How to Prevent Unwanted App Downloads on Android

Unwanted app downloads are a common issue that Android users face. These apps get downloaded in the background without the user’s consent, often consuming data and battery. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent this from happening. This article provides a detailed guide on how to stop unwanted app downloads on your Android device.

Use Google Play Store Restrictions

The Google Play Store allows you to set certain restrictions that can prevent unwanted app downloads. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Play Store app and tap on your profile icon in the top-right corner
  2. Go to Settings > Parental controls
  3. Select the child account you want to set restrictions for
  4. Turn on “Approve app purchases” and “Approve app downloads”
  5. Set age restrictions under “Allowed content ratings”

With these restrictions enabled, app downloads and purchases will require your approval before proceeding. This gives you control over what gets installed on your device.

Disable “Allow from Unknown Sources”

Android allows installation of apps from outside the Play Store if “Allow from unknown sources” is enabled under Security settings. Disable this option to block unwanted app downloads from third-party sources:

  1. Go to Settings > Security
  2. Turn off the “Allow from unknown sources” option

This will ensure apps can only be downloaded from the Play Store where you already have restrictions set up.

Use a Security App with App Locking Features

Specialized security apps like Norton, Avast, and CM Security allow you to selectively block access and downloads for specific apps. When enabled, selected apps cannot be launched or updated without authentication.

These apps provide granular control – you can easily block apps that tend to download other apps without consent. App locking also prevents children from accessing apps not suitable for their age.

Disable Auto-Update for Apps

The Play Store allows apps to be automatically updated when new versions are released. This may result in unwanted behavior or new downloads being triggered after an update.

To disable auto-updates:

  1. Open Play Store
  2. Tap the hamburger menu icon
  3. Go to Settings
  4. Tap Auto-update apps
  5. Select “Do not auto-update apps”

Without auto-update enabled, you retain full control over which app updates get installed.

Use Parental Control Apps

Dedicated parental control apps like Google Family Link, Norton Family, and Kaspersky Safe Kids allow parents to remotely control and restrict app usage on their children’s devices.

These apps provide features like:

  • Blocking access to specific apps
  • Preventing new app downloads
  • Setting daily usage limits for apps
  • Viewing detailed activity reports

Parental control apps ensure kids stay safe online and use devices responsibly.

Disable Background Data for Apps

Some malicious apps abuse background data privileges to download files or trigger app installs without the user noticing.

You can disable background data selectively for specific apps:

  1. Go to Settings > Data usage
  2. Tap on the app
  3. Turn off “Allow background data usage”

With background data disabled, the app cannot use mobile data in the background to download files or trigger app installs.

Use Firewall Apps to Block Network Access

Firewall apps like NoRoot Firewall and NetGuard allow you to selectively block internet access for installed apps. This prevents them from communicating with external servers, which in turn stops unwanted app downloads.

These firewalls run as VPN clients and do not require root access. You can easily revoke an app’s network access if you notice unusual activity. By cutting off internet connectivity, the app cannot receive remote commands to download content.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do apps download themselves on Android?

In some cases, apps download other apps to generate revenue through referrals and advertising. Malicious apps may also download other malware once installed on a device. Apps with auto-update enabled can sometimes introduce unwanted behavior through updates.

2. How can I view and delete recently installed apps?

Go to Settings > Apps. Tap on the menu icon in the top right corner and select “Sort by last used”. This will show your most recently opened apps first. You can then delete unwanted apps from this list.

3. What happens when I disable background data for an app?

Disabling background data prevents the app from using mobile data while running in the background. This means the app cannot download files, stream updates, sync data, or trigger app installs because these operations require a network connection. The app only works with Wi-Fi in the background.

4. Is it safe to install antivirus apps from unknown sources?

Antivirus and security apps require extensive permissions for analyzing device behavior to detect threats. It is best to only install these apps from trusted sources like the Play Store where app behavior is vetted. Downloading them from unknown sources increases malware risk.

5. Can locked apps still download updates?

If an app is locked behind authentication, it typically cannot update itself without the user first unlocking it. This holds true for app locks provided by security apps, screen pinning, and so on. Locking an app denies all user-level access to the app.

Preventing unwanted app downloads requires a combination of Google Play Store restrictions, using security apps, disabling background data, employing firewall apps, and more. With adequate safeguards in place, you can stop automatic app installations on your Android device.