How To Run Android on Your Home PC with Virtualbox

Google’s Android OS has been making consistent progress in the smartphone world. If you’re anything like me, you may have been curious about this mobile OS but not willing to spend much on a phone. Fortunately, the LiveAndroid project on Google Code provides a bootable LiveCD image that can be run on your home computer. With the free virtualization program VirtualBox, we can try it out on Windows, Linux or Mac without even burning a CD.

Getting Android

While it’s true that the needed files are available on the Google Code project page, I’d recommend downloading with this torrent link instead. This is because the project page has the ISO file split into two parts that you’d have to manually join together. That torrent is the same files, pre-joined by Yours Truly for convenience. It’s about 173MB. The torrent is new so until I have some other seeders, it may be a little slow.

Preparing VirtualBox

With that downloads, Windows, Linux, and Mac users can all get their system’s version of VirtualBox here. Follow the website’s instructions to install, and start the program. Once ready, you should have something like this:

liveandroid-vbox-new

Choose New in the top left corner. After hitting Next, you’ll be taken to the first config screen where you can enter the information as shown in the screenshot below.

liveandroid-vbox-ostype

The Name field can, of course, be anything you like.

The next step on the following page is to set Base Memory Size. Go ahead and leave this at the default. On the page after that, you’ll be presented with an option to boot a hard disk. Since we’ll be running solely from the live image, a hard drive image is unnecessary so go ahead and remove the checkbox leaving that page blank, as shown below.

liveandroid-vbox-hdsetup

VirtualBox may give you a warning about no hard drives, but that’s ok for what we want to do. Ignore the warning, and hit Finish on the final page. This should take you back to the main screen, but this time it’ll show LiveAndroid 0.3 in the left pane.

Booting LiveAndroid

Before you click Start, we have to tell VirtualBox to boot from the LiveAndroid file. If it has finished downloading, click the Settings button in VirtualBox. Choose CD/DVD Rom on the left. With the config screen open, check the box for Mount CD/DVD Drive and ISO Image File. You can click the folder icon to choose the downloaded ISO file, as shown here.

liveandroid-vbox-cdrom

When finished click OK and you should be returned to the main screen, but this time it should show liveandroidv0.3.iso under the CD/DVD ROM section in the right hand panel.

If all is well and good, you can now hit Start and boot into your very own local Android OS.

liveandroid-booting

10 comments

  1. nice tutorial…and thanks for the iso…i’ll keep seeding it today.
    tried android before a couple of months ago but this version is a lot more polished.

  2. I’ll try this out later on, and consider the torrent seeded. I’ll leave it run overnight and possibly longer.

    Have a great day:)
    Patrick.

  3. Whoa! The first 1 MB/sec torrent download I’ve ever seen. I’ll be seeding this one for a long time. Thanks for putting this gem out there in friendlier format.

  4. Hmmm, none of my target systems have a CDROM. How do you tell Virtual Box to use an iso when there’s no CDROM button? I googled “vituralbox without cdrom” and variations of that but did not find an answer. I tried to create a /dev/cdrom with touch but virtual box was not fooled or did not update the settings. Is there a way around this other than having a CDROM?

    • I have no system without a CDROM so no guarantees, but you may want to try this:

      First, create the VM as outlined except the CD part. Then do this in a shell:

      VBoxManage storageattach Android –storagectl “IDE Controller” –port 0 –device 1 –type dvddrive –medium full-path-to-iso

      The “Android” part is the name of the VM, and depending on your hardware you may need to change what’s in quotation-marks. I tried this in VirtualBox 3.1.0 (OSE, r25105), so may not be applicable to earlier versions.

      • Thanks, that just about did it. On Lenny, the options needed — instead of – and there were no capital letters:

        vboxmanage storageattach liveandroid_0.2.xml –storagectl “IDE Controller” –port 0 –device 1 –type dvddrive –medium /home/my_user/android/liveandroidv0.3.iso

        This bombed the existing VM, which is OK because it did not work to begin with, but it told virtual box that I had a DVDimage that the next VM could use to boot.

        Running remotely through OpenSSH did not work for me. It booted but would not capture my keys or otherwise respond. It looked good and it might work locally with a little more work.

      • Thanks again. It worked locally, under gnome. For some reason, it would not capture the mouse under E16. The browser worked and maps worked, but street view and youtube did not work. Trying now as a different user in a gnome session, my poor poor 800 MHz PIII … Nope, it did not like that. I’ll have to learn the RDP way some time.

  5. Thanks — It all came up with a minimum of fuss. One wrinkle for me, since I have virtualbox v3.1.2 … I needed to add a CD/DVD to the primary controller and point that at the ISO image.

    So now I have the nice shiny Android ‘phone top’ showing. Once question. How to I give it input? Is there a keyboard option or mouse/touch screen simulator?

    Great tutorial.

    w.

  6. hmm wasn’t able to use th mouse to do input.. is there something that needs to be switch on?

    EDIT:: Forget what I said! Machine -> Enable mouse integration did the trick :)

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