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One of the security updates baked into Android 14 is a feature that blocks you from installing some older apps built for Android 5.1 or earlier… kind of.

If you’ve got a shiny new phone or tablet running Android 14, it’s true that you can’t download and install these older apps on your device itself. But you can plug your mobile device into a computer with a USB cable, open a terminal window or command prompt, and type a few commands to sideload older apps onto your device.

Before you do that, a word of warning though: there’s a reason Google doesn’t make it as easy to install older apps as it used to be. Android 5.1 was released in 2015, and in the years since then Google has implemented a number of privacy and security changes.

Apps that target versions of Android lower than 6.0 can bypass some of those requirements, and Google notes that “some malware apps use a targetSdkVersion of 22 to avoid being subjected to the runtime permission model introduced in 2015 by Android 6.0 Marshmallow (API level 23).”

It’s also possible that some apps that were designed for Android 5.1 or earlier, but which haven’t been updated in the past eight years to support newer versions of Android may have bugs, security vulnerabilities, or other problems.

So I’d only recommend installing an old app if you’re absolutely certain that it’s safe and/or you’re willing to accept the inherent risk involved.

Also keep in mind that the new restrictions only apply to devices that are already running Android 14 when you try to install an older app – if you’ve already got an old app on a phone running Android 13 or earlier, you won’t lose that app if you upgrade to Android 14. But if you uninstall the app, you won’t be able to reinstall it without following the steps listed below.

So here’s how I stumbled across this new method for installing older apps on Android 14: When moving from my Google Pixel 4a 5G to a Pixel 8 Pro, I lost a simple 7 minute workout timer app that I’d been using on and off for the better part of a decade, so I was curious to know whether it was possible to sideload this app.

It is. But it takes a little more work than it used to. Here are the steps I took to install that old app on my new phone:

  1. Enable Developer options on your Android 14 device
    • Open the Settings app on your phone
    • Scroll down until you find the About Phone option and tap on it
    • Scroll down until you find Build Number and then tap on Build number seven times to enable developer mode
  2. Enable USB Debugging
    • Go back to the Settings screen
    • Scroll down until you either see Developer Options and tap on that, or if you don’t see it, open the System menu and scroll down until you see Developer Options and tap it.
    • Scroll down until you see the USB debugging toggle and flip it to the on position.
    • You may see a pop-up asking if you’d like to allow USB debugging. If you do, select OK. You can always disable this feature after installing your app.
  3. Set up ADB on your computer
    • There are multiple ways to do this, and the instructions vary a bit depending on whether you’re using a Windows, Mac, or Linux PC. But in a nutshell, the first step is to download the latest version of Google’s SDK Platform Tools for your operating system.
    • Next, unzip the file to a folder on your computer
    • Navigate to the directory where you’ve unzipped the contents, and you should see a bunch of tools including adb and fastboot.
    • Open a terminal, command prompt, or Powershell window to this directory.
    • Connect your Android 14 phone or table to your computer with a USB cable.
    • In the terminal window on your PC, type the following command:
      • adb devices
    • You should see a pop-up on your screen asking you to allow USB debugging. Tap the option to allow.
    • Type the adb devices command again, if necessary, and you should see a list of devices attached to your computer, with one entry for your phone or tablet.
  4. Download and install your old Android app
    • At this point, you can download the APK installer file for your Android app from the developer’s website or from a trusted alternative to the Google Play Store.
    • Copy that app to the same Platform Tools directory on your computer
    • Run the following command in your terminal/command line window:
      • adb install --bypass-low-target-sdk-block FILENAME.apk

That’s it. If everything went according to plan, the app should now be available on your Android device.

via Ars Technica, Android Developers, Esper, and xda-developers

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  1. Hello,
    I tryied to install my old apps, but all my tries ended with message in cmd window:

    Failure [INSTALL_FAILED_NO_MATCHING_ABIS: INSTALL_FAILED_NO_MATCHING_ABIS: Failed to extract native libraries, res=-113]

    What is wrong?

    Samsung S24 ultra

    Many thanks in advance.

    Petr

  2. “abd : The term ‘abd’ is not recognized as the name of a cmdlet, function, script file, or operable program. Check the s
    pelling of the name, or if a path was included, verify that the path is correct and try again.
    At line:1 char:1”

    What should I do?

  3. Hi,
    I am writing from Austria and like to ask for your support.
    For some reasons I like to install an old fitness APK.
    Just repeating the strips
    Set up Developer USB debugging
    Connect phone to computer.
    Run command adb and write
    adb install –bypass-low-target-sdk-block FILENAME.apk
    Filename I attach to the string is
    fit-1-82-40-138.apk
    Doing this the daemon starts and a lot of lines start running.
    But question where is the APK?
    Not on the PC not on the connected phone.
    I wonder what I do wrong?
    Please advise!
    Regards
    Iris Mueck

    1. Did you download the fit-1-82-40-138.apk and put it in the same directory on your computer as the adb.exe utility before running the command?

      1. Hi,
        Yes, but a lot of things are uncertain.
        I run the Command on my PC.
        Then start with writing adb…
        Leave a space then the bypass, etc at the end of the string is the old fit file APK.
        I did not write “install” as the lines from the adb say “install” not found…
        I am still helpless.
        Can we communicate via WhatsApp?
        Regards
        Iris

  4. This is going to do anything if the game you’re getting to install 32-bit (ex. Yu-gi-oh Duel Generation). Make sure the game you’re trying to run is 64-bit on Android 14 or you’re waisting your time following this guys advice.

    1. adb install –bypass-low-target-sdk-block FILENAME.apk
      The adb command worked for me. The app I was having problems with is 64 bit and worked on Android 13. When I updated to 14 it didn’t work. Following the above procedure fixed my problem. Your mileage may very.

  5. Hello! Just an FYI, I think the website formatting is screwing up the characters in the command, rendering it to fail. The FIRST dash is actually a DOUBLE DASH “–” or “dashdash” or “- -” without the space, but the website formats it to a long dash instead.

    use this: adb install –bypass-low-target-sdk-block FILENAME.apk
    in other words: adb install [dashdash]bypass-low-target-sdk-block FILENAME.apk

  6. Doesn’t work if you put apk in platform tools folder. You need to create a folder on desktop and put apk in there. Open command prompt from folder and adb install.

    1. I just tried this today and it worked perfectly.
      1. Copied the “FILENAME”.apk file into the c:\adb platform tools folder
      2. Right-clicked in adb folder and selected “command prompt (administrator)”
      3. At c:\adb> typed “adb devices” and waited for my phone to show up
      4. At c:\adb> typed “adb install –bypass-low-target-sdk-block FILENAME.apk” changing the word FILENAME with the apk filename I had copied into the adb folder.
      Previously every time I tried to install the apk I would get the annoying “app not installed as app isn’t compatible with your phone” message.
      This time the file was installed on my Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Android v14 non-rooted phone and it finally works. It would never install before doing this adb backdoor install procedure and I had already turned off unknown sources on phone and Play Protect in Google Play Store.

      Thanks Brad!

  7. I currently have a device with Android 12. When I go to the Play Store to review the list of old apps that I’ve used on previous versions of Android, I find some apps that don’t have the install button (instead they have a message that says: Your device isn’t compatible with this version) Does the trick mentioned in this article also work for Android 12?