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The following is how to install Android using a virtual machine, more specifically using VirtualBox. This will offer a stable, fast environment for testing and developing with-in. After using the AVD Manager in attempts to test out Android before I had owned a device, the first thing I had noticed was that the emulated devices were extremely sluggish. Using the VM method instead allows you to achieve much greater speed out of the OS itself at the expense of no network access.
First thing you will need to do is obtain an ISO image of the x86 version of Android. Do do this you can visit the Google Code project download page for Android-x86 and obtain one of the pre-made ISO images, alternately you can use the virtual machine optimized ISOs at BuilDroid. Also make sure you have the latest version of VirtualBox installed on your system.
Before we begin here I am going to make assumptions like most of my articles do, however I will like usually outline those here for you. I am assuming you have basic knowledge of VirtualBox and VMs in general or you wouldn't be here. If you have never used VirtualBox or virtual machines in general it would be advisable to obtain a brief amount of knowledge about said technologies before you continue. Now that that is out of the way let's begin.
- Click the New button in the toolbar to create a new VM, then click the Next to proceed to the next page of the Create New Virtual Machine wizard.
- Identify the VM with a unique name, and then under OS Type set the Operating System to Linux and the Other Linux as the version. Then click Next to continue.
- Technically speaking you can now use all default settings for the rest of the VM setup. I however usually change one more setting, being the Memory, as it usually gives the VM another small speed boost. Move the slider for Base Memory Size up to either 512 MB or 1024 MB depending on how much you have available.
- Click Next now four times to skip through the disk setup, then finally press the Create button to create the VM.
- Click on the VM you just created and then click the Settings button in the toolbar.
- Head over to the Storage tab and select the 'Empty' CD/DVD Drive. Over on the right side click on the CD Image with the down arrow to select Choose a virtual CD/DVD disk file... and choose the ISO image you downloaded. Then press OK.
Booting the Install
Now that we have the basic setup for the Android VM we can continue on to the actual installation of the operating system. At this point you are going to want to click on the Start button in the toolbar, while the Android VM you just created is selected, to power on the virtual machine. At the boot menu choose the last option Installation - Install Android-x86 to harddisk in order to start the installation.
After the installation boots from the media you will be presented with the Choose Partition menu, of which you should select Create/Modify partitions in order to create a partition table for the install.
Inside of cfdisk select New and then Primary in order to create a new primary partition with which we will install Android on to. For this partition use the default size given (in order to utilize the entire disk) and select Bootable in order to toggle the bootable flag for the partition you just created (this will allow the bios to recognize this partition as bootable).
Select Write and type in yes in order to confirm the writing of the partition to disk, and finally once the process has completed select Quit to leave cfdisk and return to the Android installation.
Back at the Choose Partition menu you can now select the sda1 partition and tell it to use ext3 as the filesystem, which will prompt you with a confirmation box asking you again if you are sure you want to format the disk, select < Yes >. Install GRUB boot loader by selecting < Yes > at the next confirmation screen. Lastly when you are prompted whether or not to install the /system directory as read-write choose < No   >.
At this point Android has been installed inside of your virtual machine, select Run Android-x86 in order to boot into your installation.
Upon booting up for the first time the first thing you will notice is the mouse is not working. If you look at the bottom of the VirtualBox window you will see the statusbar and a couple icons you can interact with in order to modify the settings of the current VM. Right-click on the mouse icon that has the green arrow on it and select Disable Mouse Integration. Then power down the machine by selecting the Machine menu and choosing ACPI Shutdown, this will pop up the shutdown option inside of Android as if you long-pressed the power button on the device.