How-To Geek

How to Run Android on Your Computer

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Android isn’t largely thought of as a desktop operating system, but if you’re curious about how Google’s mobile OS works, running it on a device you already have isn’t a bad idea. This will give you an idea of what to expect on a phone or tablet, all without making a single change to your laptop or desktop since you can easily do this from a flash drive or memory card.

Step One: Prep Your Drive (or Card) and Install Android

For this guide, you’ll need a USB drive or SD card that’s at least 2GB in size. Be sure to copy anything you want off of it, because you’ll need to format it as part of this process. So everything that’s currently on the drive will be lost forever. No pressure.

With all your data backed up, you’ll need a build of the Android x86 project from here. I’m testing the 64-bit version of Android 6.0, but feel free to pick which one works best for your current setup. Click the “view” button to start the download—depending on your internet connection speed, this could take a bit of time to finish.

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While that’s downloading, you’ll also want to download Rufus, a free Windows tool that will install Android onto the flash drive for us. It’s completely portable, so download and store it wherever you want—no installation necessary.

Once everything is finished, launch Rufus. You may get a warning from Windows asking if you want to allow Rufus to make changes to your device—just click “Yes.”

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With Rufus up and running, go ahead and choose your USB drive in the top dropdown box. this is a crucial step to get correct, since Rufus will erase the drive in question. If you have more than one removable drive inserted into your computer, double-check the drive letter to make sure you’re installing to the correct one!

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Next, make sure “FAT32” is selected from the File System dropdown.

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Lastly, tick the “Create bootable disc using” box, then select ISO Image from the dropdown.

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Click the little CD drive-looking icon next to “ISO Image” to select the Android x86 ISO file you downloaded earlier.

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Once your file has been selected, it will do a quick scan-check of the file to confirm all is well. Assuming everything checks out, you’re ready to install this thing. Click the Start button to make it happen.

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A dialog box should appear here letting you know that the file is an ISOHybrid image, which makes it can be written one of two ways: as an ISO or DD image. The default and recommended method—ISO Image—should be pre-selected. Go ahead and click “OK” to confirm.

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One more warning will appear to let you know that everything on the drive will be erased. Click “OK” to move forward, brave soldier.

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The process of installing the ISO to the drive shouldn’t take long at all. A green progress bar will show up at the bottom to let you know when the process has been completed. Once it’s done, you can close Rufus and remove your flash drive.

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Step Two: Boot From Your USB Drive

Next, you’ll want to boot your computer from that USB drive. You may have to alter some settings in the BIOS to do this, or your computer may allow it out of the box. You can read this guide for more info.

Provided everything is set up properly, you should be able to just start your PC and press a key like F10 or F12 to enter a boot menu (this may vary from computer to computer). From there, select your USB drive.

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After you get it all figured out, a menu will show up asking how you’d like to run the installation: Live CD mode or Install it to the hard disk. Since we’re just testing things out here, choose the first option to run Android x86 without installing it.

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After a few seconds, you should see the Android boot animation. Give it a few, and the setup menu will appear.

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Go ahead and follow the on-screen instructions to get logged in with your Google account—it’s all smooth sailing from here, just like setting up any other Android device.

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Note: My test system glitched up pretty heavily during the setup process, but it was just visual—once I passed the login portion, it worked perfectly. You may or may not run into similar issues.

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Using Android x86 on Your Computer

If you’ve used Android before, you’ll find the experience to be exactly the same as a tablet or phone. The keyboard and mouse should work fine with Android, though using an operating system designed for touch with a mouse is always going to be slightly awkward. If you have a touch screen laptop, then the experience should feel much more natural.

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Here are a few additional pointers:

  • Touchpad gestures, like two-finger dragging and whatnot, will work perfectly in Android. Hover over the notification bar and drag down with two fingers—the notification shade should appear.
  • Long-pressing works exactly the same as on a touch device: just long-click the mouse. Right clicks won’t work.
  • The Windows key works as a home button—pressing it will send you right back to the home screen.
  • All media keys should also work out of the box. Volume, brightness, and track controls for music were flawless on my test system (a Dell XPS 13).
  • If your laptop has a webcam, that should also work with the camera app.
  • When you’re ready to exit Android x86, just hit your computer’s power button. The “Power Off” dialog will show up just like normal—power down, remove your USB drive, and restart the computer to get back into Windows.

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Your mileage may vary with all of these things depending on drivers and whatnot, but in my experience, everything worked swimmingly.

It’s also worth noting that this is still very much a beta project—plan on experiencing certain quirks and bugs during your use. You could use it as your daily operating system, but it doesn’t appear to be intended for that sort of use right now. But hey, you do you, man—if you like it, reboot from USB and choose the “install to hard disk” option and enjoy. Just make sure you back up your data first.

Cameron Summerson is a die-hard Android fan, Chicago Bulls fanatic, metalhead, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys on the 'net, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, chugging away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching the Bulls while yelling at the TV.

  • Published 02/7/17
  • T0ASTER Van

    This seems to be way over my head but I would defiantly give this a shot and with the way my current Win10 system is running.. I may resort to doing the Win10 > Android swap very soon.

  • Cambo

    Don't do that. Android is not a replacement for Windows 10. It is a touch-oriented interface. Have you tried just reloading your Windows install to factory defaults? After your data is backed up of course...

  • Ezio

    Android over Windows? Are you kidding me? Worst idea ever.

  • Ray Lowe

    Instead of android, you might try Linux instead as a Windows 10 replacement.

  • T0ASTER Van

    I was merely suggesting that I've had it with Windows & mac systems.. and needed something else. Seeing how my smart phone saved the day and hasn't had any issues, (not to say it will or wont) I'm intrigued in the touch screen and ease of use.

    However, viewing reviews about larger touch screens (more than 15 inch etc) having a touch screen at the standard monitor height wouldn't be very comfortable for me. I feel the next device I purchase will have a slightly larger screen than my current Android. if by chance I was to consider another OpSys I would attempt Linux as suggested above. But I'm on a roll with Android and look to accomplish more with it's use.

  • T0ASTER Van

    Affirmative & several times.. The issue remains as I've posting in my topic area..

  • I find this interesting just so I can use the android apps on a bigger screen with mouse and keyboard. I have an old netbook (2012) don't have the specs wondering if its worth a shot....

  • T0ASTER Van

    hey let me know how this turns out I have an old school acer down stairs I'd have to throw back together and see if this works also.. But I have seen other sites suggest nearly the same technique in installing the Android system.. but read the comments on those sites.. several users report not being able to access the system or continue to have issue with their attempted Android update etc.

  • Geoffrey Harris

    I simply installed BlueStacks! :slight_smile:

  • T0ASTER Van

    Interesting.. I think it would be hard to overcome the fact that while using an Android you're swiping pages with the fingers.. then using a mouse gesture.. One is dealing with a person who have limited mobility issues, thus some coordination or mouse movings wouldn't be as fluent as using one finger or stylus.

    I wouldn't consider myself to be an App Warrior who wants every app on his or her devices.. Sure I could use a better camera app. but it starts with having a better lens or lenses. I think One app which would be great to have on the computer via Android would be the Zello walkie talkie app.. Seems to be the only apps which I use regularly.

  • Raymond Ramírez

    Hi Cameron,

    I have an old Lenovo notebook that had Windows XP that I would like to run Android on it. What are the minimum specifications to run Android on any notebook? Please add this information to the main article so others may read it, too.

    Thank you for your excellent articles.

    Raymond

  • Trevor Juve

    Any chance the article could be edited to mention RemixOS?

  • thenortonsetup

    Android over Windows.. inviting hackers to steal your information as android has the worst security system..

    But for a fun i can try this. To play android games on laptop.

    Tell me how can i switch it back to normal windows.

  • Kaptein Captain

    Have been running CloudReady from NeverWare for a few months now. Not quite Android but uses the Chromium O.S.(ChromeBook). Really fast on old hardware. Boots from flash drive. Bluestacks? slows my computer to a crawl and has a "spongy" feel to it.Use CloudReady for browsing and app usage then switch to windows for the "heavy" work.Best of both worlds really. I have a ChromeBook and Win laptop rolled into one.

  • bedlamb

    Dual boot Windows and Ubuntu Linux. Install in the Linux partition. When you want Windows again, just reboot into it.

  • Robert S

    Is it possible to boot Android on a touch screen Chromebook from a USB drive or SD card?

  • Karen K

    Thanks for this article, very simple to follow. I loaded the Remix OS to USB and it is very fast and smooth - not perfect but much better than Blue Stacks.

    I have an exe file I would like to run. Google searching seems to suggest this isn't possible, but I came across this website.xxx

    Is this a real application or something harmful if I download it? They seem to have some very useful tools, which is why it surprises me that I don't see them mentioned in any forums if they are legit.

    edit by mod- removed dubious link

  • Allen Meyers

    Early on I tried Win 10 and while I am not a windows lover I went back to 7. Before loading it and after deleting it I partitioned for mint 17 loaded mint leaving a partition for 7. Loaded it and at boot I have choice of doing nothing and mint comes up or scroll down and boot 7. I am a Linux lover having tried a number distros. allen76693

  • Interesting. But so far, just a toy; I was unable to save any changes made (e.g., wifi password), so on reboot, I had to do all Google account associations and set up all over again..

  • Daniel Escasa

    You'll need to install to your hard drive to save any changes, e.g., Google accounts etc.

    Or, you can try Remix OS as popinloopy above mentioned. When you boot it up, it gives you two options:

    Resident (? - typing this in my main OS at the moment so I'm working from memory), which does save settings; and Guest, which doesn't

    I think either option will let you install to your HD, but you can also install it directly from Windows 10, not sure about earlier versions of Windows. You'll then have a choice on bootup of Windows or Remix.

    I do have a few minor problems with Remix.

    My webcam doesn't apparently work. Video option is grayed out in Skype. Doesn't recognize my ThinkPad's TrackPoint, which is a major annoyance albeit not a showstopper. Apropos of the preceding, the TrackPad doesn't have palm sensitivity detection so my cursor can jump to an unintended location when I'm typing. OTOH, this is a fairly new laptop so I can understand those minor quirks

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