Run Google Android on Your Computer Using VirtualBox

If you did not already know it, you can run Android on your PC. Phone OS developer companies usually provide emulation programs that will let you run their operating systems on your PC. I was once involved in a project where the client wanted the company phones to interact with certain applications. The company had phones running Windows Mobile 6. Needless to say that, since I did not own one of their phones, my job would have been almost impossible if I wouldn’t have had the OS emulator running on my PC. This is just one of the advantages of being able to run a smartphone OS on your PC. Other advantages include, having the ability to take screenshots to make tutorials (such as this one), try different apps, demo the OS before purchasing the phone, etc. In this tutorial we will learn how to run Google Android on your computer using VirtualBox.

Instructions

Joining Android’s ISO files

In order to run the Android operating system on our PCs we are going to download “Live Android“; a version of Android which has been modified to run as a liveCD. The liveCD comes split into two parts, which are fortunately easy to join.

Go to the Live Android page and download the two files named: liveandroidv0.3.iso.001 and liveandroidv0.3.iso.002. They are located on the column on the left hand side of the page (take a look at the picture below)

Joining Android LiveCD Files in Windows and Mac

Download and install HJSplit; we are going to be using this program to join the two Android files and make the LiveCD (HJSplit works on Windows, Linux and Mac). Download and run the software.

Make sure both files to be joined are on the same directory. Click on “Input File” and select the first file of the image, which is “liveandroidv0.3.iso.001“. HJSplit will automatically find the second file and join them creating a file with the name “liveandroidv0.3.iso”.

Joining Android LiveCD Files in Linux

Make sure both files to be joined are on the same directory. Open a terminal window, go to the location containing the two Android files to be joined and issue the following command:

cat liveandroidv0.3.iso.001 liveandroidv0.3.iso.002 > liveandroidv0.3.iso

The command will join the files into one single file called “liveandroidv0.3.iso“.

 

Creating the Virtual Machine

VirtualBox does not allow you to run an ISO file unless you have a virtual machine created. If you do not have one already created, you can create a VM without allocating any hard drive space.

Note: If you have one already created you can skip this part, and go to the next section “Booting from Android Live”.

Open VirtualBox and click on “New“. This will bring up the “Create New Virtual Machine” wizard.

Click “Next” on the Welcome screen.

On the next screen give your VM a name. I chose to name it “Android LiveCD”. I also set the operating system to “Other”. However, any operating system you choose for the VM will do, since you will be booting the VM with Android which is a separate operating system anyways.

Next, we have the memory settings. Since Android is made for smartphones, it needs very little memory to run. Set the memory to about 500mb, which is more than enough. Click “Next” to continue.

Since we are not going to be installing anything to our virtual machine, uncheck “Boot Hard Disk”; this way the virtual machine will boot from our Android LiveCD. Click “Next” and click “Continue” on the confirmation message that will pop up.

Click “Finish” to create the Virtual Machine.

 

Setting VM to Boot From ISO Image

Now, back on the main VirtualBox window, select your virtual machine and click on “Settings“.

On the left hand side of the “Settings” screen, click on “Storage“. Then, in the middle section, select the “Empty” CD-ROM. On the section on the right; click on the “CD icon” and select “Choose virtual CD/DVD disk file“. Then browse, select the Live Android ISO file you just joined and click “Open” to mount it.

Back on the “Settings” screen, click “Ok” to finish.

On the main VirtualBox Screen, click on “Start” to begin booting from our Android LiveCD.

 

Final Thoughts

If you want to try before you buy, Live Android is the perfect solution for you. You will have pretty much all the functionality of an Android phone except for the ability to make calls and the price tag. In addition, having the ability to run Android virtually, provides an added advantage for those who do not want to dedicate a computer for this purpose.

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