How to Run the Android Emulator on Your PC

by David Wayne

A number of free emulators make Android apps compatible with a PC so that you can test new OS versions and access mobile app accounts without an Android device. These emulators generally require powerful hardware for stable usability, because they rely on software to emulate system calls to your processor and graphics card. The Android System Development Kit includes an emulator that integrates with a development environment for testing apps you develop, and several third-party emulators offer a complete Android environment that syncs with your Google account.

Android Virtual Device Manager


Visit the Android Developer site to download the latest Android SDK tools (link in Resources). The emulator included with this download is useful for testing apps you write, but you can use it to install any app for which you have the APK file.


Unzip the SDK archive, open the Android SDK folder and double-click “SDK Manager” to run the program. By default, the latest SDK is selected, so click “Install Files” to download and install the latest Android application programming interface. Close the SDK Manager after the installation.


Hold down “Shift” and right-click the “Tools” folder, then select “Open Command Window Here.” At the prompt, type “android avd” (without quotes) and press “Enter” to open the Android Virtual Device Manager.


Click “New” to create a new emulator. Enter an emulator name in the Name field and select the latest API from the Target menu. Alternatively, if you want to test your app on an older API, select an earlier target. Enter a number of megabytes of RAM to allocate for the emulator in the Size field and click “Create AVD” to complete the process. Leave the AVD Manager open.


Copy an APK file to the Platform Tools folder, then enter the following commands at the command prompt:

cd ..\platform-tools adb install name-of-application.apk

Substitute the name of your application for “name-of-application.apk” and include the file extension in the command.


Select your AVD in the Android Virtual Device Manager window and click “Start.” The emulator opens, and the home screen displays the installed application as well as several default apps.

Third-Party Emulators


Download a free desktop Android emulator, such as Andy or BlueStacks (links in Resources). Both of these products are quite mature and offer users stability and useful features.


Launch the emulator to run the setup process and sync your Google account. In Andy, you are prompted for your Google ID and password from the screen you see when starting an Android device for the first time. In BlueStacks, click “1-Click Sync” to enter your Google ID and password.


Click an app icon on the home screen to launch it. You can install apps to the emulator by opening the Play Store and downloading them the same way you do on an Android device. The apps you install in Andy or BlueStacks remain installed the next time you run the emulator.


  • close Information in this article applies to Android SDK version 22.6.2. It may vary slightly or significantly with other versions or products.

About the Author

David Wayne has been writing since 2010, with technology columns appearing in several regional newspapers in Texas. Wayne graduated from the University of Houston in 2005, earning a Bachelor of Arts in communications.