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The gap between desktop and mobile is closing all the time. But while this means we’re getting more and more desktop class apps on our phones, getting mobile apps on our desktops is as hard as ever. Unless you use a Chromebook 12 Android Apps You Need to Install on Chromebook 12 Android Apps You Need to Install on Chromebook With the Google Play store about to come to our fingertips, the power of an incredible number of apps is about to reach Chrome OS. So what will we install first? Let's see. Read More .

But what if you use a Mac? It is possible to run Android apps on macOS. You’ll need some third-party software, and you’ll need to be willing to spend a few moments setting it up. Once you’re done, you’ll even have access to the Google Play Store.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the best solution — VirtualBox — along with a few other methods you might want to explore.

VirtualBox

The best way to run Android apps on your Mac is to install a full version of the Android operating system itself. You can do this using the free VirtualBox software 3 Websites To Download Virtual Disk Images For VirtualBox 3 Websites To Download Virtual Disk Images For VirtualBox Virtual machines are more useful than just for fun and games, and they've helped me a huge deal in work-related areas of my life. Using a virtual machine offers a great sandbox if you're ever... Read More and a build of Android that has been developed for computers with Intel processors.

Before you get started, then, download VirtualBox and the x86 build of Android. The most recent version supported is Marshmallow.

Download: VirtualBox (Free)

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Download: x86 build of Android (Free)

The process is straightforward, but there are quite a few steps involved. If you aren’t fully up to speed with virtual machines, partitions, file systems and the like, don’t worry. We’ll skip the technical explanations — just follow the instructions to get up and running.

Set Up VirtualBox

Install VirtualBox and then launch it. From the main screen, click New and enter a name for your virtual machine (you can just call it Android). Under Type, select Linux, and for Version, choose Other Linux (64-bit). Then click Continue.

You can keep the defaults for the next few screens. Click Continue to accept them for the Memory Size, Hard Disk, and Hard Disk File Type settings.

Under Storage on Physical Hard Disk select Fixed Size, which can give you a small speed boost, and click Continue.

The next screen is File Location and Size. Click the folder icon to choose where you want to save your new virtual hard disk — or just keep the default option. Stick with the recommended size for the disk as well, then click Create.

Your virtual machine is now set up, and you need to install Android on it. Back in the main window select the Android VM and click Start.

Next select the Android ISO file that you downloaded earlier and click Start. You’re now ready to install the operating system, or you can run it without installing. This is slower and doesn’t enable you to save your setup. If you plan to use the operating system more than once, it’s best to install it.

The mouse doesn’t work for the next few options, so use the cursor keys on your keyboard to highlight your chosen option and hit Enter to select it.

Install Android

The first part of the process is to create a virtual partition on your hard drive. This is where Android will be installed. On the next screen, choose Create/Modify Partitions, followed by No.

Next, select New to create a new partition, then Primary, then hit Enter to accept the size. Finally, highlight Bootable and hit Enter again. The word Boot should have appeared under Flag in the table above.

Once this is done, use the cursor keys to scroll over to Write and press Enter. You can ignore the warning about the partition destroying data on your disk — you aren’t creating an actual partition, just a large file that will function as one. Type “yes” to get started.

Once that is complete scroll over to Quit and hit Enter.

You’ll now see the Choose Partition screen, with your newly created virtual partition listed at the top. The next step is to install Android on this partition. Select the partition and choose OK to begin.

On the next screen, select ext4 under Choose File System, then hit Yes to confirm on the next screen. The partition will then be formatted.

Next, you’ll be asked if you want to install the boot loader. Choose Yes, then select Skip on the next screen. When prompted to install the /system directory as read/write, choose Yes. Android will now begin installing.

When it has finished, you’ll be prompted to run Android. Hit Enter, and it will boot in its own window on your desktop.

Android on MacOS

From there, it’s just Android as you know it on your phone, tablet, or TV box Android TV Boxes: What Are They, And What Can They Do? Android TV Boxes: What Are They, And What Can They Do? Companies like Apple, Roku and Western Digital have already capitalized on this with their set-top boxes, but now a new wave of Android options has hit the market. Typically available for between $60 and $100,... Read More . You can control it with your mouse — you may need to go to Input > Mouse Integration (and deselect it) to get it working — but multi-touch controls are off limits. Hit Cmd + F to go full screen.

Enter the details for your Google account, and you’ll have full access to the Play Store. You can also download apps through the browser and sideload them. Not every app will work, and not all of them will work perfectly, but you should hopefully be able to get most of your favorites up and running.

A Few Other Methods

VirtualBox is the best way to get Android apps working on macOS. There are a few other options you can look into, although they’re less effective and, in some cases, no longer supported.

Android Studio

The Android SDK How to Set Up Android Studio on Your Mac (And Why You'd Want to) How to Set Up Android Studio on Your Mac (And Why You'd Want to) You might need a Mac in order to create your own iOS apps, but if you're more of a green alien sort of guy, Android Studio is also available. Read More comes with a full emulator for the Android operating system, and it comes with the main benefit of always being fully up to date. However, it’s not intended as a method for running any app on your desktop — it’s for quickly testing apps you’ve built yourself.

As such, installing apps is not easy, and the performance is far from great — the emulator is notoriously slow. Plus, installing the full Studio software is probably overkill for what most users are looking to achieve.

BlueStacks

BlueStacks is the best way to run Android apps on Windows Bluestacks: Run Android Apps On Windows PC Bluestacks: Run Android Apps On Windows PC Read More . The BlueStacks AppPlayer is free, fast, and very easy to set up. It also works with a large array of apps and games.

If you visit bluestacks.com from your Mac, you’ll be prompted to download and install a version of this software for MacOS computers. Unfortunately, the software is not currently supported and no longer works.

If you want to explore this option, and you have a legal copy of Windows on hand, you will need to use Bootcamp to set up your Mac to dual boot into Windows Run Windows 10 Natively On Your Mac: The Good, Bad & Ugly Run Windows 10 Natively On Your Mac: The Good, Bad & Ugly While Mac OS X works well for most tasks, there are times when it just can't do what you want it to. More often than not this means running Windows on your Mac. Read More . You’ll then be able to install and test out the Windows version.

ARC Welder

Chrome apps are also no longer officially supported outside of Chrome OS. However, you can still download them. ARC Welder is an old app that runs in the Chrome browser on a Mac that enables you to run Android apps within.

It’s still worth testing, but it’s slow and support for apps seems to be very hit or miss. It isn’t a long term solution either, since the lack of support means it’s likely to eventually stop working altogether.

Did You Get Android Running on Your Mac?

For most users, VirtualBox is the way to go. Although the instructions might seem complex, it only takes a few minutes to get working. And the integration with the Play Store makes it easy to get your favorite apps on your Mac.

Do you run Android apps on macOS? How have you found the experience? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Originally written by Simon Slangen on July 9th, 2012.

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  1. Adrian
    March 27, 2017 at 8:32 am

    When was this article written? 2017? Are you kidding me?

    From the Android Studio section: As such, installing apps is not easy, and the performance is far from great — the emulator is notoriously slow.

    1. Installing .apk file is as easy as dragging and dropping the file to the emulator
    2. Slow performance has been mostly a thing of the past ever since HAXM was available.

  2. mau
    May 6, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    The biggest problem is HOW to install any app in these stuffs? most of them dont came with google play or cant access your local files for .apk files stored.

  3. Willight Robinbine
    July 31, 2015 at 11:20 am

    Bluestacks for Mac OSX, your Mac OSX computer has to be on version 10.8 in order to install it on to it. You need Mac OSX Yosemite 10.10 or Mac OSX Mountain Lion 10.8-10.8.9 in order to install Bluestacks on the Mac OSX computer.

  4. Pramod
    November 15, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Cannot locate Manage AVD as per the instructions, stuck up completely
    There is no Manage AVDs in drop down of tools anywhere.
    After downloading the SDK core, uncompress the file and open the “android“ file located at android-sdk-macosx -> tools. Make sure all files from the latest Android firmware are checked, and press install. - should have been more precise..
    Could you assist? It has finished installing Android 4.2 on my mac, but now can't find Manage AVD!!!!!

  5. Mark
    October 11, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Thanks- interesting.
    By using this method, do you have access to the Imac hardware/functions so that you can use an Android app to send a file via Bluetooth?

  6. Nicolas
    October 5, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Great tutorial... i was able do test both ways (Virtualbox and SDK) and they run...
    But i tried do add some new apps from the play.google-store and created a google-account but was not able to download new apps... how can i add other apps?

  7. Rich
    September 18, 2012 at 3:24 am

    Simon, this is a great tutorial. I wasn't clear on one thing though. Are these 2 types of solutions independent of each other? (Virtualbox vs AndroidSDK?) So if I want to download Android Apps I'd go with OPtion 2 only right?

  8. Rahul Kapoor
    September 16, 2012 at 7:38 am

    can u tell me how can i run android app from my pc hard drive on virtual box,as i have to test them before publishing them,i will be grateful if u'd give a detail explainition?

  9. rahul
    September 16, 2012 at 7:35 am

    can u tell me how can i run android app which i develop from eclipse on virtual box from my pc hard drive?

  10. Steven Kim
    July 30, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Keep em coming!!

  11. Colter Joles
    July 27, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    this just made me decide it would be okay to get a Mac for college. i need to do my rooting and hacking still!!!

  12. jamesbirtwistle
    July 22, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    I can't think of an app I would need to do this for but cool nonetheless

  13. titus
    July 20, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    tell me 1 step to another step on how to configure this service

    • Simon Slangen
      July 20, 2012 at 7:20 pm

      I guess you're in luck; there's actually very little configuration required!

      VirtualBox:
      - Download and install VirtualBox.
      - Download and extract the Android VirtualBox image from this page.
      - Open the extracted 'Android-v4.vbox' in VirtualBox.
      - In VirtualBox, press 'Start'.

      The necessary configuration of the Android SDK should be already covered in the article, but feel free to ask for help if you're stuck anywhere.

      BlueStacks can just be installed, and used out of the box.

      Hope that helps you along. If not, let me know. :-)

  14. Sohel Zaman
    July 16, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Absolutely helpful..!! It's some material that i've been searching for a while to play my favorite apps in mac. Thanks for posting this.

    • Simon Slangen
      July 20, 2012 at 7:21 pm

      Glad to help! Which particular solution did you end up choosing?

  15. Choon Khai
    July 11, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    I wondered if there's iPhone version? Windows one maybe? I only used iPhone 3G so far, and some apps painfully hard to use because it uses a lot of memory which my iPhone can't accommodate.

    • Simon Slangen
      July 20, 2012 at 7:04 pm

      I don't think there's any decent way to do this on iOS right now, but Chris Hoffman did write similar article for Windows. Hope that helps.

      • Choon Khai
        July 31, 2012 at 8:08 am

        Thanks! It helps :)

  16. gpvprasad
    July 10, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Please also tell me how you created the virtual box image.

    • Simon Slangen
      July 20, 2012 at 7:00 pm

      I didn't create the virtualbox image myself, but used a prebuilt one. I actually linked to it in the article, but here it is again for reference. :-)

  17. Tom Sobieski
    July 10, 2012 at 1:58 am

    I would want to do this because?

    • Sylwia
      July 10, 2012 at 9:20 am

      Because an app might not have a desktop version, not even web version, and sometimes it is easier to use keyboard to enter a lot of data.