Most Android-based smartphone users would agree that they would prefer testing an app before downloading it to their phone. The reason behind this is usually to avoid unnecessary space hogging apps. Some users might also wish to play some of the cool mobile games available for the Android platform on their PC i.e. on a larger display. In this tutorial, we’ll show you how can your favorite Android apps on your Windows-based PC using a simple and free software called BlueStacks.
BlueStacks is an app player for Windows, which can play Android apps faster than it can run on a phone and that too, on a full-screen. The app includes 10 pre-loaded apps and one can add up to 26 more apps of their choice. Favorite apps can be pushed directly from the phone onto the PC using an Android app via internet route. Download and install the software for Windows from the URL ‘www.bluestacks.com’. The software is nothing, but a simple virtual Android operating system, which simulates an Android phone or UI. It uses the desktop PC’s resources such as the processor, the internet connection, mouse, keyboard and the audio card. The installed folder located on the PC contains the necessary files for its use, namely the kernel, data, system, boot and storage (the SD card). The BlueStacks Android (Gingerbread) virtual machine creates a hardware environment with a limited amount of storage (around 363 MB) for installing apps and 262 MB of SD card storage space.
Once BlueStacks is installed, the application will be running the Android operating system in the background and you will see an icon in the system tray area and a widget will be running on your screen. A single click on the widget will reveal the Android system apps installed in it. Click on the apps and enjoy them on a large screen. Additional apps can be installed from the BlueStacks website by signing in using your Facebook account details. To get to this page, all you need to do is click on the BlueStacks widget, scroll to and click on the app icon/shortcut ‘Get more apps’. A website will open up where you can login using your Facebook details. Once logged in, simply click on the ‘Subscribe’ button for the available apps (in the Featured Apps section) and they shall automatically get installed on your system via the internet. The ‘Could Connect’ link on the same page will highlight a special 9-pin numerical code which needs to be entered on your Android phone running the BlueStacks Cloud Connect app (download it from the Android Market for free). Once done, you can push apps from your phone to your PC by simply selecting multiple apps and syncing it. That’s it! You can now enjoy all your favorite apps from your phone on your Windows desktop PC.
Note: There are a few (or many) apps that will not function on BlueStacks, due to reasons such as incompatible hardware (for example there is no wireless network available here and apps that need the wireless network will not function). Also a few apps cannot be installed under the free license of BlueStacks. The BlueStacks Pro version will be out soon and you can do a lot more on it. The free version has a maximum limit of 26 installable apps, while the pro version will have the possibility of installing unlimited apps.
Tips and tricks
Since the BlueStacks software has a few limitations in terms of features, which include as limited storage space, app installation method and some more, here are a few tips and tricks, which can help you around it.
Increase storage space:
BlueStacks presently offers limited storage (SD card) capacity of a maximum of 262 MB only. Though this might be sufficient enough for installing applications and downloading a few files from the Internet, you cannot download files larger than 250 MB. If you look up the XDA forums, there are a few developers that have managed to increase this storage space to any preferred value. But for basic use, around 2GB should just be fine, unless you need more. There are two methods to get this done—the easy way and the difficult way. The easy way out—simply download the 1GB or 2GB ‘SDcard.fs’ (readymade) file from ‘http://tinyurl.com/3zn3v89’ and replace the original file with this one (folder path ‘C:ProgramDataBlueStacksAndroid’). The file downloaded is a compressed 1.2 MB file, which contains the 1GB and 2GB SD card files. It is the hard work of a developer named ‘Mateo Varnerin’. The other way around to make your own custom SD card storage file size is by downloading a few utilities and executing a few commands. The whole procedure and required files can be viewed here ‘http://tinyurl.com/4xr8c48’.
BlueStacks does not feature the Android Market to download any apps directly. You have a limited number of apps from the BlueStacks website to choose from and most of them are boring. The other method is to first install the apps on your phone and later push them to the PC using the BlueStacks Cloud Connect app on your phone — painful and slow. Well, most expert users would usually use apps such as App Monster or File Expert to backup a copy of the apps installed from the market. These Apk files can be installed again from the SD card or can also be shared with friends. They can be installed directly to the BlueStacks UI using a very simple trick. Locate your Apk file, right-click on it and select ‘Open with’ and then ‘Choose default program’. In the next window, click on ‘Browse’ and locate the file in the path ‘C:Program FilesBlueStacksHD-ApkHandler.exe’ and press open. This procedure will associate all files with the .apk extension with the BlueStacks APK Handler utility. The utility will start installing the app into the UI without the needs of the cloud connect method. Remember, you can only install one app at a time. After increasing the storage space and using this method for installing apps, we managed to install more than 40 apps.
Rooting and enabling the Android Market:
Though you can root the installed Android UI from BlueStacks, it is almost useless as you can’t do much with it. If you want to root the UI, you can follow the steps from the URL ‘http://tinyurl.com/3rckfvj’. The Market can also be enabled, but the process is a bit tricky and works erratically. Carefully follow the procedure from this URL ‘http://tinyurl.com/3zejz2l’
Transferring downloaded data to the PC:
Since the Android UI is not an open partition where one can transfer the data to and from the Windows operating system, there is a work around. Use a file explorer app (File Expert is free), which has a built-in FTP client and transfer your data to the PC using an FTP server utility. Another alternative is to install a samba client and access a shared drive on your Windows PC and transfer the files.