Android’s popularity has been rising steadily rising for almost a decade and claims the title of the most used mobile operating system in the UK. This has naturally lead to many people being interested in trying out Android on their PC or Laptop, so we’re going to show you how to do that without removing your Windows installation.
The best way of installing Android on your Windows PC is to use a virtual machine. This allows you to set aside a portion of your hard drive and install a secondary operating system - in this case, Android - while still having Windows as your primary operating system.
To do this, you’re going to need to set up a virtual machine on your computer. This is actually much simpler than you may expect, and we’re going to walk you through it right here.
Before you start the process, you’ll need to enable virtualization options in your machine BIOS and we’ve found a good guide for this here. These options are needed to ensure your virtual machine runs smoothly, and enabling them now will solve a lot of headaches later on.
You’re going to need access to VirtualBox, the program that allows you to create and run virtual machines on your system, so head on over to the website to download and install it.
The next step is to download a version of Android in an ISO format, such as this Android x86 ISO version found here. This allows you to install Android on the virtual machine once it's set up.
How to set up a virtual machine in Windows
Open the VirtualBox program and you’ll be greeted with the window below.
Select ‘New’ from the toolbar.
Name your virtual machine whatever you would like - we went with ‘Android Virtual Machine’. Select Linux as the type, and Linux 2.6 / 3.x / 4.x (32-bit) as the version. Hit Next.
You’ll then be asked how much memory (RAM) you’d like to dedicate to the virtual machine. The 32-bit version of Android we have selected can only handle 2048MB, so go with that.
We’re now going to create a new virtual hard disk, which should be the default selected option on the next screen. Just hit create at the bottom.
It will now ask you to select a Hard disk file type, just leave it on VDI.
The next step prompts you to choose between dynamically allocated or fixed size storage on the physical hard disk. Select Dynamically allocated and hit Next.
Finally, you’ll be asked how much space you’d like to allocate to the virtual machine’s hard disk. Leave this at 8GB.
Hit Create and you will now have a virtual machine on your PC.
How to install Android on a Virtual Machine desktop
Once you’ve completed the above, select your virtual machine in the VirtualBox Manager window and hit Start.
A pop-up will appear and ask you to select your start-up disk. Navigate to the ISO image that we mentioned above and select it, then hit Start.
Once you have done this, you’ll get a pop-up asking you to allow the virtual machine to capture your mouse and keyboard inputs. Select OK here to grant it permission. This will lock your mouse and keyboard movements to this Window only. If you want to use the rest of your PC again, press the unlock button (Right-Ctrl by default).
The virtual machine will load up the ISO, and you’ll be greeted with the screen below.
You’re now going to go through a few simple installation options.
Use the keyboard to navigate down to Install, and on the next screen select Create/Modify partitions, and hit okay.
On the next screen, highlight ‘New’ (at the bottom) and select it.
Select Primary and allow it to use all of the space you set aside for the hard drive earlier - we recommended 8GB.
Head over to the ‘Bootable’ option at the bottom left and hit enter. This will allow the virtual machine to boot directly from this installation. Head over to ‘Write’ next and hit Enter there too.
You’ll then need to type “Yes” and hit enter on the screen that follows which grants permission to write the partition to the disk.
Once you’ve done this, head down to Quit and press Enter.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll be asked to choose a partition as a location to install Android. There will only be the one option, the one you just made, so select that one.
Select “ext4” to format the partition, then confirm your decision.
Do you want to install boot loader GRUB? Select Yes.
Do you want to install /system directory as read-write? Yes, yes you do.
Once you’ve completed your installation, make sure you unmount the ISO installation file by going into the virtual machine window and clicking on Devices > Optical Drives > Remove disk from optical drive.
You can now shut down this virtual machine, or reboot it. Once rebooted, you'll have access to a working version of Android that you can use within this virtual machine.
If you’re looking for a safe place to test new software or open suspicious files, take a look at our guide on how to install apps in a sandbox on Windows 10. Oh, and if you're an Android fanatic that just can't get enough, make sure you have a look at our favourite Android phones just here.