In recent times we have often talked about the progressive approach of two different worlds such as Windows and Android – a little while ago we saw Google Play Games Beta for Windows, without forgetting that with Windows 11 support for Android apps was announced – but today we reopen a speech never gone out of fashion: using Windows on an Android device thanks to modding.
Windows is mainly known as an operating system for classic x86 PCs, even if, to tell the truth, it can be found in many types of devices even with not exactly traditional form factors. All this without forgetting the Windows on ARM segment (have you seen our particular test on the MacBook Air / Pro M1 ?), Which is also growing thanks to the 64-bit emulation capability of Windows 11.
Looking at the world of smartphones, however, the Redmond house has long since renounced the creation of a mobile operating system capable of competing with iOS and Android, embracing the robot for its – beautiful but far from well functioning – Microsoft Surface Duo and Microsoft Surface Duo 2.
Modding takes care of it
Although even in that of Microsoft they have now resigned themselves to not officially having Windows even in the mobile field, modders have never given up and for years have been carrying out ambitious projects to succeed in making Windows work onboard Android smartphones.
Since, of course, Windows was never officially designed to be run on these types of devices, just to get the basic result of starting it on smartphones, the developers on duty must proceed with a hacking job that touches the low-level firmware. Then follows the need to make several changes to the core installer and also write specific drivers for the reference device.
In short, already from these premises, it is evident that no one, without a solid background, can venture into such challenges; but when you collaborate, you can get interesting results like those of the Renegade Project.
There are many reasons why there are no easy ways to install Windows on an Android smartphone. It is one thing to keep the device updated using a custom ROM, it is quite another to replace the Board Support Package (BSP) with a standardized software interface between OS and platform firmware.
While modern bootloader implementations on smartphone chipsets support the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), the boot sequence on these platforms is often customized by OEMs. As a result of this, it is not possible out-of-the-box to boot any UEFI-compatible ARM64 operating system. This is where the aforementioned Renegade Project comes into play.
Renegade Project: Starting Windows on Android
The first step is to create a firmware interface from scratch: the developers of the Renegade Project recommend compiling a Tianocore EDK II image starting from the bootloader of the desired smartphone. For some devices, precompiled binaries can be found in the Releases section of the corresponding GitHub report.
Once this is done, you need to download the ARM64 build of Windows 10 or Windows 11 from UUP Dump and manually prepare the installer. Since a wipe of the entire internal memory could result in a hard-brick, the partitioning job only modifies the/user data partition. Once you have applied the WIM package from the Windows Preinstallation Environment and provided the drivers, Windows should start on your smartphone. The procedure is visible in the following video.
The Renegade Project developers hope to see the list of supported models grow, however, this will depend on any new collaborators who make the commitment to create and/or maintain the related ports.
The official list of models that are currently supported and therefore may be able to start the ARM64 variant of Windows 10/11 includes:
ASUS ZenFone 5Z
Google Pixel 3
LG G7 ThinQ
Meizu 16 Plus
Moto Z2 Force
Nokia 9 PureView
OnePlus 7 Pro
OPPO Find X
Snapdragon 720G QRD
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
Smartisan Nut R1
Sony Xperia XZ2
Mi 8 Pro
Mi Mix 2
Mi Mix 2S
Mi Mix 3
Mi Mix 3 5G
Mi Pad 4
Mi Pad 5
Redmi K20 Pro/Mi 9T Pro
Vivo NEX Dual Display
ZTE Axon 9 Pro
ZTE Nubia X
For more information, you can visit the Renegade Project official site and the source code on GitHub.