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How to: Sideload an Application on Android [Beginners’ Guide]

One of the fantastic aspects and bonuses of Android is the ability to “side-load” or install 3rd party aplications that are not from Google Play or the Amazon Appstore. Apps can be side-loaded from Gmail, your SD Card, or your Internet browser once the app is downloaded. Android devices do not come with this function enabled automatically, but it must be turned on by the device’s owner. Doing so is as easy as just pressing a few buttons so let’s get to it. 

Warning: Side-loading applications can be dangerous to your device. If you install a malicious application, it can hi-jack your data and share it with untrustworthy people. Instances of this are uncommon, but the risk is still there. Always download applications from trusted sources. And no, we do not condone application piracy. Please support hard working developers by buying their apps from Google Play.

Setting up side-loading:

1.  Open the Settings menu on your device.

Press the Menu button and then Settings. On some devices without a Menu button, you can pull down your Notification menu and select the Settings icon.

2.  Under “Personal”, open the “Security” settings menu.
3.  Where it says “Unknown Sources,” check the box.

A warning pop-up will make sure you’re sure that you want to allow for this. As a reminder, installing apps from bad sources is never a good idea. Only install applications from a trusted source to make sure your data remains secure.

4.  Select “OK.”

You are now ready to install 3rd party applications on your Android device.

Side-loading an application:

To test out side-loading, let’s try downloading an APK file and installing it on your device. The application will be the official Jelly Bean wallpaper pack that some of you will enjoy.

1. Click this link in your phone’s web browser.
2. After downloading, click on the file name in your notification bar.
3. A page asking to “Install” or “Cancel” will appear.
4. Select “Install.”

You now have side-loading up and running. Enjoy.

*Android Beginners Guide is a way for people new to Android to get to learn how Android works. We will be posting many tips and tricks on how to optimize your usage of the Android operating system.

  • Article needs a reminder to turn off the ‘unknown sources’ switch at the end though.

    Kinda important to only allow when you’re installing the apk, then you really should put your tablet/phone back in a safe (well, safer) state.

  • apchar

    Can you sideload the google play app itself? I’d like to have google play on my coby tablet but am wary of custom roms.

  • Kyle D.

    An easy way to do this is with freeware Android Injector for pc. (http://www.androidinjector.com) Android Injector allows users to install multiple apk files onto Android devices via USB cable effortlessly. Users need only connect their device to their pc using a USB cable, select some apk files, and click Install. The program then silently goes about installing the selected apps and lets you know when it’s done. The new version makes this even easier by seamlessly integrating with Windows shell, allowing users to select any amount of apk files in Explorer, right-click, then click “Install with Android Injector” from the context menu. The program then opens with the files loaded, ready to be installed.

  • Tall_Manager_Girl

    With 700,000 apps in the legal store… you *REALLY* need to run more… very unsafe apps… from unknown sources too?

  • Flash for Android

    Adobe flash player apk http://goo.gl/Egk5c the whole reason this is needed!

    • Android_Kitten

      Flash is dead. Even the company that makes it… clearly sees that.
      Very buggy. Very old. Very unsafe.

  • DickDouche

    What’s an application?

  • Robert Stevens

    Any way to sideload flash onto ICS?

    • jathak

      Flash is still supported for ICS (although new installs will be disabled in a few hours). Flash, sideloaded or not, isn’t compatible with Jelly Bean though.

      • JoshGroff

        I’ve heard people saying it works with dolphin browser on JB, but I haven’t cared enough to test it.

  • anon

    This will be important with Flash going away. Find that apk now.

    • nightscout13

      Flash APK will be more sought after than paid versions of games LOL

    • Cute_Tech_Girl

      You do know that there are several *FAR* better ways to play video on your phone.
      Far safer, too.

      • normmcgarry

        You’re not a cute tech girl with a statement like that. We don’t like playing it safe.

  • Jim Dandy

    That irony 😛

  • Alex

    I suggest renaming the title. im no beginner and i never thought or even heard of the word “sideloading”. Although it may be correct, its not going to be a big key word. I suggest using how to download and install stuff* (obviously not the word stuff) from third party sources.

    • DanWazz

      I’ve seen the term “sideload” quite often, and it bugged me that I really didn’t know what it meant. Now I do, and I’ve been doing it for years. (not to “pirate” apps)

      • Alex

        This is my first. im kind of a sideload virgin.

        • JoshGroff

          I’ve been sideloading since before I knew it was a term, mainly due to the Amazon app store and some emulators.

    • nightscout13

      The term has been around since the beginning of Android. As for the keywords to this article, I guess “how to install non-store apps” would be more helpful to noobs.

  • I forgot step 1 and somehow my socks are on fire?

    • paladaxar

      funny before…now it’s getting old.

  • NorCalGuy

    These articles are great and a major reason why DL is my favorite android website. This type of info is what android users need. I got hooked on this site because of the of root video guide and write up for the og droid prob watched the video 15-20 times haha. Its like a back to roots DL article

  • andrew

    so is there a way to get this done with google wallet on my vzw SGS3?

    • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

      Of course man… easy as pie.

      • I’ve done the install on my VZW GS3 and along with quite a few others I can’t get purchases to go through. So it may not be worth it.

        • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

          Ohhhh… had it on my VZW Gnex back then it worked fine… Didn’t know there was GS3 issues since it works fine on the Sprint Version.

  • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

    This is one of the less user friendly things on Android…. If it isn’t checked before you tryt to sideload something the first time… It gives you the warning… but never takes you back to your actual download. Most people just think they need to download it again….

    Either way… it should be step 1 when you boot your phone for the first time lol