How to install Android 4.4 KitKat in Windows using VirtualBox

Google’s confectionery legacy of Android operating systems has enough digital sugar to make you nauseous.

It all started in 2009 with Android 1.5 Cupcake and now five years later, Google ‘s infatuation with sweets lives on through KitKat.

KitKat is a great OS but you need the physical tablet or smartphone before you can actually play with it.

Or do you?

Thanks to VirtualBox and the Android-x86 project, we now have unfettered access to the latest treats from Google’s assorted code bakery.

We just need to download the latest Android-x86 ISO and then load it into Virtualbox as a new Linux virtual machine.

As I’m writing this, Android 4.3 Jelly Bean is Google’s newest concoction; however, what’s the fun in that when everyone’s favorite chocolate covered vanilla waffer, KitKat, is already out as a Release Candidate?

If you want to live on the edge, forego the Jelly, gimmie a break, grab KitKat and follow me.

KitKat in VirtualBox

I want you to exult in how easy it is to setup KitKat in VirtualBox.

Click the blue New button in Virtualbox, name the new VM Droid, change the Type to Linux and change the version to Linux 2.6 / 3.x.

Crank the Memory up to 1024MB and click Create.

Android KitKat 4.4 in VirtualBox

On the Create Virtual Hard Drive screen, change the File Size to 6 GB, leave the Hard drive file type at VDI but change the Storage on physical hard drive to Fixed size.

Create Virtual Hard Drive in VirtualBox for KitKat

Now back in the image list, double click your tasty KitKat build. You should see a Select start-up disk window poof onto the screen.

Click the tiny manila folder icon to find the Android .ISO file you downloaded earlier and then hit the Start button. VirtualBox choose your Virtual Optical Drive

VirtualBox attempts to boot off the ISO and immediately displays the Android-x86 Live & Installation CD test screen.

Keep hitting the arrow keys until you select the Installation option – then hit Enter.

Android-x86 Installation KitKat

The first thing we need to do is Create a new Partition.

Think of a partition as an isolated section of your hard disk.  In this case, we’re going to set aside the entire virtual hard disk to Android but we need to create it first.

Select Create/modify partitions and keep moving.

Create/Modify partitions

This next screen may look daunting at first but it’s pretty straight forward when you think about it. The top section shows various drive facts such as:

  • Drive name: /dev/sda
  • Size: 6,442MB (6 Gigs)

The middle section shows that there are currently no partitions.

Hit the right arrow key to highlight the [NEW] option along the bottom the screen, then press Enter.

Create a new KitKat partition in Virtualbox

Press enter again to make it a Primary Partition.

To be honest, I don’t think it matters if you pick the Logical Partition; however, the Primary partition makes the most sense to me so go with that.

If you’re curious about the differences between Primary and Logical partitions, just think of a Primary partition like a container which can comprise one or more logical partitions.

KitKat Virtualbox Primary Partition

Press enter again to confirm the size. Here I’m confirming the 6440.39 MB partition size.

Android 4.4 Kitkat Primary Partition Size Confirmation

Alright, now we need to make the partition bootable so make sure [Bootable] is highlighted below and press Enter. Make KitKat Virtualbox partition bootable

When you press enter it places the word “Boot” under the column called Flags between Name and Part Type. Now – keep pressing the right arrow key until you highlight [Write].

Go for it, you’ve got this my friend.

VirtualBox KitKat Bootable Write in VirtualBox

Hit enter and you’ll see a confirmation warning about destroying all the data on your disk. Remember, this is your virtual disk not your real disk.

In other words, we’re about to nuke the Guest OS hard drive which is currently empty so this is perfectly safe and necessary. Type yes and hit Enter.

Erase KitKat data on bootable partition

When it finishes it’ll take you back to the previous screen.  Just keep hitting the right arrow until you highlight [Quit].  

Press enter so we can finish up. You should find yourself back in the Choose Partition screen; however, this time you should see your newly created Partition in the list.

Since we now have a place to park the KitKat installation we can start installing it.  Select sda1 Linux and hit Enter. Choose Partition in VirtualBox for KitKat

Change the filesystem to ext3 and press Enter.

The other filesystems are for different purposes. ext2 is better suited for removable media such as USB flash drives and memory cards; however, the main advantage of ext3 is that it offers journaling.

Journaling file systems are ideal because they track file system changes in a log called a journal.   This means that journaling file systems can recovery faster from crashes and are less likely to get corrupted.

You definitely want this.

Choose Virtualbox Android Filesystem as ext3

You’ll get a warning about losing all your data. This is fine because we have no data in the Guest OS.

Choose Yes and continue.

Virtualbox confirm format from sda1 to ext3

Install GRUB and hit Yes.

GRUB will give us the flexibility to boot up different Linux installations at startup.

Install Grub in Virtualbox for KitKat

Now hit Yes to install the /system directory as read-write.

Install /system directory as Read Write in Android KitKat Virtualbox

We’re on the home stretch now baby!

Installing Android 4.4 Kitkat in Virtualbox Yay!

When you hit the finish line, in the VirtualBox menu bar, click Devices, go to CD/DVD Devices and choose Remove disk from virtual drive.

You might get a terrifying error about unmounting the disk. Don’t worry, just click Force unmount and choose Run Android-x86!

Run Android x86!

If it doesn’t start up right or it freezes, press Ctrl + r to manually restart the virtual machine.

In a few seconds it should boot up the GRUB loader.  Just leave it alone for a few seconds and it’ll finish starting up.

VirtualBox GNU GRUB loader for KitKat

Now you can set it up just like a new tablet

Android welcome screen

By the way, if the mouse doesn’t work you may need to click Disable Mouse Integration from the Machine menu in the upper left corner of the Virtualbox window.  This will keep the mouse gliding over the VirtualBox menu instead of getting trapped inside it.

On the Select Wi-Fi screen just click Skip.  Virtualbox will use your host computers network card for data connectivity.

Select WiFi Network KitKat

And that’s it!

Now you can download Google apps, setup Gmail and have a ball without fear of destroying a precious tablet.

Android 4.4 KitKat home screen

Have fun.


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