An APK file is the Android equivalent of an EXE or MSI file on Windows. It's a container for an Android app that you can download and install (sometimes called sideloading).

Most apps start out as APKs, which are then published to Google Play , the official source of all things related to Android apps. But your phone may also allow you to grab APKs directly from other sources, like trusted developer forums , or even random websites .

That's why you may need to know how to install an APK from somewhere like Indigo APK -- because if you want specific apps not found in Google Play, you're probably going to have to get them yourself.

The other nice thing about having access to APK files is that it means you can install Android apps that aren't available in your region's Google Play store.

How to install Android apps on your PC or Mac

Pretty much every APK file you download from the internet will require some kind of computer-side software to install it. And while iOS users are limited to what they can get directly through Apple's App Store, Android owners have a few different options for their computers.

One option is to use BlueStacks , which is free desktop software that basically turns your Windows PC into an Android phone emulator, complete with virtual hardware keys . You can then download any app you want into the emulator and run it like it was on a real device. It's not perfect -- in fact, most games tend to be nearly unplayable -- but it's a quick and easy way to get things done.

Another popular option is to use an Android emulator, like the free Andy OS , which lets you run APK files directly in a window on your computer through a wired or wireless connection with a nearby phone or tablet. You'll find that most of these emulators are intended primarily for developers, since they don't have Google Play services built right in . But you can definitely still install APKs from outside sources.

If all else fails, there's always good old-fashioned ADB . It works just as well today as it did when we first wrote about it four years ago . Just know that using ADB can be pretty complicated compared to the other options, especially if you're not already familiar with it.

Tips for installing Android apps

Now that you know about all your options for installing APKs on your PC or Mac, there are a few things to keep in mind when you actually start sideloading software.

First off, always have a backup plan. There are often different versions of an APK available online -- usually labeled something like "Google Play" vs "Direct Download." The version tagged Google Play will only work through the official channel, while the direct download works everywhere . You can use whichever one suits your needs best. But be aware that sometimes the direct download stuff isn't tested nearly as well , so there's a chance it could break or be unstable.

Second, most APKs will want access to certain core parts of your operating system. In order to use BlueStacks effectively , for example, you'll need a PC running Windows 7 or higher . And if you're using an emulator like Andy OS or YouWave , they might require administrator permissions before installation is allowed . Just make sure you know what's required and that your system is capable of meeting the requirements before you move forward with any sideloading.

Finally, never download an APK from just anywhere out on the web -- we recommend checking reliable sources like IndigoAPK and Android Police first whenever possible. If it isn't coming from one of these places, there's always a chance the file has been tampered with, either by an app developer testing out features before release or malware created specifically to steal from you . So stick with the trusted sources whenever possible to make sure your Android apps work as expected, without causing any problems.

Pros and cons of using the Google Play Store vs third-party stores

The bottom line is that using a third-party store can be fantastic , but it also brings a much greater risk because there are no guarantees over what kind of software you'll find. Do your homework first and think about whether or not you want to gamble on getting something outside the official channel. Because if you're willing to take a few minutes extra to do some due diligence, you might end up with fewer headaches in the long run.

Why you should always have a backup plan when downloading new apps

With the official Google Play Store, everything is pretty much taken care of for you . The safety and stability of your device matters first and foremost to Google, so it makes sense that they would put protections in place to keep things running smoothly all the time. You don't have to worry about malware or anything like that -- unless you decide not to stick with what's offered on Google Play, but why do that?

You can use Android without ever reading another article about sideloading if you want , since most of what you need will be available through the official channel whenever possible. But if there's one thing we people walk away with after reading this article, it's that there are more options out there than what you'll find on Google Play. And these other stores can be fantastic if you do your research and know exactly what you're looking for.

So make sure to consider all of your options before deciding whether or not sideloading apps is the way to go . Don't play with fire unless you understand how things work -- otherwise, stick to using official app stores whenever possible!

Examples of APK files in use today, including Pokemon GO, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, etc...

If all else fails and you just aren't satisfied with any of the current ways of getting Android apps onto your computer without sideloading , then take a look at Xamarin. It's much easier than all of this hard work, and it lets you use a bunch of different development tools to bring any app over . From there, it works just like any other piece of software -- you can run it from your computer or even transfer it over to a mobile device if you want!

This is a great option for anyone who wants to get into Android development but has no idea how to get started. Just find the right project, install the Android Studio , and go from there. It doesn't get much easier than that!

Lastly, we'll leave you with some examples of popular APK files in use today . Known as "side-loadable apps," these are going to be what most people think of when dealing with APK files -- games and apps that aren't normally available through a Google Play Store.

And while you could download any of these from their official sources, the direct APK downloads are going to be much faster overall . Some might even have tweaked versions or different locations that make them faster for whatever reason, so it's worth checking out your options if you're having issues!

Instagram , Facebook Messenger , Snapchat , Pokemon GO , Twitter , Messenger Lite 

Google Translate , Microsoft Word / Excel / PowerPoint , Netflix  

Skype Preview , Spotify Music 

As always, it's a good idea to keep a backup plan in mind before downloading anything onto your computer. Whether it's a trusted source like IndigoAPK or some other method of sharing APKs, make sure that you have an option to easily get your apps up and running again if you play with them too much.

All in all, APK files are super useful for anyone who wants to try out new ways of using Android without having to struggle through the Google Play Store every day. While it's good practice to stick with official stores whenever possible , there are still plenty of benefits to looking elsewhere -- so long as you keep your wits about you while exploring new territory!

And there you have it! An article filled with everything important you need to know about what is an APK file, how installation works, tips for installing Android apps, pros and cons of using the Google Play Store vs third-party stores, why you should always have a backup plan when downloading new apps, and examples of APK files in use today, including Pokemon GO, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, etc...

Happy apping! (Is that even a thing?)


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