andLinux: Seamlessly Run Linux Applications on Windows

andLinux is a Linux distro with a difference. It’s based on a port of the the Linux kernel to Windows coupled with an X server and other software. In short, it allows you to run Linux software seamlessly on the Windows desktop without recompiling it or using a virtual machine.

For this overview, I choose the minimal/Xfce edition which comes in the form of a 200MB Windows .exe file. The kernel used is from the coLinux project. Apart from that, the bulk of the rest of the system consists of Ubuntu 9.04 coupled with the Xming X server and the PulseAudio audio system. File access is split into three parts: the root partition is stored in a .vdi file and files on the Windows partition can be accessed via either the coLinux filesystem or the Samba file sharing system. Make sure that filesharing is enabled on the Windows machine if you want to use it, by default, it isn't. The installation contains a quite a few options, but I found that I was able to accept all of the defaults.

Installation complete, I was keen to start experiment with this strange system.

During the setup, I had chosen to launch Linux applications by using the small icon in the control panel area of the Windows task bar. By default, this contains icons to launch only the file manager (Thunar), the PulseAudio sound mixer, a terminal, a text editor and the Synaptic package manager. These applications load up remarkable quickly, and their execution speed is excellent. It should be, as they are not running through any layer of emulation or virtualization; they are running natively on the Windows desktop thanks to the X server and the Linux kernel.

It's a weird feeling, using Synaptic on the Windows XP desktop. It ran very well.

It was a slightly surreal experience to watch package management front end Synaptic popping onto the Windows desktop. In operation it worked just like it would on any other Linux distribution. One problem that you’ll run into here is that, as this version of andLinux is based on Ubuntu 9.04, the old Canonical repository is no longer active. However, this problem can be overcome, to an extent, by altering /etc/apt/sources.list to point it to the old release repository [see this forum post]. A full update using the latest package versions in that repository worked as expected.

Firefox 3.6, built for Ubuntu 9.04 running on Windows XP. It's difficult to explain to non-geeks what's cool about that.

You can run almost any native Linux software seamlessly in this way. Even fairly big applications such as Firefox work perfectly. You can also build from source code using standard tools.

So, what are the limitations? The website warns that andLinux might not be the ideal platform for security sensitive applications due to the way in which it is implemented. The site also suggests that OpenGL games and applications may not work very well. As everything runs within a single Windows process, Linux applications can’t make any use of mutiple CPU cores. The other limitation of andLinux is that it is based on Ubuntu 9.04 and can only run software that can run on that, compounding the potential problems with security.

This raises the question of whether andLinux is a fascinating curio or something that can be used for real work. I’d say that, despite its limitations, andLinux is a handy tool. Part of its appeal is that it is so easy to use. Following the quick and simple installation procedure, you have access to Linux applications running on a Windows system, all without any further setting up of any packages and other configuration.

Given what I have seen of it in operation, I could wholeheartedly recommend it if it were updated. Perhaps some interest on the forum could help to kick-start the project back to life? I’m genuinely interested to find out why such an excellent piece of software isn’t more widely known and isn’t being enthusiastically updated, particularly as the kernel project (Cooperative Linux) is still under active development.

Feel free to chip in with suggestions for applications for andLinux.

The andLinux website.

The website of coLinux, the Microsoft Windows port of the Linux kernel.


UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.


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I used coLinux and AndLinux

Anonymous's picture

I used coLinux and AndLinux extensively for a long time until I switched to 64-bit Windows, on which it doesn't work.

When I found this article, I got all excited about the possibility that there might finally be a 64-bit version of the coLinux kernel but no...

Both the coLinux and AndLinux projects are getting pretty stale now. Too bad. Someone really should look into creating a 64-bit version because I'm not switching back to 32-bit Windows (and lose the use of 5 or 6GB of memory).


apexwm's picture

This is neat if it was needed. I guess the only case this could be useful is if somebody was forced to run a bloated OS like Windows, and they wanted access to more powerful applications that run in GNU/Linux. Personally I would opt for running GNU/Linux as a primary OS and use Wine or VirtualBox, and do the reverse of this article. But, good information nevertheless.

There are a lot of people who

Ritesh Raj Sarraf's picture

There are a lot of people who use coLinux at work.

Places where you have IT policies to use Windows only on your laptops, coLinux comes as a huge help

* Near to native speed.
* Well integrated
* Lots of options.

Since the kernel is ported to Windows and runs as a native process, you get excellent performance. There is no comparison in between coLinux's approach and the regular VirtualBox/VMWare approach.

Thanks to many of the add-on projects: Xming, PulseAudio. The integration is awesome. Running Amarok will feel like it is run natively. You will get a much better experience than running "KDE4 for Windows"

And all this comes with great flexibility. There are multiple networking modes: SLIRP, Bridge, NAT. Whatever you need.

I helped many here to be able to run git and [k]cscope under coLinux. Works like a charm.

even the project's goals are outdated

meanpt's picture

With this you can't control the amount of ram the thing will use. Try it on a netbook with one giga of ram and you'll see what I mean - everything freezes. With virtualbox you can do it in a more controlled way - this is where the goals are outdated.

Does anyone know how to change the IP address settings?

Randy Fry's picture

I can't even try it, because its set to and I run a different ip address. I stil haven't been able to figure out how to change it.

I haven't tried it yet, but

Anonymous's picture

I haven't tried it yet, but it *could* be an easy way to let students experiment with unix, the cli and shell scripting on their (Windows) home computer. Cygwin is far to complicated to setup and use for this group.


The only purpose?

darkduck's picture

Other than this purpose, what else this software could be used for? There are much more applications for Win than for Linux. There are not many Linux-only applications. Most of them have Linux and Win versions.

Dead as doornail, guys. BTW

Anonymous's picture

Dead as doornail, guys. BTW ... just run linux anyways.

Mindlessly Regurgitated 'News'

Joe 2's picture

On August 28th, the "Linuxmen" site posted an article on this dead software project. It is as dead now as it was then. It has been dead since 2009!

What about USB, printing, and

Anonymous's picture

What about USB, printing, and wifi networking support ?

The distributaion is not free software friendly

koosha's picture

One of the main purposes of the GNU/Linux OS, in fact, the most important one, is to have a free system that lets you get rid of proprietary softwares like MS Windows as much as possible. Such a distribution contradicts the philosophy of free software. It makes you dependent on a proprietary operating system. Though it might appear a subjective matter, the GNU/Linux freedom is more important than its performance. However, both the performance and the freedom are really excellent.

That is just dumb statement.

Anonymous's picture

That is just dumb statement. You can make that same dumb argument when running Linux in a VM. This is just another way to consume software in a manner of my choosing.

What happens when you get rid

Anonymous's picture

What happens when you get rid of the evil proprietary shackles? Do you get a medal?

I will have the freedom to

koosha's picture

I will have the freedom to use, share, modify my software and study its source code. I won't need to worry about its potential malicious features that are typical of proprietary softwares. These all benefits are much more valuable than a "medal"! Please refer to to get an idea of free software philosophy. Change your mind!

Complete Freedom

Gara3987's picture

I totally agree.

It reminds me of the recent episode of Futurama "Overclockwise" where Mom sues both Cubert and Professor Farnsworth for overclocking Bender (a violation of Bender's license agreement).

The quotes that made me laugh so hard was where both Cubert and Professor Farnsworth where in jail and stated:

Pro: "Oh god... I clicked without reading!"
Cubert: "and I slightly modified the thing that I own."
Pro: "We're monsters!"

Both start crying.

LOL... This really reminds me of Microsoft and many proprietary based companies. The software that you purchase from them is not yours, they are merely renting it out to you.

Is this still active?

Larry Cafiero's picture

I just went to the site and found under "News" that the last posting there is for May 2009. Is this project still active?

Another limitation

KeithW's picture

Only works on 32-bit Windows. :(

Kind of the opposite of what we really need.

Scott Garbus's picture

I don't get it. Many open-source apps already have windows versions. I don't see why this would be useful to anyone. What we really need is a more seamless way to Windows programs in Linux. If we could run Adobe products, and MS Office in Linux; then we could finally make desktop Linux truly mainstream.

Example Use

Gene Liverman's picture

I am thinking this might be a simple way to run things on my Windows box to monitor my *nix servers like root-tail and conky...

Gene Liverman is a Systems Administrator of *nix and VMware at a university.

I agree, can't see the use of it

Anonymous's picture

I agree, people who enjoy Linux software and are aware of it are already running in in Linux, or a VM running Linux under Windows. How does it help me to run Linux software under Windows? If it is some specialized scientific software I will probably prefer running it under Linux for security and performance reasons, if it simple desktop jobs Windows has its own solutions.

Can anyone who actually uses it give some real-world use cases?

Cygwin X

Mark Coolen's picture

I haven't tried andLinux although I messed around with coLinux awhile ago. If this works as advertised, it should be a nice improvement to running X using Cygwin, especially if all the Ubuntu software repos are available. Digikam and Amarok, for instance, would be great pieces of software that don't normally run in Windows.


Anonymouses's picture

Also, there's no Valgrind for Windows.

Nothing new here

jetole's picture

"In short, it allows you to run Linux software seamlessly on the Linux desktop "

I can already do that. In fact, I first started doing that in 1998.

Corrected. I'm sitting here

Michael Reed's picture

Corrected. I'm sitting here sucking air through my teeth and wincing x-o

UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.

Yeah, they might want to edit

Anonymous's picture

Yeah, they might want to edit that to "...allows you to run Linux software seamlessly on the Windows desktop".

Je je je, I have been doing

Alejandro's picture

Je je je, I have been doing that too, since 2003.

Seriously, why aren't these projects more known?