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What is an APK file and how do you install one?

What is an APK file and how do you install one?

If you own an Android device you will likely have heard of an APK file at some point, and possibly wondered what it even is. Understanding this is essential if you want to start downloading leaked apps or customizing your Android experience further than would be possible using the Play Store alone. In our guide, you'll learn what APK files are, how to download them, and finally, how to install them.

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What is an APK File?

An Android Package Kit (APK for short) is the package file format used by the Android operating system for distribution and installation of mobile apps. Just like Windows (PC) systems use an .exe file for installing software, the APK does the same for Android.

When you download an APK online, you're essentially getting an app. Most users get apps from the Google Play Store, without ever seeing the word APK. But there are occasions when you would want to do otherwise.

Why would I want to install an APK File?

APK files of new Android builds are often leaked ahead of time, giving you early access to all the exciting new features that otherwise wouldn't be available to you. Also, some apps are restricted to regions outside of your own.

App updates can take a frustrating amount of time to arrive automatically over the air. Getting the latest APK for your favorite apps will let you jump the queue. Or you might even not like a particular app after an update, and want to install an older version instead.

And if your Android device lacks access to the Google Play Store, APK files may be your only option for installing apps on your device.

Be careful though, you don't want to download stolen apps. Some APK services let you download pirated apps. This is illegal and should be avoided. Worse still, sketchy APK files may contain malware, as many who thought they were getting early versions of Fortnite for Android discovered to their dismay. Do some research before you download so you don't do anything against the law or contaminate your device.

How to install an APK from your Android device

You can also install APK files from your browser on your Android smartphone or tablet.

  • Just open your browser, find the APK file you want to download, and tap it – you should then be able to see it downloading on the top bar of your device.
  • Once it's downloaded, open Downloads, tap on the APK file, and tap Yes when prompted.
  • The app will begin installing on your device. Simple.

How to install APK Files from your computer

There are many sources of APK files across the web, but be sure to choose a site you trust. Some APK files may contain malicious software (malware) which could compromise your phone's security. It is best to be cautious before downloading or installing any app from outside of the Play Store.

Generally speaking, APK files found on APK Mirror should be safer to download than from elsewhere, but read some reviews and user comments before downloading or installing an APK.

apk mirror
With APKs you can get app versions not yet available on Google Play / © AndroidPIT (screenshot)
  1. First, you must find an APK file you want. Search online for an APK file and download it to an easy-to-find location on your computer (like your desktop). 
  2. Before you can install it on your phone you will need to make sure that third-party apps are allowed on your device.
  3. Go to Menu > Settings > Security > and check Unknown Sources to allow your phone to install apps from sources other than the Google Play Store.
  4. Newer versions of Android do things a little differently. Rather than check a global setting to allow installation from unknown sources, you'll be prompted to allow your browser or file manager to install APKs the first time you attempt to do so.
AndroidPIT install google play store 06
When you first install from a non-Google source on newer Android versions, you see a prompt like this / © AndroidPIT
  1. If you like, you can also download a file manager app so you can easily find files on your Android device. We recommend our favorite file managers in our list of the best file explorers for Android.
  2. Once you've downloaded the APK file on your computer, connect your Android device to it.
  3. At this point, you may be asked if you want to charge your phone or connect it as a 'media device.' Choose Media device
  4. Then, find your phone's folder on your computer. It will be in 'My Computer' or 'Computer' on Windows (PC). 
  5. Copy the APK file into a folder of your choice in your Android smartphone. 
  6. You will now be able to search for the file location in the My files folder of your device.
  7. Find the APK file, tap it, then hit Install. 

And now you're done, congratulations, you have your app. Just open it up from your smartphone and make sure it works properly. If it doesn't, repeat the process with a different APK file. You may have to try a different APK site.

Do you download APK files? Which do you recommend? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Verus 3 months ago Link to comment

    I find that the APK file is advantageous in numerous cases such as for downloading geo-restricted or incompatible apps. But it seems that lots of people detest APK files because they're afraid of malicious and suspicious files outside Google Play store.

  • thanks to the author to write such an informative and amazing article. No doubt it is really helpfull

  • Hi is this apk for chromebook to download apps

  • marco sarli
    • Admin
    6 months ago Link to comment

    Nice and informative. Now please explain where to get safe APK outside of Google Play

  • Excellent web-site learnt a lot, but cant find the app I just installed. Where is it?. Eventually I want it on my home page. How do I do that?

  • lipwak 11 months ago Link to comment

    So, once I've installed the app can I throw out the downloaded file? Is that just an installer or the newly installed app? Thanks.

    (I reinstalled the Google Play Store from a file called com.android.vending... blah blah blah. I've checked and the Google Pay Store app is the latest version so do I need this file anymore?)

    Deactivated Account

  • you can download android apk from this site too

  • Hello yesterday I was found a video downloader for android. It is really works. Search DownMob on Google PlayStore

  • I want to install Chrooma keyboard for android apk file to unlock all premium features .. how can i do it )

  • Great information....thanks for sharing

  • Alot or most APKS i download won't install on my note 8. Most Samsung apks.

  • This is a great tip!

  • Arun May 16, 2018 Link to comment

    This Web Site is amazing. I flow always For find information.

  • this is a very nice post for the beginners

  • Sorin Jan 21, 2018 Link to comment

    The APK is a compressed file that, after being unpacked, contains several files and folders that make up the application. The files in the root are AndroidManifest.xml, classes.dex and resources.arsc, along with other possible files required. These 3 files see that they are encrypted and a special decryption software will have to be used. It would be interesting to search what these files contain.

  • Common guys, really? THIS is the level of articles that you are publishing now, just for the sake of writing something? Absolute disgrace.

  • While I had a few things to say here (especially about security issues) in May 2016, I'll add that there are some very handy apps to produce your very own APKs from the installed apps on your device - they can then be saved offline, available for reinstallation and use any time - saving the storage and resource drain of installation. I've found it handy to have a folder of rarely used and/or older versions of apps as APKs, not clogging the running Android. (Rolling your own APKs also avoids the security or installation / compatibility issues that can plague third party download sites and preserves your status for paid app updates.)

    Updated: Currently using App Backup & Share Pro (Buggy_Apps) - fast, intuitive and very good letting users select storage locations - but there are several others.

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