Not Just for Desktops: 10 Devices You Can Install Linux On
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.
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
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!
If you’re having trouble with installation CDs, don’t worry. You can also install Linux on a USB stick 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.
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 (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.
Beware installing Linux on old Macs. While you can boot a live Linux environment from USB on a current Mac , 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 on it.
Once done, you’ve got a computer that doesn’t rely on cloud storage.
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 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
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 .
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:
- Windows PC or laptop
- Windows tablet
- An Apple Mac
- Android phone or tablet
- Old phones and tablets, pre-Android
- A router
- Raspberry Pi
- Nintendo Wii
- 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 to install.
Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.