The default Ubuntu image for phones is read-only (RO), and updates are applied over-the-air (OTA) rather than upgrading individual packages. RO here essentially means you cannot write to the file system.

For testing purposes only, I need to install a package on the image, and obviously I cannot do it in RO mode.

How can I switch my Ubuntu installation to read-write (RW) mode to install that package?

1 Answer 1


You can use the experimental writable flag, as explained in the system images announcement.

Note that once you've changed a RO installation to RW there is no going back. The only way to go back to RO mode is to reflash your device with ubuntu-device-flash.

OTA updates are still delivered to your device, but each one is at your own risk –you may have made changes that mean the OTA has bad side effects. If your device becomes unbootable, use ubuntu-device-flash to recover.

All that said, here's how to switch your device's Ubuntu installation to RW mode:

  1. Ensure your device is connected to the host computer via USB, Developer Mode is enabled and the screen is unlocked.
  2. Start a terminal on your host computer with (Ctrl+Alt+t) and run the following command:

    phablet-config writable-image

After reboot your device will be in RW mode and you should be able to write to the file system to e.g. install packages for testing.

  • 1
    It's common to assume you should use apt-get update & apt-get upgrade on writable systems. this is also as likely to break as simply having OTA updates delivered. Apr 13, 2015 at 10:33
  • @David Planella - do we need to connect via USB and use phablet if we use writable flag mentioned in the first sentence?
    – jangorecki
    May 7, 2015 at 14:28
  • On 14.04 I get "error: device not found" and a traceback "returned non-zero exit status 255". Dec 2, 2015 at 22:03

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