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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 an APK 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.

Play store ANDROIDPIT
Installing APK files gives you access to apps that aren't available in the Play Store. / © ANDROIDPIT

What is an APK File?

Just like Windows (PC) systems use an .exe file for installing software, Android does the same. An APK file is the file format used for installing software on the Android operating system.

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 and outside of yours.

APK files also allow you to bypass carriers to get the latest Google updates, which can take a a frustrating amount of time to arrive via an over-the-air update from your network. 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. Do some research before you download so you don't do anything against the law.

apk
Installing APK files gives you access to apps that aren't available on the Google Play Store. / © ANDROIDPIT

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 sites like APK Mirror should be safer to download than from elsewhere, but read some reviews and user comments before downloading or installing an APK. 

Firstly, 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). Before you can install it on your phone you will need to make sure that third-party apps are allowed on your device. Go to Menu > Settings > Security > and check Unknown Sources to allow your phone to install apps from sources other than the Google Play Store. If you like, you can also download an app like ES File Explorer (click the link below) so you can easily find files on your Android device.

androidpit best file manager apps es file explorer
Es File Explorer helps you find your downloads. / © ANDROIDPIT
ES File Explorer File Manager Install on Google Play

Once you've downloaded the APK file on your computer, connect your device to it. At this point, you may be asked if you want to charge your phone or connect it as a 'media device.' Choose Media device. Then, find your phone's folder on your computer. It will be in 'My Computer' or 'Computer' on Windows (PC). Then, copy the APK file into a folder of your choice in your Android smartphone. 

You will now be able to search for the file location in the My files folder of your device. 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.

How to install an APK from your Android device

You can also install APK files from the 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.

Give it a try and let us know how it went in the comments.

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  • APK full form is Android Application Package. Its a file format of android application or you can say an installer file that of an app. When you install an app from android play store, behind the scene it downloaded the APK file of the app. Kindly avoid to donwload an APK from other unofficial site, sometime it may harm your mobile. Ref: android.wikinsta.com


  • roy 3 weeks ago Link to comment

    Thanks for such a article


  • Hi, I tried and followed your instructions however when I go to the file and try to press the install button it doesn't work for some reason. I can only press the cancel button...any idea why that may be?


  • i suggest the best cleaner for Android mobiles is www.appsdrives.com Supo Cleaner APK it cleans almost all junk files, cache clean and speed up your device


  • this is such a great option for downloading apk apps , thanks admin for your efforts indeed


  • PakRayon 9 months ago Link to comment

    Thanks for this guide. Amazon underground is also a great source of app APK files.


  • You can manually install an apk file using almost every File explorer. There are many apps that is designed to do this easily. My APK from Andatsoft is one of them. It lists all of your apk files on device (with many sort, filter and search options).


  • STS LLC Aug 20, 2016 Link to comment

    Actually i used to download www.itexprt.com for apk files that i need to download and then i go to setting in android mobile and check to install open source application as there need access to install apk file from out of google play store.
    that all


  • Really was amazing coz i didnt know what was the apk really thanxxx . From rgypt with lovee


  • Excellent writeup Scott, my Android, Galaxy Note 4 prompted for scanning and automatically took me to the install screen also offering the option to limit the "unknown source install for this app only" and the APK file provider was known to me, but I wanted to be double careful. No malware was found and the app installed. Thank again for you tips and putting a face on APK file.


  • Guerra Jul 7, 2016 Link to comment

    Just registered to say thank you!


  • Reyn Jul 7, 2016 Link to comment

    I found this tutorial can be helpful to teach how to install apk file, http://goo.gl/Hp0NUx.
    Just follow it.


  • Every time I try to download an APK file it says it had trouble parsing. Help?


  • Whenever I try to install it it says can't open file what do I do?


  • I use apk mirror....


  • Laurie CB Jun 17, 2016 Link to comment

    OK so I had to download an APK file for an app that wasn't on Play Store. I might sound like an idiot, but I can't figure out how to actually run it?! It appears in my File Manager but when I click on the file, it only gives me the option to install the file, which I've already done. The 'open' button that appears after I've downloaded the file is greyed out. Anyone able to help?


    • Close it out and look for the app you downloaded on your phone then open it from there.if that doesn't work sometimes restarting your phone will do the trick,then try reopening it again.

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