Running Android Apps on Your Desktop

Category: Apple-Mac , Windows

There are many cool Android apps that are not available for desktop Windows or Mac computers. But with a little work you can try Android apps without an Android-powered smartphone or tablet. Here are several ways to get Android and its apps running on your Windows PC or Mac OS desktop...

Android Everywhere?

Want to run the Android operating system somewhere other than your smartphone or tablet? Maybe you're a die-hard desktop or laptop user, vowing never to buy a smartphone… but you secretly want to try out an app that your friends have been raving about.

Candy Crush? WhatsApp? Instagram? Plants vs. Zombies? On your old-school PC or Mac computer? Yes! One way to make it happen is with emulation. The upside of emulation is that you are running pure, straight-from-Google Android, not a customized OEM version. You get to see apps the way Google intended them to run.

Android on Desktop

The easiest way to test-drive Android apps on a Windows or Mac computer may be the free BlueStacks App Player. It’s easily installed and features integration with the Google Play store. The store helps you find apps by category, search term, and even by seeing what apps your Google+ circle members are using. One-click installation makes it super-easy to try, and it runs in a window, right alongside your other Windows or Mac apps.

AMIDuOS is another tool that enables you to run Android apps on a Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer, without installing any virtual machine software, or dual booting. AMIDuOS can run nearly all of the Android applications available in Android app markets. If you didn't succeed at getting your favorite app to run in Bluestacks, chances are good that it will work under AMIDuOS.

If your hardware supports it, AMIDuOS can provide the full Android experience, taking advantage of multi-touch, gestures, cameras, audio, ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyrometer, and compass. File sharing between Windows and Android environments is supported. You can try AMIDuOS free for 30 days, after which it can be purchased for $10.

Ahoy, Matey! Here's Your Port...

The emulation method involves creating a virtual machine in your computer's memory and running a guest operating system on the virtual machine. I gave a simplified overview of virtual machines in my article, What Is Virtualization? You may also find that interesting if you want to run Windows on your Mac, Linux on your Windows desktop, or other combinations.

Virtual machines and emulators can consume a lot of system resources; some apps will run sluggishly and some will stall out. For a more fluid experience that’s closer to an actual Android device, you can install a Windows “port” of Android.

A port, in computer science, is a software program re-written for an environment (operating system and/or hardware architecture) other than the environment for which it was originally written. The performance of a port depends on the skill and care of the person(s) who write it.

The Android for Intel Platforms ports are written by Intel Corp. engineers who do a pretty high quality job, in general. The Android-x86 Project is an open-source port developed and maintained by a group of volunteers; it will run on both Intel- and AMD-powered PCs. Both of these ports support lists of specific machines on which they will run, e. g., Dell XPS or Lenovo Thinkpad.

If your machine is not supported by either of these ports, you may try running one of them under Oracle Corp.’s VirtualBox virtual machine manager.

Ideally, the computer on which you want to run your Android apps has a camera and touchscreen like a smartphone or tablet, but many apps also support mice (more or less). If you have a touch-enabled laptop, tablet or convertible running Windows 8, it's probably ideal. But these tools will work even on hulking desktop computers. Test-driving Android apps on a PC can help you decide whether to switch to Google’s mobile operating system, or open up a new world of mobile apps that were previously out of reach on your desktop.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Running Android Apps on Your Desktop"

Posted by:

10 Apr 2015

Most of the attraction for these emulators seems to be game play on PCs. I would like to use a Seek IR camera on a Win 8.1 laptop. It is simply a real time IR camera meant to display on smart phone screens. Do you think one of these options would work? I asked them, but they don't seem willing to investigate (which could increase their potential market)! I'd hate to buy the camera if it wouldn't work. I have no smart phone (gasp)! Thanks

Posted by:

10 Apr 2015

P.S. I have been unable to install Bluestacks on my Win 8.1 laptop, either with the online or offline installers, due to "WHEA Uncorrectable Error"

Posted by:

10 Apr 2015

Thank you, Mr. Rankin!
I have installed/used BlueStacks VirtualBox before but was not impressed especially due to their sluggishness and the mixed bag of hit-and-miss results. BUt It is the first time I have heard of AMIDuOS. Since it has a 30 day trial period, I may just have to try it soon!

Posted by:

10 Apr 2015

QUOTE: "If your hardware supports it, AMIDuOS can provide the full Android experience, taking advantage of multi-touch, gestures, cameras, audio, ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyrometer, and compass."

I am desperately trying to imagine why anyone would need - or want - an accelerometer on their desktop machine ;-)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Not on a desktop, but definitely on a WIndows-based tablet.

Posted by:

Bruce Kulik
10 Apr 2015

Bluestacks for Mac only provide information to be put on a waitlist. Your announcement may have been premature.

Posted by:

Michael Scholl
10 Apr 2015

There is a device called keepod that is primarily designed for 3rd world countries that will operate android on your PC. you actually boot into the keepod usb dongle on your PC. Instead of using a touchscreen you can use your mouse cursor. Keepod costs $7.

Posted by:

10 Apr 2015

Hi Have you a print out function for your email articles?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Just use File+Print, it should work fine.

Posted by:

11 Apr 2015

BlueStacks requires you to install a "daily app" unless you select the premium option instead of the "free" one. I'd rather not start paying for something like this until I know it will do what I want, and I sure don't want to download an app every day. - I tried to install AMIDuOS but it blue screened each time it started to analyze my system. After starting Windows 7 in Safe Mode with Networking, the install wizard gave me an error about the version of OpenGL that's required. It wants v. 3.0 and I have v. 4.1 installed. Sorry, not going backwards. - I have an AMD powered PC, so can't try the Android for Intel Platforms and my PC is not on the supported list of the Android-x86 Project, so it appears I'm out of luck there. - VirtualBox 5.0 is still in beta, so I'm not interested in that. The previous release had my interest until I looked at the user guide. - I looked at "Andy" but it wants all kinds of stuff installed that I don't want to mess with. :(

Posted by:

11 Apr 2015

Hi Bob.

I've been reading your "Ask Bob" column for YEARS! always good info.

Could you write an article on connecting a Samsung Galaxy S2 to a computer and then seeing whatever the S2 is showing on screen on the screen of the computer? I do presentations where that would make it easy for the participants to see what I'm doing. I would also use Camtasia Studio to record my screen so I could make training videos as well.



Posted by:

Jay Gerard
11 Apr 2015

BlueStacks installed properly, but an error
(RPC:S-7:AEC-7) prevented the installation of every app I tried to install. AMIDuos installed partly but required an update from what I guess is a partner site. But the link to that site showed downloads that seemed to have nothing to do with Duos. SO I passed.

Posted by:

Mark Roy
11 Apr 2015

First, I am writing this in a web browser within the BlueStacks emulator running on my PC.

I tried to install this emulator after first having failed to install AMIDuOS. I forgot to turn off hardware virtualization and completely hung my PC. Fortunately my anti-virus creates a daily Restore Point. After nearly two hours restoring my machine and turning off virualization BlueStacks installed perfectly.

Most apps run fine. However many apps that want to communicate with specific hardware that would be found in a PDA or tablet simply don't and won't work. In my case I've tried various "sniffer" apps that want to put the ethernet and WiFi interfaces in promiscuous mode. No Joy.

Not saying BlueStacks and other emulators have no value, but one must understand the limitations.

-=> Mark Roy Sent from within my Bluestacks Emulator

Posted by:

14 Apr 2015

Do you know an Android emulator which may be rooted, so I can test software which I can not on my phone?

Posted by:

Terry Jones
06 Jun 2015

I wish to back up Michael Scholl comment of 10 Apr 2015 re Keepod.It works on Windows after the boot priority order in the BIOS menus has USB listed above the built-in hard drive, although apparently some older motherboards do not work.
It needs 2GB of RAM and a USB2.0 port.
As it does not need a working harddrive it should work on a computer with non functioning harddrive.
And all for $14, one for you, one for charity.

Posted by:

10 Aug 2016

Seems Bluestacks has a problem running video on a few aps, such as snapchat and periscope. Looking through various forums I found this problem to be on-going for a few years. Promises to look into and fix this problem have not been met as of yet. Bluestacks support seem to ignore my e-mail inquireys.

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