How to Create an Android USB Drive

Run a version of Android on your computer with Android x86

What to Know

  • Download Android x86 and balanaEtcher.
  • Copy Android to your USB drive.
  • Boot your computer from the USB drive.

This article describes how to create and run a bootable Android USB drive that enables you to use Android on a desktop computer.

Download Android x86

The Android x86 project allows an older version of Android to run as an emulator on desktop-class hardware.The software from this site isn't always in perfect sync with Google's Android releases. Android x86 isn't an official Google product and, therefore, requires time to port.

  1. Visit the Android x86 download page to find a list of available downloads.

    Android x86 download page
  2. Look for the latest Android ISO files. Depending on the machine you use the Android USB on, choose between the 64-bit and 32-bit files. Most of the time, you'll want the 64-bit file.

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

  3. Select the latest ISO. You're 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 several ways to write a disk image to a USB drive. The complexity of these varies, and it can be easy to write the image to the wrong place. We recommend the free, open-source balenaEtcher. It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux, so you can make your Android USB on any computer.

  1. In a web browser, go to the balenaEtcher home page.

  2. Look for the 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 drop-down arrow to the right of the button.

    Download for Windows x64 button on Etcher site
  3. The download should only take a few seconds to complete.

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

Write Android to the USB

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

  1. Insert the USB drive into your computer.

  2. Look for where the USB is mounted. This step is critical. You must write to the correct drive; otherwise, you could overwrite data on another drive.

  3. Open Etcher. On Windows and Mac, it is in the list of applications. On Linux, launch the AppImage that you downloaded.

    Etcher running on Windows 10
  4. Etcher offers a simple interface that's divided into three columns. Go to the first column and select your Android ISO file.

    Select your Android image in Etcher
  5. In the second column, select your USB drive.

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

    This process erases everything on the USB, so make backups before you flash.

  7. Etcher's screen switches to show the progress in writing the USB drive.

    Etcher writing the Android image to a USB
  8. When Etcher is done, the screen displays a message that the image was successfully written to the USB.

    Etcher USB flash complete
  9. Remove the USB drive and use it anywhere you choose.

Boot 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, press it while the computer boots, and select the USB to boot from.

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