Android is the world's most popular mobile operating system. Just because it's designed for mobile devices, it can not be installed on the desktop. There are many ways to get Android up and running on a PC, including virtual device emulators like Genymotion, bootable USB versions, and even stand-alone applications like BlueStacks. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on your needs. Here is the full breakdown of each option:
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Using Android Studio and Virtual Device
This may seem a slow, unintuitive way to use Android on the desktop. Using a virtual device has many advantages. If you're a developer and need to test apps, this is the best way to make sure everything is working smoothly. There are two major virtual device emulators currently in use: Genymotion and the Google Android virtual device manager shipped with Android Studio.
These virtual device emulators have evolved significantly since their first release. If you select x86_64 as the architecture, you can run the Android virtual machine in "Fast Virt Mode", which uses Intel's Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager (HAXM) to improve performance. However, this only works with x86_64 and does not speed x86_32, ARM or MIPS.
One of the biggest drawbacks of this method is that there is no Google Play store. Because there is no Play Store, you can not install third-party apps on the virtual machine without loading them from the page. Even if you never plan to develop Android Studio, it can be impractical to waste space on your computer. This method works fine on OS X, Windows, and Linux. Android Studio with the AVD Manager can be found here.
Pure Android emulation with Genymotion
Genymotion is an older Android-on-PC project that offers pure Android emulation with thousands of configuration options You can personalize your experience. The software runs a virtual Android device in VirtualBox, which you must also install. App developers may be familiar with Android Virtual Device from the Android Studio platform.
One of Genymotion's biggest attractions is the simulation of GPS, camera, SMS and calls, multitouch and basically all other known Android hardware features. Other features include ADB access, support for various app testing frameworks, and cloud access through services such as Amazon and Alibaba.
Genymotion, however, is aimed primarily at developers looking for an environment in which to test their applications. As such, it's a professional environment with a choice of matching price plans. However, you can download and use the Personal Edition for free.
Open Source Android x86.org Android on PC
Next up is a free open source option on our list – Android x86.org.
Based on the Android open source project Android-x86.org has set itself the goal of making standard Android available to anyone with a PC. The latest version runs on Android 8.1 Oreo and a 9.0 Pie version is in the works. This makes Android x86 one of the best options if you want to install the latest version of Android on a PC. The software offers completely in stock Android with no accessories, which is a mixed bag. The good news is that Google Play Services is installed by default, but the use of desktop touch features is less intuitive.
Unfortunately, the installation is a bit more expensive than some of the applications listed below. The default method is to burn an Android x86 version to a bootable CD or USB stick and install the Android OS directly on your hard drive. Alternatively, you can install Android x86 on a virtual machine, such as VirtualBox, to gain access from your normal operating system.
You can install the ISO file and startup in the operating system in your virtual machine. An official guide to complex installation options for Android x86 can be found here.
Old but Gold – BlueStacks
BlueStacks is one of the longest-running methods to run Android on a PC in 2011 and is still strong. Currently, the fourth generation of BlueStacks is 8 times faster than the previous generation. It features a simplified interface and tweaks to games, key mappings, and multi-instance support to run multiple apps and even Google Accounts simultaneously.
] By default, BlueStacks does not behave like a normal Android device. However, by quickly installing a third-party launcher, BlueStacks can be used just like your smartphone. The Windows UI is more like a web browser and offers a quick tab-view app change at the top of the window. BlueStacks also integrates with Windows to transfer files such as APKs, and even has universal copying and pasting.
BlueStacks remains a virtual machine at its core. So, the performance of the native system is not very high, but it remains easy to install and run the application. BlueStacks 4 runs on a 32-bit version of Android 7.1.2 Nougat, so it's not the latest version of all available options. Nevertheless, BlueStacks remains one of the best and longest supported free methods to run Android on a PC.
One for gamers – MEmu
If you're looking for a simple way, if you're running Android games on a Windows PC, MEmu might be the way to go. The Chinese software is ad-supported, which could be a disadvantage compared to alternatives. However, the game-oriented features of MEmu may be worthwhile for some.
MEmu supports multiple instances so you can run multiple apps at the same time to top up multiple accounts. It also supports keyboard and mouse input as well as gamepads so you can play to your liking. Other features include the ability to change apps and window size with a minimum size that prevents apps from becoming unusable.
In terms of performance, MEmu has become increasingly popular as a faster emulator compared to BlueStacks 3, given the performance improvements of BlueStack 4. The latest version of MEmu supports Android 7.1, which also includes compatibility with Android 5.1 and 4.4 ,
Comparing Options and Summary
Each method has its pros and cons, but it really depends on what you want with Android on your desktop. If you want to develop apps, AVD Manager or similar is the best choice. If you want to use Android on your desktop as well as on your phone, BlueStacks is for you. A virtual machine is highly configurable in every way, including resolution, screen size, and processor architecture, while BlueStacks does not provide such functionality. BlueStacks has the Google Play Store and the Amazon App Store, where third-party apps can be installed.
AVD Manager and Genymotion both have luggage. Android Studio must be installed on the AVD Manager for Genymotion to use virtualization virtualization. Android x86 is great as a proof of concept, but it's not that practical compared to the other options described in this article.
Overall, none of the solutions are perfect, all have their quirks in offering a decent experience. It really depends on your needs and it may be a good idea to install multiple solutions. Which method do you prefer when installing Android on the PC? Let us know in the comments!