How to run Google’s Android OS on a Windows PC

Fred Langa

Little-known fact: By using a virtual PC, you can set up and run a free, fully legitimate copy of Google’s Android on a standard Windows system.

This gives you a way to safely experiment with the Android operating system — or to re-create the layout of an Android device you already have.

Android, without a phone or tablet

Google’s Android operating system is meant for use on phones and tablets. But with a properly set up Android virtual PC (VPC), you have an Android installation you can use for a variety of purposes. For example, if you’re new to Android, you can experiment with the OS, downloading and running apps from the Google app store and elsewhere. Most apps will run the same way they would on a true Android device.

If you already have an Android-based phone or tablet, you can use the Android VPC to augment whatever backup service you’re now using. For instance, Google’s free, built-in Android backup service preserves your data and apps, but it doesn’t save the device’s visual layout — the way you have things arranged on the device’s screens. Use the PC-based virtual version to more or less duplicate the layout of your Android phone or tablet — you’ll then have a handy visual reference, should you need to reset and reinstall your portable device’s software.

Again, running Android in a VPC is completely free and 100 percent legitimate. You need only three things to make it all work.

Requirement 1: A virtualization-capable PC

To run Android on a virtual machine, your PC must provide hardware-level support for the required virtualization technology. The odds are good it does. Most PCs of reasonably recent vintage have hardware-based virtualization built in. Intel calls its technology VT-X; AMD calls its version AMD-V.

But some older PCs may not support hardware-level virtualization; these PCs will not be able to run Android in a virtual machine.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2014-03-13:

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.