Sideloading Android Apps on an Emulator

Guides By 5 years ago

Mostly manual sideloading of apps can be avoided by uploading the target app to an ftp server or file server and downloading using the Emulator browser. There are however some special cases where the app can not be downloaded, usually due to corporate firewalls. Manually sideloading does require a few terminal/command prompt commands but is really very simple

For the sake of making this guide as simple as possible I’m going to assume the following

  1. You have ADB in your PATH
  2. You have no other Android device connected apart from a single Emulator instance
  3. Your emulator is up and running
  4. Your emulator has USB debugging enabled
  5. Your emulator has the “allow apps from unknown sources” option enabled


The first step is to make sure that your emulator can be seen by ADB. You can do this by opening either a Terminal Window on Mac or a Command Prompt on Windows and typing the following command:

adb devices

This should display a list of devices containing only your emulator. If you see other entries disconnect the other devices. If you see no entries check to see if your emulator is still running, if it is see troubleshooting below.

ADB Devices


Using either your terminal or command prompt change to the directory your target app is located and type the following command:

adb install <appname>.apk

The target app will now be uploaded and installed to the emulator.

ADB install command


If you get something like below, you will need to uninstall the app from the emulator first before sideloading

ADB install failure


Troubleshooting – ADB doesn’t see my emulator

Sometimes ADB won’t pick up your emulator even though everything appears to be in place. The most sure way I’ve find to fix it is to follow the below steps

  1. In your terminal or command prompt type adb kill-server
  2. Go to your emulator and disable the USB debugging option, once that’s done enable it again
  3. Back in your terminal or command prompt type adb start-server
  4. When the adb server has started again type adb-devices and your emulator should now be seen in the list.