Hardware acceleration for emulator performance (Hyper-V & HAXM)

This article explains how to use your computer's hardware acceleration features to maximize Android Emulator performance.

Visual Studio makes it easier for developers to test and debug their Xamarin.Android applications by using the Android emulator in situations where an Android device is unavailable or impractical. However, the Android emulator runs too slowly if hardware acceleration is not available on the computer that runs it. You can drastically improve the performance of the Android emulator by using special x86 virtual device images in conjunction with the virtualization features of your computer.

Accelerating Android emulators on Windows

The following virtualization technologies are available for accelerating the Android emulator:

  1. Microsoft's Hyper-V and the Hypervisor Platform. Hyper-V is a virtualization feature of Windows that makes it possible to run virtualized computer systems on a physical host computer.

  2. Intel's Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager (HAXM). HAXM is a virtualization engine for computers running Intel CPUs.

For optimum performance, it is recommended that you use Hyper-V to accelerate the Android emulator. If Hyper-V is not available on your computer, then HAXM can be used. The Android emulator will automatically make use of hardware acceleration if the following criteria are met:

  • Hardware acceleration is available and enabled on your development computer.

  • The emulator is running a system image created for an x86-based virtual device.

Important

You can't run a VM-accelerated emulator inside another VM, such as a VM hosted by VirtualBox, VMWare, or Docker. You must run the Android emulator directly on your system hardware.

For information about launching and debugging with the Android emulator, see Debugging on the Android Emulator.

Accelerating with Hyper-V

Hyper-V is the recommended choice for accelerating the Android emulator. Before enabling Hyper-V, read the following section to verify that your computer supports Hyper-V.

Verifying support for Hyper-V

Hyper-V runs on the Windows Hypervisor Platform. To use the Android emulator with Hyper-V, your computer must meet the following criteria to support the Windows Hypervisor Platform:

  • Your computer hardware must meet the following requirements:

    • A 64-bit Intel or AMD Ryzen CPU with Second Level Address Translation (SLAT).
    • CPU support for VM Monitor Mode Extension (VT-c on Intel CPUs).
    • Minimum of 4-GB memory.
  • In your computer's BIOS, the following items must be enabled:

    • Virtualization Technology (may have a different label depending on motherboard manufacturer).
    • Hardware Enforced Data Execution Prevention.
  • Your computer must be updated to Windows 10 April 2018 update (build 1803) or later. You can verify that your Windows version is up-to-date by using the following steps:

    1. Enter About in the Windows search box.

    2. Select About your PC in the search results.

    3. Scroll down in the About dialog to the Windows specifications section.

    4. Verify that the Version is at least 1803:

      Windows specifications

To verify that your computer hardware and software is compatible with Hyper-V, open a command prompt and type the following command:

systeminfo

If all listed Hyper-V requirements have a value of Yes, then your computer can support Hyper-V. For example:

Example systeminfo output

Enabling Hyper-V acceleration

If your computer meets the above criteria, use the following steps to accelerate the Android emulator with Hyper-V:

  1. Enter windows features in the Windows search box and select Turn Windows features on or off in the search results. In the Windows Features dialog, enable both Hyper-V and Windows Hypervisor Platform:

    Enabling Hyper-V and Windows Hypervisor Platform

    After making these changes, reboot your computer.

  2. Install Visual Studio 15.8 or later (this version of Visual Studio provides IDE support for running the Android emulator with Hyper-V).

  3. Install the Android Emulator package 27.2.7 or later. To install this package, navigate to Tools > Android > Android SDK Manager in Visual Studio. Select the Tools tab and ensure that the Android emulator version is at least 27.2.7. Also ensure that the Android SDK Tools version is 26.1.1 or later:

    Android SDKs and Tools dialog

When you create a virtual device (see Managing Virtual Devices with the Android Device Manager), be sure to select an x86-based system image. If you use an ARM-based system image, the virtual device will not be accelerated and will run slowly.

Accelerating with HAXM

Use HAXM to accelerate the Android emulator if your computer does not support Hyper-V. You must disable Device Guard if you want to use HAXM.

Verifying HAXM support

To determine if your hardware supports HAXM, follow the steps in Does My Processor Support Intel Virtualization Technology?. If your hardware supports HAXM, you can check to see if HAXM is already installed by using the following steps:

  1. Open a command prompt window and enter the following command:

    sc query intelhaxm
    
  2. Examine the output to see if the HAXM process is running. if it is, you should see output listing the intelhaxm state as RUNNING. For example:

    Output from sc query command when HAXM is available

    If STATE is not set to RUNNING, then HAXM is not installed.

If your computer can support HAXM but HAXM is not installed, use the steps in the next section to install HAXM.

Installing HAXM

HAXM install packages for Windows are available from the Intel Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager page. Use the following steps to download and install HAXM:

  1. From the Intel website, download the latest HAXM virtualization engine installer for Windows. The advantage of downloading the HAXM installer directly from the Intel website is that you can be assured of using the latest version.

  2. Run intelhaxm-android.exe to start the HAXM installer. Accept the default values in the installer dialogs:

    Intel Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager Setup window

When you create a virtual device (see Managing Virtual Devices with the Android Device Manager), be sure to select an x86-based system image. If you use an ARM-based system image, the virtual device will not be accelerated and will run slowly.

Troubleshooting

For help with troubleshooting hardware acceleration issues, see the Android emulator Troubleshooting guide.

Accelerating Android emulators on macOS

The following virtualization technologies are available for accelerating the Android emulator:

  1. Apple's Hypervisor Framework. Hypervisor is a feature of macOS 10.10 and later that makes it possible to run virtual machines on a Mac.

  2. Intel's Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager (HAXM). HAXM is a virtualization engine for computers running Intel CPUs.

For optimum performance, it is recommended that you use the Hypervisor Framework to accelerate the Android emulator. If the Hypervisor Framework is not available on your Mac, then HAXM can be used. The Android emulator will automatically make use of hardware acceleration if the following criteria are met:

  • Hardware acceleration is available and enabled on the development computer.

  • The emulator is running a system image created for an x86-based virtual device.

Important

You can't run a VM-accelerated emulator inside another VM, such as a VM hosted by VirtualBox, VMWare, or Docker. You must run the Android emulator directly on your system hardware.

For information about launching and debugging with the Android emulator, see Debugging on the Android Emulator.

Accelerating with the Hypervisor Framework

To use the Android emulator with the Hypervisor Framework, your Mac must meet the following criteria:

  • Your Mac must be running macOS 10.10 or later.

  • Your Mac's CPU must be able to support the Hypervisor Framework.

If your Mac meets these criteria, the Android emulator will automatically use the Hypervisor Framework for acceleration (even if HAXM is installed). If you are not sure if Hypervisor Framework is supported on your Mac, see the Troubleshooting guide for ways to verify that your Mac supports Hypervisor.

If the Hypervisor Framework is not supported by your Mac, you can use HAXM to accelerate the Android emulator (described next).

Accelerating with HAXM

If your Mac does not support the Hypervisor framework (or you are using a version of macOS earlier than 10.10), you can use Intel's Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager (HAXM) to speed up the Android emulator.

Before using the Android emulator with HAXM for the first time, it's a good idea to verify that HAXM is installed and available for the Android emulator to use.

Verifying HAXM support

You can check to see if HAXM is already installed by using the following steps:

  1. Open a Terminal and enter the following command:

    ~/Library/Developer/Xamarin/android-sdk-macosx/tools/emulator -accel-check
    

    This command assumes that the Android SDK is installed at the default location of ~/Library/Developer/Xamarin/android-sdk-macosx; if not, modify the above path for the location of the Android SDK on your Mac.

  2. If HAXM is installed, the above command will return a message similar to the following result:

    HAXM version 7.2.0 (3) is installed and usable.
    

    If HAXM is not installed, a message similar to the following output is returned:

    HAXM is not installed on this machine (/dev/HAX is missing).
    

If HAXM is not installed, use the steps in the next section to install HAXM.

Installing HAXM

HAXM installation packages for macOS are available from the Intel Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager page. Use the following steps to download and install HAXM:

  1. From the Intel website, download the latest HAXM virtualization engine installer for macOS.

  2. Run the HAXM installer. Accept the default values in the installer dialogs:

    Intel Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager Setup window

Troubleshooting

For help with troubleshooting hardware acceleration issues, see the Android emulator Troubleshooting guide.