One of the more sensible default security features on Android devices is not allowing users to install apps from outside the Play Store. But with plenty of great apps you can find outside the Play Store, you may want to venture beyond those walls every now and then. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to install apps from unknown sources on Android.
- Change in Installation Method
- Install Apps from Unknown Sources in Android 10, 11, and 12
- Install Apps from Unknown Sources on Samsung
- Install Apps from Unknown Sources in Android 8.0 Oreo and 9.0 Pie
- Install Apps from Unknown Sources on Android 7 Nougat and Older
- Find APKs Outside Google Play Store
- Install Using Google Drive, Dropbox and Other Cloud Services
- Frequently Asked Questions
Do you know: Other than APK, there is another file type known as XAPK. Learn what is XAPK and how to install it on your Android device.
Change in Installation Method
Since Android 8.0, the method to install apps from unknown sources has changed. Instead of the previous method where you gave permission to download APKs through an existing app on your phone, the newer installation method requires you to give permission to specific apps that are allowed to install APKs from unknown sources. Let’s check the steps for different Android versions to grant this permission.
Install Apps from Unknown Sources in Android 10, 11, and 12
- Open Settings on your phone.
- Go to “Apps,” then tap on “Special app access.” If you don’t find it, go to “Advanced” followed by “Special app access.”
- Tap on “Install unknown apps.”
- Tap on the app you will use to install the third-party apps. This is usually a browser or the Files app. We’re using Chrome for this example.
- Enable the toggle next to “Allow from this source.”
- Tap on the APK file to install it.
Tip: If Google Play Store is not working for you, learn how to uninstall and reinstall Play Store on your phone.
Install Apps from Unknown Sources on Samsung
- Open Settings and go to “Apps.”
- Tap on the three-dot icon at the top and select “Special access” from the menu.
- Tap the “Install unknown apps” option.
- Enable the toggle next to the app you will use to install the third-party apps.
Note: if the above steps don’t work, go to “Settings → Biometrics and security (or Privacy) → Install unknown apps.” Enable the toggle for the required app.
Install Apps from Unknown Sources in Android 8.0 Oreo and 9.0 Pie
- Go to “Settings -> Apps & notifications -> Advanced -> Special app access -> Install unknown apps.”
- Select the app (usually your Internet browser) that you want to install from unknown sources.
- Tap “Allow from this source” to enable unknown sources for that specific app.
Install Apps from Unknown Sources on Android 7 Nougat and Older
To install from unknown sources in Android N and older, you can enable and disable the feature right from the settings panel.
- Open the App Drawer on your Android device and tap on the “Settings” icon. It will open the settings panel where you can change all the settings related to your device.
Also, you can pull down the notification bar twice and tap on the gear icon to open the Settings menu.
- Scroll all the way down until you see an option saying “Security & fingerprint.” On the devices that do not have the fingerprint feature, you will only see the “Security” option.
- Tap on the option you have on your device, and it will open the security settings menu for your device.
- Scroll down and to see an option that says “Unknown sources.” This option is what controls whether apps from outside the Play Store can be installed on your device. By default, the option is disabled.
- Enable the toggle next to the option to turn the feature on.
- You will get the following prompt before the feature can be enabled on your device. It mentions the risks involved with installing apps from unknown sources. Tap on “OK.”
- With the feature enabled on your device, you may exit out of the Settings menu and install the APK.
Good to know: Other than installing apps, you should also learn about uninstalling apps and getting rid of residual files on your Android phone.
Find APKs Outside Google Play Store
Once you’ve enabled unknown sources, it’s time to download the APKs you want. Maybe you already have a site you trust for downloading APKs. If not, we recommend APKMirror as a good place to find legal APKs of old versions of Play Store apps, free apps, and so on.
You can download APKs directly through the web browser on your phone, at which point you’ll receive a message stating, “This type of file can harm your computer.” Don’t worry, if you’re getting your file from APKMirror or another site you trust, then your phone’s perfectly safe.
Download the file, then open the APK from the pull-down notification menu on your phone or by browsing the “Downloads” folder on your phone’s file manager. Tap Install and your fancy new app should be ready shortly.
You can also download APKs through the browser on your PC, at which point you’ll need to transfer the file over to your phone via microUSB or wirelessly, and install from there.
Install Using Google Drive, Dropbox and Other Cloud Services
Alternatively, if you’re download the APK on a device other than your phone, you should be able to navigate to it on your device, then upload it to a cloud service such as Google Drive or Dropbox. Once you’ve done this, you can access it through Drive or Dropbox on your phone and open it directly from the cloud service, beginning the installation process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why can't I install an APK on my phone?
It could be due to insufficient storage space on your phone or a corrupted APK file. Try downloading the files again. Another reason could be that the app isn’t compatible with your phone.
How can I uninstall an app that I installed using an APK?
The steps to uninstall an app installed via an APK file are the same as that of regular apps. Touch and hold the app icon in the app drawer and select “Uninstall.” Alternatively, go to “Settings → Apps.” Tap on the app to be removed and press the “Uninstall” button.
Do APK files have viruses?
APK files can sometimes be infected with malware. Check out our guide on how to scan APK files for viruses.
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