Earlier this week, Google debuted the first Android 13 developer preview, which as its name suggests is meant for developers only and not for the general public. Well one developer has since not only flashed this early look at Android 13, but also used it to run Windows 11 in a virtual machine.
Worked on performance a bit and the Windows VM is actually really usable now, though there’s still no graphics acceleration. CPU, I/O, and memory pressure are much better now. pic.twitter.com/it036Gx5Gt
— Danny Lin (@kdrag0n) February 14, 2022
Danny Lin, who also goes by the name kdrag0n on Twitter, documented his experience in getting Windows 11 for ARM running on his Google Pixel 6. Not just Windows either, as kdrag0n also highlighted the ability to get Linux running too. Lin even got Doom running, perhaps as a subtle nod to old joke that Doom runs on anything. However, there are some caveats to it, which includes the lack of GPU and 3D acceleration on Windows, as well as no nested virtualisation support.
Mishaal Rahman, the former editor of XDA-Developers, wrote extensively here on how exactly Google will be using virtualisation in Android 13 when it comes around, but the gist of it is that Android 13 now seems to support a new virtualisation framework which kdrag0n is exploiting to run a Windows 11 virtual machine. The idea appears to be that the new virtualisation framework will allow Google to standardise the Android virtual machine structure, and that this new kernel-based VM functionality will be coming with Android 13 when it actually launches.
Going back to the idea of running Windows on your smartphone though, it’s actually far from the first time someone has tried to do it. Enter the Renegade Project. It’s a project run by a small group of modders and developers, led by Xilin Wu, and these guys essentially work to get Windows 11 running on your smartphone. Not just running, but running well too, with successful tinkerers even able to play games on their Windows 11-powered smartphones. There’s even been a few YouTubers who successfully followed the Renegade Project and installed Windows 11 on their own smartphones, such as Geekerwan below:
According to the Renegade Project’s website, it started when during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wu had a bunch of spare time all of a sudden. This lead to him tinkering with the idea of running Windows on his smartphone. Together with a number of fellow modders who share his goal—some of them are even high school students—they began working even though they didn’t know much on programming. As for the point of it all, well as the Renegade Project website states:
“Never ask me anything like ‘what’s the point of it’. I would only tell you: because it’s fun. And it’s simply appealing that a phone can be used as a laptop, even with decent speed,” – Renegade Project
Where the Renegade Project’s methods differ from kdrag0n is that rather than building a virtual machine within the Android operating system itself, they instead target loading any aArch64 EFI-compatible operating system on your smartphone, such as Windows or Linux for that matter. So far, they’re only in the early stages, and most of their work has been on devices running with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor.
They themselves admit that things are extremely janky and broken, but for the most part they’ve gotten a number of Snapdragon 845 devices to run Windows. It’s Windows for ARM of course, but it’s still Windows. It involves a number of steps, and for more details on the project you can visit their website here. They appear to have the most success with the OnePlus 6, OnePlus 6T, and several Xiaomi devices, but if you’re planning to put Windows 11 on your own smartphone using the Renegade Project’s methods, you’ll also want to double check that it’s on their supported devices list here.
There are some significant features missing of course, such as no camera or audio support for most of the devices tested. However, it’s still amazing to see full-fledged Windows 11 on a smartphone from four years ago. In fact, many have even gotten actual video games to run on their Windows 11 smartphone, with the Renegade Project keeping a Google Sheet of video game titles that run on smartphones with Windows installed. It’s not just minor 2D indie games either, as titles such as Minecraft, Portal 2, Assetto Corsa and Left 4 Dead 2 are all deemed to be relatively playable.
I don’t know about you, but I find the idea of repurposing these old phones into miniature little Windows machines a great way to salvage what would’ve been eWaste. And even if it’s not to salvage older parts, it’s still a nice way to foster innovation and a tinkering spirit. It’s certainly an impressive feat by these guys, considering how hard Microsoft has made it to run Windows 11 on machines that are just a few years old. If you’re also going to be trying out installing Windows on your old device, let us know how it went and if you’re interested in seeing more from the Renegade Project or even Android 13’s VM potential.
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