10 Units You Can Set up Linux On

Linux is perhaps the most versatile operating system available. The open source operating system can run on a wide variety of devices and is used for a wide variety of applications. Linux runs web servers, game servers, IoT devices, even media centers and self-driving cars.


The most expensive part of installing Linux is getting the hardware, not the operating system. Unlike Windows, Linux is free. Just download and install a Linux operating system.

You can install Linux on tablets, phones, PCs, and 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 operating system on a computer. Linux is largely compatible and offers drivers for all types of hardware. This means it can run on almost any PC, whether it's a desktop computer or a laptop. Notebooks, ultrabooks and even outdated netbooks run on Linux.

In fact, you will usually find that installing Linux breathes new life into older hardware. Find out that an old Windows Vista laptop is having trouble booting and not installing updates? Just back up your data and install Linux on it – it's like buying a brand new computer!

Don't worry if you have problems with installation CDs. You can also install Linux on a USB stick and run it from there.

Linux USB

2. Install Linux on a Windows tablet

Windows tablets can be divided into two categories:

  • Tablets with a mobile-style ARM processor, e.g. B. Windows RT and Windows 10 S devices

  • Tablets with a desktop-like x86 CPU

In almost all cases it is not possible to install Linux on a Windows tablet with an ARM chipset. The bootloader on these devices is locked. There is no sign that this will change anytime soon.

However, tablets with an Intel-made x86 CPU can run Linux. So you could be running Ubuntu on a tablet or something more Windows-like. For example, Zorin OS has a touch desktop layout that is ideal for tablets.

3. Run Linux on a Mac

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

Indeed, those yesterday's desktop workhorses can be revived with an appropriate version of Linux. Old G3, G4, and G5 Macs can run early versions of Mac OS X. This may be enough. Even so, you can enjoy a more up-to-date experience with PowerPC-friendly Linux distributions.

Several established Linux distributions offer builds for PowerPC Macs:

While Gentoo is maintaining a PowerPC build, Debian and Ubuntu MATE have finished development. However, these PowerPC versions are still suitable but are used at your own risk. Additionally, Unix-like FreeBSD and OpenBSD are working operating systems for an old PowerPC Mac.

Be careful not to install Linux on old Macs. While you can boot a live Linux environment from USB on a current Mac, it won't work on PowerPC. Instead, you need to write the Linux installer to CD and install from there.

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 netbooks such as low-spec laptops and beyond. Some of the most expensive laptops you can buy run Chrome OS.

While this may seem contradictory – why pay for premium hardware when the operating system relies on the cloud – Linux can help. The software allows you to unlock a Chromebook and install Linux on it.

Once you're done, you'll have a computer that doesn't rely on cloud storage.

5. Install Linux on your Android smartphone or tablet

When you've fallen in love with Linux and want to take it with you everywhere? Linux can run on multiple Android smartphones and tablets. But how do you know if your Android phone can run Linux?

The best way is to go to forum.xda-developers.com and do a search like "Linux for (device name)".

Some devices are designed for many different operating systems. Current phones that are particularly useful for unlocking and installing Linux are:

  • OnePlus 7 Pro

  • Pixel 4

  • Zenfone 6

  • Moto G7

Since Android is based on Linux, it is very rare to find an Android device that is not running the operating system. However, it is far easier to get the command line version of Linux up and running than a desktop environment.

Note that the result may not be quite what you are looking for. However, you can also run Linux as an app on Android devices.

Unfortunately, you can't install Linux on an iPhone or iPad.

6. Linux on an old phone or tablet without Android

Do you have a few pounds left? Maybe there are old phones or tablets lying around that you overlooked? As you can see, not all mobile devices are created equal. Some have special features, hardware, and software that allow for improved compatibility with other operating systems.

A particularly good example is the HTC HD2. This phone was released for Windows Mobile in 2009 and is unlockable and supportable

Likewise, the stylish ephemeral iPad alternative from 2011, the HP TouchPad, can be customized in a similar way.

Both have versions of Ubuntu Linux designed for them, but it can take some time to find working builds. Start your search at XDA-Developers again.

7. You can install Linux on a router

Install the 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 user-defined firmware designed to extend the functionality of the router. While they may offer local server functionality, the Linux-based custom firmware is mainly used to add OpenVPN support.

For more information on how to do this, check out our guide to the best custom router firmware.

8. Raspberry Pi requires Linux

No list of devices running Linux can miss the amazing Raspberry Pi. This credit card size single board computer (SBC) is incredibly useful and suitable for desktop, robotics, and IoT projects.

The standard 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 advantage of using Linux on the Raspberry Pi is that anyone can get started quickly. It starts from an SD card with a Linux image installed on it.

Since the introduction of the Raspberry Pi, more SBCs have been launched. However, the Raspberry Pi may be the ultimate Linux device and it reflects the versatility of the operating system.

9. Linux on a Nintendo Wii

Do you have old game consoles in your closets? The Nintendo Wii (released in 2006) can run Linux. This provides support for desktop apps as well as the Linux game library. In the meantime, you can still play Nintendo Wii titles.

Several "Linux on Wii" projects have been set up over the years. The Linux homebrew scene made the console possible to hack and also made it great for retro gaming. Please refer to the description in the video above for more details.

10. Install Linux on PS3 and PS4

Don't you 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 with game emulators and Steam. Would you like to play PC games on a PlayStation? You can with Linux.

This video shows how to install Linux on a PS3. The result is similar, but the lower specification of the PlayStation 3 has an impact on what PC games you can run.

Regardless of which version of the Sony console you have, be aware that these hacks will only work on consoles that have not been updated. If your PlayStation 3 or 4 was recently updated, take the time to find a compatible Linux build to install.

Do you want to install Linux? You have a lot 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 before Android

  7. A router

  8. Raspberry Pi

  9. Nintendo Wii

  10. Sony PlayStation 3 and 4 consoles

However, this is just the beginning. You will likely find that many other devices can run Linux

Linux installed on your hardware? It's time to find out the best Linux apps to install.

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About the author

Christian Cawley
(1412 articles published)

Deputy Editor for Security, Linux, DIY, Programming and Technology explains. He also produces The Really Useful Podcast and has extensive desktop and software support experience.

Christian is an employee of Linux Format Magazine and a Raspberry Pi hobbyist, Lego lover and retro gaming fan.

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