What you need to try GrapheneOS, the privacy-focused Android ROM

GrapheneOS is the hardcore privacy and security version of the Android OS you know and love. If you want to try this custom ROM, it’s probably easier than you think. Here’s what you’ll need to get started.

If you’re not familiar with GrapheneOS, imagine a version of Android without Google services and all the other privacy and security tradeoffs that come with using a modern smartphone. This is basically what GrapheneOS followers have come up with.

You might assume that installing a custom ROM is a very difficult and technical process. This is not the case for GrapheneOS. You can be up and running in just 2 minutes. Let’s get started.

Noticeable: GrapheneOS is not technically a “ROM”. It can be more accurately described as an operating system. However, in the common language of the Android community, GrapheneOS is the type of project commonly referred to as a ROM. We get into more detail about this in our introduction to GrapheneOS.

Hardware

Pixel 6 Pro
The Google

First of all, you need a device to accept GrapheneOS. You cannot install ROM on any old Android phone. Google Pixel phones starting with the Pixel 3a and later are officially supported by GrapheneOS.

GrapheneOS is removing Google services from Android to improve privacy, but Google hardware It is actually the most secure in Android. That’s why GrapheneOS only officially supports Pixel phones. If you want the best possible hardware for GrapheneOS, this is the Pixel 6 Pro.

Below is the full list of devices that support the official GrapheneOS (device code names in parentheses).

The other hardware you will need is a computer to connect your phone to. The computer must have at least 2 GB of free memory and 32 GB of free storage space. Additionally, you will need a USB cable to connect your phone to your computer.

the program

Let’s talk about software. There are two things that you will need in this regard – a compatible web browser and a compatible operating system for that web browser. This is because we will be using GrapheneOS’ super easy web installer.

GrapheneOS officially supports the following web browsers:

  • Chromium (outside of Ubuntu, since Linux distribution ships a disabled Snap package without WebUSB working)
  • bromate
  • vanadium (graphene)
  • Google Chrome
  • Microsoft Edge
  • brave

Next, you will need to run this browser in one of the officially supported operating systems:

  • Windows 10
  • Windows 11
  • macOS Catalina
  • macOS Big Sur
  • Mac OS Monterey
  • linux arc
  • Debian 10 (Buster)
  • Debian 11 (Pauls)
  • Ubuntu 20.04 LTS OS
  • Ubuntu 21.10.2 Update
  • Chrome OS
  • graphene
  • Google Android (Stock Pixel OS) and other supported Android variants

Settings

You have all the hardware and software ready, now there is only one setting that we need to modify on your Android phone. OEM unlock must be enabled in order to install GrapheneOS.

First, swipe down twice from the top of the screen to reveal the quick settings menu, then tap the gear icon.

Next, we need to enable developer options. Scroll down to About Phone and tap Build Number repeatedly until a message says “You are now a developer.”

Enable developer options.

You can now go to the “System” section of the settings and you will see “Developer options”.

go to "Developer options."

In the developer options, you will need to toggle on “OEM Unlock”. You will need to enter your PIN or password to continue.

his job "OEM unlock."

That’s all in setup on your Android phone!

installation

The actual installation process is surprisingly easy. If it’s been a long time since you installed a custom ROM, you might be shocked. The GrapheneOS project site has good instructions that are constantly updated with new versions of the Web Installer.

GrapheneOS web installer.

In short, what you will do is boot your phone into the bootloader interface and connect it to your computer using a USB cable. From there, it’s just a matter of clicking the buttons on the Web Installer page. You will download the factory image, flash it to your device, then lock the bootloader.

Your phone will restart several times and you will need to use the power and volume buttons to make some selections in the bootloader interface. It is a very painless process. The whole thing will only take a few minutes.

Next, you have a bare-bones version of Android with a bunch of privacy and security improvements. It’s a very simple process when you consider how much change you make on your phone.

Related: What is the Privacy Dashboard on Android?

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