How to install and run Android x86 on VirtualBox

While the Android OS was originally developed for ARM processor architecture, there exists an Android port for x86 hardware platform, which is called Android-x86. You can run Android-x86 as a virtual machine (VM) using any x86-based hypervisor or QEMU hardware emulator.

In this post, I will show you how to install and run the latest Android-x86 4.2 on VirtualBox.

First, download the latest Android-x86 4.2 iso image to use.

$ wget https://android-x86.googlecode.com/files/android-x86-4.2-20130228.iso

Create a new VM by using VM creation wizard on VirtualBox. Use the following configuration for the VM:

  • OS Type: Linux
  • OS Version: 2.6
  • Memory: 512MB
  • Hard drive type: VDI
  • Hard drive storage: dynamically allocated
  • Hard drive size: 3GB
  • Network: NAT

Once you power on the VM, you will see Android-x86 live and installation GUI as follows. Choose "Install Android-x86 to harddisk" option at the bottom.

Create a new partition for the VM by choosing "Create/Modify partitions".

On disk partitioning menu, select "New" and press Enter.

Choose "Primary" as disk partition type.

Select "Bootable" to make the partition bootable, and then choose "Write" to write your change. Once change is written, choose "Quit".

You are back to the earlier disk partitioning menu, but you will notice that there is a new menu at the top which says "sda1 Linux". This is the new partition that you just created. Choose this partition.

Select "ext3" filesystem to format the partition as ext3 type.

Choose "Yes" to install boot loader GRUB.

Choose "Yes" to install /system directory as read-write. Mounting /system as read-write is necessary when you need to update any system configuration on Android later.

Once installation is completed successfully, you will see the following message. Now reboot the VM.

On Android-x86 live and installation GUI, choose "Live CD - Run Android-x86 without installation" option at the top.

Upon booting, you will see the Android welcome screen. If mouse does not work inside Android-x86 VM, go to "Machine" and choose "Disable Mouse Integration" on VirtualBox menu. You can press right-"Control" key to move mouse cursor out of the Android-x86 VM.

During initial setup, you will be asked to provide your Google account login. Once initial configuration is done, you can fully access Android as follows.

By default, Android-x86 is set up to access the Internet via eth0 wired interface. Android-x86 version 4.2 comes with Google apps such as Play Store, Gmail and Google Maps. You can also install Android apps via Play Store as you would do with real Android devices.

However, note that if an Android app uses any ARM-native library in it, you won't be able to install and run it on Android-x86, unless the library has been ported to Android-x86 or ARM binary translator (e.g., Houdini) is used.

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Dan Nanni is the founder and also a regular contributor of Xmodulo.com. He is a Linux/FOSS enthusiast who loves to get his hands dirty with his Linux box. He likes to procrastinate when he is supposed to be busy and productive. When he is otherwise free, he likes to watch movies and shop for the coolest gadgets.
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21 thoughts on “How to install and run Android x86 on VirtualBox

  1. Hi Dan,

    Thanks your instructions on installing Android X86 on Virtual Box VM.
    However, having the newest version of Virtual Box for my OS and the 20130228 iso, I couldn't get the installation to work as you've depicted.

    After mounting iso and selecting to install in the very beginning, the process paused at "Detecting Android-x86... found at /dev/sr0" for a minute or so and then restarted itself back to the beginning selection screen.

    https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-IekQOQ6N9nE/UZCEXdX-6AI/AAAAAAAAADU/WcKaZdUBjgM/s1600/2.png

    Could you please shed some light on the matter? I don't think I've done anything different. I followed your instructions to the letter.

    Thanks in advance,

    Sincerely,

    Mike

    • I have HP430 Laptop with win 7. I had the same problem. But I figured out the solution.

      While booting the computer with win7 I entered BIOS menu. There was a option to optimize pc for virtualization. I selected it. After that every thing ran smooth.

      Later I noticed in virtual box that, in system settings the acceleration type was VT-x AMD, Nested Paging,PAE/NX. VT-x AMD was missing before optimization.

      Hope this gives some idea.

  2. Here is the solution for the error “Detecting Android-x86… found at /dev/sr0?

    http://www.osnews.com/comments/25383
    ***********************************************************
    Here are the details to changing the controller to SATA in VirtualBox that worked for me.
    1. right click the machine name and select Settings
    2. click Storage
    3. in the middle section of the window will be an area labeled 'Storage Tree' which shows your current controllers. The default is IDE, which is the problem.
    4. Look at the bottom of the box; just below the box are four icons. Pick the third one from the left. It has a angled box with a green plus sign over it and the mouse over says 'Add Controller' - click it
    5. Choose Add SATA controller; your new controller will now be in the Storage Tree
    6. Use the two icons on the line for your new SATA controller to add the new virtual hard drive and your CD drive
    7. Remove the IDE controller
    8. Mount the ISO in the CD drive and enjoy some sweet ICS

    • Hi! All seemed well, but also mine stopped with the "Detecting....." message and writing ANDROID under it. Here it hangs! I checked storage conf and two controllers are there. One to the iso file (IDE) and the other to the vdi file (SATA). From what I read above this is correct. Any idea what can be wrong?

  3. Works OK - thank you
    But /system is read only. Of course I did as you suggested - i.e. mounted /system as rw.
    Do you know why I have /system read only?

    • user@number:~/Private/Projekty/kasia/badaniestyluzycia$ adb remount
      remount failed: Permission denied
      user@number:~/Private/Projekty/kasia/badaniestyluzycia$ adb shell mount
      rootfs / rootfs rw 0 0
      proc /proc proc rw,relatime 0 0
      sys /sys sysfs rw,relatime 0 0
      tmpfs / tmpfs ro,relatime 0 0
      /dev/sr0 /mnt iso9660 ro,relatime 0 0
      /dev/loop0 /sfs squashfs ro,relatime 0 0
      /dev/loop1 /system ext4 ro,relatime,data=ordered 0 0
      tmpfs /cache tmpfs rw,relatime 0 0
      tmpfs /data tmpfs rw,relatime 0 0
      tmpfs /dev tmpfs rw,nosuid,relatime,mode=755 0 0
      devpts /dev/pts devpts rw,relatime,mode=600 0 0
      proc /proc proc rw,relatime 0 0
      sysfs /sys sysfs rw,relatime 0 0
      debugfs /sys/kernel/debug debugfs rw,relatime 0 0
      none /acct cgroup rw,relatime,cpuacct 0 0
      tmpfs /mnt/secure tmpfs rw,relatime,mode=700 0 0
      tmpfs /mnt/asec tmpfs rw,relatime,mode=755,gid=1000 0 0
      tmpfs /mnt/obb tmpfs rw,relatime,mode=755,gid=1000 0 0
      none /dev/cpuctl cgroup rw,relatime,cpu 0 0
      /dev/fuse /mnt/shell/emulated fuse rw,nosuid,nodev,relatime,user_id=1023,group_id=1023,default_permissions,allow_other 0 0

  4. Unfortunatly none of the things I wanted to download from the google store are compatible with the "device". I ran this tutorial mainly to set up a game for my kid since it doesn't work on BlueStacks.
    I noticed that a lot of applications actually didn't work so you might wanna put a disclaimer about that. Still thanks for the tutorial. :)

  5. Installed ok under virtualbox on windows 7 32 bits sp1. Assigned 768mb of ram and 2 vcpu to achieve a better performance. it was kind of "slow". Also it changed to landscape mode when opening a browser and could not return the screen back to portrait mode again.

  6. This tutorial perplexes me. Why bother installing it if you are just going to run the live version?

  7. not able to install on i7 64bit windows 8.

    any suggestions?

    it keeps rebooting when i start the installation. it doesn't even go to the create new partition screen.

  8. "3. in the middle section of the window will be an area labeled 'Storage Tree' which shows your current controllers. The default is IDE, which is the problem."

    This is certainly NOT the case.

    However i don't know why the steps instruct us to run without install after having finishd the install, this is making the whole point of installing android i nthe VM completely null and void, you're just booting in live cd mode in this case.

    infact, so long as you select ext3 after creatng the bootable partition (fat32 and ntfs will refuse to find the boot loader) android will run entirely from the vdi hdd.

  9. Androids Grub loader is not installing permanently.
    I have to install it again and again when reopening it.
    plz help.

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