Android is the most popular mobile operating system in the world, but you can also install it on your Windows PC. There are many ways to get Android running on a PC, including emulators, USB bootable versions, and even fully standalone applications like BlueStacks. Each has its pros and cons depending on your needs.
If you’re looking to install Android on your laptop or desktop, we’re here to help! Here’s a full breakdown of the best options available.
To run Android OS on your PC, you can install Windows subsystem for Android. However, this only works if you are using the latest version of Windows 11. Alternatively, you can install emulators like BlueStacks. Read on to find out more.
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Install Windows Subsystem for Android on Windows 11
Palasch Volvoikar / Android Authority
If you are using the latest version of Windows 11, you can simply install the official Windows subsystem for Android. It’s not quite the same as running Android entirely on your PC, but you do get access to the Files app and, more importantly, you can install and run Android apps.
This feature is now available in all stable versions of Windows 11. The subsystem allows you to install apps through the Amazon App Store, but has a limited choice for now. However, you can also install the Play Store on Windows 11 if you’re willing to do it manually.
The most seamless Android emulator: BlueStacks
If you’re looking for a full Android experience with a home screen and launcher, you need an emulator. BlueStacks is one of the longest-lasting methods to install Android on PC, which was founded in 2011 and is still going strong. BlueStacks has impressive performance, although it offers more than just a virtual Android device. Additional features include a simplified user interface, optimizations for gaming, key bindings, multiple instance support to run multiple apps, and even signing in to multiple Google accounts at the same time.
The UI on Windows offers quick app switching in a tab format at the top of the window. However, those hoping to install their own launchers will be disappointed. The option was removed with the release of BlueStacks 4. On the plus side, BlueStacks also integrates with Windows to transfer files like APKs, and there’s even universal copy and paste.
At its core, BlueStacks remains a virtual machine. So you don’t get quite the native system performance, but this keeps the application easy to install and run. The latest version, Bluestacks 5, has many performance improvements that can run on both high-end and low-end PCs. The only downside is that you have to deal with sponsored app suggestions.
Despite this, BlueStacks remains one of the best methods to run Android on PC.
Android on PC for gamers: MEmu
If you’re looking for an easy way to run Android games on Windows PC, MEmu might be the way to go. The Chinese software is ad-supported, which might seem daunting compared to alternatives. Still, MEmu’s gaming-focused features might be worthwhile for some.
MEmu supports multiple instances, so you can run multiple apps at the same time to boost multiple accounts. There’s also support for keyboard and mouse input, as well as gamepads, so you can play your way. Other features include the ability to sideload apps and resize windows with a minimum size that prevents apps from becoming unusable.
In terms of performance, MEmu initially gained popularity as a fast emulator compared to BlueStacks 3. However, given BlueStack 5’s performance improvements, the race is much closer these days. The latest MEmu version supports up to Android 12, with compatibility for older versions also included.
There are a number of other gaming-focused clients that you can use to install Android on PC, including Gameloop (formerly Tencent Gaming Buddy), NoX, and others. For more niche options, check out our list of the best Android emulators.
Pure Android emulation with Genymotion
Palasch Volvoikar / Android Authority
Genymotion is an old Android-on-PC project that offers pure Android emulation with thousands of configuration options available to customize your experience. The software runs a virtual Android device in VirtualBox, which you also need to install.
One of Genymotion’s biggest attractions is its simulation of GPS, camera, SMS and calls, multi-touch and basically every other known Android hardware feature. Other features include ADB access, support for a variety of app testing frameworks, and even cloud access through services like Amazon and Alibaba.
However, remember that Genymotion is primarily aimed at developers who are looking for an environment in which to test their applications. As such, it is professional software with a choice of pricing plans to match. However, you can download and use the Personal Edition for free.
Dual boot Android x86.org Android on PC
Next on our list is a free, open-source option: the Android x86 project.
Based on the Android Open Source Project, Android-x86.org aims to make Android available to everyone with a PC. This makes Android x86 one of the best options if you want to install the latest version of Android on PC and use it as the primary operating system or run it in a VM. The software offers almost full stock Android with no extras whatsoever, which is a mixed bag. The good news is that Google Mobile Services (GMS) is installed by default. The bad news is that using something designed for touch on a desktop isn’t that intuitive.
Unfortunately, the installation is also a bit more complex than some of the applications listed below. The standard method is to burn an Android x86 version onto a bootable CD or USB stick and install the Android OS directly onto your hard drive. Alternatively, you can install Android-x86 on a virtual machine like VirtualBox. This way you will have access from your regular operating system.
From your virtual machine, you can install the ISO file and then boot into the operating system. An official guide to Android-x86 installation options can be found here.
Create a virtual device with Android Studio
For the most part, Android development requires a tool called Android Studio. This is the software that developers use to enter their code, test their apps, and manage their projects. It also includes a powerful “Android Virtual Device Manager” (AVD Manager) for setting up and installing emulators that can run full-fledged Android extremely well.
There are many benefits of using this virtual Android device. If you select x86_64 as the architecture, there is an opportunity to run the Android virtual device using hardware acceleration to speed up performance. In many cases, this provides a seamless experience; especially on more powerful hardware.
Another great advantage of the AVD is that it comes with the latest version of Android. In fact, this is how most developers will first try out new Android updates to see how they affect their apps. That means you can even try beta versions of Android before they’re released! Another way the virtual device has evolved since the early days is by integrating the Google Play Store on some devices. That means you can access any apps you’ve already purchased!
The AVD requires a little more setup than some options on this list. You must first download Android Studio (along with the SDK) and then create your new virtual device. This process gives you the option to choose the display size, storage, and even the Android version. Unfortunately, the combination of Android Studio, the Android SDK (which includes the Android Virtual Device), and the Android platform takes up a lot of disk space.
This method works smoothly on OS X, Windows, and Linux. Android Studio, including the AVD manager, can be found here.
Compare the best options to install Android on PC
Each method has its pros and cons, but it really depends on what you want from Android on your desktop.
If you just want to run Android apps on your PC, Windows Subsystem for Android is your best choice. It requires minimal setup and Microsoft officially supports it as part of every Windows 11 installation.
Also, Bluestacks and other emulators do not always work as expected. Genymotion uses VirtualBox virtualization. And while Android-x86 works great as a proof of concept, it just isn’t that practical when compared to the other options discussed in this article. However, emulators offer a whole range of gaming-related features that you don’t get through the Windows subsystem for Android.
We also find that installing AVD Manager is another decent solution. Although it only comes with Android Studio, its power and flexibility are unmatched. Plus, it’s really free, officially endorsed by Google, and constantly updated.
frequently asked Questions
Can I install Android on PC without an emulator?
If your PC is running Windows 11, you can install Windows subsystem on Android. It’s an officially supported feature.
Is it possible to install Android on PC?
Yes, there are a few ways to install Android on PC, from the official Windows subsystem to third-party emulators.
Can I install Android on an old PC?
Yes, an older PC can run Android using an emulator or virtual machine.
How to switch from Windows OS to Android?
In most cases, you cannot switch from Windows to Android. However, you can emulate Android in addition to an existing Windows operating system.