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

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Aina Martin
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If you own an Android device, you have probably already heard of an APK file and you are probably wondering what an APK is. Understanding this is essential if you want to start downloading apps or customize your Android device. In our guide, you will learn what APK files are, how to download them and, finally, how to install them.

If you've ever searched for an Android app outside the Google Play Store, you've found APK files, but what are they and what do they do?

The APK extension stands for Android Package Kit and is the file format used for installing Android applications (very similar to EXE for Windows). If you want to install an app from outside the Google Play Store (a process known as “sideloading”), you need to download and run the APK manually.

How to install apps without Google Play

Are the APK files safe?

Sometimes, but it's usually best not to take it for granted. The Google Play Store isn't regulated like Apple's App Store, but any malicious app is typically identified and removed quickly. 

There is no such protection if you download an APK from a third-party site, and malicious developers can trick unsuspecting Android users into installing ransomware or other malicious malware by hiding them to look like a legitimate app.

YouTube video downloaders are a particular target. Downloading YouTube videos without permission violates its terms of use, so Google refuses to list such apps on the Play Store. Android users who want to save a clip then often look elsewhere and can easily end up downloading something bad.

There are exceptions.For example, the Amazon Appstore is available for download as an APK, but you do so at your own risk.

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

What is an APK file?

APK for short is the file format used by the Android operating system for distributing and installing mobile apps. Just like Windows (PC) systems that use an .exe file for software installation, Android does the same but the file is in the .apk format.

Why should i install an APK file?

APK files of new Android builds are often released early, giving you early access to all the exciting new features that would otherwise not be available. Also, some apps are limited to countries outside of your own.

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

And if your Android device doesn't have access to the Google Play Store, APK files might be the only option to install apps on your device.

Be careful though, you don't have to download and install pirated APKs. Some APK services and / or sites allow you to download pirated apps. This is illegal and should be avoided. Do your research before downloading so you don't go against the law and put your PC's security at risk.

How to install APK files from your computer

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

In general, APK files found on APK Mirror are safe to download, but read user reviews and comments before downloading or installing an APK.

Best alternative Android app stores

First, you need to find the 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 them on your phone, you need to make sure that third-party app installs are allowed on your device. Go up Menu> Settings> Security> and select Unknown origin to allow your phone to install apps from sources other than the Google Play Store.

Android 8.0 Oreo does things a little differently. Instead of generically checking the installation of an application from unknown sources, it asks you if you want to allow the browser or file manager to install APKs on first installation.

If you want, you can also download a file manager app so you can easily find the files on your Android device, we use Solid Explorer File Manager.

Once the APK file is downloaded to your computer, connect your device to it.

At this point, it may ask you if you want to charge your phone or if you want to connect it as a "multimedia device" instead. Choose media device. Then, find your phone folder on your computer. You will find it in "My Computer" or "Computer" on Windows (PC). Then, copy the APK file to a folder of your choice on your Android smartphone.

You will now be able to search for the file path in the My Files folder on your device. Find the APK file, tap it, then hit Install. You are done, congratulations, you have installed your app. Just open it from your smartphone and make sure it works properly. If not, repeat the process with another APK file. You may need to try another APK site.

How to install an APK from your Android device?

You can also install the APK files from the browser on your Android smartphone or tablet. Open your browser, find the APK file you want to download and tap on it - you should be able to see it as it downloads in the top bar of your device. Once downloaded, open Download, tap on the APK file and tap on Yes when required. The app will begin installing on your device. Simple.

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

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