Android 101: How to Sideload Apps by Enabling 'Unknown Sources' or 'Install Unknown Apps'

How to Sideload Apps by Enabling 'Unknown Sources' or 'Install Unknown Apps'

One of Android's biggest strengths relative to iOS is how simple it is to sideload apps that aren't on the official app store. Rather than having to sign IPA files or tell your phone you trust a developer every two weeks, you can just enable a setting and be done with it.

Jump to Instructions For: Android 8 & Above | Android 7 & Below

Enabling Sideloading on Android 8 & Higher

Starting with Android 8.0, the process of sideloading apps changed dramatically. No longer is there a system-wide "Unknown Sources" setting — instead, it's now handled on a per-app basis.

This means that when you download an APK with your browser, for instance, you'll have to give your browser permission to install apps. Same goes if you try to install an APK from your favorite file explorer — the file explorer will need explicit permission to install apps as well.

While this is a pretty big departure from the way things worked before, it's actually pretty simple. Just download the APK file for the app you want to sideload, then open the APK with any file manager. You'll then be prompted to allow the permission. Tap "Settings," then enable the switch next to "Allow from this source" on the following screen. From there, hit your back button, then you can resume installation.

Enabling Sideloading on Android 7 & Lower

The exact names of the settings entries listed below may vary slightly from device to device, but the overall process should be very similar. To begin, head to your phone's main settings menu, then look for an entry titled either "Security" or "Lock screen and security."

(1) Security menu on stock Android, (2) Lock screen and security menu on Samsung devices

From this menu, simply tick the box or toggle the switch next to the "Unknown sources" entry, then press "OK" on the popup.

Sideloading Apps

After that, you're all set up and ready to go. From now on, you can simply download any APK installer file directly to your Android device, then tap the Download complete notification to launch it. From there, press the "Install" button on the following screen, and within seconds, your sideloaded app will be ready to use.

Keep Your Connection Secure Without a Monthly Bill. Get a lifetime subscription to VPN Unlimited for all your devices with a one-time purchase from the new Gadget Hacks Shop, and watch Hulu or Netflix without regional restrictions.

Buy Now (80% off) >

Cover image and screenshots by Dallas Thomas/Gadget Hacks

Level Up Your Android Expertise

Weekly Android hacks — straight to your inbox.

Be the First to Comment

Share Your Thoughts

  • Hot
  • Latest