8 Ways to Run Android Apps in Windows

Use your Android apps on a bigger screen.

Android Apps In Windows Featured Image

Worldwide, more people use their phones and tablets as their daily drivers, leading to the desire to use their phone apps on their computers. While you can transform some websites into Windows apps, porting other mobile tools, such as budgeting apps and social media schedulers, requires effort on the developer side. Thanks to virtualization and other technologies, there are a few solutions to run Android apps on Windows. This tutorial includes eight solutions that run Android 9.0 or above.

Officially Supported Solutions

Microsoft and Google have developed their own solutions for running Android apps in Windows, making them the safest options if you don’t trust smaller third-party developers or dislike freemium models.

1. Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA)

Windows Subsystem for Android, or WSA, is an emulated Android environment and part of the Amazon Appstore. You can conveniently install this feature from the Microsoft Store – if it is available in your country – and enjoy snappy performance, especially if your system exceeds the hardware system requirements. If you can find the Android apps you need on the Amazon Appstore or don’t mind performing some extra steps to install Android APK files, WSA for casual users is recommended, as you won’t find any bloatware and don’t have to change any Windows settings to run Android apps.

Android Apps In Windows Wsa Loading

Pros

  • Official Microsoft solution for running Android apps
  • Runs on Android 12.1
  • Amazon Appstore support
  • Apps can have their own launch icons on the taskbar and Start Menu
  • Multiple apps can run within their own individual windows

Cons

  • Only works on Windows 11
  • Higher hardware system requirements
  • Not available in all countries, other than with a workaround
  • Google Play and Google Services need to be added on your own
  • Installing APKs requires the command line or a third-party app

2. Android Studio

Google developed Android Studio to help Android developers build apps and test them across various Android versions to ensure full compatibility. Android Studio comes with a feature called AVD (Android Virtual Device), which allows you to pick a hardware configuration and a Google version to emulate on your computer.

Android Apps In Windows Android Studio Avd

Once you have created the image and launched the emulator, you can either log in to Google Play or drag and drop APK files to install and use Android apps. Because Android Studio comes with various developer tools, this solution requires more storage space and has a complicated interface. I recommend only using Android Studio if the app you need will only work on a recent Android version.

Pros

  • Official Google solution for testing Android apps
  • Supports many versions of Android
  • Custom window frames to better simulate a Google phone or tablet
  • Also supports macOS, Linux and Chrome OS
  • Several images are upgradable and come with Google Play and Google Services preinstalled

Cons

  • Cumbersome setup process involving several downloads
  • Possible graphical glitches on certain hardware configurations
  • Overwhelming user interface for non-developers
  • Some app compatibility issues
  • High disk-space requirement

VirtualBox-Based Android Emulators

VirtualBox is a free and open-source virtualization solution for running guest operating systems, such as Windows and Linux, within the host operating system. All Android emulators in this list have the VirtualBox engine built in and come with custom-made Android images. These images house fully emulated and rooted Android environments, complete with home screen launchers and customizable settings.

The common features all emulators share include the ability to create multiple virtual machines, customizable CPU and RAM allocation towards the Android virtual machine, and a built-in screen recorder. While the primary focus of all these solutions is gaming, you can also install and use Android apps via the preinstalled Google Play app or drag and drop APK files.

To measure the performance of each emulator, I configured each one to use 2 cores and 4 GB of RAM with a 720p resolution. I launched each emulator while logging the boot time, then ran a Geekbench 5.4.4 benchmark afterward, using my laptop with the following specifications:

  • Intel Core i5-12500H 3.80 – 4.00 GHz
  • 16 GB LPDDR5 4800 MHz RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2050 4GB GDDR6
  • Samsung MZVL2512HCJQ-00BL2 512 GB NVMe Gen4
  • Windows 11 Pro 21H2 build 22000.856 with Hyper-V, Virtual Machine Platform and Secure Core disabled in “Balanced” power mode

3. LDPlayer

LDPlayer has been around since 2016 and evolved to being what could be the best VirtualBox-based Android emulator. The straightforward setup process doesn’t nag you to install bloatware, and the Android home screen looks clean with subtle app advertisements across the bottom.

Android Apps In Windows Ldplayer Home Screen

The best part of LDPlayer is that it can function even with Windows Subsystem for Android and Windows Sandbox enabled, albeit with a slight performance penalty. Therefore, if you decide to use LDPlayer as your only Android emulator, I recommend you let it make the appropriate setting adjustments when prompted to maximize performance.

Pros

  • Straightforward setup process with minimal and unobtrusive ads
  • Works alongside other solutions without major settings changes
  • Booted in less than seven seconds on average
  • Supports up to 165 fps

Cons

  • Older versions of Android require a separate installer
  • Cannot view the size of each virtual machine from the app

4. BlueStacks 5

BlueStacks 5 is the oldest Android emulator in the list that continues to receive updates and support. This emulator boasts great performance and is very easy to use, thanks to the included app launcher and support for desktop shortcuts.

Android Apps In Windows Bluestacks Home Screen

However, BlueStacks breaks the functionality of Windows Subsystem for Android, Windows Sandbox and other emulators, as it requires you to disable certain Windows features for it to work. It does provide a tool that conveniently makes the necessary Windows changes, but it also disables Core Isolation, which can make your system more vulnerable to sophisticated malware.

Pros

  • Fastest boot time, averaging about 6.12 seconds
  • No random ads
  • Google Chrome preinstalled
  • Apps can have their own launch icons on the taskbar and Start Menu

Cons

  • Requires the most Windows setting adjustments
  • Size of each virtual machine cannot be viewed from the app

5. NoxPlayer

NoxPlayer has been in active development since 2015 and is currently the best Android emulator for storage space-conscious people. A freshly created Android image is less than a gigabyte, which is about three to five times smaller than the average Android image. It is also the only VirtualBox-based solution with a macOS version. Just decline any offers to install any extra apps on the setup file, as you don’t need them for NoxPlayer to work.

Android Apps In Windows Nox Home Screen

Pros

  • Small virtual machine file size
  • Also available for macOS
  • Apps can have their own launch icons on the taskbar and Start Menu
  • Supports 120 fps

Cons

  • Optional bundled software on the installer
  • Lowest Geekbench score (395 single core and 798 multi-core)

6. MEmu

If you like to dabble with various Android versions through a single VirtualBox-based solution, MEmu is your best bet, as it lets you create Android 4.4, 5.1, 7.1 and 9.0 environments. Older versions generally offer faster performance at the cost of compatibility with newer apps, but the Android 9.0 environment scored high in the synthetic benchmarks. It all makes it a good choice for using heavier Android apps – if you don’t mind some occasional bugs and ads.

Android Apps In Windows Memu Home Screen

Pros

  • Highest Geekbench score (1,386 single core and 2,474 multi-core)
  • Optional support for Android 4.4 apps
  • Google Chrome preinstalled
  • Supports 90 and 120 fps options

Cons

  • Annoying video ads upon booting require monthly subscription to disable
  • Occasional stability issues when booting and using

Device-Dependent Solutions

Device-dependent solutions rely on the connected device’s hardware resources to power the Android app. This significantly lowers the system requirements for Windows to run Android apps, as the computer side of the solution focuses on offering the interface for launching the app and accepting input from there. As these solutions only render the app from the mobile device to the screen, any personalized app settings from the mobile device carry over to the computer screen as well.

If you linked a supported Android phone to your Windows computer using the Phone Link app, you can remotely launch almost any app installed in your phone from your computer and have it show up via screen mirroring. A small subset of the supported phones running Android 11 also let you launch and manipulate multiple apps from the same device. As long as you have a speedy local network connection, using Android apps on your phone via Phone Link should feel very responsive.

Android Apps In Windows Phone Link

Pros

  • Official Microsoft solution for running Android apps via smartphone mirroring
  • Requires the least disk space
  • Consumes the least system resources
  • Apps can have their own launch icons on the taskbar and Start Menu
  • Multiple apps can run with their own windows if device is running Android 11 and newer

Cons

  • Both the smartphone and Windows must reside on the same network
  • Only works with a limited set of Android phones
  • Audio is only from the phone
  • Performance varies depending on the device’s specs and network speed
  • Window size and scaling of the app limited to the device’s screen size and resolution

8. Samsung Dex

Several flagship Samsung smartphones come with a feature called Samsung Dex that creates a desktop environment on the connected display or computer. After installing the Samsung Dex software on your computer, you can connect to your computer wirelessly or via USB-C cable and run windowed Android apps directly from that Windows environment. Your phone will remain available to do other tasks.

Android Apps In Windows Samsung Dex Home Screen

Pros

  • Apps can run in resizable windows
  • Fast performance, especially for recent Samsung flagship phones
  • Very low computer system requirements
  • Wired and wireless connection options available

Cons

  • Only available for high-end Samsung phones
  • Limited app compatibility compared to other solutions

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to use my Google account details to log in to Google Play within an Android emulator?

Yes. However, if you later decide to delete the emulator, make sure you remove your Google account from the “Accounts” section under “Settings” within the emulator. This will prevent Google from using that emulated device as an authenticator if you log in to your Google account using another computer or IP address.

Should I disable Hyper-V even if the Android emulator works with it?

Disabling Hyper-V in Windows will give you better performance across all VirtualBox-based Android emulators. Once disabled, you cannot use Windows Subsystem for Android, Windows Sandbox or other apps that rely on Hyper-V, such as Docker Desktop. However, you can easily restore these features from the Windows Features settings section when you aren’t using an Android emulator to run Android apps in Windows.

What is the benefit of using an Android emulator supporting more than 60 FPS (frames per second)?

If your computer’s connected display supports more than 60 frames per second, and you run an Android game that supports high refresh rates, you should notice smoother gameplay; however, none of the emulators with high FPS options add any benefits to apps.

Image credit: Pixabay All screenshots by John Ruiz

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