What is sideloading? Simply put, sideloading refers to the process of installing an application to a device without downloading it from an official app store. In this case, sideloading essentially allows you to install “missing” apps to enhance the experience on your media streamer. Learn here how to sideload apps on Android TV, Roku, Fire TV, and Google Chromecast.
What’s the Purpose of Sideloading?
As mentioned above, sideloading apps has significant advantages, such as adding new functionality to your device. Users who opt to do this benefit in a variety of ways.
For example, all apps undergo a review process before they can be listed on official platforms. Unfortunately, this can take some time. Sideloading allows users to install an app direct from a developer without having to wait for this review process. It allows users to try apps that are still in a development stage before they are officially released to the public.
Additionally, sideloading enables users to force an update of an app the moment it is released by a developer. It also allows users to get around pesky App Stores that may be selective in which apps they choose to make available to their users, such as Amazon and Apple.
Is Sideloading Safe?
By sideloading an app, you are effectively bypassing the official app store of your device. While this can open up a new world of content, it does carry some inherent risk. The apps on the official stores like Google Play and the Amazon App Store are vetted for security and general stability. This means you don’t have to worry about malware, viruses or glitch-ridden apps when you install something. We recommend that you only sideload apps that come from sources you trust to minimize the potential risk.
How to Sideload Apps on Roku Devices
All iterations of the wildly popular Roku player run a custom version of Linux called Roku OS. To install new apps, or channels, users navigate to the Roku Channel Store and simply select whatever interests them. That being said, there are apps available for Roku that are not listed on the Roku Channel Store. Fortunately, adding them to your Roku device manually is simple.
Enable Developer Mode
To sideload an app on a Roku device, you will need to enable developer mode. As the name implies, developer mode is intended for developers to test channels before they are released to the public. Enabling developer mode allows users to sideload apps on a Roku device, opening up new streaming possibilities.
To get started, follow the below instructions:
- Open the Roku Secret Menu. You can do this by pressing the following on the Roku remote:
- Home x3
- Up x2
- Right x1
- Left x1
- Right x1
- Left x1
- Right x1
- Done correctly, a dialog box will appear on your screen. This notifies users that developer mode will be activated. Note that the IP address and username listed on this screen, as you will need them later.
- To proceed, select “Enable installer and restart.”
- On the next screen, read the SDK License agreement and select “I agree” to continue.
- You will be asked to create a development webserver password. Make note of your password and select “Set password and reboot.”
- Your Roku will now reboot in developer mode.
Access Developer Mode
At this stage, you want to transition to a PC that is connected to the same network as your Roku.
- Open your web browser and enter the IP address generated in the previous step.
- This will prompt you to enter the username and password from the previous step and click the “Log in” button.
- Developer mode will open, allowing you to sideload apps to your Roku.
Upload and Install Apps to Your Roku
Once you log in, your browser will open the Development Application Installer. You will see two buttons, one labelled “Upload” and another labelled “Install”.
- Click on the Upload button and select the app’s ZIP file from where it is stored on your computer. Once the upload has completed, you should see the name of the ZIP file next to the Upload button.
- Click the Install button to initiate the installation of the app on your Roku.
- Once the installation is complete, the sideloaded app should automatically launch on your Roku.
Be aware that there is one major caveat when sideloading apps to a Roku. Only one app can be sideloaded at a time. If you want to try a new app, simply follow the steps outlined above. However, the new app will replace any app that was previously installed.
How to Sideload Apps on Fire TV
Amazon’s Fire TV is a great device; however, Fire OS is a closed fork of Android. This can be frustrating, as there are a number of apps that Fire TV users are not able to install on their device. Users can get around this by sideloading any apps they desire. There are a few different ways to do this; however, the easiest (and cheapest) is with the Downloader app.
The Downloader app is free and available from the Amazon App Store. This app allows users to download any app from any URL, effectively bypassing the Amazon App Store. However, Firestick and Fire TV devices block users from installing apps that aren’t downloaded from the official Amazon App Store. Fortunately, there is a way to get around this.
Allow Apps from Unknown Sources
- Navigate to the Firestick/Fire TV’s main menu and select “Settings”.
- Select “My Fire TV.”
- On the next page, select “Developer options.”
- Scroll down to the option labelled “Apps from Unknown Sources.”
- This option is toggled off by default, so go ahead and turn it on! Doing so will allow you to install apps that are not downloaded through the official App Store.
Install the Downloader App
But how do you get apps that aren’t on the Amazon App Store? This is where the Downloader app comes into play.
- Return to the home screen and select the Search icon. (It looks like a magnifying glass.)
- Type “Downloader” or press and hold the microphone button on your remote and say “Downloader.”
- On the search results page, look for the app labelled “Downloader”. At the time of this writing, the icon is orange with plain white text.
- Select it and click “Download” to install the downloader app on your Firestick/Fire TV.
Download and Sideload an App
- Launch the Downloader app and approve the app’s necessary permissions. Upon doing so, you’re ready to use the app. Downloader functions similarly to a web browser. When using the Downloader app, your Firestick/FireTV remote will operate like a mouse.
- Place the cursor on the address bar at the top of the app. This will open a virtual keyboard on your screen.
- Enter the URL that hosts the app you want to install. The app will navigate to the site where you can download the app to your Firestick/Fire TV.
- Once the app has downloaded, you can begin the installation process.
How to Sideload on Google Chromecast
Google’s newest version of the Chromecast is the most versatile yet. However, while it certainly is an improvement, you won’t find every Android app available to install. In fact, the only ones that are available at the time of this writing are the ones that have been optimized for use on your big screen TV.
Enable Developer Mode
There are two ways that you can sideload apps on your Chromecast, but before you attempt either of them, you’ll need to prep your Chromecast.
- On the Home screen, select your profile in the top-right corner.
- From there, choose “Settings -> System -> About.”
- Scroll down and highlight “Android TV OS build.” and select it seven times. Doing so will show a dialogue box that tells you that you have enabled developer options.
Download a File Management App
Next, you’ll want to install a file management app. There are a few of these to choose from, including File Commander and X-plore File Manager. Both of these options are free, although X-plore File Manager has some additional features hidden behind a paywall.
These file management apps will allow you to fetch files (including apps) from cloud storage and transfer them to your Chromecast, allowing you to sideload the app. However, there are a few more things we need to do first.
Enable Installation from Unknown Sources
- Once you’ve enabled developer mode, go back to the Settings menu.
- Choose “Apps -> Security & Restrictions -> Unknown Sources.”
Here, you can tell your Chromecast to allow your chosen File Manager to install apps. This enables you to bypass the Google Play Store and sideload an app you want.
Download the APK of the App You Want to Sideload
- Now that your Chromecast is prepped and ready, jump on a computer or your phone.
- Download the app you want to sideload.
- Upload the app to cloud storage.
- Since you probably have a Google account, go ahead and upload the file to your Google Drive, but any cloud storage will work.
Install the App on Your Chromecast
- Hop back to your Chromecast and launch your file management app.
- Use the app to connect to your cloud storage, select the app and choose install.
- Once the app has finished installing on your Chromecast, you can launch it right then and there or find it amongst the rest of your apps later on.
The Hardware Method
If you don’t want to utilize the cloud storage method to sideload apps on to your Chromecast, you can do it with some extra hardware. You’ll need a USB-C hub as well as a flash drive.
- Simply load up the flash drive with the apps you want to sideload.
- Connect the USB-C hub to your Chromecast and plug in the flash drive.
- Install the apps to your Chromecast directly from the flash drive. You will want to make sure that the USB-C has pass-through charging, otherwise your Chromecast won’t turn on!
How to Sideload Apps on Android TV
If you have a television that runs the Android TV OS, sideloading apps is pretty straightforward. Download the Send Files to TV app on both your Android phone/tablet and your Android TV by launching the Google Play Store on both devices and searching “Send Files to TV.”
Note: if you do not have an Android phone or tablet, you can use the Send Files to TV desktop application on a Windows computer. Unfortunately, a desktop application for Macs is still in development.
Download the Send Files to TV App and Prep Your Android TV
- On your phone/tablet/PC, download the app you wish to sideload to your Android TV.
- Hop back on your TV, launch the Send Files to TV app and select “Receive.”
- Grab your phone/tablet/PC, launch the Send Files to TV app and tap/click on “Send.” This will open a file browser.
- Select the app you want to sideload, then select your TV from the list of devices set to receive the file.
- If you do not see your TV in this list, ensure that both your TV and the device sending the file are on the same network.
Sideload the App on Android TV
Once the transfer has completed, select the file on your TV and click “Open.” You should see a prompt that asks you if you want to install the app. However, some users have reported that the “Open” button in the Send Files to TV app does not work.
- If this happens, you’ll need to install a file management app, like the ones detailed in the previous section.
- Using your chosen file management app on your Android TV, navigate to your TV’s internal storage and find the app you transferred in the Downloads section.
Be aware that regardless of whether you want to install the app via a file manager or the Send Files to TV app you’ll have to allow them to do so.
- A pop-up will appear telling you that you are not allowed to install apps from unknown sources.
- Click on the Settings button within the pop-up. A menu will slide open from the side of the screen labelled “Install Unknown Apps”.
- Find the app you are using to sideload your app and flick the toggle switch to the “On” position.
- Upon doing so, press the back button, and the installation should begin.
You can sideload virtually any app on your Android TV; however, there are a few things to take into consideration. Apps that are available to install through official app stores like Google Play are vetted to ensure that they function well within the Android TV UI. This means they are optimized to fit your TV screen and be easily navigable with a remote. Sideloading apps that have not been designed for Android TV can result in performance issues, glitches, and poor navigation.
Accessing Sideloaded Apps on Android TV
After sideloading an app, you may be left wondering how to actually launch it. Sideloaded apps that are not designed for Android TV will not show up in your TV’s app list. Therefore, you’ll need to follow these instructions:
- Open the Settings menu by clicking on the cog icon in the top right of the screen.
- With the Settings menu open, scroll down to “Apps.”
- This will produce a complete list of apps installed on your Android TV, including sideloaded apps. You can launch sideloaded apps from here.
If opening up the Settings menu every time you want to launch a sideloaded app sounds like a hassle, there is another option. You can install an app called Sideload Launcher. You can access this app via the standard app list on your Android TV and use it to launch any sideloaded app.
Sideloading apps can open up new possibilities for your device. However, there are risks to consider before attempting to do so. If you’d rather stream without a separate device, read our guide on YouTube TV vs. YouTube Premium.