Parse Error: What It Is and How to Fix It

Don't let this Android error stop you from installing your apps

A man looks at a parse error on his Android phone.

Sirinarth Mekvorawuth / Getty Images

A parse error is an error message you sometimes get on Android devices when an app fails to install. The message itself is not very specific, and there are a lot of problems that can cause it. The main takeaway is that your phone experienced a problem when trying to install the app, and the installation was not completed.

If you've received a parse error and still want to install the app in question, you will have to identify and fix the root problem.

What's the Cause of an Android Parse Error?

The parse error usually occurs when you try to install or run a third-party app on an Android device. When this error occurs, you'll see a message like this:

Parse Error
There was a problem parsing the package.

The error can also happen when you try to install an app from the official Google Play Store, although that is less common.

Here are some of the most common causes of the Android parse error:

  • The app is not compatible with your device.
  • Your phone does not have permission to install the app.
  • The file you are trying to install is corrupt, incomplete, or damaged.
  • Your antivirus or security app is preventing installation.
  • There is a problem with your Android device.
  • Changes have been made to the app that you are trying to install.

How to Fix a Parse Error

Here are eight possible fixes for an Android parse error. After you've attempted one fix, try installing the app once again. If you still see the parse error, move on to the next step.

  1. Update to the latest version of Android

    The app you're trying to install may not work with an older version of Android. In rare circumstances, trying to install or run an app that's designed for a newer version of Android will result in a parse error.

    If you have an older device, but your carrier does not support the latest Android update, you may have to acquire a new phone. In some cases, you may be able to install a custom version of Android.

    Installing a custom version of Android is a complicated procedure. It is not uncommon for inexperienced users to brick or permanently damage their device when attempting a custom install.

  2. Check for compatibility issues, or try an older version of the app

    If the app you're trying to install requires a newer version of Android, check to see if older versions of the app are still available. You may be able to install that version without generating a parse error.

    Running old versions of Android can open your device up to security vulnerabilities.

  3. Enable permissions to install apps from unknown sources

    If you're trying to install an app that you did not acquire from the Google Play Store, you may be getting a parse error message because your device is not permitted to install apps from unknown sources. This option is turned off by default. If you turn it on, be careful to only download apps from trusted sources.

  4. Try downloading and installing your .apk file again

    If your app files are corrupt or incomplete it can cause a parse error to occur. Return to the website where you originally downloaded the .apk file and download it again. If you can find a different trusted source for the .apk file, try downloading it from there instead.

    If you're trying to download the .apk using the default Android browser, try using a different browser from the Google Play Store. You can also try downloading the .apk file using a desktop computer, after which you can transfer it to your Android device.

  5. Temporarily disable Android antivirus or other security features

    An antivirus or security application may incorrectly identify the app you're trying to install as a threat, resulting in the parse error message. Temporarily disabling the security measure may allow you to successfully install the app.

    If you do not know how to do temporarily disable the feature, try uninstalling the antivirus app and then installing the app that is generating the parse error. Remember to reinstall the antivirus app once you've finished.

  6. Enable USB debugging

    Enable developer mode, turn on the USB debugging option, and then attempt to install the app. While this is a rather advanced option, you do not need to connect your phone to a computer or USB cable to perform the debugging procedure.

  7. If you modified the manifest file, restore it

    This potential fix applies to advanced users. Making changes to the Androidmanifest.xml file contained in an .apk file can sometimes cause a parse error. Changing the name of an .apk can also have the same effect. Try restoring the file to its original state, then install the .apk again with its original name.

  8. Reset your phone

This is a last resort option, as it will erase all of your personal data. Do not attempt it unless you have tried every other option. After you reset your phone, you'll have to update it to the latest version of Android before attempting to install the app again.

Make sure to back up your personal data before resetting your device, as you will lose all of your photos, videos, and other media.

Errors Similar to the Android Parse Error

There are a number of other errors somewhat related to the Android parse error, in that they also relate to problems with installing Android apps. The most common are Google Play Store errors, which can prevent you from installing official apps. Another related error has to do with Android app downloads freezing.