Want to try Surface Duo? Here’s how to get the Surface Duo emulator running on your Windows 10 PC

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Microsoft’s dual-screen smartphone, the Surface Duo, won’t be coming out for at least another 11 months, but if you’re excited about it, you can simulate the Surface Duo experience right on your own PC. This can be accomplished with the Surface Duo SDK recently released by Microsoft (and now for Mac).

This SDK is meant for developers to code and demo their apps on a simulated Surface Duo, but anyone with a good knowledge of Windows is free to try it on their own as well — regardless if they’re a developer or not.

In this guide, we’ll show you how you can try out the Surface Duo SDK and get a Surface Duo emulator on your Windows 10 PC to get a taste of that dual-screen Microsoft Android experience. But, be warned, this is a very technical process.

Some Prerequisites

Before getting started, there are some prerequisites you need to take note of. You’ll need to download a few developer programs to your Windows 10 PC, and you need to make sure that a few settings options are enabled.

Also, before installing, you’ll need roughly 15-20GB of free space on your PC, just to be safe. Additionally, please be aware that the Surface Duo emulator is very buggy, and doesn’t support the Google Play Store, so your experience will be very limited to the few stock apps, and trying out the user interface. Here’s a checklist for you.

  • Make sure that Hyper V, Hyper V Management Tools, Hyper V Platform, Virtual Machine Platform, and Windows Hypervisor Platform are checked under Turned Windows Features on or off section. You can find this by searching for Turn Windows Features on or off  from the Start Menu.
  • Make sure your PC has 4GB of RAM at the least, though 8GB is recommended.
  • Make sure that hardware virtualization is enabled in your system BIOS.
  • Install the latest version of Android Studio, available from Google here. You’ll also need to use the SDK manager in Android Studio to make sure all of the Android emulation tools are installed.
  • Download install Visual Studio Community 2019 and make sure that all the Android developers tools are installed.
  • Download the Surface Duo emulator from Microsoft

Step 1: Install Android Studio

If you’ve already enabled the Windows Features above, and have support for Hardware Virtualization on your PC, you’re set to go. You can head to Google’s website an download Android Studio. It’s a 719MB file, so you’ll need to be patient. Once done, double click to run it, and be patient while it installs. You’ll need around 2.3GB of free space on your PC for the files as things are extracted during install.  This step is very important, as Android Studio has the underlying Android files for the Surface Duo emulator. If you skip this step the emulator will NOT work.

After install, you’ll be prompted to import Android Studio Settings. Skip this, and choose to Do not Import Settings. You can then choose Standard and continue on. You’ll get to pick a theme, and then you’ll see a list of SDK components. Keep clicking the blue Next button, and then Finish. You’ll have to wait while the required SDK tools install. It’ll be roughly 500MB extra worths of files that need to be download and installed. Once done, click Finish.

Once that is done, you’ll be able to open Android Studio. Click Start a new Android Studio Project. Pick Add no Activity. Once the project loads, head up to the File menu and choose Settings. You’ll then want to click System Settings in the side bar and click Android SDK. Make sure Android 10 is checked on the list and that it says Installed. And check to see that Intel x86 Emulator Accelerator is installed under SDK Tools. You’ll also want to make sure that everything is enabled under SDK Update Sites. If not, click the respected boxes and click OK to install. Once verified, you can close Android Studio.

Step 2: Install Visual Studio 2019

Now that you’ve installed Android Studio, the second step is to install Visual Studio 2019. This is yet another free download if you choose the Community 2019 edition from the download page. Once the .exe is downloaded, double click to launch it. The Installer will then fetch files, it’s roughly a 71MB initial download.

When that initial download completes, the installer will launch Visual Studio 2019. Scroll down the list of Workloads and choose Mobile Development with .NET. You’ll then want to choose Install while downloading and then click the Install button. This will be a 7.26 GB download, and install will take roughly 10 or so minutes. Be patient.

Once everything is installed, you’ll get a prompt to sign in. Click Not now, maybe later. You can then choose your theme and click Start Visual Studio. Another window will then pop-up, and click Continue without code. This will open Visual Studio.

To continue, you’ll again want to make sure that all the relevant Android SDK tools are installed on your PC. You can do this by clicking the Tools menu, choose Android and then choose Android SDK Manager. Once selected, check to see that Android 9 or Android 10 are installed. If not, click the box, and Apply Changes to have VIsual Studio install it. You’ll also want to click on the Tools menu and expand the boxes for Android SDK Tools, Android SDK Build Tools, and Android Emulator.

Make sure you see that it says Installed under each of these. If not, you’ll want to click the box to have Visual Studio download and install. When finished, click Apply Changes. You can then close Visual Studio.

Step 3: Download the Surface Duo SDK

Now that you’ve got Android Studio, and Visual Studio 2019 installed, you’re free to install the Surface Duo SDK. This is the easiest step of them all. All you need to do is download the file from Microsoft’s website here. It’s roughly a 620MB download, so be patient.

Once downloaded, extract the ZIP to your PC somewhere, preferably in your documents folder. Once extracted, head to where the file was extracted to if you weren’t already taken there. You’ll notice a file with the Microsoft Logo labeled SurfaceDuoEmulator_2020.117.2. Click it, to run the installer. You’ll need an additional 3.6GB of free space for the emulator to install.

Once finished, a shortcut to Surface Duo Emulator will be installed on your PC. You’re now free to explore a simulated Surface Duo!

Have fun with the emulator!

Once you launch the Surface Duo Emulator, it will need some time to load. Depending on your PC’s hardware, it might take a few minutes. There’s not too much to the emulator at the moment, though, as it’s mainly meant for developers.

You can preview the Surface Duo dual-screen UI and open some of the stock apps like mail, weather, and Edge. You also can stack apps side by side, or hold an app to the middle to have it open up like a book on the large screen. Edge works fine and will allow you to open webpages. It’s a pretty cool experience if you’re using it on a Surface or touch screen PC. So be sure to check it out, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!