How To Install Android On Your Netbook

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android netbookInstall Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Android, on your netbook. Whether you want to play with Google’s mobile operating system or give new life to an otherwise discarded device, Android-x86 gives everyone a way to install Android on Intel netbooks.

It’s fast. Even better: the latest version of Android-x86 comes with access to the Android Market, something almost impossible to set up on older Intel versions of the software. This means you can try out Android apps before you decide to buy an Android device.

Heck, your netbook could end up becoming your Android device.

I showed you how to install Chrome OS on unsupported computers, but some of you complained that it’s little more than a browser. Of course, that’s all Chrome OS is supposed to be, but I understand the disappointment. Android, I think, is a little more exciting. With access to thousands of apps it’s versatile, and its integration with the Google eco-system is much deeper than that of Chrome OS.

It’s not terribly complicated to install, especially if you’ve installed some form of Linux in the past. Let’s walk through the process, then briefly explore Android on the netbook.

Step One: Download Androidx86

To get started, head to the Androidx86 project page. You’ll find the download here, but make sure you download the latest version: 4.0, better known as Ice Cream Sandwich.

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android netbook

There are a few different versions of 4.0 offered. Grab the version that best fits your netbook. Not sure what this is? Google your computer’s model along with “Androidx86″ and see what other people have had luck with. If you own an EEE PC like me, however, you’re in luck: everything works perfectly with the “eeepc” ISO.

Desktop users: it’s probably not worth trying.

Step Two: Copy To A Flash Drive

Now that you found the ISO file you need, it’s time to write it to a USB drive so you can boot from it. There are two main programs for doing this: UNetBootIn, which is cross platform, and Linux Live, which is only for Windows but very straightforward.

Use whichever you prefer; just copy the contents of the ISO to a flash drive. It doesn’t need to be huge: 1 GB should do it.

Step Three: Install

Now that you’ve got your USB drive, it’s time to boot from it. You’ll see this boot screen:

install android on netbook pc

If you just want to try out Android, go ahead and select the LiveCD mode. You won’t be able to save any customizing you do, of course, but it’s a good way to see how well Android works on your system.

If you’d rather get straight to installing Android, go ahead and pick the “Install” option. There’s not a lot of options for dual-botting built into the installer, so be warned: getting that working might take some skills on your part. See the Androidx86 installation instructions for more information. If you don’t care about losing your current OS, though, installation is straight-forward.

Optional: Install to SD Card

There’s another way, of course: you can install Android to an SD card. This won’t affect whatever operating system you typically use on your netbook but still lets you keep your apps and settings in place.

You’ll need a flash drive and an SD card to do this: the flash drive to install Android from and the SD card to install Android onto.

The process is simple: run the installer, but select your SD card to install to instead of your hard drive. This won’t affect your netbook’s primary drive, giving you a clean dual-boot environment.

Android on Your Netbook

So how does it work? Quite well. You can set up your home screen to look however you like, just like on a phone or tablet:

install android on netbook pc

You can also browse every app installed on your computer:

android netbook

Many Google staples are included, along with a number of other utilities and games. The best part: AndroidX86 now comes with access to the Android Market. Not everything will work, but I got my favorites apps working: Dropbox, Evernote, Wunderlist and Toggl. I even found a remote for XBMC that I’ll surely be writing about later. With some help from Google Voice I even got SMS messaging up and running!

Conclusion

Why try this? First of all: because it’s fun. Sure, it’s not the same as buying a new Android tablet, but breathing new life into an otherwise idle netbook is cool.

I’d consider writing a manual about this, if there’s an audience. Would you guys be interested? If so, let me know in the comments below. Also feel free to let me know about any Android apps I should try out on my netbook.

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Comments (240)
  • Shane

    Very interested in this. Specifically for use with an ACER AC700

  • Musey

    Don’t seem to see an installer file on the USB to install to SD card

  • shafiq

    how to connect my net book to internet through dongle after booting android????????

  • Jeff

    OK, here’s an update with some newer progress.

    I had initially tried installing on an SD card and had black screen loops, even with “successful” installation.

    I tried an install to the hard drive using NTFS and “Do not format”, preserving my Windows 7 material. Install worked, I just needed a way to boot to it.

    Installed EasyBCD and created an additional boot entry using Neogrub. I found a script searching the net and tweaked what is below to my settings:

    title Android 4
    root=(hd0,1)
    kernel /android-4.0-RC2/kernel quiet root=/dev/ram0
    androidboot.hardware=s103t acpi_sleep=s3_bios,s3_mode SRC=/
    android-4.0-RC2 DATA=android-4.0-RC2/data.img
    initrd /android-4.0-RC2/initrd.img

    So now when I turn on, I’m prompted for Win7 or Neogrub. Fine. Choose Neogrub and Android 4, and (again, I’m not big on Grub or Linux) it doesn’t like the “android.boothardware” command/hardware. However, I then get “Detecting Android-x86″, and then I generally power off after three lines of .’s waiting to detect and boot in.

    Any ideas?

  • Tom

    Hi, I have a new to me 701sd and have tried the eee version booting from iso burned to a cd. This works amazingly well. But I have tried twice using NTFS and ext3 to install to an SD card and it always fails to boot. Once I used the grub option and once I didn’t, not a very scientific way to scattershoot.

    I am spoiled by the Puppy Linux Installer that just seems to work every time. I’ve made lots of versions on SD cards and flash drives that way.

    I’ve been looking for an easy way to make a bootable stick or card and then copy files or whole directories from the iso to it like puppy. Is it this simple? I’m not into the command line enough to do a complex install. I don’t like using windows, but will if I have to.

    I see no good reason to use netbootin, as I have the bootable CD, but maybe that’s the best way, CD is probably slower.

    Anyway, you asked, so I vote for a detailed way to get an SD card or flash drive or SD card in a USB reader to boot on the eeePC 701sd. For now, I’m keeping the only the Xandros OS on the SSD. And if I get over the disappointment of not being able to save stuff in ICS, I’ll boot from the external CD.

    Maybe there will be a final release soon that solves all this, and includes the emulator files for more programs to work.

    Thanks!

    • Justin Pot

      Androidx86 is more of a fun experiment than a viable operating system, though some people make it into one.

      With the instructions above you should be able to install and boot a fully-working version of Androidx86 to an SD or flash drive. Don’t worry about the install process: it’s command-line-ish, but it’s actually very easy to do. If NTFS and EXT won’t boot I’d try FAT32; it worked for me when other things wouldn’t. Try formatting the drive from within Puppy if you can; it might work better that way.

      Wish I could help more! I’ll keep thinking about the manual, but I’m waiting to see what will happen with Androidx86. I think if someone take up this project and really polishes it for the laptop it could be huge, but right now it’s pretty hard to use…

    • Tom

      Thanks for your reply!

      Well, all is ok in the install to a flash drive. I went to WalMart and got a new stick for cheap, took off the software in Win7, and after making a boot SD card in a reader with Linux Live, that booted in the eeePC 701 4g.

      Used fat32, made a persistence file of 2gb, and the install to my new wistick went smooth. Maybe they should put shutdown in the list along with the 2 choices at the end to let you remove the boot device you installed with.

      I’m happy guy, but I’ll probably do it again later on a micro sd. Thinking about leaving a SD adapter in the SD slot and just use micros so this stick isn’t sticking out.

      Is there a recommended file manager for this build?

      Well, just thought I’d share my success in getting it to not just be live. Just saving bookmarks is an improvement. I’ll be trying the emulator stuff too, so I can try a few more apps.

      I did install spider solitaire free, but the ads turn the screen portrait between games.

      After using Win7 for this, I am fine with it except for the constant updates. I like to try new things, tho. So this is good fun. Maybe all netbooks will have touchscreens and OS to utilize them better in the near future. Sounds like Win8 takes a lot of hints from android.

      Thanks again

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.