How to Install APK files

If you’re an Android user, you’ve likely heard of APK files. Have you ever wondered what an APK file is and how it works, or how to install one?

What Is an APK File?

An APK file, short for Android Package Kit, is the file format used by the Android operating system to distribute and install mobile applications. Similar to how the Windows (PC) system uses .exe files for software installation, Android utilizes APK files.

An APK file contains various components, including an AndroidManifest.xml, classes.dex, resources.arsc file, as well as a META-INF and res folder. It is primarily used on Android devices, although the acronym APK is also associated with unrelated terms such as admin private key and amplitude phase keying.

While most users install apps from the Google Play Store, you can also accomplish the same by downloading an APK file.

Why Install APK Files?

APK files serve several purposes, providing users with unique advantages and access to various features:

  1. Access to Pre-release Builds: New versions of Android apps often leak before their official release, granting early access to exciting features.
  2. Overcoming Regional Restrictions: Some apps are restricted based on geographical regions, limiting access through the Google Play Store. APK files offer a workaround in such cases.
  3. Downgrading Apps: While most apps on Google Play receive updates, not all updates are desirable. Installing APK files allows users to easily revert to older versions if newer updates are unsatisfactory.
  4. Alternative Installation Method: In situations where your Android device lacks access to the Google Play Store, APK files may be the only option for installing apps.

However, caution is advised when dealing with APK files, as they come with inherent risks:

  • Legal Concerns: Downloading apps from unofficial sources may be considered illegal in certain jurisdictions.
  • Security Risks: APK files can contain malware, potentially compromising the integrity and security of your device, leading to data loss or theft.

In general, APK files sourced from reputable platforms like APK Mirror, Apkpure or APKhybrid App are safer to download compared to other sources. Nevertheless, it’s advisable to read user reviews and feedback before downloading or installing any APK files.

Understanding the Difference Between App and APK

Apps and APKs are distinct concepts, although they share similar functionalities. Here’s a breakdown of their differences:


  • An app is a software application that can be installed on various platforms, including Android, Windows, or iOS.
  • Apps can be directly installed on devices, regardless of the operating system they run on.
  • To install apps from app stores like Google Play, users typically need to register and log in to their accounts.


  • APKs are files specifically designed for the Android operating system and can only be installed on Android devices.
  • Unlike apps, APKs need to be installed as applications after downloading from any reputable source.
  • Users can easily download apps from official websites using APK files, simplifying the installation process without requiring login credentials or access to app stores.

In summary, while apps are versatile and can be installed across multiple platforms, APKs are tailored specifically for Android devices and offer a convenient alternative for downloading and installing apps from official sources without the need for app store registrations.

How to install an APK file on Android

To open an APK file on an Android device, you can download it like any other file and open it when prompted. However, APK files obtained from sources outside the Google Play Store might require additional steps due to security restrictions.

Open Unknown Source Apps on Android 10 and Later

Encountering difficulty while attempting to install an APK on your Android device? Android implements various safety measures to shield users from installing potentially harmful app files.

Unknown source apps, specifically, refer to apps that are manually installed from an untrusted source. Typically, this entails an app sourced outside of the Google Play Store or a third-party marketplace like the Amazon Appstore.

If you endeavor to install an unknown source app via an APK file, Android will impede the process. To circumvent this obstacle, you must grant Android permission to install unknown source apps on your device.

The steps for accomplishing this task may vary slightly depending on your Android version and device manufacturer. For the purpose of this guide, we’ll focus on devices running Android 10 and later.

Installing APK file Unknown Source Apps on Android:

  1. Open the Settings app on your Android device.
  2. In the Settings menu, navigate to Apps.
  3. Tap on Special app access (or Advanced > Special app access).
  4. Select Install unknown apps.
  5. Choose an app through which to install APK files – your browser and file management apps are optimal choices here. (If the APK file doesn’t open directly, you can try using a file manager like Astro File Manager or ES File Explorer File Manager to browse for and open the file.)
  6. Toggle the Allow from this source slider to grant permission for installing APK files via the selected app.

By following these steps, you can enable your Android device to install unknown source apps, thereby broadening the scope of apps available to you beyond the confines of official app stores. Always exercise caution and discretion when installing apps from unknown sources to safeguard your device’s security and integrity.

How to open an APK file on Windows

On Windows, you can open an APK file using an Android emulator such as BlueStacks. Android Studio, which is used for app development, is not suitable for running Android games or testing apps on a computer.

How to open an APK file on a Mac

On a Mac, you can use BlueStacks or Nox to open APK files.

How to open an APK file on a iOS

It’s important to note that APK files cannot be opened or installed on iOS devices like iPhones or iPads because they use a different file format (IPA) that is incompatible with APK files.

How to extract APK files

To extract the contents of an APK file on a desktop operating system, you can use a file extractor tool like 7-Zip or PeaZip. However, running the extracted app on a computer requires an emulator that can run the Android OS, such as BlueStacks.

How to convert an APK file

Converting an APK file to a different format is not practical or necessary. APK files are specifically designed for Android devices and cannot be converted to formats like ZIP, IPA (used on iOS), or EXE (used on Windows). Renaming an APK file to ZIP is not a true conversion but can be done because the APK format already uses the ZIP format internally.

APK files can potentially harm devices as they can contain malware. It is advisable to scan APK files with an online virus scanner or use an Android antivirus app before installing them. To minimize the risk, download APK files only from trusted sources.

Downloading and using APK files for app installation outside the Google Play Store is legal. APK files are simply file formats, similar to EXE or ZIP files. While Google developed the format, anyone can create and utilize APK files.

To find APK files on your Android device, you can use an Android file manager to search for the files. Some devices come with preloaded file managers, but you can also find alternative file manager apps on the Google Play Store.