Linux

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

Christian Cawley Updated 23-04-2020

Linux is perhaps the most versatile OS available. Capable of running on a variety of devices, the open source operating system is used in a variety of uses. You’ll find Linux running web servers, game servers, IoT devices, even media centers and self-driving cars.

Advertisement

The most expensive aspect of installing Linux is in sourcing the hardware, not the operating system. Unlike Windows, Linux is free. Simply download a Linux OS and install it.

You can install Linux on tablets, phones, PCs, even game consoles—and that’s just the beginning.

1. Install Linux on a Windows PC or Laptop

Install Linux on a PC or laptop

Most Linux users install the OS on a computer. Linux has wide compatibility, with drivers provided for all types of hardware. This means it can run on almost any PC, whether a desktop computer or a laptop. Notebooks, ultrabooks, and even obsolete netbooks will run Linux.

Indeed, you will usually find that installing Linux breathes new life into older hardware. Find that old Windows Vista laptop is struggling to boot and won’t install any updates? Simply backup your data and install Linux on it—it’s like buying a brand new computer!

Advertisement

If you’re having trouble with installation CDs, 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.

2. Install Linux on a Windows Tablet

Windows tablets fall into two categories:

  • Tablets with a mobile-style ARM processor, such as Windows RT and Windows 10 S devices
  • Tablets those with desktop-like x86 CPU

In almost all cases, it isn’t possible to install Linux on a Windows tablet with an ARM chipset. The bootloader on these devices is locked; there is no sign of this changing any time soon.

However, tablets with an x86 CPU produced by Intel can run Linux. So, you could run Ubuntu on a tablet or something more Windows-like. For example, Zorin OS features a touch desktop layout, making it ideal for tablets.

Advertisement

3. Run Linux on a Mac

Apple computers can also run Linux. The options here are as wide as they are for old Windows computers. You can install Linux on a current Mac 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 (such as the Macbook Pro) or even old PowerPC Macs.

Indeed, these desktop workhorses of yesteryear can be revived with a suitable version of Linux. Old G3, G4, and G5 Macs can run early versions of Mac OS X, and this might be enough. Nonetheless, a more up to date experience can be enjoyed with PowerPC-friendly Linux distros.

Several established Linux distros provide builds for PowerPC Macs:

While Gentoo maintains a PowerPC build, Debian and Ubuntu MATE have ended development. However, those PowerPC versions continue to be suitable, but are used at your own risk. Additionally, the Unix-like FreeBSD and OpenBSD are viable operating systems for an old PowerPC Mac.

Advertisement

Beware installing Linux on old Macs. While you can boot a live Linux environment from USB on a current Mac How to Create and Boot From a Linux USB Drive on Mac Here's how to create a bootable Linux USB drive on your Mac using several methods, enabling you to try Linux with little hassle. Read More , this won’t work on PowerPC. Instead, you’ll need to write the Linux installer to CD and install from this.

4. Sick of Chrome OS? Install Linux on a Chromebook

Another device that you can install Linux on is a Chromebook. Google’s cloud computing platform is available on a range of computers, from desktops to netbook like low-spec laptops and beyond. Some of the costliest laptops you can buy run Chrome OS.

While this might seem contradictory—after all, why pay for top-notch hardware when the operating system relies on the cloud—Linux can come to the rescue. Software is available to help you unlock a Chromebook and install Linux How to Install Linux on a Chromebook Here's how to install Linux on your Chromebook so you can start using other apps like Skype, VLC Media Player, and more! Read More on it.

Once done, you’ve got a computer that doesn’t rely on cloud storage.

Advertisement

5. Install Linux on Your Android Smartphone or Tablet

If you’ve fallen in love with Linux and want to take it everywhere? Several Android smartphones and tablets can run Linux. But how can you tell if your Android phone can run Linux?

The best way is to visit forum.xda-developers.com and performing a search such as “linux for [device name]”.

Some devices are designed to handle many different operating systems. Current phones particularly suited for unlocking and installing Linux are:

  • OnePlus 7 Pro
  • Pixel 4
  • Zenfone 6
  • Moto G7

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 a desktop environment.

Note that the result might not be quite what you’re looking for. However, you can also run Linux on Android How to Run Linux on Android Devices Want to run Linux on Android? Here are methods for both unrooted and rooted devices to get a Linux desktop running on your phone. Read More devices as an app.

Sadly, you cannot install Linux on an iPhone or iPad.

6. Linux on an Old, Non-Android Phone 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 mobile devices are created equal. Some have special features, hardware and software that enables increased compatibility with other operating systems.

One particularly good example is the HTC HD2. Initially released in 2009 for Windows Mobile, this phone can be unlocked and supports

Similarly, the stylish short-lived iPad alternative from 2011, the HP TouchPad, can be similarly customized.

Both have versions of Ubuntu Linux developed for them, but it might take some time to track down working builds. Again, start your search at XDA-Developers.

7. You Can Install Linux on a Router

Install DD-WRT firmware on your router

Incredibly, some routers can run Linux!

However, this isn’t a standard desktop build of Linux. Rather, OpenWrt and DD-Wrt are custom firmware designed to extend the functionality of the router. While they might provide local server capability, Linux-based custom firmware is mostly used to add OpenVPN support.

For more information on this, see our guide to the best custom router firmware The Top 6 Alternative Firmwares for Your Router Looking for alternative router software like DD-WRT? Custom router firmware can add functionality, but is it safe to use? Read More .

8. Raspberry Pi Needs Linux

No list of devices that run Linux can overlook the fantastic Raspberry Pi. This credit card sized single-board computer (SBC) is incredibly useful, suitable for desktop, robotics, and IoT projects.

The default operating system for the Raspberry Pi is a version of Debian Linux called Raspbian. However, there are many alternative operating systems for the Raspberry Pi, mostly Linux.

The benefit of using Linux on the Raspberry Pi is that it enables anyone to get started quickly. It boots from an SD card with a Linux disk image installed on it.

Other SBCs have been launched since the Raspberry Pi came along. However, the Raspberry Pi is perhaps the ultimate Linux device, mirroring the OS’s innate versatility.

9. Linux on a Nintendo Wii

Got any old game consoles cluttering up your closets? The Nintendo Wii (released in 2006) can run Linux. This adds support for desktop apps as well as the Linux game library. Meanwhile, you can still play Nintendo Wii titles.

Several “Linux on Wii” projects have been established over the years. The Linux homebrew scene made hacking the console possible, making it great for retro gaming as well. For further details, check the description on the video above.

10. Install Linux on PS3 and PS4

Don’t own a Nintendo Wii? Don’t worry—the PlayStation 3 and PS4 can also run Linux.

The video above explains how to install Linux on a PlayStation 4. This essentially turns your console into a gaming PC, complete with game emulators and Steam. Want to play PC games on a PlayStation? You can with Linux.

Meanwhile, this video covers installing Linux on a PS3. The result is similar, but the lower spec of the PlayStation 3 will affect what PC games you can run.

Whatever version of the Sony console you own, note that these hacks will only work on non-updated consoles. If your PlayStation 3 or 4 has recently updated, take the time to find a compatible Linux build to install.

Want to Install Linux? You Have Plenty of Choice!

As you can see from this list, Linux can be installed on almost any hardware:

  1. Windows PC or laptop
  2. Windows tablet
  3. An Apple Mac
  4. Chromebook
  5. Android phone or tablet
  6. Old phones and tablets, pre-Android
  7. A router
  8. Raspberry Pi
  9. Nintendo Wii
  10. Sony PlayStation 3 and 4 consoles

This is just the beginning, though. you’ll probably find that many other devices can run Linux

Installed Linux on your hardware? It’s time to find out the best Linux apps The Best Linux Software and Apps Whether you're new to Linux or you're a seasoned user, here are the best Linux software and apps you should be using today. Read More to install.

Related topics: Linux Tips, Microsoft Surface, Open Source, Operating Systems, Raspberry Pi, Ubuntu, Windows Mobile, XBMC Kodi.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

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. http://www.jolla.com

    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: (no longer available)

    • 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!