How to Install Linux on Android Phones and Tablets

You’ve undoubtedly used Linux previously and know that it works on practically any piece of hardware if you’re reading this. Meanwhile, you have a phone in your pocket that you know can do a lot of things. So, can you run Linux on your Android phone?

Yes, it is possible. Here’s all you need to know about running Linux on your Android device.

Isn’t Android already a Linux operating system?

It is… and it isn’t at the same time.

Android is based on the Linux kernel, which is a software stack that interacts with a device’s hardware. It allows an operating system to communicate with a device, whether it’s a computer, a smartphone, or other hardware.

GNU/Linux is the proper name for the Linux operating system. However, over time, the term “Linux” has grown to be used to refer to both the kernel and the many operating systems. Arch Linux, Ubuntu, Gentoo, and a slew of others are among them.

As a result, while Android runs on the Linux kernel, it lacks a desktop environment. When most people think about how to install Linux on Android, they think of this.

Why Should You Install Linux on Your Android Phone?

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

It’s possible that you’ll want to use an app that isn’t available on Android. In most circumstances, however, you’ll just want to go into a desktop environment. Perhaps you have an old Android tablet that you’d like to resurrect, and installing Linux on it is a good method to do that.

The hardware on today’s Android handsets is excellent for a PC-like experience, and installing Linux is a terrific method to make that happen.

Of course, you may discover that the tasks you need to complete in Linux are also available in Android. Simultaneous Android app multitasking may be the only thing holding you back. Fortunately, many new Android devices enable this capability in the most recent OS versions.

It’s not easy to run Linux on an Android phone or tablet device. Instead, upgrade to a more recent version of Android if you want better multitasking.

Is Linux compatible with my phone or tablet?

There are various options for running Linux on Android. Whether or whether your Android device is rooted determines which method you should employ.

A Linux desktop environment may be run on practically any phone, tablet, or even Android TV box. On Android, you can also install a Linux command-line tool. It makes no difference whether your phone is rooted (the Android equivalent of jailbreaking) or not.

You have the following alternatives for installing Linux on your Android tablet or phone:

  • To install Linux on Android without root:
    • Debian Noroot
    • UserLAnd
    • Andronix
  • For installing Linux on a rooted Android device:
    • Use Linux Deploy
    • Install Kali Linux for penetration testing

There are a few alternative ways to get a Linux or desktop-like experience on Android. We’ll have a look at those as well.

Without rooting your Android device, you can install Linux

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

How to Install Linux on an Android Device Using Debian NoRoot

Debian Noroot is the greatest approach to get Linux running on your phone with the least amount of fuss. This app requires Android 4.1 or later to run.

Debian Noroot has the advantage of installing Debian Buster with a compatibility layer on your phone. This allows you to run Debian programs on your Android device without needing to root it. Given the difficulty of rooting some devices, this could be one of the best Linux Android combinations available.

Debian Noroot’s performance isn’t excellent, but it’s usable. Consider rooting your smartphone first for the best results when installing Linux for Android.

Debian Noroot is available for download (Free)

With UserLand, you can install Linux on your Android device.

UserLand is an Android app from the Play Store that offers a variety of distros as an alternative to Debian Noroot. This utility also allows you to install software on Alpine, Arch, Debian, Kali, and Ubuntu.

Before you install Linux on Android, you can install tools like GIMP, Firefox, and LibreOffice. Simply run the app, accept the permissions, and choose an installation distribution. You can either use SSH (command line) or a VNC software to view the installed Linux version (for desktop).

It’s incredibly easy to set up and utilize. So, if you’re searching for a way to run Linux on Android, give this a shot.

UserLAnd is available for download (Free, in-app purchases available)

AndroNix is an Android app that installs Linux

This handy application comes with eight Linux distributions and also includes modded versions of several Linux operating systems for increased performance. The following are the eight standard distributions:

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

For Android devices with ARMv8 chipsets and later, modded versions of Ubuntu XFCE, Debian XFCE, Ubuntu KDE, and Manjaro XFCE are available. These modded versions are optimized for smartphone use, and the mods will allow you to get the most out of Linux, particularly Ubuntu on Android.

With Andronix, you can install a Linux operating system on Android by tapping the distribution you choose, then hitting Install. You’ll need to copy a command into a Termux terminal window and choose a desktop environment after that.

The method is explained in further depth in the video above. Termux and a VNC viewing program (such as VNC Viewer) must both be installed. To use your preferred Linux desktop, you’ll require VNC.

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

Andronix can be downloaded here (Free, in-app purchases available)

3 More Ways to Install Linux on Android Without Having to Root

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

  • DeX: If you own a contemporary Samsung smartphone, you can use DeX to turn your gear into a desktop computer. This is a desktop environment with a Linux kernel, but it is not a Linux operating system.
  • Using the program Splashtop, you can remote desktop into a Linux system.
  • Termux: This command-line-based self-contained Linux environment allows you to execute Linux apps on Android. As a result, it’s Linux on Android!

How to Root Android and Install Linux

Installing Linux on an Android device is easier and faster for rooted users or anyone willing to take the time to root their device.

How to Install Linux on an Android Device That Has Been Rooted

The Linux Deploy utility can be used to install multiple versions of Linux on Android if you have a rooted device. The best way to do this is to connect your phone to a Wi-Fi network first.

To begin, download and install BusyBox, which provides greater root capabilities. Install Linux Deploy next. On the first run, tap Start to enable root permissions, then tap Settings in the bottom-right corner.

Select your chosen Distribution from the choices menu that appears. You may install Debian, Ubuntu, Gentoo, Fedora, and many other Linux distributions. Arch Linux was used.

To view a Linux desktop on your phone, make sure the Enable box under GUI is ticked. Make sure the Graphics subsystem is set to VNC. Next, go to GUI settings and verify the screen resolution to make sure the Desktop environment is to your liking.

Finally, look for the entries for User name and User password. Make a mental note of them, or replace them with something more memorable.

Return to this menu, then select Install from the three dots in the upper-right corner, then OK.

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

Once you’re up and running, you may use the terminal to install Linux applications in the usual way. You’ve successfully installed Linux on Android!

How to Setup Kali Linux on an Android Device (Root Required)

For running Linux distros on Android, the Linux Deploy technique is probably the best you’ll discover. It offers a wide range of Linux distributions, including Kali Linux.

Would you like to use your Android phone or tablet to perform penetration testing? While there are several good Android networking apps, a portable version of Kali Linux is the best alternative. Simply use Linux Deploy to install Kali Linux on Android and follow the instructions above.

You’ll have a portable pen-testing solution in your pocket once it’s installed. This will verify the security of any network to which your phone is connected.

Install a Custom Android ROM as an alternative.

Installing Linux on Android may not seem like a good idea, but you want more functionality out of your phone? You could simply switch to a different Android version.

If you don’t know where to begin, learn how to install a custom ROM on Android.

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