The impossible is now possible! Well, almost. Technology has advanced to levels where you can run some of your favorite Windows software on an Android device. And vice versa.
Both Windows and Android remain very different operating systems — one is designed for PCs while the other has its roots in mobile devices. The architecture for desktop and laptop computers is notably different to smartphone and tablets, and nowhere else is this more evident in the applications that are available for these two platforms.
Programs made for Windows don’t run on Android, and apps written for Android don’t work on Windows. Or at least, that is how it is supposed to be.
But some enterprising developers have found a way to run some of your favorite Windows programs on the Android operating system. We take a look at how you can too, in this short guide.
Run Windows Software on Android
You may not be aware, but Android is based on Linux — very much like how distributions like Ubuntu and Red Hat are. However, Google has designed its mobile OS a world away from these desktop Linux flavors, focusing instead on the touch and mobile side of things.
Yet, they all share a common kernel.
This is basically the central component that operating systems are built around. Android, obviously, lacks the libraries and software that you find in most versions of Linux, and this is the reason why it can’t run Linux software.
Windows has even less in common with Linux, because it runs on the Windows kernel.
That said, thanks in no small part to a program called WINE, it is possible to run Windows software on Linux. It is essentially an open source compatibility layer that runs these programs flawlessly as if they were running on a Windows computer. On top of that, WINE is also very easy to find your way around. It can be used as the default installer for these applications, saving you the hassle of configuring them yourself.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, WINE is a recursive acronym that stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator.
What programs can I run?
The latest version of the abovementioned program, WINE 3, includes an Android graphics driver that means you can run some Windows software on the Google mobile operating system. Understandably, this list is very short, and there are no guarantees that these programs work on all versions of Android.
But as long as your device has an ARM processor, it has a shot.
The trick is that you are only able to run Windows software that has been ported to Windows RT. Yes, this is the version of Windows that was dead ended a few years after it launched in 2012. Microsoft designed this to be used on tablets, but the market did not take to it. However, a handful of developers did port some programs over to this variant of the OS, recompiling them to work on Surface RT and other tablets.
The list of compatible programs is far from exhaustive, but several good ones are available, including the likes of Paint.net, Audacity, KeePass Portable and OpenTTD. It is also possible to get older games like Doom and Quack 2 up and running here.
Want to browse the full selection? This thread on the XDA Developers Forum houses the complete list, and you can easily download the programs from there too. Which is recommended, as they are more likely to work than the versions available on the official sites of the developers. So, spend some time on that thread and see what the menu is.
Installing WINE on your Android device
It is not simply possible to install WINE on your Android device from Google Play, meaning there are a few hoops you have to go through to get started. Before you begin, you must allow your phone or tablet to use apps from unknown sources. To do this, open Settings and then go to Security Options and activate the switch next to Unknown Sources.
You will be asked to accept the risks in the warning that pops up, but you are now ready to install WINE.
To do that, go to the WINE Download Server and grab the APK version of the app, which will begin to download. When it is finished, pull down the notifications menu and tap the download in the list to install it.
WINE will ask for permissions, which you will need to give. These include recording audio and reading and modifying the contents of your SD card. If you are happy to continue, press Install to progress with the installation. When it is complete, you can return to the Home Screen and press the WINE icon to launch the software.
Windows on Android
Setup is fine and fairly straightforward, but now the real fun begins! Since the virtual keyboard does not appear in the app, you may need to use an external keyboard to type in WINE. Likewise, an external mouse could come in handy too, as the onscreen buttons are likely to be very small, depending, of course, on the screen you are running it on. Large tablet users may get away with it, but those with smaller displays like smartphones will need to take care of these things.
If you have a keyboard or mouse lying around that you can use, then it is worth giving this project a go.
But buying extra peripherals until you have tried it out is not recommended. This is a remarkable experiment, but programs like Paint.net are not exactly ideal for running and using on a phone touchscreen. Just make sure you are aware of this. You may also encounter the occasional stability issue, where a program crashes or closes, but that is par for the course.
Running Windows programs on Android is exciting, a good way to impress others.
However, one thing is certain, you will not be throwing away your PC and running everything from your phone anytime soon!