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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12 Responses

  1. Full disk encryption protects you from the casual opportunistic criminal. It does not protect you from government agencies with budgets that stretch to landing attack helicopters to arrest a guy who “might” be guilty of copyright infringement.

    I think we can all agree if a government agency can afford attack helicopters it can afford a few geeks with the tools to crack your passwords.

    By all means use full disk encryption to protect against the physical theft of your computer. Don’t pretend it will protect you from the government.

    If you live in the UK, you must now give up your passwords on demand. Refusing to do so is a refusal to cooperate with the police in a criminal investigation. Which can be considered a crime in it’s self.

    1. If it were that easy for govt agencies to decrypt an encrypted HDD, they wouldn’t go to the trouble of making it a crime for refusing to disclose the encryption passphrase.

      In every single case involving a computer with an encrypted HDD that’s been reported in the US of A, prosecutors have had to go to a judge to force the defendant to disclose the encryption passphrase.

      1. “In every single case involving a computer with
        an encrypted HDD that’s been reported in the
        US of A, prosecutors have had to go to a judge
        to force the defendant to disclose the encryption

        This has more to do with our procedural law here in the US than the other crux of your argument.

        Here, government agents are required to get court approval before proceding, thus the establishment of the FISA courts for national security issues and which do NOT report their grants of approval.

        In normal criminal cases, evidence obtained without warrant, or which is not otherwise generally and publically available, is not admissable into evidence in court. I assume this is true in most countries, and particularly true of any British commonwealth country.

        Secondly, assuming cases of US government malfeasance, the NSA has a huge budget and even non-government players can now crack up to 90% + of 24 character passwords in a matter of hours and with affordable equipment. Imagine the NSA with a flea in its ear.

        Still as you and others have said, it is important, for financial and professional safety, to encrypt your data… and make it as tight as you can.

  2. I think that you think that you are too important.

    Why would anyone _care_ about your disk’s contents?? What do you think they would expect to find on it?
    – Secret letters of the Pope to pretty boys in Argentina?
    – GW Bush’s plans on the attack on the WTC?
    – Proof of Chinese cyber attacks on the Pentagon?
    – Your latest research on transforming human poop to unleaded high-octane gasoline in room temperature?
    – 4K porn?

    Only three things are important on almost anybody’s disk: passwords, credit card numbers and PINs. Just encrypt these. Or use a specialized tool.

    Full disk encryption? Completely, 100% unnecessary.

    1. They might not care now, but what about when some future eco-fascist government suddenly decides that eating meat is a crime now (not an impossible scenario in some European countries…the eco-fascists are getting stronger…)

      Then suddenly your recipe for grilled steak is an illegal document and you can go to jail for it!

      Of course this sounds a bit silly now, but you must not think that everything will always stay the same.

      Make it as hard as possible for anybody to get to your private documents. If the government (or anybody else) wants to see some of them, they can always ask nicely, and you can then show them what they want to see.
      You shouldn’t make it too easy for them to just take everything they want without asking!

  3. If you are living in Turkey, you should definitely encrypt everything. Read the court cases in Turkey like ergenekon, balyoz (sledge hammer). Police may accidently (!) embed evidence into your phone (Mehmet Ali Çelebi’s phone). Or there may be illegal documents in your computer you have never seen before and you can spend years in jail (odatv case).
    And of course you should definitely keep a copy of your important documents in else where (Ahmet Şık’s book is destroyed by police without court order.)

  4. Great article! I full agree. What the DOJ did to Kim Dotcom is crazy. Landing attack helicopters in his front lawn, lol?

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