Most Google Android phones allow you to check a box next to “unknown sources” if you want to be able to install apps that aren’t available from the Android Market. AT&T disables this function on the Android handsets it ships. But that’s not the end of the story. It turns out you can still install apps on those phones — you just can’t do it the easy way by dragging and dropping an APK file to your phone and running it from a file browser.

The folks at Android Central have put together a Windows program that you can use to install apps on an Android device. It’s called Sideload Wonder Machine, and here’s how it works:

  1. On your phone, open the Settings menu, then Applications, then Development
  2. Check the box that says USB Debugging
  3. On your computer, download Sideload Wonder Machine
  4. Unzip it to a folder on your PC
  5. Make sure your phone is plugged in
  6. Double-click AndroidCentral-SWM.exe
  7. Click the Choose a file button
  8. Select the apk installer file for the app you want to install (you should have already downloaded these files from the internet to your PC)
  9. Click the Go button to open a command prompt
  10. Hit any key to install
  11. Wait a moment

And that’s it. Or at least that should be it. When I tried running the app on my PC, I got an error message that loader.bat wasn’t found. But I quickly realized that what the SWM.exe file does it copy the apk file to the “payload” directory” and then loader.bat does all the hard work of transferring it to your device. If you manually copy a file to the payload directory and then double-click on loader.bat everything should run just fine. I had no problem installing 3 different apps on my phone using the tool.

You can check out a demo video from Android Central after the break.

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing. He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since...

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