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

GrapheneOS logo.

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

If you are not familiar with GrapheneOS, imagine a version of Android without Google services and all the other privacy and security trade-offs that come with using a modern smartphone. That’s essentially what the folks at GrapheneOS have made.

You can assume that installing a custom ROM is a difficult, highly technical process. That is not the case for GrapheneOS. You can be up and running in minutes. Let’s start.

Note: GrapheneOS is not technically a “ROM”. It can be more accurately described as an operating system. However, in the common parlance of the Android community, GrapheneOS is the kind of project commonly referred to as a ROM. We take a closer look at this in our introduction to GrapheneOS.

the hardware

pixel 6 Progoogle

First and foremost, you need a device to accept GrapheneOS. You cannot install the ROM on just any old Android phone. GrapheneOS officially supports Google Pixel phones from the Pixel 3a and newer.

GrapheneOS removes Google services from Android for better privacy, but Google hardware is actually the most secure in the Android ecosystem. That’s why GrapheneOS officially only supports Pixel phones. If you want the best possible device for GrapheneOS, it’s the Pixel 6 Pro.

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

The other hardware you’ll 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. You also need a USB cable to connect your phone to the computer.

The software

Let’s talk about software. This requires two things: a compatible web browser and a compatible operating system for that web browser. This is because we are going to be using GrapheneOS’s super simple web installer.

GrapheneOS officially supports the following web browsers:

Chromium (outside of Ubuntu, as the Linux distribution provides a broken Snap package with no working WebUSB) Bromite Vanadium (GrapheneOS) Google Chrome Microsoft Edge Brave

Then you need to run that browser in one of these officially supported operating systems:

Windows 10 Windows 11 macOS Catalina macOS Big Sur macOS Monterey Arch Linux Debian 10 (buster) Debian 11 (bullseye) Ubuntu 20.04 LTS Ubuntu 21.10 ChromeOS GrapheneOS Google Android (stock Pixel OS) and other certified Android variants

The settings

You’ve got the hardware and software all set, now there’s only one setting we need to adjust on your Android phone. OEM Unlock must be enabled 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”, then tap “Build Number” repeatedly until a message says “You are now a developer.”

Enable developer options.

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

Go to "Developer options."

In the developer options you need to enable “OEM Unlock”. You must enter your PIN or password to continue.

To turn on "OEM unlock."

That’s all there is to install on your Android phone!

The installation

The actual installation process is surprisingly simple. If it’s been a long time since you installed a custom ROM, you might be shocked. The GrapheneOS project website has good instructions that are kept up to date with new versions of the Web Installer.

GrapheneOS web installer.

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

Your phone will reboot a few times and you will need to use the power and volume buttons to make some selections in the bootloader interface. However, it is a very painless process. The whole thing only takes a few minutes.

After that, you have a stripped-down version of Android with a ton of privacy and security improvements. It’s a pretty simple process when you consider how big the change is in your phone.

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

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