As I’ve mentioned in a post long ago, Android x86 can be installed on USB devices. The “HOW?” sector is a bit harder than that.
Lately I’ve been searching on forums for methods to do just that. But all the sites claim you can achieve that by first formatting the USB to EXT3 then installing Android. Just two problems, one, Android along with all Linux based OSes use EXT4 file system. And two, EXT formats are not detected by Windows computers. So, that turned out to be a big no-no. With a damp heart I began to research on my own. And here it is, a way to use Android on your USB. I also recommend you to use a release that is not in “RC” stage but one in “Release” stage (or having a higher “Release Candidate” value. E.g. RC4). I used the CM 13 build of Android as it is pretty bugless and customizable (And it is R1).
The path to your goal is a bit hard, but great for peeps with 4GB USBs. For this method, you will need 2 USBs (or one USB and a CD/DVD). One to hold the Android ISO and another as the install location. For the container drive I recommend at minimum a 1GB USB (or a CD/DVD). And for installation, anything with above 4GB of free space.
Firstly, image the ISO file of Android x86 onto the container USB/CD/DVD. Then boot your PC from that USB. Select “Install Android x86” in the boot menu.
When it comes to a GUI display, Plug in the second USB (Installation) and hit “Detect devices”. Once it detects your second USB device, highlight it and hit it to use it (helpful tip: before plugging in the second USB, remember the first USB’s ID (e.g.”sda”). then when the second USB is plugged, choose the one that is NOT the first USB’s ID (e.g. “sdb”) that way, you won’t format the wrong USB).
Now here’s where some of you part ways. If you used a small USB (4GB – 6GB), hit “Format to EXT4”. If you used a bigger (8GB or more) USB, use the “Format to NTFS” option. It will ask for a confirmation massage in which you have to choose “YES”.
Once it’s done formatting, it will ask to install “GRUB Bootloader” in which you have to select “YES” (It might ask “Install GRUB2 EFI” only select this if you have a UEFI computer). Then it will ask to make “/system directory read-write”, hit “YES” as this is the most crucial step (choose “NO” and you’ll have a USB which permanently read-only. You have been warned!).
It will install Android to the USB after that (if you were asked “Create boot option for Windows, select “YES”). If you used EXT4 back there, once the installation is complete, it will ask you to either reboot or run Android x86. You may choose either.
But if you used NTFS, you will be asked to create a “DATA.IMG” file, choose “YES” and key in the size in MB (minimum is 4GB=4096MB in order for Android to run).Once the IMG file is created, you will be prompted to a reboot or “Run Android-x86”. You may choose either.
If it all went well, you will now be running Android from a USB. Do whatever you please, just as you would if you’d installed on a hard-disk.
Just keep in mind that the setup screens will be agonizingly slow and crappy (it will tell you several times that “Process system has stopped” or something like that, don’t click “close app”, just hit “wait” or even “mute until device restart”). I assure you that after the setup, Android x86 will run smoothly (But if you use a sub-par device with a slow port (USB 1.0) it will fail to work entirely 😦 ).
Tip: Use a high-end USB, like one built for Windows-To-Go, or one that’s been proven to work with high I/O live OSes. If you use a cheap one, you’ll end its life pretty soon :-(.
Note: You may use a 4GB USB if you plan to use anything below Lollipop, but be sure to use EXT4 as the file format! You also have to boot your computer from the USB if you want to use Android!
NOTE: I’ve tested this on the following Pen drives: Kingston DT Series, Kingston DT Workspace Series, Imation IronKey™ Workspace W300 / W500 / W700, Spyrus Portable Workplace, WD My Passport Enterprise, Samsung Evo Series.
I don’t recommend ADATA and SandDisk devices (too many I/O bugs).