How to Run Android on Your PC Natively

Android is the most used operating system in the world. While it is primarily known for running on mobile devices like cell phones and tablets, Android can run on your PC. There are a fair number of Android emulators out there like Bluestacks and Andy that essentially run Android inside a virtual machine on your PC. If you don’t want the hassle of configuring a virtual machine, but still want to run Android on your PC, you’re in luck. There is a fairly quick and easy way to get Android up and running on a PC.

Android is an operating system based on Linux developed by Google. It functions primarily as a mobile OS for touchscreen devices like smartphones and tablets; however, Android can also be found in TVs, cars and more. Android is the dominant mobile operating system of the world. As of 2015, there were an estimated 1.4 billion active Android devices.

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As a result of its popularity, the Google Play app store is home to over one million applications. The open source nature of Android has encouraged both developers and enthusiasts to develop for the Android OS. According to Gartner, an American IT research firm, Android enjoys the largest installed base of any operating system. In 2015, Android devices shipped four times as many devices  than iOS and OSX combined and three times as many as Windows.

Android isn’t exactly known as a desktop operating system, but it functions surprisingly well on a PC. The developers behind the Android-x86 project are largely responsible for this. The goal of the project is to port Android to devices using AMD and Intel x86 processors. Initially the purpose of the Android-x86 project was to breathe new life into lower-end hardware, like netbooks. The project has grown and evolved since its inception way back in 2009, and an increasing number of PCs are running Android without a hitch.

That being said, there are always some caveats. As Android-x86 is an unofficial port relying on the efforts of volunteers, support for your PC may be spotty. Some people are bound to run into glitches and bugs, with some of the most common being WiFi or other radio-related functionality. Despite these potential drawbacks, getting Android up and running on your PC is fairly painless.

Just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should. So why run Android on your PC? If you’ve never owned an Android device, this is a great way to give the OS a test drive using your existing hardware. If you’ve got an older, less-capable machine lying around, you may be able to breathe new life into it with Android. Or maybe you like to play some Android games that are just begging for a mouse and keyboard. Even if none of the above scenarios apply, running Android is a weekend tinkerer’s dream. So what are you waiting for?

To run Android on your PC, you will have to head over to the Android-x86 project. On the left side of the webpage, you’ll see the “downloads” section. The most stable release at the time of this writing is Android 6.0 in both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures. There are other versions of Android available; however, most of them are no longer maintained. Go ahead and download the version best suited for you, and make a note as to where on your PC the file is being downloaded.

Next, you’ll need a USB or flash card with at least 2GB of space. The data will be wiped, so if you have anything you wish to keep, go ahead and back it up. After you’ve prepped your drive, download the free program Rufus. This tiny utility will allow you to create a bootable drive from the Android iso you’ve just downloaded.

Now that you have all of the bits and bobs, go ahead and launch Rufus. In the Rufus window you’ll see a bunch of drop-down boxes. The first drop-down box is labelled “Device;” this is the drive that Android will be installed to. Remember the USB you wiped? Select it now.

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In the “Filesystem” drop-down box, ensure that FAT32 is selected. Towards the bottom of the Rufus window, you’ll find a box labelled: “Create a bootable disk using.” Check that box. In the drop-down box immediately to the right, select “iso image.” Finally, to the right of that is an icon that looks like a CD. Clicking on that will prompt you to select an image file, or iso. Go ahead and select the Android image file you downloaded earlier.

Double-check your selections. If everything checks out, click on the Start button. A dialogue box will pop up with a warning – hit OK to continue. Another box will pop up warning you that the USB (or flash card) you have selected as the destination drive will be erased. Since you’ve already backed it up, hit the OK button. Rufus will then create your bootable Android drive. You can monitor Rufus’ progress courtesy of the green bar at the bottom of the window.

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Once Rufus has done its thing, shut down your computer. With your new Android drive connected to your PC, fire up your computer again. Access the BIOS or UEFI menu of your machine (this usually requires you to press a key – which one will depend on your PC), and tell your PC to boot from your newly-created bootable Android flash drive.

When it boots, you will be presented with a screen that gives you a bunch of options. If you just want to test drive Android, select “Run Android-x86 without installation.” If everything runs smoothly, you might consider installing Android permanently, in which case you would select “Installation.” Congratulations, you have successfully run Android on your PC!

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How do you feel about using Android as a desktop OS? What do you feel would be the advantages? The disadvantages? Have you used a version of Android on your PC like RemixOS? How does it stack up? Let us know in the comments!

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