Not Just For Desktops: 10 Devices You Can Install Linux On

Christian Cawley 15-07-2015

Linux is perhaps the most versatile OS available. Capable of being installed on a variety of devices, the open source operating system is used in a variety of uses, from running self-driving cars and web servers to desktop computing and gaming.


The most expensive aspect of installing Linux is in sourcing the hardware, not the OS, so if you’re looking for a new Linux project, or want to install it but don’t have any hardware that you consider to be “suitable”, take a look at this list of devices you can install Linux on.

Windows Desktop/Laptop and x86 Tablets

Most Linux users install the OS on a computer. While the other devices in this list will have problems running most versions of Linux, you can be relatively confident that your chosen Linux distro will run on a standard desktop PC.

The same can be said for laptop computers (notebooks and ultrabooks, as well as the largely obsolete netbooks How To Use KDE's Netbook-Optimized Interface [Linux] One of the major benefits of the Linux desktop is the ability to customize literally every aspect of your computing experience. If you want an ultralight and speedy desktop, you're covered. If you want a... Read More ), which over the past few years have become far more suited to running Linux (mainly thanks to manufacturers providing device drivers).

You’re probably aware of Windows tablets. These fall into two categories, those with an ARM processor and those with a traditional Intel x86 processor. Unfortunately it isn’t possible (yet) to unlock the bootloader on ARM devices, so these remain beyond the reach of Linux. However this isn’t the case with the x86 tablets, which range from devices such as the Surface Pro series The Laptop And Tablet Killer: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Announced Available for pre-order on May 21 and hitting store shelves on June 20 is Microsoft's brand new Surface Pro 3. The device features a 12-inch 2160x1440 display, significantly larger than the previous Surface Pro 2's. Read More to the less prestigious Acer Iconia W700 series Acer Iconia W7 Windows 8 Tablet PC Review and Giveaway Slimline, sleek, sexy and silver - but you can’t have everything. The Acer Iconia W7 is a Windows 8 tablet priced between $799 and $999 (depending on the chosen model) that looks as though it... Read More . The rule of thumb is simple: if your tablet has a 32-bit or 64-bit processor, you should be able to install Linux on it without much trouble.

If you’re having trouble with installation, don’t worry. You can also install Linux on a USB stick Running Linux From a USB Drive: Are You Doing It Right? Did you know that can do a full install of Linux on a USB drive? Here's how to create a Linux USB PC in your pocket! Read More  and run it from there.

Don’t Forget Mac OS X

It isn’t just Windows computers that can be used as a home for Linux. The OS can be installed on old PowerPC devices Are There Still Any Legitimate Uses For a PowerPC Mac? Not sure what to do with your old PowerPC Mac? Here are some ideas. Read More , booted as a live OS from USB How to Create and Boot From a Linux USB Drive on Mac There are a few ways to get a create a live Linux USB drive that will boot on your Mac: you can do it with freeware, or get your hands dirty with the command line. Read More , and installed on modern Mac computers such as the MacBook Pro Retina How to Install and Dual Boot Linux on Your Mac Here's how to install Linux on your Mac. You can try dual-booting Ubuntu, or replace macOS with Linux entirely! Read More .

Android Smartphone or Tablet

If you’ve fallen in love with Linux and want to take it everywhere with you but don’t have a suitable laptop computer, then consider installing it on your Android smartphone or tablet. The best way to find out if your device will run Linux without too much trouble is by visiting and performing a search such as “linux for [device name]”.

Some devices have been targeted by developers. For instance, the Nexus 5 (2013) works with a special release of the Ubuntu Touch OS How To Dual Boot Your Android With Ubuntu Read More .

As Android is built upon Linux, it is very rare to find an Android device that won’t run the OS. However, it is far easier to get the command line version of Linux to run rather than the GUI.

Linux on an Old, Non-Android Smartphone or Tablet

Got a few quid spare? Perhaps you have some old phones or tablets lying around that you have overlooked? You see, not all smartphones and slates are created equal. Some have special features, hardware and software that enables increased compatibility with other operating systems

Two examples that spring to mind are the HTC HD2 Windows Mobile smartphone and HP TouchPad tablet. Both of these devices can run Android (the HTC HD2 runs Ice Cream Sandwich Install Android Ice Cream Sandwich On The HTC HD2 In Minutes Last week I was challenged to install Android Ice Cream Sandwich on the HTC HD2 in as little time as possible. The reason? It was my client’s lunch hour; she was sick of Windows Mobile... Read More as does the HP TouchPad How To Install Android Ice Cream Sandwich On The HP TouchPad In Minutes As slick, smooth and functional as webOS is on the HP TouchPad, and wherever the future of the platform may lie, there remains a problem – the shortage of apps. The fact remains that there... Read More ) as well as Linux distros. Both devices are available for a fraction of the original price on eBay, and the HP TouchPad can run Ubuntu How To Install More Operating Systems On Your HP TouchPad Several months ago I turned my very nice tablet, the HP TouchPad, from a pleasant-to-use device into a handheld computing god thanks to the Android CM9 port of Ice Cream Sandwich. Since then, the device... Read More alongside Android and Web OS.

Raspberry Pi

No list of devices that run Linux can overlook the fantastic Raspberry Pi, the British-developed and built mini-computer that has versatility in spades. While the Debian flavored Raspbian is the OS of choice Optimize The Power Of Your Raspberry Pi With Raspbian As befits a man with too much tech on his hands, I’ve been playing with my Raspberry Pi recently, configuring the device so that it works to its fullest potential. It continues to run as... Read More , other options exist, such as Arch Linux and Android 23 Operating Systems That Run on Your Raspberry Pi Whatever your Raspberry Pi project, there's an operating system for it. Here are the best Raspberry Pi operating systems! Read More , not to mention various media centers built on Raspbian The Easiest Raspberry Pi Media Centre, With RasPlex Read More . Oh, and a version of Windows 10 will run on the Raspberry Pi 2.

The benefit of using Linux on the Raspberry Pi is that it enables anyone to get started very quickly, simply by flashing an SD card with a disk image How to Install an Operating System on a Raspberry Pi Here's how to install an OS on your Raspberry Pi and how to clone your perfect setup for quick disaster recovery. Read More , before inserting the card and getting on with things. Our list of 10 Raspberry Pi disk images for weekend projects 10 Raspberry Pi Disk Images You Can Install This Weekend If you're looking to get started straight away with a project, all you'll need to do is download these images to your SD card, insert into your Raspberry Pi, and power up. Read More should illustrate just how easy this is.

While various competitors to the Raspberry Pi Pi Overdose? Here's 5 Raspberry Pi Alternatives You've mastered the Raspberry Pi - now what? Here's 5 of the best Pi alternatives to have a go with next. Read More have appeared since its launch in 2012, the man behind the project, Eben Upton, doesn’t fear these alternatives Raspberry Pi's Father Speaks: Eben Upton On The Future of Technology And More Enthusiasm radiates from Eben Upton. He's the driving force behind the Raspberry Pi, that small computer that has been revolutionising hobbyist computing since its launch in 2012. Tall, and dressed casually, the founder of the... Read More and the release of the Raspberry Pi 2 5 Things You Can't Do With Raspberry Pi 2 With a quad core CPU and boasts of being able to run Windows 10 – is the Raspberry Pi 2 really all that? Here's 5 things the Raspberry Pi 2 still can't do. Read More demonstrates the confidence in the computer. In many ways, the Raspberry Pi is the ultimate Linux device, mirroring the OS’s innate versatility.

Linux on Games Consoles

Games consoles are also friendly homes for the Linux OS. The XBMC media center project (now known as Kodi How to Use Kodi: The Complete Setup Guide Our beginner's guide shows how to install the Kodi software, how to navigate through the initial setup, and how to load add-ons. Read More ) began life as a Linux-built media center for the original Xbox console, while Sony’s games consoles have all been hacked to run Linux.

Meanwhile, Nintendo Wii can also be hacked to run Linux. Here’s a demonstration on installing Ubuntu on the Nintendo Wii:

Amazingly, it is also possible to install Linux on the PS3, although this is only possible with devices running the older firmware prior to version 3.2.

So, 10 devices that you can install Linux on and do anything from running a web server to playing games. Did we miss one? Tell us in the comments.

Explore more about: Microsoft Surface, Open Source, Raspberry Pi, Ubuntu, Windows Mobile, XBMC Kodi.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Enjoyed this article? Stay informed by joining our newsletter!

Enter your Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Anonymous
    July 18, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    Don't forget thin terminal clients! They can be desktop, kiosk or firewall/router!

  2. Anonymous
    July 18, 2015 at 8:40 am

    Instead of taking a real opensource tablet you all are still talking about these shitty android tablets. Buy a Jolla tablet or any other opensource device. With Jolla you can even nativly install android apps.

    Buy the way, when they started with Jolla and their OS Sailfsih, it were the programmers, which got thrown out by Nokia. I still have the N900, which was one of the first mobile with 4 Deskktops.

  3. Anonymous
    July 16, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    I have a cheap unbranded Android tablet. It crashes from time to time and needs to be reset (as per factory reset). Also I much DISlike the problem of only opening one thing at a time.

    a) Can I install Linux on this tablet?

    b) what would be a suitable distro? I have tried Linux in the past - Ubuntu, and one other, now obsolete anyway.

    c) Christian, maybe you'd like to do a follow-up article on HOW to install Linux on an Android tablet/phone, as you didn't cover this is this article.

    • Christian Cawley
      July 17, 2015 at 9:12 am

      I'll certainly make plans for something along these lines, but be aware that it will be rather generic as the method is different depending upon the device.

  4. Anonymous
    July 16, 2015 at 8:34 am

    The Beagleboards

  5. Anonymous
    July 16, 2015 at 7:55 am

    Don't forget about installing Linux on a dead badger:

    • Mihir Patkar
      July 20, 2015 at 6:24 am

      Hahahha this was awesome

  6. Anonymous
    July 16, 2015 at 5:44 am

    So which android box can I buy that will give me free cable, hockey games, free ufc events?

    • Christian Cawley
      July 16, 2015 at 8:03 am

      Not really relevant to the discussion, is it?

    • Tech Man
      March 11, 2018 at 3:04 am

      Unless you're gonna be an outlaw, none.

  7. Anonymous
    July 16, 2015 at 3:36 am

    You didn't mention routers! A lot support linux mostly based on MIPS CPU's. There are lots of community projects like OpenWRT, Tomato, Gargoyle, DD-WRT or even "Of Modems and Man "... With great resourses wich can drive everyone deeper into linux world!

    • Christian Cawley
      July 16, 2015 at 8:03 am

      Superb suggestion, Joaquim!