Google forces Total Commander developer to remove the ability to install APKs on Android devices

May 19, 2022

Total Commander for Android no longer allows you to install APKs that you downloaded. The popular file manager boasts a cult following among the PC and Android users.

Total Commander for Android removes option to install APK files
Total Commander for Android removes the ability to install APKs

Here's what happened. Christian Ghisler, the developer of Total Commander, has revealed that Google sent him a warning that his app would be removed from the Play Store within 7 days unless he modified his app. What was the offense? The app was reportedly not compliant with the Device and Network Abuse policy.

The policy forbids apps from modifying, replacing or updating itself from any other source except the Play Store. It also restricts apps from downloading other apps from third-party sources. Google claimed that Total Commander was violating this policy. The developer blocked the installation of Total Commander, so it can't update itself via its own APK (when the user downloads it from elsewhere), but Google sent a second warning with the same wording. A third warning will remove the app from the Play Store altogether, as has happened to other developers.

Ghisler tried reaching to Google to appeal the decision, but was unable to reach a real person at the company. The irony is that Android's stock Files app, Google Chrome allow installation of APKs, as do all third-party file manager apps and browsers. That's why the restriction posed on Total Commander feels unfair. It's just Google being Google.

How is Total Commander responsible for what the user does?

It is up to the user to choose what apps they download, where they download it from, and to install them on their devices. Total Commander plays a very small role in this scenario, particularly in the third step, it just enables the user to install the apps that they have downloaded. The file manager does not have the ability to browse the internet, let alone download APKs.

One user suggested the issue could have been caused by the Plugins page in the app. Total Commander for Android supports plugins, which can be downloaded from the Play Store. The file manager app has an "add plugins" option that lists the plugins, with the word "Install" next to them. Tapping these leads to the plugin's Play Store page. It is possible that Google misunderstood these options, and perceived it as downloading third party apps, and issued the warning to the developer.

Google forces Total Commander developer to remove the ability to install APKs on Android devices

Future of Total Commander for Android

Ghisler has removed the options to download the plugins from the Play Store version of Total Commander, but it seems to be to no avail. The developer points out that removing the ability to install APKs could result in a lot of negative opinions, i.e., 1-star reviews, and that this could hurt the reputation of the app. As a result, he may be forced to remove the app from the Google Play Store entirely.

All is not lost, as Ghisler has released a standalone version of Total Commander that allows installation of APK files. The unrestricted version of the app is available for download on the official website.

The EU is set to enforce the Digital Markets Act (DMA) in 2023, which will force Apple to allow installation of iOS apps from third-party sources. Being able to customize the user experience is Android's strongest point, this includes the freedom to download and install apps from wherever we want, but Google seems to be heading in the opposite direction by banning APK installs in Total Commander.

Google forces Total Commander developer to remove the ability to install APKs on Android devices
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Google forces Total Commander developer to remove the ability to install APKs on Android devices
Total Commander can no longer be used to install APKs on Android devices. Here's what happened.
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  1. CoolKoon said on December 6, 2022 at 12:32 am

    Once again has Google shown what a despicable, arrogant corporation is. Just like all the others.

  2. Bsage said on May 20, 2022 at 9:57 am

    Just wait, bet you they go after xda i the near future. House cleaning is one thing.. This feels more like proprietary bs triggered by the apple store rulings.
    We get right to repair on hardware so they lock down the software

  3. Trey said on May 20, 2022 at 5:07 am

    Google: “Are we the baddies???”

    1. TechnoViking said on May 20, 2022 at 8:29 am


      The employee who asked that question at Google no longer has a relationship with the company. We wish them well in their future endeavours.

  4. Anonymous said on May 19, 2022 at 11:06 pm

    I might as well use a crappy Apple device now. The whole point of using Android is that it was open. Now Google is ruining it.

  5. Leland said on May 19, 2022 at 9:26 pm

    A sad day for all Android users. I myself use Solid Explorer but if the ability to install APK files goes away I will download it from an alternate site that still has the option. Google needs to wake up and assign a few people to handle appeals as well as support all their services.

  6. Anonymous said on May 19, 2022 at 8:49 pm

    Google should remove the rainbow stuff from their logos. They are anything but inclusive and friendly.

  7. Tony said on May 19, 2022 at 5:58 pm

    I’m starting to wonder if all of those Captchas we have to endure are actually training the AI that is now Management at Google. They have not been making good decisions for a while now.

  8. arbuz said on May 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    “The popular file manager boasts a cult following among the PC and Android users.” – There are more readable and convenient file managers for Android than TC, such as the Polish Solid Explorer. Total Commander is great tool for PC, but – imho – not for Android.

    1. Haakon said on May 19, 2022 at 10:26 pm

      While I don’t dismiss the usability of pretty-pretty icons, big fancy fonts, ellipsis truncation and wasted space android apps for the readability and convenience challenged using toaster pastry screens, Total Commander is a cultist’s, um, expert’s file explorer and launcher having a toolset for management as one might do on real computers and the ability to examine individual file properties (permissions, UID, GID, etc.).

      I’ve used android TC for years on several google account devices (aka “phones”). Granted, a capacitive stylus helps for major file management projects. Installing apks was handy, but not a deal breaker.

      As for the PCs, it’s FreeCommander XC in Windows and Midnight Commander in Linux when real work needs to be done. Otherwise, resident file explorers are OK when I don’t need to think about it too much, otherwise known as google mode.

      Ghisler will get things squared away, with or without google; if the latter, the standalone version being Step One.

      1. Haakon said on May 19, 2022 at 10:28 pm

        Oops. That should have been posted in Comments’ root. Sorry.

  9. GoodMeasure said on May 19, 2022 at 9:14 am

    I only install apk’s that are NOT from that play store site.

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