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Can’t install APK files on Android? Top 5 quick fixes

can't install apk

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.

How to Install APK on Android? Here’s a Step by Step Guide

First, make sure that your Android version supports the APK version you want to install. Devices get outdated after some time and Android versions they run, too. 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 if you can’t install APK

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 you can find on Play Store).

Also, APK aggregators like APK Mirror have installers that can be downloaded on the website (APK Mirror Installer is also available on Play Store). 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 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 run 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 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.

can't install apk


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 Android phones.

And that’s a wrap. Thank you for reading. Don’t forget to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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

Picture of Aleksandar Ognjanovic

Aleksandar Ognjanovic

Managing editor at Mobile Internist. @lemmingspain My fascination with mobile technology, particularly Android and iOS, began years ago and continues today. I'm captivated by the constant evolution in the smartphone industry and its impact on our daily lives, always anticipating the next big innovation. That’s the main reason why I found myself writing instructive content on the subject for users who are not as familiar with all the bells and whistles.
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