Hands on with Andy, the Android emulator for Windows

Use Andy and turn your Windows PC or laptop into an Android tablet.

Andy: The Android Virtual Machine for Windows

Requirements and Installation

Andy is an Android emulator that runs on Windows 7 or 8 requiring a minimum of 3GB of RAM and up to 20GB of free disk space. The CPU of the machine running Andy must support virtualization. In the installation document found on Andy's FAQ page, Andy recommends using a neat tool called CPU-Z (download) to determine if virtualization is supported by your machine's CPU and enabled in BIOS settings.

I was able to download, install and run Andy without checking or changing my CPU's BIOS settings. So, based on this anecdotal evidence, if you have a fairly modern machine manufactured in the last 3 years or so, odds are good you will probably be able to do the same.

Andy has a comparison chart on its product page comparing features against two other Android emulators: Bluestacks and YouWave. So if all requirements are met and you like Andy's touted feature set, click the download link at the top of Andy's homepage.

Running Andy

Besides installation of an app, a toolbar application is installed playful nicknamed HandyAndy. Before starting Andy, I highly recommend right-clicking this toolbar icon, selecting Settings, System Bar Toggle -- ensuring the System Bar is toggled ON.

HandyAndy toolbar -- System Bar Toggle

Then, this message should flash above the desktop:

System Bar toggled ON

Andy may be started using the HandyAndy toolbar -- or by traditional means: Clicking a desktop shortcut or a shortcut in the Start menu.

Start Andy

Andy presents a fairly typical Android "screen."

Android screen.

I first ran the Settings app, checking technical details. As this screenshot illustrates, Andy runs Android version 4.2.2, aka Kit-Kat:

Andy running Android 4.2.2 (Kit-Kat)

Next, I opened Google Play to install a handful of apps. I encountered no problems installing or running any of the apps I tested. And, as far as the apps were concerned, they were running on a normal Android tablet.

Installing apps from Google Play

Although Andy does not require a touchscreen, using the touchscreen of my laptop almost made me believe I was using an Android tablet -- especially when running Andy in full screen mode. There was little lag and the emulator -- Andy implements VirtualBox behind the scenes-- was fairly responsive. Integration with other PC hardware like wireless networking hardware -- including laptop's battery power level -- was seamless and trouble-free.

The notification dropdown also worked as it should, displaying the same messages I normally receive on my real Android tablet.

Android notifications in Andy.

Nifty features

Certain Android apps "flip" Andy into portrait mode -- this is necessary because certain apps only work in portrait mode. After closing apps such as these, Andy is still in the same screen mode. For situations like these, the Andy's System Bar is invaluable -- allowing a user to change the screen orientation at the click of a button.

Andy System Toolbar

This toolbar becomes visible when the mouse pointer is moved to the bottom of Andy's desktop window -- that is, as long as it has been toggled ON before starting Andy.

Andy also makes sharing files locally a snap, during installation Andy created a C:\users\USERNAME\Andy folder. On my system, this folder was created inside my C:\Users\glasskeys folder:

Windows Andy folder created during install

So, to access this folder, use the ES File Explorer app in Android…

ES File Explorer app

…and browse to the sdcard/Shared path, the Andy folder points to the same Andy folder created in the Windows file system.

Andy folder location in VM

For technical users, the HandyAndy toolbar contains many useful features -- such as the VM Launcher -- which enables management of multiple Andy virtual machines. Other features include Local and Android IP information, and the Settings menu permits the user to change screen dimensions and mouse scroll settings of the VM.

Last, but not least, HandyAndy contains a Term Shell utility:

HandyAndy Term Shell utility

Summing it all up

If you need painless, free, full-featured Android emulation for the Microsoft Windows platform -- I highly recommend Andy.

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