the app's APK file. This article explains how to install APKs on Android 7 or later.

Allow Unknown Apps on Android

Before you can download APK files using Chrome or any other browser, you must first allow unknown apps:

  1. Go to your device settings and tap Apps & Notifications (or Apps in older versions of Android).

  2. Tap the three dots in the upper-right corner.

  3. Tap Special access.

    Apps, More menu, and Special Access in Android settings
  4. Tap Install unknown apps.

  5. Tap Chrome (or whichever web browser you use)

  6. Move Allow from this source to the On position.

    Install unknown apps, Chrome, and Allow from this source toggle in Android settings

Install an Android File Manager

Now that you've configured your phone to let you install unknown apps, you'll need a way to find the application file (APK file) on your phone so that you can run it.

Android phones typically come with a file manager app you can use, but if you don't have one, search for one on Google Play. Some of the best options include Cx File Explorer and File Manager.

Download the APK Installer From Your Android

The easiest way to install an APK file on your Android is to download the file using the default browser, Chrome.

  1. Find a website offering the Android app and tap the link to download the APK file. Accept any pop-ups, including “This type of file can harm your device.”

    Only download APK files from reputable sources. A quick Google search can often let you know if an app (or company that makes the app) has a questionable reputation.

  2. If your phone's web browser doesn't give you the option to open the file after downloading, open your file explorer app, go to the Downloads folder on your device, then tap the APK file.

  3. Allow the app any required permissions it asks for. Then, at the bottom of the installer window, tap Install.

    OK and Install in Android Downloads
  4. Now you'll see the app available in your list of installed apps.

Transfer the APK Installer via USB

If you don't have internet access on your phone, or for any other reason you can't use a browser to download the file, you can still install apps from your computer. Using your computer web browser, download the APK file just like described above. Once it's downloaded, connect to your Android phone and transfer the file.

If you've never connected your Android to your computer, enable USB Debugging. You can then plug your phone into your computer with a USB cable, and it'll mount the phone like it would a memory stick.

Once your phone is connected to your computer, it shows up as another drive in your computer's File Explorer. Move the APK file you downloaded from the app website to the /sdcard/download folder on your phone.

Once the file is transferred, use the file explorer app on your phone as described in the previous section to tap the APK file and install the app.

If you don't have a USB cable, another solution is to install WiFi FTP Server from Google Play. Then, use an FTP client on your computer (like FileZilla) to transfer the APK file from your computer to the /sdcard/download folder on your phone. However, this is an advanced option and requires an understanding of how to use FTP files.

Advanced: Run APK Installer With Minimal ADB and Fastboot

If the APK installer isn't running when you tap it, there's an advanced solution that might work. You can install the APK file on your Android from your computer using a tool called Minimal ADB and Fastboot.

  1. Connect your phone via USB and enable USB Debugging.

  2. Download and install the latest version of Minimal ADB and Fastboot on your computer.

  3. Run the tool, and a command window opens. With your phone connected to your computer with the USB cable, type the command adb devices.

    If the tool detects your phone, an ID for the device appears under List of devices attached. Now you're ready to transfer the APK file.

    Minimal ADB and Fasbboot adb devices command to check for phone.
  4. Using Windows File Explorer, find the downloaded APK file on your computer.

  5. Right-click the file and select Copy.

  6. Using Windows File Explorer, navigate to the Minimal ADB and Fasbtoot folder (typically c:\Program Files (x86)\Minimal ADB and Fastboot\).

  7. Paste the APK file into that folder.

  8. Rename the APK file to something short so that it's easy to type as a command.

  9. Back in the same command window you had open before, type the command adb install app name (replace with the name of your APK file).

    Installing an APK installer using Minimal ADB and Fastboot.
  10. When you see the word Success, the app is installed on your phone.

What Is an APK?

An APK (Android Package Kit) is a type of file that installs an application for Android. It's just like an executable (EXE) file for Windows or a package installer (PKG) for Mac.

If you've ever installed an Android application from the Google Play store, then you've used an APK file without realizing it. When you tap the Install button, Google Play automates the process of transferring the APK file to your phone and running it for you.

Why Use an APK?

If the Android app you want to install isn't available on Google Play, you can download the APK file from the web and install it manually.

Finding APK Installers

There are many websites where you can find non-Google Play apps to install. Three of the most popular are APK Pure, Reddit's APK Directory, and APK Mirror.

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