How to Install Apps That Are Missing from the App Store

Illustration of mobile phone and various 3D app icons superimposed as coming out of the screen

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Apple is famous for its strict — and sometimes seemingly inconsistent — rules around what apps it will allow in the App Store. Sometimes an app that shouldn't be allowed into the App Store slips through and is available for a few hours or days before it's removed. The good news is, if you managed to get one of those apps before it was removed from the store, you can still use it.

Dealing with removed apps isn't quite the same as handling other apps. For instance, they don't show up as available for re-download in your iTunes account after they've been taken out of the store. So how do you install an app that's been removed from the App Store?

This process used to be a bit easier, but thanks to Apple removed apps from iTunes, it's now much harder.

There's one really major obstacle to doing this: you need to have the app. It may be in the Apps section of iTunes on your computer if you downloaded it there or if you downloaded it to your phone and then synced it. If so, no problem.

If you want to install a removed app you don't already have, you'll have to find it elsewhere. This is the hard part. In order to install the app, you have to be able to find it for download somewhere online. It could be from a friend, a family member, or just posted to a website somewhere. Wherever it is, without having the app already downloaded, you won't be able to install it. 

How to Install an App Removed from the App Store

  1. If you downloaded the app on your iOS device, you should be able to install it with no problems. You should make sure you back up a copy to your computer by syncing, though. Since the app has been pulled from the store, you won't be able to redownload it and if you delete it, it's gone forever — unless you back it up. When you sync your device, you'll be prompted to transfer purchases from the device to your computer. If not, click: 

    • File.
    • Devices.
    • Transfer Purchases. This should move the app to your computer.
    Transfer Purchases submenu in File: Devices menu
  2. If a friend or a family member has the app, you can get it from them. It won't work through Family Sharing since that uses the App Store. If they have it on their computer, though, they can get it to you. In that case, they need to navigate through their hard drive to the folder where that their apps are stored in.

    • On a Mac, this folder is at Music > iTunes > iTunes Media > Mobile Applications   
    Mobile Applications folder on macOS
    • On Windows, it's located at My Music > iTunes > iTunes Media > Mobile Applications.
  3. Find the app you want. It can be emailed, or copied onto a USB drive or other removable storage media, or downloaded. Wherever you get the app from, drag and drop it into iTunes or into the Mobile Applications folder on your hard drive.

  4. If the app doesn't show up right away, quit and restart iTunes.

  5. Connect your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad and sync it.

  6. The Apps tab is no longer in iTunes. If you have a previous versions of iTunes, you can click the iPhone icon beneath the playback controls in the top left of iTunes. Go to the Apps tab and look for the app. Click the Install button next to it. Then click Apply in the bottom right to install it on your iOS device.

This is where the other major obstacle to installing apps from the App Store crops up. Apple removed the ability to sync apps to iOS from recent versions of iTunes. If your version of iTunes doesn't support app syncing anymore, this may be more trouble than its worth. You can downgrade to older versions of iTunes, but that's a slightly complex process and has wider implications. You may prefer just to live without the app you're trying to install.

Reasons Why Apps Are Removed from the App Store

Apple doesn't (generally) pull apps from the App Store without good reason. Some of the most common reasons that apps get pulled include:

  • Violating Apple's rules for how you can develop apps or how apps can function
  • Infringing copyright
  • Being very low quality
  • Promoting illegal, potentially illegal, or dangerous behavior
  • Containing malware
  • Being offensive
  • Allowing the user to do something that Apple doesn't want (such as apps that allow free tethering, which let the user bypass purchasing tethering service from their phone carrier).

Does Apple Refund The Price of Removed Apps?

If an app you purchased has been pulled and you don't want to go through the hassle of installing it detailed above, you may want to seek out a refund. Apple generally doesn't like to give app refunds, but it will under certain circumstances. To learn more, read How to Get a Refund from iTunes.