How To Sideload Apps and APKs on an Android TV Box Device

As an Android developer with over 5 years of experience building apps for Android TV and other Android platforms, I often get asked how to install apps that are not available on the Google Play Store onto an Android TV box. The process of manually installing apps outside of the Play Store is called “sideloading”.

Sideloading apps on Android TV works very similarly to sideloading on smartphones and tablets. It gives you more control and customization over your Android TV box, though there are some risks regarding security and app stability you should keep in mind. Overall, it’s a useful skill that can enhance your Android TV experience.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll explain step-by-step how to sideload both Android Package Kit (APK) files and apps to your Android TV box. We’ll cover:

Prerequisites Before You Begin Sideloading

Before you begin sideloading, make sure:

  • You have an Android TV box – This could be an NVIDIA SHIELD TV, Xiaomi Mi Box, Google Chromecast with Google TV, or another TV box running Android TV. Other devices like smart TVs, streaming sticks, and cable boxes likely won’t work.
  • You’ve enabled Apps from Unknown Sources – This allows installation of non-Play Store apps. I’ll cover how to enable this later.
  • Recommended: A mouse & keyboard – Navigating apps and settings is much easier with mouse/keyboard input.

Once you’ve confirmed those, you’re ready to begin sideloading onto your Android TV.

Sideloading from an APK File

APK files contain Android app code that you can install. Here are the steps to sideload an APK:

  • 1. Download the APK file – Get the APK file from a trusted source, usually the app’s official website.
  • 2. Transfer the APK file to your Android TV box – Use a USB drive, cloud storage, network share, etc. to get the file onto your Android TV hardware.
  • 3. Enable Apps from Unknown Sources in Settings > Security & Restrictions. Check the box that reads “Allow apps from unknown sources”. This is crucial to allow installation of non-Play Store apps.
  • 4. Open the File Explorer app on your Android TV home screen.
  • 5. Navigate to your APK file and select it.
  • 6. Select “Install” when prompted. Grant any required permissions and the app will begin installing just like a Play Store app.

And you’re done! The app icon will now appear on your Android TV’s home screen for easy access. Launch and enjoy!

Sideloading Apps from the Web

You can also sideload apps to your Android TV directly from websites without needing the APK file. Here is the process:

  • 1. On your computer, find the app’s website that lets you install or download the Android app. Sometimes these have links like “Get it on Google Play”.
  • 2. Enable Apps from Unknown Sources on your Android TV under Settings if you haven’t already.
  • 3. Click the app install link. Choose your Android TV as the device. This will send the install request to your TV.
  • 4. Accept the installation prompt on your TV when it appears. Grant requested permissions so the app can begin downloading and installing.

And that’s it! The app will now install and run just like any other. Look for its icon on your Android TV’s home screen.

Tips for Sideloading Success

Keep these tips in mind for smooth sideloading:

  • Close background apps and processes before installing, especially demanding games. This avoids slowdowns.
  • Grant all requested permissions. Denying permissions can break app functionality.
  • Check whether the app supports Android TV input if it requires user interaction. Some apps may not work without touch inputs.
  • Use a good file manager app like FX File Explorer to easily manage and launch APKs.
  • Uninstall apps you don’t use anymore to clear storage space.

And that’s it! With Apps from Unknown Sources enabled and these easy sideloading methods, you can start expanding your Android TV experience beyond the Play Store. Have fun!