Stuart Kent
on Software

Update Your Path For The New Android Emulator Location

Since March 2017 (v25.3.0), the Android Emulator has been released separately from the rest of the Android SDK tools. As part of implementing this change, the emulator binary was ‘promoted’ from${ANDROID_SDK_ROOT}/tools/1 to its own top-level directory, ${ANDROID_SDK_ROOT}/emulator/. This relocation can cause some issues. I’ll show you how to avoid them 🙂.

At the time of the change, it was indicated that old versions of Android Studio should be unaffected. However, I recently needed to launch the emulator from the command line to test customized Android system images, and in doing so discovered some rough edges:

$ ${ANDROID_SDK_ROOT}/tools/emulator -avd my-custom-avd
PANIC: Missing emulator engine program for 'x86' CPU.

If I run this same command using the relocated emulator, the AVD launches successfully:

$ ${ANDROID_SDK_ROOT}/emulator/emulator -avd my-custom-avd
HAXM is working and emulator runs in fast virt mode

This is despite the fact that

$ ${ANDROID_SDK_ROOT}/tools/emulator -version


$ ${ANDROID_SDK_ROOT}/emulator/emulator -version

both report the same version information:

Android emulator version (build_id 4077558) (CL:500db745bd44dbc6000413b5e8969d83216ff7cd)

I’m guessing the error is due to a discrepency in the emulator-related files found in each location:

$ ls ${ANDROID_SDK_ROOT}/tools/ | grep "emulator"
$ ls ${ANDROID_SDK_ROOT}/emulator/ | grep "emulator"

I’m not sure why this discrepancy exists 🤷‍♂️.

If, like me, all you care about is having easy command-line access to the newest emulator binary, I recommend updating your $PATH to include


Make sure this appears before2 any existing reference to


in your $PATH so that the correct emulator binary is prioritized:

$ which emulator

Happy emulating!

  1. In writing this post I also discovered for the first time that ${ANDROID_HOME} has been deprecated in favor of ${ANDROID_SDK_ROOT}! Read more in the Android Studio User Guide section on Environment Variables

  2. Run echo $PATH to check the full contents of your $PATH variable. Searched paths are separated by a colon and searched first-to-last.