Install 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.
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:
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:
You can also browse every app installed on your computer:
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!
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.