In many cases, Android apps are superior to desktop apps. They’re compact, often better written, and have a low resource footprint.
Many popular services have a surfeit of mobile apps, but little on offer for desktop platforms, save the odd browser app. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to run mobile apps on your desktop PC? You might be testing a newly developed app or simply want to enjoy your Android app library on a desktop or laptop computer (perhaps following the theft of your device).
Whatever the case, several methods are available for you to choose from that will enable you to run virtually any Android app on Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X.
For a complete Android experience on your desktop computer, the best option is to setup Android Studio (formerly the Official Android Emulator).
As explained in our previous guide, this requires that you have the Java Development Kit installed on your computer, a decision that might result in some security issues if you don’t update regularly, so keep that in mind.
Once installed, the Android Studio enables you to download a ROM to boot your virtual Android device with, and when it is up and running, you can begin to install and run apps from Google Play, just as easily as if you were using a handheld Android device.
While a useful option for anyone wishing to fully emulate an Android environment and apps (perhaps for testing an app you developed), this is probably the toughest solution. Fortunately, it gets simpler.
Perhaps the most effective way to run Android apps on your computer without worrying about installing a full emulated environment is to deploy the BlueStacks App Player. Available for Windows XP or later and Mac OS X Snow Leopard or later, this is a great way to get apps up and running with minimal fuss.
Many apps, from games to things like WhatsApp can run on your PC with Bluestacks. Chris Hoffman examined how simple it is to use BlueStacks App Player by showing you how to install WhatsApp on your computer, and this is just a hint of what BlueStacks can do.
Perhaps the only real issue with this app is that it doesn’t play well with Windows 8 tablet computers (such as, for example, the Surface Pro series).
BlueStacks isn’t the only Android app playing emulator in town. A popular alternative, Windroy is a Windows-only (as you might have guessed from the title) emulator that can run in fullscreen and windowed mode and accept input from a mouse and keyboard.
As there is no access to Google Play with Windroy, you’ll need to enable apps to be installed from unknown sources, but as you’re playing around with Android then you’re probably familiar with this. Some configuration tweaks are required, as explained previously by Craig.
If BlueStacks (or any of the other Android app emulation methods) has let you down, then Windroy might be the answer to your dreams of running your favourite Android apps on your desktop computer.
Rather than emulating Android on your computer, why not install it? The Android-x86 project was developed to enable Android — intended for devices with ARM processors — to be run on desktops and laptops built around the Intel architecture. I previously demonstrated how to use Android-x86 to install Android on a Windows 8 tablet.
You have two options for running Android-x86: run it in a virtual machine such as YouWave or VirtualBox (the latter is free) or install it on your PC hard disk drive for dual booting (or even as your main operating system!).
Android-x86 can also be run as a live operating system from DVD or USB, enabling you to try it out before you install it or even keep it as a portable Android device that you can plug into any PC and use.
Run Apps in Google Chrome Browser
Probably the most straightforward method of running Android apps on your computer is to take advantage of a Chrome browser plugin and use an Android-based converter to enable a downloaded app to be run within the browser.
While arguably the least successful method of running Android apps on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux devices (file size can be an issue), it is certainly the most accessible and can give you an idea of just what is possible.
Justin’s guide on using the ARChon browser extension and Android plugin explains everything you need to know about this method, as well as offering some alternatives.
Which Method Would You Recommend?
We’ve shown you six ways that you might emulate Android or run Android apps on your PC.
Have you used any of them? Do you recommend one ahead of the others? Could there be a solution we’ve overlooked? Tell us in the comments.