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How to Sideload Apps on Android TV

Slowly but surely, the Android OS is taking over the world. After smartphones, the open source operating system arrived on smart TVs in 2014. After three long years, the adoption rate of Android TV is certainly slower than Google initially expected.

Fortunately, major players like Nvidia and Xiaomi started manufacturing boxes capable of adding the functionality of Android TV on a standard TV. These things cost well under $100 and are capable of streaming 4K HDR videos on a compatible TV. Even if Android TV is now making its way on a lot of TVs, the OS still has one major drawback that has been hindering the adoption rate for years – Google Play Store doesn’t have enough compatible apps for Android TV.

But fear not my fellow droid heads, it’s Android we’re talking about. With Android, there’s always a walkaround, and this situation is no different. Even if the app you’re searching for is not available for Android TV yet, you can still run it on your Android TV- you just need to sideload it.

Sideloading an app is a term that refers to installing an application that isn’t accessible through the normal channels (Google Play Store). Sideloading is pretty straightforward on Android smartphones and tablets, but things are a little more complicated on Android TV.

In an attempt to make the whole process as easy as possible, we have created a master guide of methods that will enable you to sideload apps to your Android TV. The end result will be the same, so feel free to use whatever method seems more accessible.

Prerequisites

Regardless of which method you’ll end up using, the first steps are always the same. You need to enable your Android TV to accept app installs from outside Play Store and install a couple of handy apps. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. On your Android TV, access the Settings menu.
  2. Once you’re in Settings, make your way to the Personal tab and access Security & restrictions (Security).
    Note: The exact location of Unknown Sources may vary from device to device.
  3. Make sure Unknown sources is enabled.
  4. Install Sideload Launcher – Android TV from Google Play Store on your Android TV. This will let you run the apps you will end up sideloading. Download it from here.
  5. Install ES File Explorer from Google Play Store on your Android TV. You can use another file manager, but I highly recommend you stick with ES File Explorer as it has an FTP option that will make things a lot easier for you.

Method 1: Installing an app via computer browser

This method is not guaranteed to work with all apps, but since it’s the easiest out of the bunch I decided to feature it first. We are going to use a desktop web browser, but if you don’t have a computer at the ready, you can access the web version of Google Play Store from another Android device. You can do this easily in Chrome by expanding the settings menu and tapping on Show desktop version.

  1. Open up any web browser from your computer and visit Google Play Store.
  2. Search for the app you want to sideload and click the Install button.
  3. If you’re not logged in with your Google account, you will be prompted to insert your credentials at this point.
  4. You should see a list with all the devices associated with your Google account. Click on your Android TV or Android TV box.
  5. Once the following message is displayed, wait a while before returning to your Android TV.
    If you get a message the app is incompatible with your Android TV device, move over to the next method.

Method 2: Sideloading apps using a USB Flash Drive on Android TV

If you’re lucky enough to have an Android TV with a USB port, you should go with the following method as it’s way easier than the ones below. While most Android TVs will have a USB port, some Android TV boxes will only have a micro USB port. If you don’t have a standard USB port on your Android TV, you need a Micro USB male to female adapter to pursue this method. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. The first step would be to download the APK from outside Google Play Store. To avoid catching unwanted malware, I recommend you go with APK Mirror or APK Pure. These guys are known to keep their shop clean.
  2. Make sure you have ES File Explorer or another file manager installed on your Android TV.
  3. Copy the APK you downloaded on the flash drive.
  4. Plug in the flash drive into your Android TV. You should get a message on the TV screen asking whether you want to open with ES File Manager. Select OK.
    Note: 
    If no message appears, launch ES File Explorer yourself and locate the USB drive you just plugged in.
  5. Locate the APK and select it and tap on Install. If you didn’t follow the prerequisite steps, you’ll be prompted to enable Unknown sources at this point.
  6. Once the install is over, use Sideload Launcher to run the sideloaded app you’ve just installed.

Method 3: Sideloading Apps from the cloud

If you weren’t able to sideload an app using the methods above, this will surely do the trick. On the downside, this method is quite long and tedious. If you already have the ADB drivers set up on your computer, I highly recommend that you go with the next method because it’s easier.

If you’re still here, make sure you install ES File Explorer since it’s one of the only apps capable of performing the following trick. Once you got that going, follow the next steps.

  1. From your PC, download the APK of the app you want to sideload from APK Mirror or APK Pure.
  2. Upload the APK on your Google Drive account. You can also use Dropbox.
  3. Open ES File Explorer on your Android TV.
  4. Open the action menu and go to Network > Cloud.
  5. Tap on the New button located in the top right corner of the screen. From there, select the cloud service you previously used to upload the APK.
  6. Once you log into your cloud account, all the contents from your cloud storage will be displayed in ES File Explorer.
  7. Navigate to the location of the APK and tap on it to begin downloading it.
  8. Once the download is complete, tap on Install.
  9. After the installation is complete, use Sideload Launcher to open the app you’ve just sideloaded.

Method 4: Sideloading apps on Android TV with ADB

This is my favorite way of sideloading apps to an Android TV. This method will require you to have ADB set up on your computer. If you don’t have the drivers set up yet, but you’re willing to get your hands dirty, follow this handy guide on installing the ADB drivers.

Once you get that going, follow the steps down below to sideload apps on Android TV over ADB.

  1. On your computer, download the APK of the app you want to sideload from APK Mirror or APK Pure. If the app’s name is too long, you might want to rename it to something easier to type. You’ll thank me later.
  2. On your Android TV, head over to the Settings menu and click on the About tab.
  3. At the bottom of the About tab, you should be able to find the Build entry. Tap on it 7 times.
  4. When you get the toast message saying “You are now a developer”, return to the Settings menu.
  5. In the Settings menu, you should be able to spot a new entry called Developer Options. Click on it.
  6. Scroll all the way down to the Debugging tab and enable USB debugging.
  7. Now connect your Android TV / Android TV box to your PC with a USB cable.
  8. On your computer, navigate to the path where the APK you want to sideload is located. Somewhere in that folder, Shift+right click on an empty space and select Open command window here.
  9. Now let’s check if the ADB drivers are correctly installed on your PC and the connection is working as it should. Type adb devices inside the newly opened command prompt.
    Note: If you see an entry that shows up as a device, proceed to the next step. If your PC is unable to recognize your Android TV, try reinstalling the ADB drivers.
  10. If your ADB connection is working, type adb install appname.apk. Don’t forget to change appname to the name of your app.
  11. After you hit Enter, it will take a couple of seconds before the process is complete. You’ll receive a “Success” message at the end of it.
  12. Now move over to your Android TV and use Sideload Launcher to open the app.

Method 5: Sideloading apps on Android TV using an FTP connection

I’ve saved this method for last because it’s the most complicated one out of the bunch. We are going to use ES File Explorer on your Android TV to connect to an FTP server that runs on your PC. Since Windows has no built-in easy way to create to create an FTP server, we will use a third party application to make our job easier.

In the event that you already have a working FTP server on your computer, skip the first 6 steps. Don’t worry if you don’t really know what FTP is. Follow the steps below and we’ll get you through the whole process:

  1. Download FileZilla Server from this link and install it on your computer.
  2. Open FileZilla and go to Edit > Users.
  3. From there, select Shared Folders and click on the Add button located on the right side of the screen.
  4. Enter an easy username that will be used to login with. Leave the option below to <none> and click OK.
  5. Now click on the Add button under Shared Folders.
  6. Select a folder that will be used to share files over the FTP connection. I would advise you to create a folder exclusively for that purpose. After you click OK, the FTP connection will be functional.
  7. Move over to your Android TV and open up ES File Explorer.
  8. Expand the action menu and go to Network > FTP.
  9. Tap on the New button in the top right corner of the screen and select FTP from the list.
  10. Now you need to insert the correct details in order to log into the FTP server you’ve previously created. In the Server entry, insert the IP address of your PC. Leave the Port entry unchanged.
    Note: If you don’t know your IP address, open up a Command Prompt and type ipconfig.
  11. Under Username, insert the username you created while setting up the FTP server on your PC. Leave the Password field blank and don’t change anything else. Click OK finish setting up the FTP server.
  12. On your PC, download the APK of the app you want to sideload from APK Mirror or APK Pure.
  13. Paste the APK inside the FTP folder you’ve previously created.
  14. Refresh ES File Explorer. THe APK should automatically appear on your Android TV screen.
  15. Install the APK and use Sideload Launcher to run it.

Expert Tip

How to Sideload Apps on Android TV

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