Want to use Android apps on a PC? These apps, services, and operating systems can help you do it. There may be some tweaking to do.
Have you ever wished you could run an Android app or game on your PC instead of your phone? You might need to test an Android feature but don’t have the right device, or you might just want to use an app on a big screen instead of a small one. Here are a few ways to run the Android operating system and its apps on your computer. Your options will depend on what kind of phone you have and what version of Windows you’re using.
Run Android Apps on Your PC
1. Link Your Phone to Windows
You don’t need anything fancy for apps that are already on your phone. Microsoft’s Phone Link app lets you connect your Android phone to Windows so you can use apps, check notifications, send messages, change device settings, and more.
You can set this up by putting the Phone Link app on your Windows PC and the Link to Windows app on your Android phone. Then, you can connect the two by scanning a QR code. But this isn’t always the best thing to do. Even though the feature works with most Android phones, it works best with Samsung phones (Opens in a new window).
If you want to play games, this may cause lag and blurry graphics, and you won’t be able to share files easily from your PC to an app in Android. But it works in a pinch to get to Android apps you already have installed.
2. Run Your Favorite Apps With BlueStacks
BlueStacks is a good choice if all you want to do is run a few apps and don’t need the emulator to look like Android (Opens in a new window). It’s become the best Android app emulator over time, which makes it a great choice for games and apps that don’t have desktop versions.
BlueStacks 5 takes up 5GB of space on your computer (plus any apps you download). When you open the app, you’ll see your own home screen and be able to go to the Play Store. You can download any apps you want, and shortcuts to them will show up on the BlueStacks home screen and on your Windows desktop. If you double-click an icon, the app will start.
If you want to play Android games on your computer, you might want to install BlueStacks X, a cloud-based programme that lets you stream games instead of having to download them first. Because of this, BlueStacks X doesn’t need any space to work.
The emulator has built-in mappings for your mouse and keyboard, which you can change to match the touch controls on different Android games. You can also change the emulator’s resolution, DPI, FPS, and the amount of CPU or RAM it uses. This lets you find the best balance between speed and the quality of the graphics.
BlueStacks emulates Android by using virtualization. For best performance, you may want to go into your computer’s BIOS and turn on Intel VT-x or AMD-V, if your computer supports it. You might also be able to find the Virtual Machine Platform option in Windows by searching for “Turn Windows features on or off.”
BlueStacks does have ads and other clutter, but they aren’t as annoying as they used to be, and it’s a small price to pay for the functionality you get, especially when you consider the Android version options it gives you.
3. Emulate Full Android Experience With Genymotion
Genymotion is a good emulator if you want to learn more about the Android operating system as a whole rather than just one app. Its main product is for developers and costs money to use, but you can download a free version of the software for personal use after creating an account on the website.
Genymotion uses VirtualBox to simulate Android, so you can either get the version that comes with VirtualBox or install VirtualBox on your PC separately. During the download wizard, make sure you choose the version for personal use. (If your computer has Intel VT-x or AMD-V, turn it on in the BIOS.)
When you start Genymotion, it will show you a list of device templates that you can install. The one you choose will affect the emulator’s screen resolution, Android version, and resources. Install the template you want, and then double-click it to get into Android. Then you can move around the home screen, open apps, and re-create certain events, like where the GPS is.
Note that you will start with a very basic version of Android that doesn’t even come with many of Google’s apps or modern features. However, you can add the Play Store by clicking the Open Gapps icon in the sidebar to install it.
Also, no matter which template you choose, you won’t get a customised version of Android. For example, if you choose the template for the Samsung Galaxy S10, you won’t get Samsung’s One UI. It just tells the virtual machine what its resolution and specs are. (Genymotion does, however, work with Android versions from 5 all the way up to 12.0.)
Genymotion works well for exploring Android’s settings and other built-in features, but I wouldn’t use it to run individual apps because it doesn’t work as well with your PC as something like BlueStacks. If Genymotion doesn’t work for you, Google’s official Android software development kit also has an Android emulator, but setting it up is more complicated.
4. Run Android Directly on Your PC With Android-x86
If you want something with a few more features, you can get as close to real Android as you can on your PC with the Android-x86 project. Android-x86 is an open-source project that lets you run Android on your computer instead of on an ARM-based phone or tablet.
You can run Android-x86 in a couple of different ways. If you want to use Android as a desktop operating system for your PC, you can download it as an ISO disc image and burn it to a USB drive with a programme like Rufus (Opens in a new window). Then, put the USB drive into the computer in question, turn it back on, and go to the boot menu (usually by pressing a key like F12 during the boot process).
By booting from your Android-x86 USB drive, you can either run Android in a live environment that has no effect on your PC or install it on your PC’s hard drive (and better performance).
You can also download the disc image and run it inside VirtualBox if you want to run Android-x86 on top of your current operating system. Again, this is a bit more complicated if you don’t know how to use VirtualBox, but our guide to running Windows on a Mac can show you how to do it.
There are also tips on the official site for getting Android-x86 up and running in a virtual machine. It takes more work than using something like BlueStacks, but it’s closer to pure Android, which is nice.
5. Install Android Apps From the Amazon Appstore
Microsoft has built-in support for Android apps in Windows 11. This means that all users who meet the system requirements can now use Android apps. To run Android apps on Windows, you need to make sure your OS and the Microsoft Store are up-to-date and then install the Amazon Appstore (and Windows Subsystem for Android).
Then you can go to Amazon’s storefront and get Android apps. Since this feature is still in testing, you may only be able to download a certain number of apps.