Despite its clunky launcher interface and software flaws, Android TV is undoubtedly the best smart TV software out there. You get not only the first-party support of apps and streaming services but also the reliability of Google’s exceptional integrated ecosystem. There’s a lot to like about Android TV.
It’s also possible to sideload APK files on Android TV, which is necessary to get access to apps unavailable in the Play Store for regional restrictions and other reasons. Although sideloading apps on Android TV isn’t as intuitive as on an Android phone or tablet, there are several ways to do it.
If you are planning to install apps from external sources on your Android TV, this guide will show you the simplest way to sideload APK files on it. It will work on every Android TV device, including set-top boxes (e.g., NVIDIA SHIELD), dongles (e.g., Mi TV Stick), or an Android TV-powered smart TVs.
Sideload APKs on Android TV from an Android phone/tablet
The easiest way to sideload APK files on Android TV is by using wireless file-sharing tools or file managers. It eliminates the need to use ADB, which we will explain later in the guide.
Install “Send files to TV” app
Our personal favorite for transferring APK files to Android TV is the “Send files to TV” app, which lets users send anything to an Android TV device from an Android phone or tablet over a local network connection. You can install it on your Android TV device from the Play Store. Here’s how:
- First, open the Play Store from the ‘Apps’ list on the Android TV home screen.
- After that, select and click the magnifying glass icon on the top-right corner of the app window.
- Now use the on-screen keyboard to type in “Send files to TV” in the search menu.
- Select the ‘Send files to TV’ app from the search results, then click Install on the following page.
Once you install the app on Android TV, do the same on your Android phone or tablet. You can click this link to get redirected to the Play Store page on your device.
After you have it on both of your devices, launch the “Send files to TV” app, and tap Skip to dismiss the introduction pages. Next, tap Done when you are asked to give read and write permissions to the app. Finally, select Allow from the following pop-up dialog box that appears on the screen.
Use “Send files to TV” for sending APKs to Android TV
Now that you have the “Send files to TV” app set up on your Android TV and Android phone/tablet, follow the steps below to send APK files on your Android TV using the app.
- On your Android phone/tablet, tap Send in the app and select the APK file that you want to transfer.
- Now click the Receive option on your Android TV. Once you do that, you should see your TV appear in the list of devices on your Android phone/tablet.
- Select your Android TV device from the list. The file transfer should begin instantly.
Once the APK file is transferred to your Android TV, click it and select Open in the action box. If everything goes correctly, you see the installation prompt on the screen.
In case you don’t receive the installation prompt, you will have to use a separate file manager app to open the APK file, such as FX File Explorer or File Commander. You will find the transferred APK files in the Download folder (internal storage). Note that you might have to give the file manager permission to install apps from unknown sources.
Sideload APKs on Android TV from your PC
If you have a PC or laptop connected to the same local network, you can use ADB (Android Debug Bridge) tools to transfer APK files over to an Android TV device. Although it primarily works over a wired connection, you can use Wi-Fi as an alternative.
All you have to do is run the 15 seconds ADB Installer (XDA link) on your Windows PC or Nexus Tools if you are on Linux, macOS, or Chrome OS. Once you have ADB installed on your PC, follow the steps below to sideload APKs on your Android TV.
- Click the gear icon on the upper-right corner of the Android TV home screen to open the Settings menu.
- Now scroll down and go to Device Preferences > About option.
- After that, scroll down once again and click the Build option until you see the “You are now a developer” pop-up message.
- Return to the main Android TV Settings page and click Network & Internet.
- Select the active Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection from the options. You should see the IP address of your TV on the list.
We will need the IP address to identify the target device on the network. Once you have it, open up a Command Prompt window or the Terminal on your PC/laptop and do the following:
- In the CMD/Terminal window, type in “adb connect” without the quotes, then enter the IP address of your TV.
- A dialog box on your Android TV should appear, telling you to allow the connection. Click Allow to proceed.
- To check whether the connection has successfully established or not, run the “adb devices” command.
- Now enter “adb install” without the quotes, then enter a space, and drag the APK file to the CMD/Terminal window. It should automatically fill up the file path.
- Finally, press the Enter key and wait for the “success” message in the app window.
Once you receive the message, go to the bottom end of the Apps list from your Android TV home screen. The sideloaded app should show up, assuming that you have gone through the steps as shown above.
You can now sideload as many apps as you want on your Android TV using either the “Send files to TV” app or ADB commands from your PC.
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