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What is an APK File? Just like Windows PC systems use a .exe file for installing software, Android does the same. An APK file is the file format used for installing software (usually games or apps) on the Android operating system.
Why would I want to install an APK File? Searching for and downloading APK files allows you to access apps that have leaked ahead of their official release. (You can also download apps which have been banned, though we would not recommend this.) APK files of new Android builds are often leaked ahead of time, giving you early access to all the exciting new features that otherwise wouldn’t be available to you. A recent example of this would be with the early Android L build which found its way online despite that it’s yet to be officially released.
There are many sources of APK files across the web, but be sure to choose a site which you trust. Some APK files may contain malicious software (malware) which could compromise your phones security, so it is best to be cautious before downloading or installing any app from outside of the Play Store (and even in the Play Store you’re not completely safe!). Generally speaking, APK files found on sites like XDA should be safer to download than from elsewhere, but read some reviews and user comments before downloading or installing an APK.
You must find an APK file that you want. Search online for an APK file and download it to an easy-to-find location on your computer (like your desktop). Before you can install it on your phone you will need to make sure that third-party apps are allowed on your device. Go to Menu > Settings > Security > and check “Unknown Sources” to allow your phone to install apps from sources other than the Google Play Store. If you like, you can also download an app like ES File Explorer so you can easily find files on your Android device.
Once you have downloaded the file on your computer, connect your device to it. At this point, you may be asked if you simply want to charge your phone or connect it as a “media device.” Choose “media device”. Then, simply find your phone’s folder on your computer (it will be in “My Computer” or “Computer” on Windows machines) and copy the APK file into a folder of your choice in your Android smartphone.