I want to delete my Linux kernel but still want to run Ubuntu with GNU utilities. I don't like Linux; I only want GNU. So can I run Ubuntu and GNU on something other than Linux kernel?

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    Every operating system has a kernel and it is how the OS interacts with the hardware. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kernel_(operating_system) Even GNU has a kernel en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Hurd
    – Terrance
    Jun 27, 2019 at 13:22
  • Computer users have little interaction with any kernel, most of of the interaction is done with GNU and what ever favour of discro you are using. Maybe you would be happier with another desktop or type of linux. The kernel basicily just lets the hardware work with all the pretty stuff you use.
    – crip659
    Jun 27, 2019 at 13:53
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    @Terrance GNU is a collection of software, but lacks a kernel. Hurd is a kernel that is developed by the GNU folks, but GNU itself doesn't have a kernel. @ themeguy, removing the kernel is pointless. The machine is useless without a kernel. Now, if you want to use the GNU toolset with a non-Linux kernel, that is entirely possible, but you will need to replace the Linux kernel with another one. However, this will essentially mean building your own operating system and so is not on topic here.
    – terdon
    Jun 27, 2019 at 15:29
  • @terdon I understand that GNU itself doesn't have a kernel since it is a collection. My point was that even a GNU OS does have a kernel. gnu.org
    – Terrance
    Jun 27, 2019 at 16:13
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    I'll put my two cents forward on this matter: question relates to Ubuntu OS after-all and it is on-topic. We accept a variety of questions related to modifying base OS, from scripting to creating distro based on Ubuntu, from installing other desktops to 3rd party applications. So question about modifying OS at kernel level should not in any way be off-topic. As for whether or not you can run Ubuntu with non-Linux kernel it's possible and such projects already exist as mentioned in my answer. Jul 16, 2019 at 5:04

5 Answers 5



You cannot remove the Linux kernel from Ubuntu, without irrevocably crashing your entire system but in the future you might be able to replace it.

The long answer:

This is due to the history of GNU/Linux:

Once upon a time, there was a guy called RMS that wanted to keep software to be free¹. He ended up publishing the source of his software (what we call "Open-Sourcing" today) and eventually this all became the GNU Core Utilities after a few other people helped him out.

However, these utilities missed just one little thing to be 100% free and that was a Kernel to run on as the GNU Utilities were running on UNIX System V and its clones and this is where we bring Linus Torvalds in: he developed a Monolithic Kernel² and published his source too with the understatement of the XXth century:

I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones.³

The kernel is the bit of software that talks to the hardware, so manages the Memory, Disks, Keyboard, Mouse, Screen, Display Adapter, Speakers, Webcam, ... so you cannot run any OS without some kind of kernel.

Fast forward a quarter of a century and the GNU Utilities still run on that same kernel (in the meantime named "Linux")

Ubuntu = Linux Kernel + GNU Core Utilities + a ton of other software.⁴

So: No, today you cannot delete the kernel, but in a few years when the GNU HURD from the Free Software Foundation's⁵ multiserver microkernel comes out of development⁶ you will be able to replace the Linux Kernel with the Hurd one but you can never run any OS without some kind of kernel.


You can run the GNU Core Utilities on another OS entirely:

  • BSD or one of its variants: MacOS
  • Windows (32-bit only)

But these also have kernels, though none of the above use Linux kernels.

Note 1: "Free" as in Freedom, not Free beer ;-).
Note 2: GNU Hurd took the decision to go for a multiserver microkernel because they wanted the kernel to be distributed amongst multiple machines because RAM was so expensive at the time.
Note 3: OK, maybe Houston, we have a problem is the biggest understatement of the century...
Note 4: I.E. All the software you install yourself. :-).
Note 5: the FSF is the copyright holder of the GNU Core Utilities.
Note 6: The GNU Hurd multiserver microkernel has been in development for 20+ years, so don't expect anything in the next couple of years (maybe decades)
Note 7: Please be aware that changing Ubuntu's Linux Kernel would make the concoction you just created off-topic on this site! (As it would not be Ubuntu any more)

  • 1
    @Melebius Unfurtunately, [that's dead
    – Fabby
    Jul 3, 2019 at 8:24
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    When a product has been in development for 29 years with no final releases, it may be best to be cautious when making statements about it "coming out of development" "in a few years". There is no strong evidence that this will happen. And there are alternatives that can be used today and work (Linux and the *BSDs) Jul 8, 2019 at 0:54
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    I wasn't sure whether doing it as an edit was a good idea, but it seemed the simplest. Incidentally, there's still one footnote with placeholder text.
    – TRiG
    Jul 9, 2019 at 14:22
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    "You cannot remove the Linux kernel from Ubuntu, without irrevocably crashing your entire system" That's an overstatement. sudo apt remove 'linux-image*' is quite easy to recover from (boot a live CD, mount your system partitions, chroot and reinstall the kernel packages).
    – fkraiem
    Jul 10, 2019 at 13:28
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    Many other inaccuracies as well. For example your note 4 implies that a default installation of Ubuntu (or some other, unspecified distribution) contains only Linux + GNU software, and other software you must "install yourself". This is wrong; a default installation already contains much non-GNU software besided the kernel.
    – fkraiem
    Jul 10, 2019 at 13:34

You have to have an Operating System. Because this site is called Ask Ubuntu your question must be reinterpreted to fit into the rules:

  • What operating systems (kernels) other than Linux Kernel will Ubuntu run on?

One answer would be Windows 10 with the WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) option turned on. You can also run most, if not all, the GNU utilities there. Extra steps are needed though to run the Ubuntu GUI desktop in Windows 10:


Yes, such project already exists

UbuntuBSD brings together FreeBSD kernel and Ubuntu userspace. This project has been covered in several Linux online journals, including itsfoss. While the project has been discontinued, you can still use the last available version.

Please note that this distro would be off-topic here, as discussed multiple times on Meta site, since this is NOT an official Ubuntu flavor



Theoretically, yes; practically, it'd be really hard.

The long version:

You could, in theory, run Ubuntu on a non-Linux kernel, but due to the fact that not all kernels use the same executable format, you would need to download gigabytes of source code and compile every single bit of it, and rearrange files to satisfy the new kernel.

Otherwise, a non-binary compatible kernel would try to run systemd/init and find an unintelligible sequence of bytes, and crash with the cryptic message:

cannot execute binary file: Exec format error
  • 1
    An edit and an upvote! ;-) (as it's a good answer now.) 0:-) Could you please review my edits and also review the editing help to improve the readability of your answers in the future... ;-)
    – Fabby
    Jul 12, 2019 at 9:11
  • Practically, really hard, but there were people already that made it easier. See my answer Jul 16, 2019 at 5:05

@fabby has the right idea. But doesn’t really answer the question

wsl 1 is your best bet. With Windows 10+ pro, make sure wsl defaults to v1

Then install Ubuntu for Windows using the Windows Store or a direct download (beware of malware versions)

Then setup the xsvrc (on iphone, so I can’t look this up) or wgsl on windows. This will allow remote desktop xorg.

Install the desktop or xutils for xeyes. Have xorg config use :0. And the UI will pop up on windows. Even a full desktop of you launch it.

Avoid cygwin at all cost. It has been deprecated forever

MSYS/mingw allows windows to use gnu commands under windows. Easiest way is to install git. And select to add Unix Command Line tools to PATH

But that is a far cry from the full-blown Ubuntu for Windows (or one of the many other distro’s) on wsl 1

wsl 1 is still in active development. WSL 2 has its place too. It uses a VM. But they are both independent. Both useful

wsl 1 works great on remote vm that doesn’t allow virtualization. Or if your company locks your bios and doesn’t have virtualization enabled

wsl1 is supported - https://discourse.ubuntu.com/t/ubuntu-20-04-and-wsl-1/15291?_ga=2.162530940.1522240380.1695010667-800046954.1695010667

wsl1 vs wsl2 information (wsl1 uses less resources than wsl2) https://wiki.ubuntu.com/WSL?_ga=2.161401213.1522240380.1695010667-800046954.1695010667

  • Home this helps Dianne S. Sep 18 at 4:01
  • You can get system-v and unix pipes working under windows 10. But it takes some effort. As wsl-1 improves, I hope they get more support here. Filesystem use to be slower. They have recently made some improvements Sep 18 at 4:04
  • wsl2, you can setup how many cpu’s and ram to reserve for it. This is unnecessary/not available in wsl 1, since it runs under a subsystem/ring within the nt kernel Sep 18 at 4:06
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    "cygwin ... has been deprecated forever" Huh? Git Bash is based on (a fork of) Cygwin. Sep 18 at 4:20
  • @holyblackcat MSYS/MinGW was originally compiled from cygwin. But has since become stand-alone. This is what gitbash uses a fork of. yes. Your link deprecated cygwin. cygwin registry hack and license unclarity makes it worth avoiding Sep 18 at 4:23

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