Reboot Android-x86

The Android-x86 project provides ISO installation images of Android that can be installed on personal computers, which is cool, because that makes it possible to use the most popular operating system on the planet without buying an Android tablet or smartphone.

The latest stable release is Android-x86 4.4-r2. This tutorial shows how to install it on a USB stick, so you can have an Android device that you can boot and use from any modern computer.

What You’ll Need:
If you want to follow along, you’ll need two USB sticks, one to use as the installation media, the other as the installation target. The ISO installation image is less than 400 MB in size, so a 1 GB USB stick will do as the installation media. You may download the latest ISO installation image from

The target USB stick should also be at least 1 GB, because a fresh installation of Android-x86 takes up about 1 GB of disk space. For this tutorial, I used an 8 GB USB stick.

How To Do What To Do:
1. Transfer the installation image to a USB stick: Assuming that you downloaded the ISO image to a Linux computer, you may transfer it to a USB stick using the dd command like this:

# Using the dd command 
# /dev/sdc is the USB stick

dd if=android-x86-4.4-r2.iso of=/dev/sdc bs=1M

2. Format the target USB stick: To make the installation easier, be sure to format the target USB stick, or just wipe it, if it contains data. Then Insert both USB sticks to free USB ports on the computer and reboot. If you did not set the computer to boot from external media, press the F key that will bring up the computer’s boot menu and select the right one to boot into.

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Figure 1 shows the entries in the boot menu of the computer used for this tutorial. The USB: PNY USB 2.0 FD 1100 entry is the USB stick that holds the installation image, while the USB: SanDisk Cruzer Glide 1.26 entry is the target USB stick. The computer has an internal 250 GB hard disk with Linux Mint 17.1, Ubuntu 14.10 and Windows 8 installed in triple-boot fashion.

Linux computer boot menu
Figure 1: Boot menu of computer showing detected storage media

This is the Android-x86 boot menu. You have the option to boot into a live desktop or straight to the installer. The latter option seems to be the most appropriate thing to do here.

Android-x86 4.4-r2 boot menu
Figure 2: Entries on the boot menu of Android-x86 4.4-r2 installation image

You’ll then be shown a window that shows the disks and disk partitions detected by the installer. In this case, sdb1 belongs to the target USB stick. The sdc entries belong to the installation media.

Android-x86 disks
Figure 3: Disks detected by the Android-x86 installer

After selecting the target disk, you’ll be given the option to format it. You definitely want to format it. I chose to format mine using the Ext3 file system.

Android-x86 ext3 file system
Figure 4: File systems supported by the Android-x86 installer

Yes, we are sure.

Android-x86 format USB stick
Figure 5: Options to format the target USB stick.

Yes, install the GRUB boot loader to the USB stick. A plus for the installer is that it does not mess with the contents of the internal hard disk, which is good to know, because in a future tutorial, I’ll show how to dual-boot Android-x86 4.4r2 and another popular Linux distribution.

Android-x86 install GRUB
Figure 6: Install GRUB boot loader to the USB stick

Yes, I think it’s better to install the /system directory read-write.

Android-x86 /system directory
Figure 7: Make the /system directory read-write

This image just shows the writing process. Less than 750 MB of data is written to the USB stick.

Android-x86 /system
Figure 8: Writing to the /system directory.

Installation should take less than two minutes. I did not encounter any problem, so next thing I had to do was reboot.

Reboot Android-x86
Figure 9: Reboot newly installed Android-x86 from a USB stick

On rebooting, you’ll be presented with the GRUB menu. Selecting the default option, I was able to boot into the Android-x86 desktop. My test computer does not have a wireless card, but the system was able to auto-configure the Ethernet card.

Android-x86 4.4-r2 GRUB boot
Figure 10: GRUB boot menu of Android-x86 4.4-r2

So I now have Android 4.4 installed on a USB stick, which I can use from any personal computer. And that’s awesome, because I don’t have any Android device.

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35 Responses

  1. Not everyone is behind a network firewall, and not everyone knows what a firewall is. You may think these people should not be using computers, but they are and will be. They should have some protection until they learn enough to do it themselves.

    You can’t just think about yourself, you have to think about the computing public in general. Originally the windows firewall was off by default. When MS turned it on by default, infection rates went way down.

    I agree that every user’s needs are different. So if the default firewall doesn’t work for you, change it.

  2. This article is far from convincing. It makes sense to have several layers of security if you want to be absolutely certain nothing can come in, but what are the odds that something will breach into your network past a router that drops or denies every inbound connection attempt?

    Also if your computer isn’t running any server (not listening on any port), what could happen?

    In fact, that actually makes your two layers of security… (I guess Windows and Ubuntu probably have servers running most users aren’t aware of though…?)

    That leaves potential exploits but if iptables can be abused on my router then I guess it can be on my PC as well… Not to mention that I’m not running a secret defense project deserving that much attention, and spammers can attack Windows computer users with stupid HTML emails and smiley packs more easily than by hacking into peoples’ routers and Linux computers…

    That’s what I think anyway.

  3. I disagree with the notion that you need a firewall on the router AND on the computer because this somehow makes things more secure. By that thinking, it would be even better to run two or three firewalls on the system, wouldn’t it?

  4. I agree with having in-depth security. On the perimeter however, there is one case (at least) where all outbound connections should not be allowed. A good deal of spam originates from malware on a hosts that are not mail servers. It’s a simple matter to block all outbound smtp traffic that does not originate from a mail server (some ISPs presently do this on non-business customers). This not only helps to reduce spam (on the sending end, not incoming spam), it also helps to protect the edge IP address(es) from becoming blacklisted. Generally speaking, a good practice that network admins should follow (imo).

  5. I disagree. I see far more value in educating the wetware in best practices. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reinstalled a windows machine that had current AV and a firewall running… you can’t protect against stupid with software, unfortunately.

    In contrast, I had a win98 machine, not SE, the original win98, installed “out of the box” from the OEM, with no antivirus or anti malware software on it. I also never updated it.

    But the children who used it knew the rules: no downloading, don’t go where you know you’re not supposed to be etc etc… it ran like new until the day the hardware finally died.

    The only protection it had, other than educated users, was that it was behind a smoothwall firewall on the perimeter.

    If I take any equipment outside a perimeter firewall, then absolutely, iptables goes up. But unless a particular user or set of users has proved themselves incapable of avoiding the social engineering, I usually leave firewalls off. Haven’t been stung by the practice, though admittedly I add “yet.” =)

    These days “noscript” (firefox) is more valuable than a simple incoming-blocking firewall…

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