The Amazon Fire TV is one of the most popular TV boxes for Kodi. We’ve written about it on several occasions, and usually include it whenever we’re recommending a Kodi TV box for different reasons. But if you’re going to make the Amazon Fire TV your go-to streaming device, you’ll be doing a bit of sideloading. You can sideload Amazon Fire TV apps, like Kodi, in a few simple ways.
If you’re looking for more specific guides, like how to sideload Kodi or a VPN program onto your Amazon Fire TV, check out the following to links:
Below, you’ll find our ultimate Fire TV sideloading guide where we dig into a few simple ways you can easily sideload programs like Kodi onto the device, explain what sideloading means on Amazon Fire TV, and why the device requires sideloading for some apps.
Before We Proceed
If you’re using your Amazon Fire TV for Kodi, we highly recommend sideloading a VPN app onto your Fire TV as well. At times, Kodi users have received copyright infringement notices from their ISPs after streaming through Kodi. To protect your identity and keep your viewing habits private, we strongly recommend IPVanish – a fully-featured VPN solution.
Sideloading the Amazon Fire TV Explained
Confused about what sideloading is and why you need to do it on your Amazon Fire TV? The following explanations and definitions should help clear up your confusion!
What is sideloading?
“Sideloading” is what you do when you install new apps onto a device that are not available on the official App Store. This means you are installing apps onto a device from outside of that device’s operating system or using an alternative method to load new apps onto the device.
Sideloading can be done in a few different ways. The easiest method is simply to change a few system settings that are usually there for developers (Apps from Unknown Sources and ADB Debugging) that give you more freedom with your Amazon Fire TV. The Apps from Unknown Sources setting simply tells your Amazon Fire TV to accept the installation of apps that aren’t found on the official Amazon App Store.
The ADB Debugging option allows your Amazon Fire TV to connect to another device (like a computer) over Wifi or USB, where you can use special software to install new apps that way. You may not need ADB Debugging, but you will always need to allow Apps from Unknown Settings with any sideloading method you use.
For all methods, you can sideload using just a few easy to download applications and a handy guide.
Why Do I Need to Sideload on the Amazon Fire TV?
Although Amazon uses the popular Android operating system, it uses a modified version. This is not uncommon with first-party TV devices. We also find this to be the case with the Chromecast device from Google.
The reason you need to sideload some popular apps like Kodi onto the Amazon Fire TV is that Amazon has decided to bar them from its app store. They’re simply more restrictive of the type of apps they allow to operate on their device. This is not to say that adding Kodi or a VPN program through sideloading is wrong. In fact, doing so should not void any warranties. Amazon simply wants to place some restrictions on average users to discourage certain activities it doesn’t prefer.
Will Sideloading Work with Amazon Fire Stick?
Yes! The Amazon Fire TV and the Amazon Fire Stick both use the same modified Android operating system. That means that all of the sideloading options listed in this guide will work with both devices.
With those definitions and explanations, let’s launch into the sideloading guide. We’ve provided two methods that you can use to sideload. One is fairly simple, the other might be a bit more complicated for newcomers. You can use either one of these methods to sideload apps on your Amazon Fire TV.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Regardless of which method you use, sideloading requires you to download “APK” files. “APK” is the file path (like .EXE or .JPG), that Android applications use. These files are usually harmless, but be sure to use good virus protection software to protect your computer.
Ultimate Fire TV Sideloading Guide: The Easy Method
Because we realize you may be coming to this article while conducting research before you purchase a Fire TV, we’ll try to make the guide understandable to both current and potential Amazon Fire TV owners.
First, we’ll define the terms you’ll need to understand in order to sideload apps on Amazon Fire TV.
Start By Changing System Settings
There are two system settings you’re going to want to change: ADB Debugging and Apps from Unknown Sources.
To set both of these settings to ON, do the following:
- Go to Settings
- Under Settings locate Developer Options
- There, you will see both ADB Debugging and Apps from Unknown Sources. Separately click on both of these and turn them both ON
ADB debugging allows you to connect to your Amazon Fire TV from a computer and install apps directly from that computer. Meanwhile, allowing Apps from Unknown Sources gives you the option to directly download those files onto your Fire TV device from the web, and then install them with a third-party app. This also brings us to our next step. For the easy method, you won’t need ADB Debugging, but it won’t hurt to turn it on just in case you want to use it.
Download a Third Party File Manager
If you’re sideloading directly from downloaded APK files (the easiest method), you’re going to need to download and install a third-party file manager. There are more of these out there, but the easiest one to use that is also free is ES File Explorer.
There are other file managers, including one called Total Commander. For our guide, we’re using ES File Explorer solely.
To download and install the ES File Explorer File Manager, do the following:
- Go to your Amazon App Store
- Search ES File Explorer
- Click to download and install ES File Explorer
You will find this file in your apps section.
What Does ES File Explorer File Manager Do?
ES File Explorer allows you to manage files that are on your device and allows you to install unofficial apps directly from the program. For example, you can sideload Kodi or a VPN using ES File Explorer without having to use any external devices.
What you’ll find when trying to sideload apps on the Amazon Fire TV is that the ES File Explorer makes the process much simpler. As stated, directly downloading APK files onto your device and installing them with the ES File Explorer is the fastest way to sideload, but it’s not the only method. You can also load those APK files and install them onto your device using a computer connected to your Amazon Fire TV thanks to the ADB Debugging option.
Here’s what ES File Explorer looks and how it operates.
Let’s say you want to install Kodi onto your Amazon Fire TV. If you tried to go to the Amazon App Store, you wouldn’t find it. You would need the Kodi APK file. On the Amazon Fire TV, you can directly download and install that APK file through ES File Explorer with the web address to the file.
For example, let’s say you want to sideload the latest version of Kodi. You could grab the proper download link from the official Kodi website, and then add the new file in by click on the “+ New” button on the ES File Explorer home screen:
You then add the link (http://mirrors.kodi.tv/releases/android/arm/kodi-17.1-Krypton-armeabi-v7a.apk), make sure to choose “Web” for the source, and click OK. ES File Explorer then begins the download process for the APK file. Once the download is complete, ES File Explorer walks you through the Kodi installation process as well.
As long as you have Apps from Unknown Sources set to ON, the download process through ES File Explorer will install Kodi or any other APK file properly.
Note that you cannot easily sideload an APK file without a file manager like ES File Explorer. While you can download the APK file, just having the Apps from Unknown Sources setting activated does not immediately allow the Amazon Fire TV to start installing these unsigned apps. The device still won’t allow you to install them, as its built-in application installer will still not consider them legitimate. That developer setting simply prevents the system from disallowing their installation through other means.
The Ultimate Fire TV Sideloading Guide: The Complicated Method
If you’re a bit more of a tinkerer, you can also sideload apps onto your Amazon Fire TV over a shared Wifi connection or Bluetooth. This method is a bit more complicated and for the most part unnecessary. But if you’re looking to do it, it can be done.
Start By Changing Settings
As with the easy method, your first step is to activate two specific developer options: ADB Debugging and Apps from Unknown Sources. Both are important, but you cannot do this without allowing the ADB Debugging.
Download ADB for Mac or PC
Your next step will be to download the ADB tool adbLink for Mac or PC so that you can connect to your ADB-enabled Android devices.
- For Mac users, click here to download the ADB tool.
- For Windows PC, click here to download the ADB tool.
The ADB tool (of which there are several, but adLink is one of the easier ones to use) allows you to connect to your Android devices and install the APK files on your computer directly onto your Android device. If you’re trying to sideload externally, this is an essential tool to have.
Using An ADB Tool
Using an ADB tool can be a bit confusing for a newcomer. Our guide on how to Install Kodi on Amazon Fire TV/Stick has a good explanation for how this works, but we’ll summarize it here as well.
- Download your desired APK file (such as the IPVanish VPN APK)
- Open your adbLink program
- Make sure your Amazon Fire TV is turned on, and the ADB Debugging option is on as well
- Go into your Android Fire TV System Settings and locate About
- Click on Network, and copy down the IP Address for your device
- On your computer, click on New from your adbLink home screen
- Add in the appropriate information about the Amazon Fire TV, including the IP Address
- On your adbLink homepage, click on Connect to connect your Amazon Fire TV with your computer over the Wifi network
You can now install different APK files that you have on your computer, such as the IPVanish VPN APK, the Kodi APK, or many other third-party addons you won’t find on the Amazon App Store.
Alternative Method: USB Flash Drive
Another possible method is to use a USB Flash Drive to install your file. This method uses ES File Explorer and a USB Flash Drive that you can connect to your Amazon Fire TV on one of the free ports on the back.
- Make sure you have Apps from Unknown Sources enabled
- Connect your USB Flash Drive to your Amazon Fire TV. MAKE SURE TO USE A FLASH DRIVE THAT NO INFORMATION ON IT
- If the Flash Drive is not properly formatted to work with Amazon Fire TV, it will give you the option to format it once you connect it to your Amazon Fire.
- On your computer, download your app’s APK file
- Attach your USB Flash Drive to your computer and move or copy the APK file to the Flash Drive
- Remove the USB Flash Drive and then attach it to a free port on your Amazon Fire TV
- Your Amazon Fire TV should flash a message at the bottom of the screen when the Flash Drive is connected
- Open ES File Explorer
- On the left side menu, scroll down and enable Show hidden files
- Scroll back up. Select Local and select the USB
- Select Open and then select your desired APK file
- Click on Install for the APK files to install your new app
Sam Cook is a full-time content strategist by day, a part-time freelance content writer since 2015. In another life, he was a high school English teacher for nearly a decade. Based in sunny New Orleans, he writes long-form educational content on technology, including Insurtech, Fintech, HRtech, and content streaming. He loves whittling down complex ideas within these areas that make decisions easier for buyers. When he’s not reading books with his son Miles and playing video games with the family, you can find him immersed in his growing collection of Euro-style board games.