You can run any Android app on your Windows PC or laptop, and most people want to do so to play their favourite Android games including Clash of Clans, Battle Royale and others.
There are various emulators available which allow you to run Android apps in Windows but they vary in ease of use and not all are free.
We’ve rounded up a selection of the better ones here, but the best one for you will depend upon exactly why you want an Android emulator and also how capable you are when it comes to the more technical side of things.
Note that AMIDuOS isn’t in the list below as the project has now shut down. Other previously recommended emulators which are no longer supported or developed include Remix OS and Leapdroid. You can still download and use them, but we can’t recommend them over the emulators below.
No emulator is perfect, and you will likely run into problems with all of them, including lag, crashes and bugs. You’ll also need a fairly powerful PC or laptop to run them, so don’t be surprised if your fans spin up and your machine gets hot.
Ultimately, the best way to run Android apps is on an Android phone or tablet, but if you do need to use them in Windows, try one of these:
BlueStacks is one of the best-known Android emulators and is focused on gaming. It’s also reasonably easy to install and use: it’s designed for those with no technical knowledge. Even so, it’s not completely intuitive.
The interface is like an app store for games, so it’s much simpler to download something and start playing compared to ‘proper’ emulators which emulate the whole of the Android interface and system.
There are two versions: standard (free) and premium. Premium costs $24 per year – around £20. This removes ads and gives you a priority support service.
BlueStacks+N is the latest version, which is still in beta, and is based on Android Nougat. As well as Windows, there’s also a Mac version.
Unlike BlueStacks, AndY is totally free. Installation is a little more involved than BlueStacks, but there’s decent support via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/AndySupport/ if you do get stuck, and it’s based in the US.
AndY will let you play Android games, but it isn’t limited to that. You can install any Android app you like, including Instagram, SnapChat and WhatsApp, which may be one extra reason to try it first before BlueStacks for some people.
You can use your Android phone as a controller, but AndY also supports Xbox and PlayStation controllers.
The current version is based on Android Marshmallow.
Nox is another Android emulator that’s aimed at gamers. This means it has specific controls and tools for playing games using your keyboard and mouse, or a gamepad if you prefer. It allows you to set up keyboard shortcuts for things such as swiping right, which you obviously can’t otherwise do with a keyboard.
It’s much like BlueStacks in many respects (there are both Mac and Windows versions) but it’s completely free, which is a nice bonus.
This is Google’s official Android emulator for Windows. Or, to be more specific, it’s a developer toolkit for creating Android apps and also includes an emulator.
It’s mainly for testing apps in development, so is unlikely to be your first choice of emulator. For a start, it’s not aimed at consumers so it isn’t easy to install or use.
It also doesn’t have the gaming-specific features you’ll find in other emulators, nor does it provide an easy way to install apps.
If you’re not an app developer, don’t bother with Android Studio. But if you do want to have a play around with the official Google software then, once set up, it’s actually a decent emulator (unsurprisingly!).