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Andy runs Android on your Mac, Win 7/8 desktop

15 September 2014, Mike Williams

Almost three years on from its first release, BlueStacks is probably still the easiest way to run Android apps on your Windows desktop. But it also has issues: performance can be a problem, and you don’t get full control over your virtual device.

Andy is a new contender which takes a different approach, running an Android image with VirtualBox. It can be much more awkward to configure, but performance is great, and every aspect of the system can be tweaked to suit your needs.

The program arrives as a tiny installer, which downloads everything else. This made us a little suspicious, but there’s no adware or other junk here: you just get Andy, VirtualBox, the Android image and assorted other core files.

Setup was easy, too, and our existing VirtualBox installation wasn’t affected (apart from the addition of the new virtual machine).

Browse the Google Play Store from your desktop and install whatever you like

Getting started should then have been as easy as right-clicking the program’s system tray icon and selecting “Start Andy”, but that’s not how it worked for us. First the Andy window appeared and hung, then – after various restarts and reboots – it began to pop up and disappear almost immediately.

We’ve no idea why any of this happened – and there’s very little documentation to offer any clues – but giving the programs administrative rights seemed to fix the problem (browse to C:\Program Files\Andy, right-click Andy.exe and HandyAndy.exe, check Properties > Compatibility > Run this program as an administrator).

While that’s far from an ideal solution, once it was out of the way the system ran much better. Android 4.2.2 appeared in a window on our desktop; there are all the usual applications, and Google Play to find and install more; and of course everything is controllable from your mouse (click to tap, click and drag to swipe, right-click the system tray icon to set up your swipe length).

App performance was excellent, too – no real lags or hangs – although this is more due to VirtualBox than Andy.

The program does provide some integration with your desktop. Install an app in your virtual tablet, for instance, and it’ll appear on the Windows Start menu (if you have one). Clicking this later launches Andy, and the app: easy.

Your Android image also comes with a copy of ES File Explorer, which should be able to access your PC’s hard drive via a shared folder (sometimes this worked for us, sometimes it didn’t).

There’s also support for desktop push notifications, and using your phone as a controller, but a lack of useful documentation makes it tricky to figure out what Andy might be able to do, and how to troubleshoot any problems you might have along the way.

Andy won’t be for everyone. If your needs are basic and you’re not concerned with performance, BlueStacks remains the best choice; if you’re a PC expert then you’re better off setting up VirtualBox with an Android image yourself.

For everyone else, though, Andy provides an easy-ish, high-performance route to running Android apps on your desktop. Worth a try.

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