How to Run Linux on Android Devices

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How to Run Linux on Android Devices

You’ve undoubtedly used Linux previously and are aware that it works on practically any piece of hardware. Meanwhile, you have a phone in your pocket that you know is useful. So, will your Android phone be able to run Linux?

Yes, it is possible. Here’s all you need to know about running Linux on an Android phone or tablet.

Wait, Isn’t Android Already Linux?

Well, it is… and it isn’t.

Android is based on the Linux kernel, a software stack that communicates with a device’s hardware. It simply allows an operating system to speak with the device, which might be a PC, a smartphone, or any other piece of hardware.

GNU/Linux is a better name for the Linux operating system. However, the term “Linux” has evolved to refer to both the kernel and the multiple operating systems. Arch Linux, Ubuntu, Gentoo, and many more are among them.

So, although Android runs on the Linux kernel, it lacks a desktop environment. This is what most people consider while looking for methods to install Linux on Android.

Why Install Linux on Your Android Device?

So, why would you want to install a Linux desktop environment on your Android phone or tablet?

You may want to use an app that isn’t accessible on Android. However, in most circumstances, you’ll merely want to acquire access to a desktop environment. Perhaps you have an old Android tablet that you wish to revive, and running Linux on it is a fantastic method to do it.

The technology in today’s Android handsets is suitable for a PC-like experience, and installing Linux is a terrific method to accomplish this.

Of course, you may discover that the tasks you wish to do in Linux are equally possible on Android. The only thing standing in your way may be simultaneous Android app multitasking. Fortunately, many new Android smartphones enable this capability on the most recent OS versions.

It’s not simple to run Linux on an Android phone or tablet. Instead, if you want better multitasking, consider updating to a newer version of Android.

Can My Phone or Tablet Run Linux?

There are various options for running Linux on Android. Which one you should choose is influenced on whether or not your Android device is rooted.

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A Linux desktop environment may be run on practically any phone, tablet, or even an Android TV box. On Android, you may also install a Linux command-line tool. It makes no difference if your phone is rooted (unlocked, the Android equivalent of jailbreaking).

There are many ways to install Linux on your Android tablet or phone:

  • To install Linux on Android without root access, follow these steps:
    • Debian Noroot
    • UserLAnd
    • Andronix
  • To install Linux on a rooted Android smartphone, follow these steps:
    • Use Linux Deploy
    • Install Kali Linux for pen testing.

There are also alternative options for getting a Linux or desktop-like experience on Android. We’ll check at them as well.

How to Install Linux on Android Without Root

First, we’ll look at three different methods to install Linux on your Android phone or tablet without rooting it.

How to Run Linux on Android With Debian Noroot

Debian Noroot is the easiest approach to get Linux operating on your phone quickly. This requires Android 4.1 or later.

The advantage of Debian Noroot is that it will install Debian Buster with a compatibility layer on your phone. This enables you to run Debian software without rooting your Android device. Given how difficult it may be to root certain devices, this might be one of the greatest Linux Android combinations you’ll find.

Debian Noroot’s performance isn’t amazing, but it’s adequate. Consider rooting your smartphone first for the best results while installing Linux for Android.

Download: Debian Noroot (Free)

Get Linux on Android With UserLAnd

UserLAnd is an Android app from the Play Store that provides a selection of distros as an alternative to Debian Noroot. This utility, in addition to Alpine, Arch, Debian, Kali, and Ubuntu, allows you to install software.

Before installing Linux on Android, you may install programs such as GIMP, Firefox, and LibreOffice. Simply launch the program, accept the permissions, and choose a distribution to install. The installed Linux version may be seen through SSH (command line) or using a VNC program (for desktop).

It’s incredibly easy to install and use. Thus, if you’re seeking for a way to run Linux on Android, give this a go.

Download: UserLAnd (Free, in-app purchases available)

AndroNix Installs Linux on Android

This handy application, which comes with eight distros, also provides modified versions of several Linux operating systems for increased speed. The usual eight distributions are as follows:

  • Ubuntu
  • Debian
  • Manjaro
  • Fedora
  • Kali
  • Void
  • Alpine
  • Arch

Modded versions of Ubuntu XFCE, Debian XFCE, Ubuntu KDE, and Manjaro XFCE are available for Android devices with ARMv8 chipsets and later. These customized versions are tailored to work on your smartphone, and the tweaks will allow you to fully enjoy Linux, particularly Ubuntu on Android.

To use Andronix to install a Linux operating system on Android, just pick the distribution you want, then press Install. You must first copy a command into a Termux terminal window and then choose a desktop environment.

The video above discusses the procedure in greater detail. Simply have Termux and a VNC viewing program (such as VNC Viewer) installed. To utilize your preferred Linux desktop, you’ll require VNC.

Andronix is free, however there is a paid upgrade that eliminates advertisements and adds more (non-essential) functions. This includes the ability to download operating systems offline.

Download: Andronix (Free, in-app purchases available)

3 More Ways to Run Linux on Android Without Root

While we’ve explored a few viable alternatives for running Linux on your Android smartphone, there are others:

  • DeX: If you possess a contemporary Samsung device, you can use DeX to transform your hardware to desktop mode. While not strictly speaking a Linux operating system, this is a desktop environment based on the Linux kernel.
  • Using the program Splashtop, you may remotely connect to a Linux machine.
  • Termux: This command-line-based self-contained Linux environment allows you to execute Linux software on Android. As a result, it’s basically Linux on Android!

How to Install Linux on Android With Root

Installing Linux on an Android smartphone is easier and quicker for rooted users or anybody willing to take the effort to root their device.

How to Install Linux on a Rooted Android Device

If you have a rooted device, you may use the Linux Deploy utility to install multiple versions of Linux on Android. It is preferable to start by connecting your phone to a Wi-Fi network.

Begin by installing BusyBox, which gives greater root access. Install Linux Deploy next. On the first run, hit Start to allow root rights, then press Settings in the bottom-right corner.

Select your chosen Distribution from the choices menu that appears. Debian, Ubuntu, Gentoo, Fedora, and many more distributions are available for installation. Arch Linux was used.

To display a Linux desktop on your phone, tick the Enable box under GUI. Also, verify that the Graphics subsystem is set to VNC. Next, under GUI options, verify the screen resolution and make sure you’re comfortable with the Desktop environment.

Finally, locate the User name and Password entries. Make a note of them or replace them with something more memorable to you.

Exit this menu, then press the three dots in the upper-right corner and choose Install, then OK.

After that, go to the Play Store and download VNC Viewer. To launch Linux, press Start in Linux Deploy. Then launch VNC Viewer and connect to localhost:5900 using the credentials you provided previously to see your Linux desktop.

Once the system is up and running, you may install Linux applications via the terminal as normal. Congratulations: Linux is currently operating on Android!

How to Install Kali Linux on Android (Root Required)

The Linux Deploy technique for running Linux distributions on Android described above is likely the best. It offers a wide range of Linux distributions, including Kali Linux.

Do you want to utilize your Android phone or tablet for penetration testing? While there are other good Android networking utilities available, the best solution is a portable version of Kali Linux. Simply use Linux Deploy to install Kali Linux on Android and follow the steps above.

Once installed, you’ll have a pocket-sized pen-testing solution. This will validate the security of any network to which your phone connects.

Alternative, Install a Custom Android ROM

Installing Linux on Android may not be such a smart idea, but do you want additional capability from your phone? You might just try a different Android version.

If you’re not sure where to begin, check out our guide on how to install a custom ROM on Android.

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