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If you own an Android device you have probably heard of an APK file. 

Understanding this is crucial if you want to start downloading apps that have been published (leaked) ahead of time.

Downloading APK files is also used for 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.

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.

Installing an APK file on Android, is as simple as clicking on the file from your phone. There are, however, a few things to consider before you can do this successfully.

First, you’ll need to prepare your phone’s settings.

Second, get the file onto your Android.

Finally, find the file to open it.

Why would I want to setup APK?

If you’ve ever installed an Android application from the Google Play store, then you’ve actually already used an APK file without realizing it.

When you click that green Install button, Google Play automates the process of transferring the APK file to your phone and running it for you.

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 an annoying 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.

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, unfavourable APK files may contain malware. Many users who thought they were getting early versions of Fortnite for Android discovered to their dismay, malware installed on their devices instead.

Do some research before you download so you don’t do anything against the law or infect your device.

How do I install APK files on Android?

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

  • 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.

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

Commonly, APK files found on sites such as APK Mirror should be safer to download than from elsewhere. It is however, essential that you read the reviews and user comments before downloading or installing an APK. Learn from other peoples mistakes. If someone has downloaded a corrupt file, they will generally share their experience and advise you to stay away from it.

How to Allow APK on Android

  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.

When you first install from a non-Google source on newer Android versions, you see a prompt asking if you want to allow from this source.

How to use APK files in PC

  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.

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