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Looking for a way to install content onto your Oculus Quest that’s not available on the Oculus Store and isn’t approved by Facebook? Here’s our guide to sideloading content on Oculus Quest or Quest 2 using SideQuest.

This article was originally published in November 2019 but has been updated and re-published several times, most recently in April 2021 to include a guide on using Android phones for sideloading. All the instructions below will work for both the original Quest and Quest 2.

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sideload oculus quest 2 sidequest

The Oculus Quest launched in May 2019, followed by the Quest 2 in October 2020. Both headsets are standalone, so there’s no need for an external tethered console or PC – everything is managed on the device itself. As a result, Facebook decided to implement a curation policy for content that appears on the Quest through the Oculus Store. This policy operates in a similar manner to traditional consoles like an Xbox or PlayStation, but it was a relatively new idea for VR. Nonetheless, it has seen some strong results for certain developers.

With the curation policy, however, also sprung one clear, immediate question: will there be a way to run other content on the Quest that’s not curated by Facebook on the Oculus Store?

The short answer? Yes, by sideloading.

What is sideloading?

‘Sideloading’ is a term applied to content loaded onto modern computers from sources not explicitly approved by content reviewers. It can sound scary, and while you should take care when sideloading, the term also applies to everyday tech situations. For example, downloading a unverified program from a site on the Internet and installing it on Windows is technically sideloading. Proceed with caution, but it’s not always as scary as it sounds.

In relation to Quest, sideloading refers to the process of loading content onto the device that is not approved or verified by Oculus and does not appear on the Oculus Store. If you install anything on your Quest that is outside the curated store content, you’re sideloading.

Why, and what, would I sideload?

Good question! If the Quest has all this wonderful, curated and optimized content in the store, why would you ever put anything else, or need anything else, on your device?

Sideloading allows users to do things that you can’t do normally on the device, or can’t find in the Oculus Store, such as:

  • Install pre-release builds released by a developer, before the game finished and/or released.
  • Install apps that are not available on the Oculus Store or through App Lab (either as they were rejected, have not yet applied for a listing, or otherwise).
  • Use an alternate build of an approved Oculus Store application – alternate builds can offers additional content when sideloaded, which isn’t approved under the store guidelines.
  • Load custom content – certain games and apps may support custom content installation.
  • Install tools that offer new insight into how you’re using your Quest.

If you’re wondering where to start, here’s a list of some of the best content available to sideload onto the Oculus Quest.

App Lab vs SideQuest

When the Quest first released, the only way to install non-Store content onto the device was through sideloading. This remained the case up until February 2021, when Oculus launched App Lab.

App Lab is essentially another method of installing non-Store content onto your Quest, but is far easier than sideloading.

However, not everything is available on App Lab — developers still need to submit applications for approval onto the App Lab service. While the curation is not nearly as strict as the Oculus Store, not everything will be available as an App Lab app.

With that in mind, sideloading non-Store content onto your Quest will remain a requirement for certain content that is not available on App Lab.

To learn more about App Lab apps, where to find them and how to install them, we have a whole separate guide you can read.

If the content you want to install on your Quest is not available as an App Lab app, then continue on to read more about sideloading.

How do I sideload?

Technically, anyone can sideload content onto their Quest by simply using ADB (Android Debug Bridge) commands from their PC, if the Quest is in developer mode. However, if you don’t know what that means (and most people probably don’t) then there’s a much easier solution: SideQuest.

SideQuest is a third-party PC, Mac, Linux and Android application that makes sideloading content onto your Quest super easy. It has a store page featuring a bunch of popular apps available via sideloading and a couple of extra features (which you can read about here). SideQuest does require some initial first-time setup, but after that it becomes very simple – most actions are only a few clicks away via a user-friendly interface.

SideQuest used to be limited to just computers, but a new Android app released in April 2021 allows you to sideload via SideQuest using just your phone.

First Time Setup: Getting everything ready

There are two ways to use SideQuest — via the PC application or via the mobile application for Android (there is no SideQuest iOS app, so iPhone users will have to stick to their computer for sideloading).

Regardless of which you choose, there’s a couple of initial setup steps you’ll need to complete first in order to use SideQuest on any platform.

This is all just a one-time setup action – you won’t need to do this every time you want to sideload something, only the first time.

Make sure you have a USB cord to connect your Quest to your computer/phone.

The charging cord that ships with the Quest is the small reversible USB-C connector on both ends. If your computer/phone has a USB-C port, you can use that.

If not, you’ll need more equipment. For a computer, you could use a USB C to A cord (which you might have lying around the house) or a USB C to A adapter, to use with the Quest’s cable.

If you plan on using your Android phone, you’ll need a USB C cord that plugs into whatever port your phone uses.

Register as a developer on the Oculus account associated with your Quest.

In order to use your Quest in Developer Mode (which is required for sideloading), you’ll need to register as a developer organization first.

Visit this page and make sure you’re logged into the same Oculus account that your Quest is registered to. Enter a new organization name and tick the ‘I understand’ box to agree to the Oculus Terms of Service.

Enable Developer Mode on your Quest.

Now that you’re registered as a developer, you’ll be able to enable Developer Mode on your Quest. You can do this through the Oculus app, with the phone that is linked to your Oculus account/your Oculus Quest.

Open the Oculus app on your phone, with your Quest turned on so it can connect to the app, and then:

1. Tap ‘Settings’ in the bottom right

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2. Locate your Oculus Quest listed in the Settings tab, and make sure it reads ‘Connected. (If the app can’t connect to your Quest, you may need to top on the Quest in settings to try and manually make the app connect. If it still can’t connect, make sure your Quest is turned on, and your phone has Bluetooth and WiFi turned on as well)

3. Tap on the arrow button next to your device, to reveal more options

4. Tap the ‘More Settings’ button

5. Tap on ‘Developer Mode’

6. Flick the switch to On instead of Off

7. Fully reboot your Quest – hold down the power button on the side and select ‘Power Off’ or ‘Restart’. You Quest should fully reboot in order to properly start in Developer Mode.

After rebooting, your Quest should be in Developer Mode.

SideQuest for PC/Mac/Linux

If you want to use SideQuest on your computer, read this section. Otherwise, skip to SideQuest for Android if you just want to use your phone.

Install SideQuest on your computer

Go to the SideQuest downloads page and download the install file for your operating system. Run the installer, which will install SideQuest and the necessary drivers you need for sideloading.

Allow USB debugging between your computer and your Quest

This should also be a one-time setup step, if done properly.

1. Open SideQuest on your computer.

2. Turn on your Quest and set up a guardian.

3. Plug your Quest into your computer.

4. Inside your Quest, not on your computer, you should see a request to “Allow USB debugging.”

5. If you don’t want to have to press OK on this screen every time you plug your Quest into your computer, make sure the ‘Always allow from this computer’ box is ticked.

6. Press OK.

Congratulations! Your Quest and PC should now be set up to easily sideload apps via SideQuest.

Some notes:

All of the steps above should be a one-time process for the computer and Quest. However, if you want to use a different computer, you will need to install SideQuest and allow USB debugging for that device.

In the past, Quest firmware updates have sometimes disabled Developer Mode. In the event your Quest receives an update and is no longer working with SideQuest, go back to the Oculus app and double check the Developer Mode is switched on. If you need to turn it back on, you’ll also need to restart your Quest.

Sideloading Apps and Games (Computer)

Once everything is set up as per the above, sideloading apps and games is very easy.

Some games and apps are available directly through SideQuest, allowing a seamless installation process, while others are only available to download externally. If you download an app externally, you can still use SideQuest to install it.

Once your Quest is plugged into your computer and SideQuest is open, double check that SideQuest is able to connect to your Quest. The top left side of SideQuest should show a green dot and say “connected” after the SideQuest version number (see below for reference):

sidequest how to guide image

If SideQuest has a red dot and says ‘disconnected’ or ‘unauthorized’, double check that your Quest is on, connected properly and you completed all of the setup steps properly (especially the USB debugging permission steps).

Sideloading content from the SideQuest store page

In the SideQuest app on your computer, you can browse and search all of the available content from the app’s homepage. Simply scroll down on the landing page until you see the ‘all games and apps’ section, as pictured below.

sidequest games and apps

This is where you can browse through games and apps and view descriptions and screenshots of each. If you would like to install one, just click on the listing for the app or game and press the ‘Install to Headset’ button (see below).

sidequest install app

SideQuest will then install the game or app. To check the progress of installation or ensure everything installed correctly, you can click on ‘Tasks’ button on the top right (circled in red below) and if the app was downloaded and installed correctly, you will see a bar reading “APK file installed ok!!” (also pictured below).

sidequest apk

And that’s all there is to it! You’ve successfully sideloaded one of the apps from the SideQuest store.

Sideloading an .apk from an external source

There are also plenty of apps that you might find online instead of on the SideQuest store. After downloading them online, these app can also be sideloaded onto the Quest using SideQuest.

In this case, the developer will probably link you to an APK (.apk) file. You can easily use SideQuest to sideload Quest APK files. All you need to do is click on the ‘install APK file from folder’ button (see below, circled in red).

sidequest

This will allow you to locate and select the APK file you downloaded. SideQuest will then install the application or game onto your Quest, similar to how it would do so for one of the official SideQuest apps. You can check the install is successful in the ‘Tasks’ tab, as described above.

SideQuest for Android

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As of April 2021, SideQuest launched a new Android app that allows you to sideload apps using just your phone. It’s Android only for now — there’s no iOS app/support, so iPhone users will have to stick to the computer method above.

Installation

The SideQuest app is available to download on the Google Play Store. Install the app on your Android device of choice.

Allow USB debugging between your computer and your phone

This should be a one-time setup step, if done properly.

1. Unlock your phone.

2. Turn on your Quest and set up a guardian.

3. Plug your Quest into your phone using a USB cable.

4. Your phone will ask if you want SideQuest Installer to handle Quest/Quest 2. Press yes, and tick the always checkbox if you don’t want to see the prompt every time you connect your Quest to your phone.

4. Inside your Quest, not on your computer, you should see a request to “Allow USB debugging.”

5. If you don’t want to have to press OK on this screen every time you plug your Quest into your phone, make sure the ‘Always allow from this computer’ box is ticked.

6. Press OK.

7. You may see another prompt in your Quest asking if you want to allow your phone to access the Quest’s data. Click yes.

Congratulations! Your Quest and Phone should now be set up to easily sideload apps via SideQuest.

SideQuest Android

The SideQuest logo in the middle of the toolbar at the bottom of the app should have a green dot next to it if everything is connected properly, pictured above. If not, try unplugging and replugging your Quest and/or repeating the steps above if necessary.

Sideloading Apps and Games (Android)

Once everything is set up as per the above, sideloading apps and games is very easy.

Once your Quest is plugged into your phone and SideQuest is open, double check that SideQuest is able to connect to your Quest by verifying the green dot on the logo in the bottom toolbar of the SideQuest app. If it’s red or blue, see the steps above.

In the SideQuest app, you can browse and search all of the available content from the app’s homepage. Browse SideQuest to find the content you want to install.

Once you’ve found something you want to install, open up that app’s listing page, pictured below.

To install the app, click the “Install to Headset” button.

The app will begin downloading and then installing — you can check the progress in the downloads tab on the app’s toolbar.

Once the install is finished, the progress bar will read ‘Success’.

A note on App Lab apps

The above process is for sideloading content that is not available on App Lab. However, SideQuest does also support App Lab apps — these will show a ‘Download on Oculus’ button instead of the ‘Install to Headset’ button. Clicking on this will redirect you to the Oculus App, where you can install App Lab content directly. To read more about that process, see this guide.

Alternate Method: Wireless Android Sideloading

It’s also possible to set up wireless sideloading capabilities using the Android app by enabling wireless ADB. Some phone models can use the SideQuest app to enable wireless, while others can’t.

To enable wireless ADB through the SideQuest mobile app, connect your Quest to your phone via USB and open SideQuest. Click on the wireless toolbar button on the far left. On this screen, you can press ‘Enable Wireless’.

Once you’ve done this, you can disconnect your Quest from your phone and press the ‘Connect’ button next to the IP address at the bottom of the wireless menu of the SideQuest app. This will connect your Quest to SideQuest wirelessly, provided you’re on the same network, and allow you to sideload apps without a USB connection.

After enabling wireless capabilities, you shouldn’t need to connect your Quest physically again for a while. SideQuest should remember your Quest’s local IP address, allowing you to just press the connect button every time you want to sideload. If SideQuest forgets your Quest’s local IP address, you can find this in the Wi-Fi settings of your Quest by long-pressing on the network the headset is connected to.

If your headset is rebooted or the battery dies, wireless ADB will be disabled and you’ll have to perform the steps above again.

For some phone models, wireless ADB cannot be enabled through the SideQuest mobile app — you’ll have to use the computer SideQuest app or stick to a wired connection.

Launching Sideloaded Apps

Sideloaded apps will launch just like any other regular Quest app, however they won’t appear in exactly the same place.

Regardless of whether it was installed via SideQuest on a computer or through Android, the process for launching a sideloaded app on Quest is the same.

In your Quest’s library, any sideloaded apps or games will appear in a different category called ‘Unknown Sources’. If you’re using the original Quest UI, this will appear as a tab on the left hand side of the library browser. On the newer Quest UI, there will be a Unknown Sources category in the library’s drop down menu on the top right. You can launch your sideloaded apps from there.

A word of caution…

When sideloading, you do need to keep in mind that you are putting content onto your device that has not been approved by Facebook and could potentially damage your device or be malicious in nature, even if it doesn’t appear so at first.

It is also important to be aware of the Oculus Content Guidelines when sideloading content, to ensure you’re not violating anything with the content you’re sideloading onto your device. You might want to give our report on Oculus’ Content Guidelines and sideloading a read before you jump into the thick of it.

Hopefully this guide has helped you begin to navigate the world of sideloaded content on Oculus Quest. Keep an eye out for our list of best content to sideload onto your Quest in the next few days.

Still got some questions? Pop them down in the comments below and we’ll try to respond as best we can.

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