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 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 got one of those apps before it was removed from the store, you can still use it.

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

The Biggest Obstacle to Installing Apps Removed from the App Store

Installing apps missing from the App Store has gotten much harder in the last few years and, for the average person, is now very difficult. It got harder because Apple removed downloading and managing apps from iTunes.

Because that feature is no longer present, the only way to officially install apps is through the App Store app. And, since the app you want isn't there anymore, you're kind of stuck. Jailbreaking and sideloading may help get around this problem, but they may be more trouble than it's worth.

There's another major obstacle to installing apps removed from the App Store: you need access to the app. 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 or family member's computer, or just posted to a website somewhere. Wherever it is, you must have the ability to download the app somehow. Without that, 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.

    You should also make sure to back up a copy to your computer by syncing. Since the app has been removed from the store, you won't be able to redownload it. 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. You can also do this manually by going to iTunes and clicking: 

    • 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 on their computer, you can get it from them. 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.

    Apps removed from the App Store can't be accessed via Family Sharing.

  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. As mentioned earlier, the Apps tab is no longer in iTunes. If you have a previous versions of iTunes that still includes it, 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.

Remember: 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 (usually) 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 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.