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
), which over the past few years have become far more suited to running Linux (mainly thanks to manufacturers providing device drivers).
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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
to the less prestigious
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Acer Iconia W700 series
. 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.
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If you’re having trouble with installation, don’t worry. You can also
install Linux on a USB stick
and run it from there.
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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
, booted as
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a live OS from USB
, and installed on modern Mac computers
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such as the MacBook Pro Retina
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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
www.xda-developers.com 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
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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
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the HP TouchPad
) as well as Linux distros. Both devices are available for a fraction of the original price on eBay, and
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the HP TouchPad can run Ubuntu
alongside Android and Web OS.
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VIDEO 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
, other options exist, such as
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Arch Linux and Android
, not to mention various
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media centers built on Raspbian
. Oh, and a version of Windows 10 will run on the Raspberry Pi 2.
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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
, before inserting the card and getting on with things. Our list of
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10 Raspberry Pi disk images for weekend projects
should illustrate just how easy this is.
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various competitors to the Raspberry Pi
have appeared since its launch in 2012, the man behind the project, Eben Upton,
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doesn’t fear these alternatives
and the release of the
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Raspberry Pi 2
demonstrates the confidence in the computer. In many ways, the Raspberry Pi is the ultimate Linux device, mirroring the OS’s innate versatility.
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Linux on Games Consoles
Games consoles are also friendly homes for the Linux OS. The XBMC media center project (
now known as Kodi
) 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.
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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.