Like Apple’s Mac App Store, Microsoft struggles to deliver a strong app portfolio for Windows 10. The Microsoft Store’s library is certainly more populated with the apps we use most, like Facebook, Netflix, and Hulu, for instance. However, you’ll find an even bigger selection on Android. We show you how to run Android apps on Windows.
With the help of the right software, you can probably run your favorite Android apps on your Windows computer. Unfortunately, getting apps from your phone or tablet to your Windows PC isn’t straightforward like installing desktop software. To help simplify things, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide on what software and utilities you need to install Android apps on almost any Windows computer.
If you’re running a Chromebook, you may want to check out our dedicated guide to installing Android apps on Chrome OS.
Phone screen mirroring via Microsoft
Microsoft offers a phone screen mirroring option via the Your Phone app. Android phones that have the Link to Windows service installed can use this mirroring option to pop up Android apps right on your Windows 10 screen. Here’s how to set it up.
Step 1: Check to see if your Android phone is compatible. This is the biggest hurdle to using this solution because the service is currently limited to Samsung Galaxy devices. You can check the full list here.
Step 2: Update your Windows 10 computer if necessary. You will need at least the 2019 Windows updates for this mirroring to work properly.
Step 3: Download the Your Phone app on your computer and open it to sign in.
Step 4: On your Android phone, swipe down to the notification panel and select Link to Windows. Sign in to the same Microsoft account again. When asked, allow the connection to proceed and wait until the name of your PC shows up in the Link to Windows section.
Step 5: You can now use the Your Phone app to select and mirror your Android screen on your computer. Select Settings, make sure the Display my phone screen option is on, and then select Phone screen from the left menu.
The Bluestacks App Player is one of the most popular and robust Android emulators around, allowing you to run games and apps for Android 7.1.2 (Nougat) on your Windows desktop.
It’s free to use, and you can easily toggle emulation settings and launch apps using the custom-designed interface. “Layercake” technology uses hardware accelerators to improve the performance of Android games running on Windows-based machines.
If you have a Facebook or Twitch account and a PC with more than 8GB of RAM, you can even broadcast apps and games directly from the Bluestacks window. However, users may want to enable AMD-V or Intel VT-x within the BIOS for optimal performance, if available.
Bluestacks offers an optional subscription ($4 per month or 40$ per year) that enables premium support and exclusive offers from app developers.
Here’s how to install Bluestacks to your computer:
Step 1: Download the installer from the official Bluestacks website.
Step 2: Launch the install application and choose the storage location for the app and data files. Unfortunately, you can’t change the Bluestacks directory — it will install on your boot drive by default.
Step 3: Once Bluestacks installs, launch it and enter your Google account credentials. You’ll need this info to log in to the Google Play Store and access your Android app library.
There’s an alternative to Android emulators that gives you newer versions of Android, but the setup’s a bit more involved. It’s called “dual booting,” and it effectively transforms your Windows computer into an Android device. You’ll gain the option to boot into Android when you switch on your computer, and Android will work just like it does on your smartphone or tablet.
However, getting started is not as simple as installing native Android. Because computer hardware — processors, graphics cards, and hard drives — must be added to Android by a third-party developer, you’ll need to find a custom distribution that supports your machine.
Android-x86 is an open-source project that seeks to port the newest version Android to Windows hardware.
The latest version of Android-x86 adds much-welcome support for Google’s notification features, smarter management of background apps, smart text selection, and OpenGL ES 3.x hardware acceleration for Intel, AMD, and Nvidia graphics.
Though customizations to the Android OS are minimal, the Android-x86 team did add some meaningful tweaks to give your Android install a desktop-like interface. This version comes with features like a new Taskbar launcher and the ability to launch apps in resizable windows rather than just full-screen.
Android-x86 also lets you customize Android to your liking. You can install third-party themes, home screens, and more without having to worry whether or not they will play nicely together — unlike Remix OS. See this list for supported devices.
Here’s how to install Android-x86 to your PC:
Step 1: First, make sure your computer’s hard drive has at least 2GB of free space and download the latest Android-x86 ISO. If your device isn’t listed, download the generic file.
Step 2: Download UNetbootin. Once open, select the Android-x86 ISO file you downloaded in Step 1.
Step 3: Select USB drive from the list of options and click OK. Wait for UNetbootin to copy and install Android-x86 to your flash drive.
Step 4: Reboot your computer and select Boot to the Boot Device Selection.
Step 5: Select your flash drive.
Step 6: From the UNetbootin menu, select Install Android-x86 to hard disk.
Step 7: Select the partition — or location — to which you want to install Android-x86. The program will ask if you plan to format the disk; if you’re unsure, don’t.
Step 8: Select Yes to install GRUB and then select Yes again.
Step 9: A prompt asks if you want to “make system r/w,” which enables Android-x86 to read and write data to your hard drive. Select Yes.
Step 10: Reboot your computer for the second time. Once installed, as with Phoenix OS, use the Google Play Store to install Android apps as you wish.
Surface Duo and Microsoft’s Emulator
In 2020 Microsoft unveiled details about the Surface Duo and the Surface Neo slated for the 2020 holidays. The Surface Duo, in particular, is worth noting for Android fans because it’s designed to run Android as its native OS. This will give buyers a Microsoft-managed Android device with extra Windows compatibility, which can be attractive to a lot of people. If you want a dedicated Microsoft Android device, just wait!
However, there’s another Android consideration to note. To prepare for the upcoming Surface Duo, Microsoft made the Duo SDK Preview available to download for both developers and interested fans. This preview installs an Android emulator on your computer designed to mimic the dual-screen Duo design, integrated with Android Studio.
If you don’t mind dipping your toes in the developer tool world, this is an option to quickly run and test Android apps on your Windows computer (and see how they would run on Duo for future reference). You can download this emulator for free right here and try it out.