How to Create An Android USB Drive

Create An Android Live USB Drive

Gary Newell 

A live Android operating environment, booted from USB, offers a chance to explore Android with desktop equipment while not risking your computer's current operating system.

Download Android x86

The software from this site aren't always in perfect sync with Google's Android releases, because Android x86 is not an official Google product and therefore requires a bit of time to port.

  1. Open your web browser and navigate to the Android x86 download page. There you'll find a substantial list of available downloads.

    Android x86 download page
  2. You're looking for the latest Android ISO files. Depending on the machine you're going to use your Android USB on, you'll need to choose between the 64bit and 32bit files. Most of the time, you'll want the 64bit one.

    The latest releases are located at the top of the page. Don't be distracted by the "CM" release numbers. They are something different.

  3. Select the latest ISO. You'll be taken to a different page to download it.

  4. Save the ISO file. Don't do anything else with it just yet.

Download Etcher

There are plenty of ways that you can write a disk image, which an ISO is, to a USB drive. The complexity of these varies, and it can be very easy to accidentally write your image to the wrong place. Thankfully, there's a dead simple open source option in the form of balenaEtcher. Even better, it works on Windows, Mac, and Linux, so you'll be able to make your Android USB on any computer.

  1. In your browser, go to the balenaEtcher home page.

    Download balenaEtcher
  2. In the center of the page, you'll notice a big green button to download Etcher. Make sure that the text in the button says that the download is for your operating system. If not, select the small down arrow to the right of the button. That will open a menu to select versions for other operating systems.

  3. Select your version of Etcher and begin downloading it. The download should only take a few seconds to complete.

  4. Depending on your operating system, the install will vary slightly. Windows users will have an EXE to run and install. The Mac version comes in a DMG, and Linux users will find an AppImage to run straight out of the downloaded directory.

Write Android to the USB

Now, you have everything that you need to write your Android ISO image to your USB drive. You'll be using balenaEtcher to accomplish this, and your USB will work on nearly every computer when you're done.

  1. Begin by inserting your USB drive into your computer.

  2. Next, take a look for where your USB is mounted. This step is critical. You'll need to write to the correct drive, otherwise you can end up overwriting data on another drive.

  3. Open up Etcher. This will look different, based on your operating system. Windows and Mac users should find it in their applications. Linux users will need to launch the AppImage that you downloaded.

    Etcher running on Windows 10
  4. You'll notice that Etcher has a very simple interface. It's divided into three columns. The first one lets you select your image. In the second, you'll pick your drive to write to. The last one lets you start the writing process.

    Select your Android image in Etcher

    Begin by selecting your Android ISO file in the first column.

  5. Turn your attention to the second column. Select your USB drive.

    Select your USB drive in Etcher
  6. When you're absolutely certain that everything's right, press Flash! to begin writing the ISO to your USB.

    This will erase everything on your USB, so make any backups before you flash.

  7. Etcher's screen will switch to show you the progress it's making in writing your USB drive. This will take some time, based on the size of the drive and the Android image.

    Etcher writing the Android image to a USB
  8. When Etcher is done, the screen will shift again to display a message letting you know that the image was successfully written to the USB.

    Etcher USB flash complete
  9. You can remove your USB drive to use anywhere you choose now.

Booting into Your USB

In most cases, you'll be able to boot into your USB fairly easily. If you know your computer's boot menu hotkey, you can press it while your computer is booting up, and you'll be able to select your USB to boot from. In case that doesn't work, you can use these steps to disable Windows fast startup and get access to a boot menu.

  1. In Windows, right-click the Start button and choose Power Options.

  2. Select Choose What The Power Button Does.

  3. Scroll down and untick Turn on fast startup.

  4. Select Save Changes.

  5. Hold down the shift key on the keyboard and reboot the computer while keeping the shift key held down.

  6. When the blue UEFI screen appears, choose to boot from EFI device and then select your USB drive.