FIX: Android Emulator error installing APK on Windows

Aleksandar Ognjanovic
by Aleksandar Ognjanovic
Troubleshooting Expert
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  • Android Studio was designer for app developers to create and debug their mobile devices. The Android Emulator can also be used to test Android apps or even run some of them on your Windows computer.
  • If you get an error installing .apk in the emulator, here are the things you should do: update drivers, disable Instant Run and enable USB debugging. Keep reading for more info.
  • For similar articles such as this, check out the Android Emulators section on our website.
  • Don't worry about any issue you encounter with Windows or any other program. Confidently visit the Troubleshooting Tech Issues area and find the perfect solution.
android emulator error installing apk

Android Emulator found in the Android Studio SDK is a vastly used tool by all developers for the Android platform. Testing projects by installing APKs is the important step, but it seemingly won’t work for users who run the SDK on Windows. The installation error appears and they can’t finalize the installation.

We provided you with some troubleshooting steps below, by virtue of the Stack Overflow community. The most prominent insights we found are enlisted below so do give them a try.

How to fix APK installation error for Android Emulator on Windows

  1. Update drivers
  2. Disable Instant run
  3. Enable USB debugging
  4. Rebuild the project
  5. Sync with Gradle
  6. Run Invalidate caches/restart
  7. Reinstall Android Studio

1: Update drivers

Making sure that your drivers are properly installed and up to date is an important point. Make sure to install ADB and handset drivers. They’re, like all other drivers, found in Device Manager. After that, the problem should be gone.

Here’s where to check drivers and how to update them if the need arises:

  1. Right-click Start and open Device Manager.
  2. Expand Portable devices.
  3. Right-click on your handset devices and Update the device driver.

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2: Disable Instant Run

One of the most-suggested and, apparently, the most appraised solution. The knowledgeable folks back at Stack Overflow suggested disabling the Instant Run option. After that, an APK installation was working as intended.

Follow these steps to disable the Instant run feature in Android Emulator:

  1. Open the File option.
  2. Select Settings.
  3. Choose Build, Execution, Deployment.
  4. Select Instant Run.
  5. Uncheck the Enable Instant Run to hot swap code/resource changes on deploy (default enabled) box.

3: Enable USB debugging

Enabling this option is done on your handset and found in the Developer Options section. If it’s off, you won’t be able to install any APK project on your device. Afterward, once you connect your handset with the PC, you should see the prompt. Make sure to allow USB debugging for that individual PC.

Follow these steps to enable USB debugging on an Android device:

  1. On your phone, open Settings > About.
  2. Tap 7 times on the Build number to enable Developer options.
  3. Get back and open Developer options.
  4. Enable USB debugging.

4: Rebuild the project

Rebuilding the project might help, as well. Some users suggested that the Clean and then Rebuild commands provided them with the resolution. When the project was successfully rebuilt, users were able to install the APK to their handsets without any issues.

Here’s how to clean and rebuild project in Android Emulator:

  1. Open Android Studio.
  2. Click on Build.
  3. Click Clean project/Build.
  4. Finally, click Rebuild project.

5: Sync with Gradle

If you use the Gradle automation system when developing (and chances are you do), the problem might lie in a sync failure. In order to address this possible culprit, we suggest syncing it with the project. That should allow you to install APK without the error.

Here’s how to sync a project with Gradle:

  1. Open the File option.
  2. Choose Sync project with Gradle files.
  3. Wait it out and try installing the APK again.

6: Run Invalidate caches/restart

As with any other application, Android Studio stores all kinds of cached data. This speeds up the in-app processes but tends to create issues when creating new inputs and projects. Therefore, there’s the command which resets cache completely and it’s found under the File option in the Main bar.

Here’s where to find it:

  1. Choose the File option.
  2. Select Invalidate caches/restart.
  3. Click Invalidate and restart.

7: Reinstall Android Studio

Finally, if none of the previous solutions worked this out, we suggest reinstalling the Android Studio client. This is the last resort, judging on the reports of affected developers. We hope it’ll help you too. You can download the Android Studio suite, here.

With that said, we can conclude this article. In case you have any alternative questions or suggestions, feel free to post them in the comments section below.

FAQ: Learn more about Android Emulator errors

  • How do you restart an android emulator?

Go to Tools -> Android -> AVD Manager and under actions select Cold Boot Now. This will restart the emulator.

  • Why is Emulator not working?

If the Android Emulator fails to start, there might be out-of-date drivers installed.

  • How do I turn off phone emulator?

Right-click on your Android Virtual Device (AVD) and select Stop to turn off the phone emulator.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2018 and has been since revamped and updated in May 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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