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Degoogle Your Phone: How to Install LineageOS on Your Android Phone (Step-by-Step Guide)

Android is generally considered a Google product, but Android can be made more private and google-free with some great opensource projects available to everyone: LineageOS (available to many phones) and GrapheneOS (limited to recent Google phones); two custom ROMs built for “de-googled” privacy.

Why Use a De-Googled Android Phone?

LineageOS is an Android phone operating system that contains no apps will attempt to connect to Google servers. The benefit here is a privacy-by-default phone setup instead of one that requires time and tweaking to disable any invasive features.

The Downside: if you install a default version of LineageOS, Google has been removed from the system. Going google-less is great for privacy reasons, but not so great for convenience.

  • Some apps depend on Google to work,
  • and some push notifications that rely on Google will not work properly,

— but that is a trade-off I happily accept. And if you install other privacy-respecting apps on your phone — apps that do not use Google for any of their functionality –, you will not miss Google apps at all (mostly).

Why LineageOS?

LineageOS is the successor to CyanogenMod, a free and open-source operating system for smartphone and tablet computers, based on the Android mobile platform. It is Android without the all-seeing eye of Google! What’s better than that?

Well, GrapheneOS may be a better option since it has secure boot features, but GrapheneOS supports fewer phones, so let’s stick with the stable, well-supported LineageOS and its helpful community for now. You are welcome to adapt these steps to an install of GrapheneOS or another custom ROM if you want.

First, Is Your Phone Supported by LineageOS?

If you have an old phone laying around and you want to inject it with a second life, check the list below to see if it is compatible with LineageOS. (GrapheneOS is currently limited to the recent Google Pixel 3 and up.) Or, if you want to get a cheap second phone as a backup or your daily driver, choose one of these supported phones.

List of Phones Supported By LineageOS

Asus
Asus ROG Phone 2 (ZS660KL)
Asus Zenfone 5Z (ZS620KL)
Asus Zenfone 6 (ZS630KL)
BQ
Aquaris X
Aquaris X Pro
Essential
PH-1
F(x)tec
Pro¹
Fairphone
2
3
Google
Nexus 6
Nexus 7 2013 (Wi-Fi, Repartitioned)
Pixel
Pixel 2
Pixel 2 XL
Pixel 3
Pixel 3 XL
Pixel 3a
Pixel 3a XL
Pixel 4
Pixel 4 XL
Pixel 4a
Pixel 4a 5G
Pixel 5
Pixel XL
HTC
One (M8)
One (M8) Dual SIM
Huawei
Honor 5X
LeEco
Le 2
Le Max2
Le Pro3 / Le Pro3 Elite
Lenovo
P2
LG
G2 (AT&T)
G2 (Canadian)
G2 (International)
G2 (T-Mobile)
G3 (AT&T)
G3 (Canada)
G3 (International)
G3 (Korea)
G3 (Sprint)
G3 (T-Mobile)
G3 (Verizon)
G5 (International)
G5 (T-Mobile)
G5 (US Unlocked)
V20 (AT&T)
V20 (Global)
V20 (Sprint)
V20 (T-Mobile)
V20 (US Unlocked)
V20 (Verizon)
Motorola
Edge
Moto E 2015 LTE
Moto E5 Plus (XT1924-1/2/4/5)
Moto E5 Plus (XT1924-3/9)
Moto E5 Plus (XT1924-6/7/8)
Moto G 2015
Moto G3 Turbo
Moto G4 Play
Moto G5
Moto G5S
Moto G6 Plus
Moto G7
Moto G7 Play
Moto G7 Plus
Moto G7 Power
Moto One Power
Moto X 2014
Moto X Play
Moto X4
Moto Z
Moto Z2 Force
Moto Z3 Play
Nextbit
Robin
Nokia
6.1 (2018)
Nubia
Z17
OnePlus
OnePlus 2
OnePlus 3 / 3T
OnePlus 5
OnePlus 5T
OnePlus 6
OnePlus 6T
OnePlus 7
OnePlus 7 Pro
OnePlus 7T Pro
OnePlus 8
OnePlus 8 Pro
OnePlus 8T
OnePlus Nord
OnePlus One
Razer
Phone
Realme
2 Pro
Samsung
Galaxy A3 (2016)
Galaxy A5 (2016)
Galaxy A5 (2017)
Galaxy A7 (2016)
Galaxy A7 (2017)
Galaxy J7 (2015)
Galaxy Note 3 LTE (N9005/P)
Galaxy Note 3 LTE (N9008V)
Galaxy Note 3 LTE (N900K/L/S)
Galaxy Note 3 LTE (N900T/V/W8)
Galaxy S III Neo (Dual SIM)
Galaxy S III Neo (Samsung Camera)
Galaxy S III Neo (Sony Camera)
Galaxy S4 (GT-I9505/G, SGH-I337M, SGH-M919)
Galaxy S4 (SCH-I545)
Galaxy S4 (SCH-R970, SPH-L720)
Galaxy S4 (SGH-I337)
Galaxy S4 Active
Galaxy S4 Value Edition (GT-I9515/L)
Galaxy S5 Active (G870F)
Galaxy S5 LTE (G9006V/8V)
Galaxy S5 LTE (G900F/M/R4/R7/T/V/W8)
Galaxy S5 LTE (G900I/P)
Galaxy S5 LTE (G900K/L/S)
Galaxy S5 LTE (SC-04F/SCL23)
Galaxy S5 LTE Duos (G9006W/8W)
Galaxy S5 LTE Duos (G900FD/MD)
Galaxy S5 Neo
Galaxy Tab S5e (LTE)
Galaxy Tab S5e (Wi-Fi)
Galaxy Tab S6 Lite (Wi-Fi)
Sony
Xperia 10
Xperia 10 Plus
Xperia Tablet Z2 LTE
Xperia XA2
Xperia XA2 Plus
Xperia XA2 Ultra
Xperia XZ2
Xperia XZ2 Compact
Xperia Z3
Xperia Z3 Compact
Wileyfox
Swift
Wingtech
Redmi 2
Xiaomi
Mi 5
Mi 5s Plus
Mi 6
Mi 6X
Mi 8
Mi 8 Lite
Mi A1
Mi A2
Mi MIX
Mi MIX 2
Mi MIX 2S
Mi Note 2
Mi Note 3
Poco F1
Redmi 7
Redmi K20 / Mi 9T
Redmi Note 5 Pro
Redmi Note 6 Pro
Redmi Note 7
Redmi Note 8 / 8T
Yandex
Phone
ZUK
Z2 Plus
If your phone is listed here, you can install LineageOS on it.

Go to https://download.lineageos.org and make sure your exact device is supported (look for it down the left column on that page).

Getting Started: Wipe Your Device

Back it up. When you install a new operating system onto your phone, you will be erasing everything on that phone. So if there is anything on your device that you haven’t yet backed up, now is the time to do that.

Wipe your device (optional). Since you will be erasing everything by installing LineageOS anyway, this step is optional but good to know, and it is satisfying to know you are deleting all remnants of Google. The steps will be something like:

  • Open the Settings app and tap “System” > “Advanced” > “Reset Options”
  • Tap “Erase all data (factory reset)” > “Reset phone”
  • Tap “Erase everything”
  • Reboot the device and proceed to the home screen

Enable USB debugging. You may have to use duckduckgo or your preferred search engine to find your Android’s instructions for enabling USB debugging, but on a Google Pixel, here’s how:

  • Open the Settings app and tap “About phone” then tap “Build number” 7 times
  • Tap the back icon to return to the Settings app.
  • Tap “System” > “Advanced” > “Developer options”
  • Enable the “Developer options” switch
  • Enable “USB debugging” and confirm if prompted

Connect your phone to your computer. Once it is plugged into your computer, you are reading to send commands directly to your phone. You definitely need a computer for this step, so first let us configure your desktop or laptop system to use ADB (the Android Debug Bridge).

Install and Configure ADB From Your Computer

For this next step, grab a USB cable to plug your Android device into your USB of your computer. You will use your operating system’s command line (or terminal) to input commands and get this show on the road. For mac, Windows and Linux, the official ADB fastboot instructions are at https://wiki.lineageos.org/adb_fastboot_guide.html.

If you are using Windows 10 (as your main operating system or in a virtual machine), go to https://dl.google.com/android/repository/platform-tools-latest-windows.zip and download the file to your Win10 Desktop.

  • Extract the file platform-tools-latest-windows.zip to your Desktop
  • Drag and drop the platform tools folder to your Desktop
  • Rename the platform tools folder to adb
  • Open the Start menu, and type advanced system settings
  • Select View advanced system settings
  • Click on the Advanced tab
  • Open the Environment Variables window
  • Select the Path variable under System Variables and click the Edit button
  • Click the edit text button
  • Append ;%USERPROFILE%\Desktop\adb to the end of the existing definition.
  • Click OK three times, once for each window
  • Navigate to https://adb.clockworkmod.com/ and click Download
  • Double-click the downloaded file and allow the program to be installed
  • Connect your device to your computer or virtual machine via USB cable (if using a virtual machine, choose to connect the device to the virtual machine)
  • If prompted, choose to “always” allow the connection
  • Reboot the machine or computer
  • Open a command prompt, type cd Desktop \adb and press enter
  • Type adb devices and press enter. You should see something like “List of devices attached: 523gga device”

If you see your device listed, you are ready to proceed. Unplug and repeat the steps if you receive errors.

Unlock the Bootloader

The bootloader is a security checkpoint on your device which manages all your partitions on your phone; it tells the hardware where to look to start the device and to make sure the software you are using is legitimate.

Your device will have its own steps for unlocking the bootloader; this is how to unlock a Pixel:

  • Open the Settings apps, enter Developer options and enable OEM unlock
  • Connect the device to your computer via USB cable and make sure it is detected. If connecting to a virtual machine, you may need to choose the appropriate VM
  • Open Command Prompt and enter the command cd Desktop\adb
  • Enter the command adb reboot bootloader and the device should reboot
  • Verify the device is still recognized by typing fastboot devices
  • Enter the command fastboot flashing unlock

The device will reboot on its own. If it doesn’t reboot, force a manual reboot by holding the power button to shut the phone down, and again to restart. You will have to re-enable USB debugging to continue. To re-enable debugging, do the following:

  • Open the Settings app and tap “About phone” then tap “Build number” 7 times
  • Tap the back icon to return to the Settings app.
  • Tap “System” > “Advanced” > “Developer options”
  • Enable the “Developer options” switch
  • Enable “USB debugging” and confirm if prompted

Your device should now to ready for the installation of your new LineageOS or other custom ROM.

Install TWRP and Download Custom Recovery

Setup a recovery image to allow your phone to boot to a custom menu — this will save you time in the future if you want to reinstall from the device itself.

Find the right TWRP image for your device at their website https://twrp.me/Devices. Select the make and model of your phone and then:

  • Click the closest location to you under “Download Links” and download the most recent file ending in “.img”
  • Rename the file to “1.img” and move it to the adb folder on your Desktop
  • Connect the device to your computer via USB cable again
  • Open Command Prompt and type cd Desktop\adb
  • Enter the command adb devices and ensure your device is recognized
  • Enter the command adb reboot bootloader and the device should reboot
  • Verify the device is still recognized by typing fastboot devices
  • Enter the command fastboot set_active a
  • Enter the command fastboot flash boot_a 1.img
  • Enter the command fastboot boot 1.img

Consult the LineageOS Wiki page for the appropriate steps for your specific device at this point. Afterward, the device should reboot into the new TWRP menu.

If it doesn’t, enter the recovery menu for your device by pushing whatever buttons your device manual specifies. For the Pixel, it is holding down both the Volume Down and Power buttons while the device is off.

If you are using a virtual machine for this process, each time the machine reboots, you will need to notify your host operating system that you desire your USB device to connect to the virtual machine. This is annoying but beneficial in the long run.

Install LineageOS

Now for the easy part!

To install LineageOS:

  • Revisit https://download.lineageos.org/ and select your device from the left menu
  • Download the most recent “File” into the adb folder on your Desktop
  • Rename the file ending in .zip to “1.zip
  • While in the TWRP menu, tap “Wipe” then “Format Data”
  • Return to the previous menu and tap “Advanced Wipe”
  • Select the “System” partition and then “Swipe to Wipe”
  • Return to the main menu
  • Select “Advanced” “ADB Sideload” then “Swipe to begin sideload”
  • Return to the Command Prompt window from the previous phase
  • Enter the command adb sideload 1.zip
  • Enter command adb reboot

BOOM! If all went well, your phone is now booting into LineageOS, an Android operating system without any Google services installed.

If ever prompted to add a Google account, avoid or “skip” the option.

Install Apps Using F-Droid and Aurora Store

To download apps without Google taking over your freshly installed operating system, use F-Droid.

  • Using your phone’s browser, go to https://f-droid.org and choose “Download F-Droid” to install the APK file
  • To download apps that are not available on F-Droid, use Aurora Store.
  • Install it and choose “Anonymous” mode, which prevents the Google account requirement.

You may also search online for programs not on Aurora nor F-Droid, and download trusted APK files directly to the device and install them.

Backup & Restore Options

To backup your phone, grab an empty microSD card of equal or greater size to your phone storage, pop it into your phone, and let’s go.

TWRP enables an easy backup & restore process.

To create a phone backup:

  • Boot into recovery mode in the same way as when you installed TWRP (pushing and holding Volume Down and Power if you have a Pixel phone, with the phone off)
  • Click the “Backup” button
  • Select all available data options
  • Click “Select Storage” and choose the SD card within the device
  • If TWRP asks if you want to root your phone, choose the “Do Not Install”
  • Slide the “Swipe to Backup” option to begin the process

Restore your backup by doing the following:

  • Boot into recovery mode in the same way as when you installed TWRP (pushing and holding Volume Down and Power if you have a Pixel phone, with the phone off)
  • Click the “Restore” button
  • Select all available data options
  • Slide the “Swipe to restore” option to being the process

You now have a zippy and secure (free from Google) Android operating system on your phone, capable of supporting all kinds of privacy-respecting apps: ProtonMail, ProtonVPN, Wickr, Linphone, Wire, Session, Signal, Authy, andOTP, Bromite, FirefoxFocus, KeePass2Androind, etc.

Goodbye, Google! Hello, Freedom!

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  1. […] If You Have a Smartphone: Consider replacing Google on your Android device by installing LineageOS. […]

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