How to run legacy Windows with Limbo for Android

Learn how to run legacy Windows software on your Android tablet with Limbo PC Emulator.

Limbo PC Emulator

With tablets and smartphones running more powerful ARM processors, you can get more work done and try some new tricks. If you'd like to run some older legacy Windows software (from the 9x era, in particular), you might be pleased to know that a QEMU emulator designed for Android exists in the Google Play Store called Limbo PC Emulator. It's free to download and use for both commercial and non-commercial purposes.

Simply follow the steps below to run legacy Windows software on your tablet. With Limbo PC Emulator, you can also run legacy Windows software on your Android smartphone. I used my old Windows ME disc for demonstration purposes, but you should have no problems getting Windows versions up to XP working this way as well.

  1. Create an ISO image of your Windows install disc. This can be accomplished using a tool like LC ISO Creator for Windows, Disk Utility on OS X, or dd on Linux operating systems.
  2. Plug in and mount your Android tablet as a USB Mass Storage device, then copy the ISO image to the location of your choice.
  3. Turn to your Android device, fire up Limbo PC Emulator, press the drop-down menu next to Load VM, then press the New option to create a new virtual machine (Figure A).
    Figure A
  4. Figure A
  5. When prompted, type in the name for your VM, then press the Create button (Figure B).
    Figure B
  6. Figure B
  7. At this point, you'll be given quite a few options to tweak and alter. For my example, I set memory size to 256 MB and CPU model to pentium3 mode (Figure C).
    Figure C
  8. Figure C
  9. Select the location of your ISO next to the CDROM option. If the disc image is not bootable, you'll need to provide a boot floppy image as well down below (Figure D).
    Figure D
  10. Figure D
  11. In order to install the OS, you'll need a hard disk. Select the drop-down next to Hard Disk A and press New. Set the file name and size of the drive, then press Create.
  12. Feel free to adjust the rest of the emulated hardware according to your preferences. There is no single right way to configure, depending on the guest OS being installed. Don't forget to set your default boot device to the drive you'll boot the OS install disc from.
  13. Lastly, select SDL as the option for the User Interface pull-down menu, so that everything you see is scaled to the entire screen (Figure E).
    Figure E
  14. Figure E
  15. Press the Start button to commence the boot sequence (Figure F).
    Figure F
  16. Figure F
  17. Install Windows like you normally would. It's strongly advised that a Bluetooth keyboard is used, since the on-screen keyboard doesn't have all the buttons, like function and arrow keys. You're also able to see more with your on-screen keyboard out of the way (Figure G).
    Figure G

Figure G

Installing a guest OS designed for x86 processors can take a while, since x86 instructions are being translated to their ARM equivalents. Also, the author of Limbo PC Emulator advises everyone to utilize save states rather than shutting down your virtual machine. This way, you won't have to wait for the guest operating system to take awhile to fully boot. 

For mouse functionality, simply treat your tablet touchscreen as one giant trackpad, with single-finger taps representing left-clicks and double-finger taps representing right-clicks. Finally, networking, sound, and VESA graphics are fully emulated and available to guest operating systems that support those features.

Have you installed legacy Windows software on your Android device? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.

By Matt Nawrocki

An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Cus...