Can’t install APK files on Android? Here’s what to do

One error that’s not common but plagues users is the App is not installed error that occurs when users try to sideload APK from external sources (not Play Store). This error is not common for the mere reason that regular users rarely install apps from third-party sources to start with (even though APKs from the right sources are perfectly safe). Nonetheless, those who do, seemingly can’t install APK files on their Android devices. Today, we’ll show you how to solve it with a few simple steps.

Table of contents:

  1. Use an app for bundles installation
  2. Don’t update, do a clean install
  3. Make sure that you have enough storage space
  4. Enable the installation from Unknown Sources
  5. Make sure that the APK file isn’t corrupted or incomplete

Why APK won’t install on Android?

First, make sure that your Android version supports the APK version you want to install. Also, remove the Play Store version of the app before installing an APK.

Don’t forget to check the storage space and permission to install apps from unknown sources. Also, some APKs come as bundles and you’ll need a specific installer to sideload them. Learn more below.

1. Use an app for bundles installation

Not all APKs come in a way accessible to Android Package Installer. APK Bundles or Split APKs are APKs that contain multiple merged APKs in one. Many apps come in bundles and, for them, you’ll need an installer, like Split APKs Installer (which can be found on the Play Store, here).

Also, APK aggregators like APK Mirror have installers that can be downloaded on the website (APK Mirror Installer is also available on the Store, here). Some of them are a no-go and we don’t recommend installing them unless you are sure about their source.

You should easily distinguish Split APKs from the regular ones by looking at the extension name. APKM, XAPK, and APKS are all known extensions for non-regular APKs. If you happen to get an app with these extensions and want to sideload it, make sure to use the aforementioned apps that can install them.

Now, if you are certain that the APK is, well, just a regular one and still can’t install that APK file on your Android, run it through the Split APKs installer. That should work.

2. Don’t update, do a clean install

Updating apps via an APK is usually a great way to either roll back to a version that’s still supported but works optimally or to get a newer one and not wait for the official Play Store release. However, it doesn’t always work as intended. So, instead of updating an app (overwriting the version), we recommend uninstalling the original app and doing a clean install.

This, of course, doesn’t apply to certain system apps that can’t be uninstalled. On some Android skins, you can’t even update them with the stock package installer. For those, you should probably uninstall updates to restore them and then sideload an APK. So, when possible, don’t update and downgrade over an app, do a clean install with an APK.

3. Make sure that you have enough storage space

Besides many other things that can cause this error, lack of storage space is probably not at the top of the list. But, it’s still a probability. So, make sure that you have enough storage space. If you do, feel free to move to the next step. On the other hand, if you don’t, make some room by following the steps below.

  • Use an SD card (if supported) for media files like music, photos, videos, etc. It can be used for apps, as well, but that might cause additional issues.
  • Google Photos’ unlimited storage is still free, so make the best use of it and back up your photos and videos. Even in the limited original quality, 15GB of free storage is enough for tons of photos.
  • Use Google Drive or the 3rd-party cloud service of choice to upload other files. Delete them from the internal storage if there’s no dire need to keep them for instant access.
  • Clear data from apps. It will reset your settings or login credentials but will grant you some storage space.android storage
  • Uninstall unused apps. If you don’t use it on at least a monthly basis, chances are you don’t need it. If the need arises, you can always download it again.

4. Enable the Installation from Unknown Sources

Now, let’s move to APK issues. APK installation shouldn’t cause any problems. It might be dangerous since some apps from third-party sources can get you in trouble, but, we’re sure that most of them are as trustworthy as the ones on Play Store. However, you’ll need to allow third-party installation files.

Previous iterations of Android had one option that toggles Installation from Unknow sources for all apps. However, a few recent Android iterations changed the approach to an app-to-app basis. So, if your device is running Android 8 Oreo, you should navigate to Settings > Security > Unknown source and allow the installation.

On the other hand, if you are running Android 12, for example, you’ll get the prompt when trying to run an APK. Make sure to grant permission and tap Install after that. Alternatively (screenshot below), you can navigate to Settings > Apps & notifications > Special app access > Install unknown apps, and check all apps with this permission.

android apps and notifications

5. Make sure that the APK file isn’t corrupted or incomplete

As we already mentioned in this article about installation from unknown sources, roaming around and looking for an APK can sometimes get you in trouble. Many websites offer modded apps that are not safe. Also, they are often corrupted and won’t run or, if they happen to run, they are unstable. Meddling with the code will get you there.

What you need to do is stick to APK Mirror or similar websites that keep the app in its original form. They just port it and upload it. They also check every app uploaded by contributors, ensuring that it’s in its original state.

This all leads to safe and stable apps that won’t give you installation errors or, with bundles being an exception, ask to download some suspicious installers to sideload them on your device.

If you still can’t install APK files on your device, chances are that your system is damaged, and resetting it to factory settings should resolve that. Learn everything about that procedure in our article about the pros and cons of factory reset, in our article about factory resetting an Android phone.

And that’s a wrap. Thank you for reading and make sure to check our Facebook and Twitter pages for more informative and educational content on Android and iOS.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in July 2017. We made sure to revamp it for freshness and accuracy.

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Jisnudeep Mandal
Jisnudeep Mandal
May 16, 2020 5:20 pm

None of these helped
I guess this is the issue with latest android version

torako
torako
May 24, 2021 9:47 pm

none of these worked, my device doesn’t have any way to enable installations from unknown sources that I can find, and it has a special locked-down appstore so no help there. when I try to install it from the system file viewer, it says “system cannot support installation”. how do I escape from this android installation prison? (the device is a cleartouch tv running android 5.1.1)

mike
mike
November 23, 2021 10:21 pm
Reply to  torako

My advice would best to trying to install apps designed for more recent versions of android. 5.1.1 is like 10 years old, ALOT of apps wont run on it. and yea they didnt have a sideloading option (unknown sources) to sideload you have to use android adb with a computer connected to the device when its running that old a android version

tim
tim
April 25, 2021 1:30 am

Can’t do any kind of install, did a compete wipe and restart, now unable to install from Google Play store, or apk files from download folder, when I hit install it tries but is unable to install, phone is not activated just using wifi or from pc

me2
me2
May 8, 2021 5:49 am
Reply to  tim

Same here, resetting did nothing, it won’t install any APK file at all. Apparently they’ve made some recent change at Google or somewhere. My phone is an old ZTE, about ten years old. Tried an APK not from Google play store, Aurora Store, and it won’t install either.

Bill Christensen
Bill Christensen
September 15, 2021 6:35 pm
Reply to  me2

What version of Android are you running? Check to see the version of the app you are trying to install. My BlackBerry Z30 couldn’t run anything over 4.

Jeff
Jeff
December 28, 2021 11:45 pm

I can’t do a clean install Android forced to Update
Need help

Bill Christensen
Bill Christensen
September 15, 2021 6:34 pm

I used APKPure to install a previous version of an app that when it comes to any versions after the one that works, it crashes. I tried to uninstall APKPure, and I can’t load the version that works. Do I always have to use APKPure? Also, why would the app automatically update when I don’t give permission?