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How To Install APK Files on Android Without the Play Store: A Beginner‘s Guide

Hey there! Have you ever wanted to install an app on your Android device that isn‘t available on the Google Play Store? I‘ve got you covered!

Installing APK files allows you to sideload apps on Android without needing the Play Store. It‘s a simple process that opens up access to thousands of cool apps.

In this beginner‘s guide, I‘ll explain everything about APK files and how to install them on any Android smartphone or tablet. Let‘s get started!

What Exactly Are APK Files?

APK stands for Android Package Kit.

APK files are basically the package files used to distribute and install apps on Android devices. They are similar to how .exe files work on Windows.

Some key facts about APK files:

  • They contain all code and resources needed to run an Android app – app code, interfaces, images, audio files, libraries etc.

  • Each APK file has the file extension .apk at the end of its filename e.g. myapp.apk.

  • APK files are based on the JAR file format used for Java apps but optimized for Android.

  • They are compressed files based on the ZIP format and store folders and files in a specific structure.

  • The full form of an APK file is Android Application Package File.

So in a nutshell, an APK file bundles everything an app needs in order to function on Android devices. App developers compile their finished product into an APK file for distribution.

Fun fact: Did you know there are over 3.3 million Android apps worldwide as of 2022? All of them distributed via APK files!

Why Install APK Files Instead of Downloading from the Play Store?

Good question! The Google Play Store is the official app store where the majority of Android apps are available.

But there are some great reasons to install APK files instead:

  • Get apps not listed on Play Store: Many useful apps are not allowed on the Play Store due to policy restrictions e.g. app store apps, streaming APKs, emulators etc. APK files allow you to sideload these apps.

  • Install region-locked apps: Some apps on Play Store are limited to certain countries. APK files let you get those apps by bypassing geographic restrictions.

  • Test early access app versions: Developers often distribute beta APK versions of upcoming apps with early access features for testing.

  • Avoid Play Store tracking: Installing APKs means you don‘t have to register with Google Play Store so they can‘t track your app usage.

  • Use modded/cracked apps: Developers sometimes modify apps to unlock paid features or remove ads and share those cracked APK files.

The key benefit of APK files is they provide more app options beyond the Play Store and give you more control over your device.

Now let‘s look at how to actually install these APK files on your Android device!

Is It Safe to Install APKs?

Before we get into the installation process, let‘s briefly talk safety.

Installing apps from APK files is generally safe if you follow certain precautions:

  • Only download APKs from trusted and verified sources, not random unknown sites.

  • Scan any downloaded APK with antivirus software before installing to catch any malware.

  • Carefully review the permissions being requested by the app and avoid suspicious ones.

  • Use a VPN for extra privacy when installing APKs from unknown sources.

  • Have a quality antivirus app like Bitdefender installed to continuously scan your device.

The key is exercising caution with APK sources and scanning files before installing.

As long as you stick to reputable sites and developer portals, sideloading APKs is safe. But I advise against installing random APK files from shady corners of the internet.

Is Sideloading APKs Legal?

Short answer – yes, sideloading APKs is 100% legal. Android is designed to support installing apps from outside the Play Store.

However, some of the content provided by apps installed via APK may infringe copyrights or regional restrictions. For example, apps that allow illegal movie streaming are a legal grey area.

As long as the APK files themselves don‘t enable blatantly illegal activities like piracy, sideloading them is perfectly legal and you don‘t have anything to worry about!

Step-By-Step Guide to Install APK Files on Android

Alright, let‘s get hands-on now!

There are a few different ways to install APK files on Android. I‘ll go through each method in detail:

Method 1: Using a File Manager App

This method will work on any Android phone or tablet. All you need is a file manager app which you probably already have.

Here is how to install APKs using a file manager:

  1. Install a file manager app from the Play Store if you don‘t have one. I recommend Solid Explorer, MiXplorer, FX File Explorer or Astro File Manager.

  2. Launch the file manager app on your device. Allow access permissions when prompted.

  3. Find and download the APK file you want to install. You can either download directly on your device browser or transfer from laptop via USB, cloud drive, ShareIt etc.

  4. Use the file manager to locate the downloaded APK file, usually in Downloads folder.

  5. Tap on the APK file. You‘ll get a prompt asking if you want to install the app. Tap Install to continue.

  6. On the next prompt, tap Install again. The app will now start installing on your device.

  7. Once installed, you‘ll find the app icon on your home screen or app drawer ready to launch!

And that‘s all there is to it! This method is quick and convenient for installing APK files using file managers you already have.

Method 2: Using a Browser

Alternatively, you can install APKs directly using just your browser without needing a separate file manager app.

Follow these simple steps:

  1. Download the APK file you want to install using a browser like Chrome, Firefox, Edge etc. Make sure to use your device browser, not laptop.

  2. Go to Settings > Apps & notifications > Special app access > Install unknown apps on your device.

  3. Grant Install unknown apps permission to the browser app you‘re using to install the APK.

  4. Open that browser app and find the downloaded APK file usually in the Downloads section.

  5. Tap on the APK file to trigger the installation prompt. Tap Install and then Install again on the next screen.

  6. Wait for the installation process to complete. The app will appear on your home screen or app drawer.

This method allows you to download and install APKs seamlessly without switching apps. Very convenient!

Method 3: Using APK Installer Tools

There are special APK installer apps and websites designed to make sideloading a breeze:

  • APKMirror – Popular app mirror website to download verified APKs.

  • APKPure – App to search, download and install APKs with ease.

  • APKCombo – Finds different APK sources for an app.

  • APKInstaller – Simple APK downloader and installer app.

Just search for or browse apps on these tools, then tap Download or Install. The app automatically handles APK downloads and installation for you!

Method 4: Installing Split APKs

This advanced method makes use of split APKs which are modular parts of an Android App Bundle uploaded to Play Store:

  1. Obtain the main base APK and any config split APKs for the app from the developer.

  2. First install the main base APK which contains minimum code.

  3. Then install each additional config split APK one by one. These contain actual app functionality and resources.

Split APKs allow smaller, faster app installs. You need the right base and config packages for your device type and Android version.

And that‘s it! With these methods, you can install any APK file on your Android device without the Play Store. Pretty easy right?

How to Allow APK Installation on Android

Before installing APKs via any method, you need to enable Install from unknown sources in your Android device settings.

Here is how to enable APK installation:

  1. Go to Settings > Apps & notifications > Advanced > Special app access

  2. Find and tap Install unknown apps

  3. Grant Install unknown apps permission to the app you‘ll use to install APKs e.g. browser, file manager etc.

On Android 8+:

  1. Go to Settings > Apps & notifications > Advanced

  2. Tap Special access > Install unknown apps

  3. Enable the toggle for the app you‘ll use to install APKs

Remember to only allow trusted apps like your browser or file manager to install APKs. This prevents any security risks.

Expert Tips forhassle-free APK Installation

Follow these pro tips for the smoothest APK installation experience:

  • Scan APKs with antivirus apps like Malwarebytes before installing.

  • Review app permissions and avoid APKs asking for too many unnecessary permissions.

  • Toggle off Auto APK install in Chrome settings to prevent unwanted installations.

  • Use a VPN app for extra privacy when installing unknown APKs.

  • Only install apps from developer sites and trusted APK sources, not shady sites.

  • Disable unused apps and keep your device storage optimized.

  • Don‘t grant SMS, Call Log or Contact permissions to apps unless absolutely necessary. Only allow while using the app.

  • Make periodic backups of your device in case anything goes wrong during APK installation.

  • Keep your device software updated with the latest security patches and Android version.

Troubleshooting Guide: APK Installation Errors and Issues

APK installation failed? Running into errors? Here are some common APK installation problems and their solutions:

Problem: Getting "App not installed" error.

Solution: Enable Install unknown apps for the installer app and clear app cache. Reboot device.

Problem: Installation stops midway.

Solution: Check for enough storage space. Use a file manager to delete unwanted files and free up storage.

Problem: App crashes immediately on launch after installing.

Solution: The APK file is likely corrupt. Delete and re-download the APK file from official source then reinstall.

Problem: App asks for unnecessary permissions dangerous permissions after installing.

Solution: Uninstall app immediately. Get APK from trusted source and scan with antivirus app before installing again.

Problem: App does not appear on home screen or app drawer after installing.

Solution: Try rebooting your device. Also check Settings > Apps for the installed app.

Problem: App keeps force closing.

Solution: The APK is incompatible with your device firmware. Look for a version specifically for your Android OS version.

Hopefully these troubleshooting tips will help you resolve any APK installation problems!

The Pros and Cons of Installing APKs

Like most things, sideloading APKs has both advantages as well as some potential downsides:


  • Get apps unavailable on Play Store
  • Bypass geographic restrictions
  • Avoid Play Store tracking
  • Install early access beta apps
  • Use modded and cracked app versions
  • More control over your device


  • Safety risks if installing unknown APKs
  • No automatic app updates like Play Store
  • Need to manually manage app installs and backups
  • Cracked app APKs may be unstable/buggy
  • No Play Store customer support

As long as you stick to reputable APK sources and follow safe practices, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages in my opinion. Exercising some caution goes a long way in safely enjoying the perks of sideloaded APKs on Android!

Final Thoughts

Well, that sums up this beginner‘s guide on how to install APK files on your Android device without the Play Store!

As you can see, it‘s a quick and simple process of sideloading apps with the right steps. Whether you prefer file managers, browsers or installer tools, you can expand your app options beyond the Play Store.

I hope this guide was useful in showing you how to safely install APKs on Android. Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m always happy to help out fellow Android users.

Happy APK sideloading!


Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.