How to Manually Install or Sideload Apps on Android

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How to Manually Install or Sideload Apps on Android

You’re missing out on a whole universe of new possibilities if you’ve only ever loaded applications from the Google Play Store on your Android smartphone. In contrast to Apple’s iOS, Android enables you to install programs from anywhere—a process known as sideloading.

Sideloading is a handy tool to determine if you are a new or experienced Android user. We’ll guide you through the process of locating third-party applications, how to sideload them on Android, and some safety precautions to take.

What Is Sideloading?

Sideloading is the process of installing a file (typically an app) from a source other than the Google Play Store on your Android smartphone.

When people talk about “sideloading,” they usually mean applications, but you can also sideload other media on Android. Sideloading applications entails obtaining an APK file (Android’s installer package format) and manually installing it.

Because of Android’s open nature, you are typically free to install applications from anywhere you see fit. If you dislike Google Play, you may install a another Android app store, such as F-Droid or the Amazon Appstore. However, since Google does not allow you to get such app shops through Google Play, you will have to go elsewhere.

Why Would I Want to Sideload Apps?

One of the most common motivations for sideloading is to get applications that aren’t accessible on Google Play. Some applications are not stored there because they violate the Play Store’s rules of service.

Amazon’s Appstore and the Humble Bundle, for example, are unavailable since they download other programs. Others, such as YouTube alternative client NewPipe, provide new capabilities to YouTube that Google dislikes. However, these applications are still safe and beneficial to you.

Or maybe you want a phone that doesn’t use Google. Part of it is ignoring Google Play in order to sideload applications instead.

Whatever your reason, sideloading is an important Android feature that you should be familiar with.

How to Enable Sideloading on Android

Before you may sideload a file, you must first activate the functionality. Android, by default, blocks you from installing applications that are not from Google Play. This creates a barrier to prevent inexperienced users from mistakenly installing a malicious file, but you may disable it.

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The procedure varies significantly depending on your Android version. If you don’t intend to sideload often, we suggest turning this option off after downloading a sideloaded program for your own protection. You may reactivate it whenever you need it.

Enable Sideloading on Android 7 Nougat and Older

Sideloading is an all-or-nothing switch in previous versions of Android. To allow the ability to install applications from anywhere, just turn a switch.

Go to Settings > Security to do so. This page contains an item labeled Unknown sources. When you turn this on, your phone will show a warning that your device is more susceptible to attack. We’ll talk about it later; for now, hit OK to accept it. On previous Android versions, this is all that is required for sideloading to function.

Enable Sideloading on Android 8 Oreo and Newer

Google altered the way sideloading works in later versions of Android to improve security. You must now activate the Unknown sources option per-app rather than globally. This enables you to sideload from programs you often use while blocking others for security reasons.

On Android 8 through 11, go to Settings > Apps & notifications. At the bottom, expand the Advanced option and choose Special app access. Scroll down and choose Install unknown applications from the resulting option. This option is located under Apps > Special app access on Android 12; there is no Advanced header.

You’ll notice a list of applications on your smartphone that have the ability to install additional apps in this menu. Choose which one you wish to use to install software, such as your browser, cloud storage service, or file explorer. Then toggle the Allow from this source slider to the on position.

Sideloading Apps Has Risks: Understanding the Security Concerns

Before we proceed, it’s vital to address a few security concerns surrounding sideloading.

By installing applications that aren’t from Google Play, you’re possibly putting your phone at risk. While Android malware isn’t a huge problem out of the box, downloading dodgy or harmful applications is the simplest method to add malicious activities to your smartphone.

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All applications on Google Play are (theoretically) secure thanks to Google Play Protect. That is not the case while downloading from the internet’s wild west. To keep secure, always download from reputable APK sources.

For example, APKMirror is a popular site for downloading APKs. However, we do not advocate downloading software from random APK sources since there is no assurance of safety.

Additionally, you should avoid installing “cracked” software (paid apps that are illegally distributed for free).They have a considerably higher risk of transmitting an infection.

How to Sideload Apps on Android

The procedure of sideloading applications is rather simple. Below, we’ll go through the three most prevalent approaches.

In most circumstances, applications installed outside of Google Play will not get automatic updates. You’ll need to check a third-party app store for updates or manually download the most recent versions.

Method 1: Install APKs Directly on Android

On Android, you may sideload programs straight from your browser. Simply go to a website that sells APKs and download it. You’ll receive a warning that the APK may cause damage to your device; touch OK to continue.

When it finishes downloading, you’ll see a little banner with a link to it. You may install the app by clicking Open. If you miss it, you may access it by tapping the Download notice or opening your Downloads app.

Once installed, just launch it like you would any other software and you’re ready to go.

Method 2: Install APKs on Android Through Cloud Storage

If your phone’s browser is problematic for sideloading APKs, the next best option is to use cloud storage. This allows you to download a huge number of programs on your PC and then install them all at once on your phone.

We suggest creating a separate folder in Dropbox, Google Drive, or whatever other storage site you use for APKs. Drop files into that folder whenever you find them on your computer. Then, on your phone, launch the related app and go to the appropriate folder.

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When you tap an APK file, you’ll see the same request to install it. If you’re using Android 8 Oreo or later, make sure you’ve granted the cloud storage app access to install applications.

Method 3: Install APKs on Android via USB Transfer

This is the least convenient option, but it will suffice if you are unable to utilize the preceding two processes for any reason.

Install the APKs that you wish to install on your PC. Then, using a USB cord, connect your phone to your computer. If your computer does not recognize it, you may need to press the notice on your smartphone and set the connection type to Transfer files.

Open This PC on your computer and copy the APK files to your smartphone. It’s a good idea to create a new folder to keep everything together. After you’ve transferred them to your Android smartphone, you may unplug the cord. (Alternatively, you may connect your phone to your PC through Bluetooth and transfer the files that way.)

To install your programs, use an Android file explorer app and go to the APKs folder. Tap on each to install them, which brings up the same screen as installing from the other sources mentioned above.

You’re Now Ready to Sideload Apps on Android

You now understand the fundamentals of downloading and installing APKs on your Android smartphone. The easiest part is enabling it and downloading the applications; the most essential aspect is staying safe while doing so. Keep an eye out for any unusual activity on your smartphone and only install applications from reputable sources.

If you often sideload and want an added layer of security, consider downloading an Android security software.

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