How to Run Android on Your PC: The Best Android Emulators

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How to Run Android on Your PC: The Best Android Emulators

You no longer need a dedicated Android phone or tablet to experience the 1.4 million apps available in Google Play. Android emulators make it easy to run Google's mobile OS side by side with Windows, so you can always access your favorite mobile messaging apps, games and more on the PCs you already own — and take advantage of your larger monitor, hardware keyboard and other peripherals. Here are the best ways to run Android on your computer.

How Android Emulators Work

Emulators are programs that basically mimic or act like the hardware and operating system of other machines. When you install an emulator, you get a virtual console in which you can install other apps and play around with the system. Whether you want to check out Android before you buy a device, develop and test your own Android apps, expand Windows' paltry app selection, or sync apps between your Android phone or tablet and your PC, you have a number of utilities to choose from.

AMIDuOS

AMIDuOS

Of all the Android emulators we tested, AMIDuOS performed the best. On AnTuTu benchmarks, AMIDuOS scored 45,611, compared to BlueStacks' score of 28,311 and Andy's showing of 31,299. AMIDuOS pulls off this impressive performance by running Android apps natively on your computer's x86 processor whenever possible, rather than emulating Android devices' less powerful ARM processors. AMIDuOS ran the performance-demanding Google Earth smoothly (and was able to find my location), detected and followed my "OK, Google" Google Now voice commands, and even allowed for copying and pasting text between Android and Windows.

The fast performance comes at a price — $10 for a lifetime license per computer (after a 30-day trial) and, like other emulators, high memory and CPU usage. The more memory and processing power your computer has, the better.

For the money, though, AMIDuOS offers excellent performance and features, such as the ability to emulate a rooted Android device (so you can try apps and settings that you might not attempt with your $500 phone or tablet). Soon, it will also run Android 5.0 Lollipop.

Best for: People who want to run graphics-intensive or otherwise demanding Android apps, have enough system resources to run the virtual machine and/or want to try Android in root mode.

Read AMIDuOS Review

Andy

andy start screen

Andy provides the full Android (4.2.2 KitKat) experience in either full-screen or windowed mode. You can basically do anything in Andy that you could on an Android tablet or phone, including adding widgets to your home screen, backing up your virtual device to Google and receiving app notifications. The latter comes in handy, because instead of leaving a browser tab open for Facebook or Gmail or needing your phone for messaging apps like Snapchat, you can just get the notifications in Andy.

The program offers many ways for Android to interact with your PC (with either x86 processors or ARM processors) and even your phone. You can use your Android phone as a controller for Andy on your desktop (helpful when playing games that require tilting or tapping, if your computer doesn't support these). Android apps can be launched from your Windows desktop, and you can copy files between Android and Windows through a shared folder.

Andy is also attractively 100 percent free, although its parent company is an alleged adware distributor (a fact that might give some people pause). The program also ran disturbingly slow on my two-year-old laptop, so a newer computer with at least 4GB of RAM, if not more, is recommended if you want to run Android apps with Andy.

Best for: Those who don't have a touch-screen PC and who want to use their Android device as a game controller, have enough system resources to run the virtual machine, have a laptop with an ARM processor, want to run Andy on both Windows and Mac, and/or want to run Android in a flexible, resizable window (the other programs reviewed here only offer a fixed-size window).

Read Andy Review

BlueStacks

bluestacks home

BlueStacks App Player was one of the first Android emulators. Rather than virtualize the full Android OS, the program lets you install and run individual Android apps on your PC, either in full-screen or windowed mode. According to the company, the system is compatible with 96 percent of the apps available in Google Play and 86 percent of Android games.

While you can search for any Android app to install on your PC using BlueStacks, it is particularly focused on games, as its home page filled with suggested games by category reveals. If you have a touch-screen computer, you can interact with Android apps just like you would on an Android phone or tablet: by tapping, swiping and tilting away.

Unfortunately, although BlueStacks runs many games quite well, I found the program to be buggy and the user interface inflexible. However, it is a free program that doesn't take up a lot of resources (it requires just 2GB of RAM) — as long as you're willing to occasionally install BlueStacks' recommended apps. Otherwise, the program costs $2 a month to keep playing.

Best for: people who don't need the entire Android OS, want a free solution (and are OK with installing random apps) and just want to play Android games, particularly on a resource-limited computer.

Read BlueStacks Review

Other Ways to Run Android in Windows

BlueStacks, Andy and AMIDuOS aren't the only Android emulators in town.

YouWave is another option, but it costs a comparably hefty $19.99 and runs only the older Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich.

Genymotion, on the other hand, is free, and, like AMIDuOS, takes advantage of your computer's x86 architecture for better performance. It runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. You can choose a specific device to emulate — a Google Nexus 9 running the latest version of Android (5.10), for example, or another Android tablet or phone — and create multiple virtual machines. While Genymotion perfectly emulates the full Android environment, however, it's a tool meant more for Android developers. It doesn't include Google Play, so you can't install apps from there without work-arounds. And in my tests, I found bugs such as not being able to pinch to zoom in Google Maps. If you're willing to go through the steps to install Google Play, however, Genymotion runs most apps smoothly, including those using 3D graphics, but performance isn't as strong as with AMIDuOS.

genymotion installing

The official Android SDK includes a mobile device emulator. Like Genymotion, it's meant primarily for developers to test their own Android apps on their computers. While it's possible to use the Android emulator in the Android SDK to try out apps you want to run, the emulator is notoriously slow — perhaps impossibly slow, even.

You can create your own Android emulator in Windows using VirtualBox and Android x86, but that's essentially like installing Andy or AMIDuOS, with more work involved and fewer user-interface controls.

In short, for a completely free option, you'll probably want to try either Andy or Genymotion. AMIDuOS, however, is a worthwhile $10 investment if you see yourself regularly using Android apps on your computer (and you can try it free for 30 days to see if it works for you).

Add a comment
26 comments
  • Roslyn Lu Says:

    I've tried all of these emulators and more but the one that worked the best for me was Leapdroid

  • Leapdroid Team Says:

    Just tried with Leapdroid, it is a lightweight and fast emulator. This is a comment from one user.
    ran 3DMark - the gamer's benchmark tool - against Leapdroid, MEmu and BlueStacks. Resume: Leapdroid is fastest.

    The benchmark results ( OpenGL ES 2.0, 1080p, Test: IceStorm Extreme ) on my Windows 10 64bit HAV-enabled Lenovo G505s laptop:

    Leapdroid 1.0.0.1 (settings: custom - 2048 MB RAM, 48 MB VRAM, 2 cores)
    Emulates ASUS Nexus 7 - with Android 4.4.4
    Scores: 7823

    MEmu 2.6.5 (settings: custom - 2 cores, 2048 MB RAM, 48 MB VRAM)
    Emulates Samsung GT-P5210 - with Android 4.2.2
    Scores: 7765

    BlueStacks 2.0 (settings: default - you can't tweak anything there!)
    Emulates Samsung Galaxy Note II - with Android 4.4.2
    Scores: 6860

  • ikedife mercy Says:

    android studio application refuse to install in my system.i have 64bit system 4giga ram.when i instaaled it,it is telling me cannot lock system folder.pls what will i do pls help

  • ikedife mercy Says:

    i love this application but it refuse to install in my pc hp corei5 64bit system 4ram what is the problem.although it is saying cannot lock system folder that was what is telling me when i installit.so what will i do to rectify it pls help

  • bankfish Says:

    Buddy, why don't you mention MEmu App Player in the list? I highly recommend you to review this great emulator. IMO, MEmu is the best one.

  • George Herman Says:

    Andy was the one that worked best for me

  • MD Sumon Says:

    we have very nice.... that also app in the avla

  • cooldrums Says:

    I use Amiduos on an old Hp Omni 5600 with Windows 10 home. Works really well only issue is Battery life it kills Battery but that's my only gripe.

  • FlynHyer444 Says:

    I've checked out all and read the reviews but none mention running IPTV. Are they all APK file based ?

  • 1122334455MmMm Says:

    I Love andy but why I cant play any game

  • Sharkboy Says:

    My favroite was Andy but it needs
    high specs

  • Black Thunder Says:

    Blue stacks is the best!
    But it need high specs.

  • Mark de Haan Says:

    Apologies...it is freemium...in a small link below the 3 huge banners for 'dev' and enterprise.

  • Mark de Haan Says:

    Genymotion, on the other hand, is free,

    Eh...no. It is not.
    Check http://www.genymotion.com. 12buck a month or more.

  • Maxwell Says:

    I just don't see how system resources can be a problem unless you have a very old machine. Most pc's will run wide circles around smartphones.

  • Suraj Says:

    good its a better choice.i download andy emalutor but its is not started the error is VERR SVM DISABLED so how to short out the problem so that we use this software properly - See more at: http://www.laptopmag.com/articles/run-android-apps-on-pc#sthash.cBg9h3fg.dpuf

  • Guest Says:

    I think due to the publishing date, this article has overlooked an important new emulator which is Nox App Player. Honestly the best Android emulator I've ever used. Very fast and higher compatibility with AMD processors.

  • ankur gupta Says:

    hello buddiies i download andy emalutor but its is not started the error is VERR SVM DISABLED so how to short out the problem so that we use this software properly

  • alfred Says:

    its awsome ilove it thanks to all

  • simple Says:

    please where or how can i download the android emulator?

  • Kitkat Says:

    About your info for Andy, Android v4.2.2 is Jellybean, not Kitkat.

  • Sunny Says:

    I installed BlueStacks in my system but during installation' it will display failed' that it required 2gb external memory' could it be that my memory is not enough?

  • Random User Says:

    I use BlueStacks and it works great on my PC with 2 GB Ram. As for the extra apps I am forced to install, I just let BlueStacks install them and delete them later.

    Ha! No need to pay $2/month.

  • Hashan Says:

    This is the best article about android emulators.
    Thanx

  • tha dude Says:

    RE: JOHN DOE
    I had Andy installed and avast did nothing so I think it's safe

  • John Doe Says:

    Avram, you may want to look further into "Andy", which made Norton 360 go into OMG mode with multiple malware hits detected and removed. Also multiple malware hits by 5 other virus-scanners, so NAV wasn't the only one flipping out.

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