Installing an Android App from the SD card without a File browser


What I thought was a simple question turned out to be a hard to find answer but was eventually a very easy solution.

All I wanted to do was to install a .apk on a new HTC Wildfire S running Android 2.3 without creating/linking a HTCsense or Google account or installing a file manager. This is easily achieved when you know how.

My reason for doing this was that I have just purchased(through the company) 23 HTC Wildfire S, through the HTC Hub app you can create an account, and download a free app called QuickOffice which allows the user to create Office 2003 Word & Excel documents but more importantly open them as attachments. I also wanted to install the Adobe Acrobat Reader app from the Android Market to open PDF attachments, and also the free HTC Flashlight app because it uses your camera led as a torch and can be very useful.

Obviously you can download these by a)creating a account to use HTC hub to download apps and b) creating a Google account and using the Android Market, both of which I have done for my personal mobile but didn’t want to do for the company mobiles because I didn’t want everyone downloading apps easily and I didn’t want to create accounts on each phone just to get an app.

Now for the instructions, if you have already got the .apk file then skip to Step 3, if not then start here.

1) To get the .apk files we will download the apps on one mobile, possibly your personal one as I did, then use File Expert* to ‘backup’ the apps to the sd card. When you open File Expert go to My Apps and then select the ones you want to backup, and choose backup (If your app isn’t listed you can make it show, just go to preferences to show all apps, but don’t back up apps you haven’t download as they are probably just for your device.). These will then be moved to the sd card in a backup-apps folder or similar.

2) When you have backed up your apps, either connect your phone using a USB lead and select USB disk drive mode or use a card reader to access the memory card. then move the .apk files to your computer, you can then store these to backup your apps, or alternatively follow the next steps to install these on another device.

3) Copy your .apk files on to the memory card of your new phone, to make this easy I renamed my .apk files to 1.apk 2.apk & 3.apk and place them in the root of the card.

4) Now make sure you either disconnect or reinsert the memory card from your pc.

5) To allow us to install an app from the sd card we need to allow installation from an unknown source. This is done by going to Settings -> Applications and tick Unknown Sources

6) Now for the install. Open the Internet browser and enter the following in the address bar, file:///sdcard/1.apk Obviously if you stored your files in a folder or called them something different then change the path to something else.
When asked whether to download or play online choose play online, the install screen will now launch and follow the instructions to install your app.

7) When you have finished I personally changed back the setting in Step 5 to make sure others don’t accidentally install malicious apps, highly unlikely but better safe. I also deleted the .apk files off the sd card making sure I had a backup of course.

While I have only tested this on a HTC Wildfire S, I would like to know what other devices it works on so if it works for you please let me know in the comments.

Please note, this process should not be used to copy apps that you shouldn’t have access to or have purchased, I only used this to copy apps that are free on the handsets I used.

I also believe you can use the same method in Step 6 to access any file stored on the sd card.

*Although in this article I suggest using File Expert, this is because it allows you to backup more apps from your android device, my preferred file browser on android is ASTRO File Manager which has SMB/FTP access and can also backup apps but I found it didn’t find some apps.

On a personal note comments are welcomed as this is my first blog, hope this helps others. I will post other tips/tricks in future not just Android.