How to Install APK From Unknown Sources on Android

Mobile Apps

Many users rely on apps. Apps have a variety of categories and features that we all just can’t get enough of. However, you might find that there are apps that aren’t necessarily available for download. Don’t worry, you can always download APK files from unknown sources. 

install apps from unknown sources
© Photo by Pixelkult from Pixabay

But what exactly are APKs and unknown sources? In this article, we’ll be looking at how you can download and install from unknown resources as well as a couple of tips that beginners should know about APK files..


What Is an APK?

An Android Package Kit or APK is an archive file for apps that have a .apk extension. It’s a file that’s used by Android OS to distribute and install its mobile applications. APK files give users access to early releases and restricted/premium content and even allow you to bypass regional restrictions. 

What is apk
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Some APKs can be safe and some are not. It’s essential to download an APK file from a trusted source because system compromise is almost guaranteed. On the other hand, even if you are downloading from a trusted site, there will still be risks that come with the download. 

You can download directly to your phone and even through your PC then transfer them. 


Where to Get APK Files?

If you search for APK files on a search engine, it’s guaranteed that you’ll get a lot of results for it. However, not all of these unknown sources are safe. 

It’s important that you choose a reliable and trustworthy site when choosing where to download. APK files can pose a major security threat if you don’t find a website or an app that’s trusted by other users. Here are some Google Play Store alternatives where you can download APKs.


1. QooApp

A popular third-party app that gamers might be familiar with is QooApp. This app bypasses region restrictions and mainly provides APK files for Japanese, Chinese, and Korean games. Keep in mind that when you download games from QooApp, they might not be in English as the apps found in the platform will contain its original language unless an English version has already been released.

game apks on qooapp
© Screen grabbed from QooApp’s official website

They have a library of over 3,000 games and applications that many gamers will really love. You can download the app from QooApp’s official website.


2. APKMirror

APKMirror is one of the most popular sources of APK files today. Its large app library is filled with almost every app that you can think of, and the best part is that it’s always adding new releases. 

install apk files from apkmirror
© Screen grabbed from APKMirror’s official website

You can also rely on APKMirror to be one of the first to release new versions of existing apps. Further, the site is pretty easy to navigate, which makes sure that you’ll find what you need in no time. 


3. APKPure 

Another large site is APKPure. With this website, you’ll be sure that you’re getting the safest and even verified APKs. Everything that is released on APKPure goes through a rigorous verification process that not only makes it safe but also matches it to software from the same developer. You can trust that you’ll be getting safe downloads from the website. Further, they also give users access to previous versions of a particular app in case you’re looking for an older version. 

apkpure app downloads
© Screen grabbed from APKPure’s official website

APKPure also has an app so you can get your APK downloads directly on your phone without having to download them on your computer first. 


4. APK4Fun

APK4Fun is an easy-to-use website that’ll help you easily find what you’re looking for. The website helps you find the safest and the best APK file for you to download. You can trust that you will find no malware or any viruses from this website. 

install apks from apk4fun
© Screen grabbed from APK4Fun’s official website

You can scroll through APK4Fun’s library a bit easier as everything is sorted and labeled in a very simple yet helpful way. 


5. Aptoide

Aptoide is another popular site as far as APKs are involved. This is one of your best bets to looking for the APK file that you need. The website is community-driven and not only provides apps but also gives quick help and troubleshooting measures for its users. 

get apks from aptoide
© Screen grabbed from Aptoide’s official website

It’s definitely one of the sites that you should consider checking out if you’re looking for a Play Store alternative. Much like QooApp and APKPure, Aptoide also has an app that will give you access to APK files directly from your phone.


How to Install APK From Unknown Sources?

Once you’ve found the APK for your chosen app, it’s time to install it. In older versions of Android, Unknown Sources was considered to be a system setting that you could toggle in your device’s security settings. However, in newer versions, sideloading had been made easier and safer. 

Here are a couple of ways on how to install from unknown sources if your phone is running on Android Oreo and its successors.  


1. Sideloading Apps on Android Oreo

Contrary to its predecessors, Android Oreo actually has a feature for safe sideloading. This version of Android’s OS gives you more control over which of your programs can sideload. This way, you can get your apps without compromising the rest of your system. 

Android Oreo lets you choose which apps to have the permission to download. For example, if you primarily use programs like QooApp to download your APKs, you can opt to select the downloading option for this program only. Other apps with the capacity to download such as your browsers won’t be able to do so. Despite this added safety feature, you should still be cautious with where you get your APKs from.

To install from unknown sources on Android Oreo, simply go to Settings > Apps & Notifications > Advanced Menu > Special App Access > Install Unknown Apps. 

From there, you’ll be able to see the apps that you can download from. Choose the one that you want to download APKs from, toggle the switch on, and you’re good to go!


2. Sideloading Apps on Android Pie

The process for installing APKs from unknown sources on Android Pie is very similar to how it is done in Android Oreo. Go to Settings > Apps & Notifications > Special Access > Install Unknown Apps > Enable Permissions. 

From there, you can choose which apps you can download APKs from to keep your phones safer.


3. Sideloading Apps on Android 10

With Android 10, you can go to Settings > Apps & Notifications > Advanced > Special App Access > Install Unknown Apps. You’ll see which apps have permission to download from unknown sources here and be able to grant or disable permissions. 

Alternatively, you can also go to Settings > Apps > Manage Apps. From there, you can scroll through your list of installed apps and edit their permissions individually.

Enabling APK installation is similar among most systems starting Android Oreo. For older versions of Android, keep in mind that you might have to take extra steps in enabling the settings for sideloading if you want to install APKs.


Tips When Installing From Unknown Sources

Before installing your APK, here are a couple of quick tips that you should keep in mind when you install from unknown sources. 


1. Ask Yourself: Do I Really Need the App From an Unknown Source?

Whether or not you should install from unknown sources is subjective. While it does have its perks, it also has its downsides. Ultimately, it is up to the discretion of the user if they will download from unknown sources or not.

Still, it is not recommended that you download from unknown sources regardless of the reason. It’s more preferable if you waited for the official app to be released on the Play Store than risking your phone. 


2. Are There Benefits From Installing APK From Unknown Sources?

One of the biggest benefits of downloading from unknown sources is that users can freely access and download apps before they are released. Certain versions of the app can be downloaded through an APK way before it is officially released. 

Another popular reason is that it gives users access to geo-locked or restricted apps. There are many apps that are still not accessible to certain parts of the world and as such, APKs are a very popular way to gain access to these apps without having to wait for an official release. 

android mobile apps
© Photo by USA-Reiseblogger from Pixabay

If the app is restricted on Play Store, developers still find ways to get to audiences, and this includes making APKs accessible through various sites. Not all restricted apps are necessarily bad; some of them just don’t meet the standards of the Play Store, which is why they aren’t in the library. 

Lastly, downloading from unknown sources will give users access to what is referred to as MOD APK files. Mostly found in games, these APKs give users access to a paid app’s full content without having to pay for it themselves. While this is considered illegal, a lot of people still patronize it because they are given access to premium content without shelling out some cash. 


3. What Are the Risks of Installing APK From Unknown Sources?

While they have many benefits that could easily convince you to download from unknown sources, they also come with very dangerous risks that you shouldn’t overlook.

One such risk is that not all files are safe. Some files can compromise and harm your device. Be cautious when downloading these files — especially if it’s a site that you just found floating on the internet. 

apk virus risk
© Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Additionally, files can also include spyware, malware, and even phishing features that will breach your device’s security and harm your phone and its contents. Hackers can modify and create special permissions on the app that will steal your information from you. That’s why you should only download from more known sites as these are trusted and established. 

The biggest concern that you should have when installing from unknown sources are legal concerns. As mentioned, some APK files are tampered with to give users premium content, and there are also apps that may be stolen, pirated, or illegal. While this is by a long shot, it’s not really worth the risk because legalities are involved.


How to Keep Your Phone Safe From Viruses?

Protecting your phone is just as important as finding the right source for your APK downloads. Here are tips to help you keep your phone safe from viruses that may come with your downloads. 

A very important tip to consider is to keep your OS up-to-date. OS updates will usually have bug fixes and added security measures that will help protect your phone. 

Consider installing an antivirus app for Android. These apps will help protect your phones from threatening viruses, spyware, malware, and even phishing. Further, it also optimizes your phone’s system and prolongs its lifespan. 

Avast Antivirus Applications on Android
©Photo by Avast Antivirus

You might also want to review app permissions once you’re installing the app. Don’t overlook these permissions because it gives you an idea of what the app has access to.  

Lastly, it’s still recommended to not download anything from unknown resources. While there are a couple of websites that are proven to be safe, it’s still better to just skip out on downloading from unknown resources if you don’t urgently need the app that you’re going to download. 


Final Word

In all, installing APKs can be handy especially if what you need is not available in the Play Store. It also allows users to enjoy more apps and gives them access to geo-locked apps. 

However, it’s still advisable that you exercise caution when you download from unknown resources. Be smart and install from trusted sources. Don’t sacrifice your phone’s security for an app, be smart, and exercise caution. When in doubt, don’t install the application.