Windows 8 tablets are becoming more widely used, but the operating system – at least in its Modern mode – is light on the ground with particular apps. One way around this is to install Android on your tablet.
Although installing Android on a desktop PC is reasonably straightforward (perhaps installing Android x86 on its own partition or using BlueStacks, YouWave or the Official Android Emulator), you might find that there are a couple of problems installing Google’s popular operating system on a Windows tablet: namely, that the tablet doesn’t have a CD/DVD drive.
What this means is that things can get a bit messy, especially when you combine this shortcoming with the implications that Windows 8’s safe boot system has on installing an additional OS.
What Tablet Are You Using?
Although the process of installing Android on your Windows tablet – and by this I’m specifically referring to an Intel x86 device here rather than one equipped with an ARM processor (such as the Microsoft Surface RT) – will differ from device to device, the general approach is the same.
Before proceeding, however, you should check the web for steps for your own tablet, just to ensure that you don’t take any missteps that could wipe your SSD or leave your computer unbootable. You might want to have an extra copy of Windows handy.
I performed this installation on my Acer Iconia W700, a useful Windows 8 tablet that is more akin to an ultrabook. This meant that I had the advantage of a sort-of backup, having recently replaced the device’s original SSD for a larger model. I had the old one to hand should anything have gone wrong.
Although I used the Acer Iconia W700 and the detailed steps are written based on this, it can also be used (as per the useful guide provided by Thatgrass on XDA-Developers.com) on the Samsung XE700T as well as Microsoft Surface devices.
Why Install Android on a Windows Tablet?
There are certain things you should expect from a tablet operating system. You might even want to demand them.
While a Windows PC – which a Windows 8 tablet with a PC CPU undoubtedly is – has a vast library of software available, there are a few useful things that can be experienced on Android. If you don’t currently own an Android tablet, these things (such as an improved keyboard experience) can be replicated by dual booting your Windows tablet with Android. It costs nothing, and thanks to the fast boot time on Windows 8, switching between the two operating systems is painless.
Note, however, that you’ll be restricted to apps that have support for x86 systems. These are growing in number, but don’t expect to be able to run all apps in the Play store.
What You’ll Need to Install Android on a Windows 8 Tablet
Preparation for this project is a little in-depth, especially if you’re new to Windows 8.
We’ll get the straightforward stuff out of the way first. You’ll need a USB flash drive with at least 512 MB of storage to hold the installation media; the stick should be formatted to FAT file system. Also, make sure you have a USB keyboard and a USB hub – I’d recommend a small, unpowered hub, since a powered hub may take some time to initialize – which means the keyboard won’t be connected by the time you need to press F12. So, unpowered USB hub it is.
Software is also required. Begin by downloading the Win 32 Disk Imager from Sourceforge – this is used to write the disk image to your USB stick.
Once this is downloaded, head to Intel’s Open Source Technology Center and select the Generic UEFI Installer image of the version of Android you wish to install. After download has completed, make sure you unzip the file.
Prepare the USB Stick
With Android downloaded, you’ll need to write it to the USB stick. Insert the device into your tablet or USB hub and unzip the Win 32 Disk Imager tool.
Run Win32DiskImager.exe and browse to the unzipped Android installer, selecting Save to add it to the tool.
Next, ensure that the correct drive letter for your USB stick is selected under Device, and when you’re ready click Write to begin installation.
Following completion, Win 32 Disk Imager should inform you that writing the data has completed – you’re now ready to proceed.
Configuring Your Windows 8 Tablet for Android Installation
You can’t just install a second operating system on a device designed for Windows 8 without making a few adjustments to the system setup.
First, you’ll need to ensure Secure Boot is disabled. Open Settings > Change PC Settings > Update and recovery > Recovery, and select Restart Now. From here use your arrow keys to select Troubleshoot then Advanced Options > UEFI Firmware Settings to open the BIOS.
Here, find Security in the left-hand menu and set a Supervisor password. Once this has been added, open Boot, find the Secure Boot option and set it to Disabled.
With that done, hold down the Power to restart, then hold the Windows buttons as well until the screen comes back on. This enables a quick shortcut back into the BIOS screen where you should ensure UEFI Mode is selected.
Next, switch the tablet off, and connect the USB hub directly to the USB port (as opposed to any of the ports on any docking station you might have). With the keyboard and USB stick connected to the hub, boot up your tablet PC, pressing F12. In the boot menu, use arrow keys to select the USB device and follow the instructions to setup dual boot mode and allocate space for Android using your device’s volume keys.
Different versions of the Android installer have slightly different steps. For this installation, I selected:
Do you want to preserve Windows and dual boot? Y
Do you want to resize Windows to make more space? Y (This forces a repair cycle when you boot Windows 8.)
Enter new size in MiB for Windows: Enter for default option.
Install GummiBoot bootloader? Y
Enter boot menu timeout (0=no menu)(min=0, max=60, enter=5) 15
Once you have done this the installation will proceed. Upon completion you should see the message:
“Installation now configured. Press enter to continue”
If all goes according to plan, when you next come to boot up the tablet you should see a boot menu, where you can select between Android and Windows 8.
Running Android on a Windows 8 Tablet
Certainly in my case while preparing the installation for this tutorial, I discovered that things didn’t go quite as planned. Although the repair cycle took a while (and the Acer Iconia W700 doesn’t actually tell you it is doing a repair cycle), the computer eventually booted… into Windows 8.1. A couple of reboots later and there was still no sign of the boot menu.
Inconveniently, the only way to open Android at present is to hold F12 when booting to display the boot menu, something that may be tricky in some scenarios. I also found that Bluetooth didn’t work in Windows, but once I’d booted Android, opened Settings and toggled Bluetooth, the subsequent reboot into Windows had Bluetooth back up and running.
When everything is installed, and Android booted up, it works pretty much as you might expect. Not all features are available as the x86 version is unofficial. As such you’ll need to install gApps to get things like Google Play and Gmail. This is true of any unofficial Android build and we’ll take a look at it in a future guide.