Portal:Accessing Linux

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Accessing Linux on the Pre or the Pre Emulator

The Palm Pre is a Linux based device. Palm provides a simple method to access Linux running on the Pre or the Pre Emulator. A terminal program called novaterm is bundled with the freely available SDK, enabling command line access to your device (see below for instructions).

Once you have command line access to Linux, everything else is a process of installing a community standard library of Linux programs so that users have the same tools and options available to them. (For example, you can install openssh or dropbear enabling shell access to your device.) Once this is process is completed, pretty much anything you can do on a Linux box you can also do on the Pre or the Pre Emulator.

Notice, that the described procedure below is not compulsorily necessary for you to just install further linux software packages to your device. The Preware application manager (an app you install to your device) is capable of installing these as well.

The following procedures will walk you through the process of obtaining initial command line access to Linux via novaterm on the Pre or the Pre Emulator, and installing the community standard software packages. The same instructions apply to the Pixi as well.

Before you start

Please make a note of this page: How To Recover

If you are unfamiliar with basic Linux command usage, you should visit this page: Basic Linux Use


Enacting any set of instructions from this site has the (remote, but greater than zero) potential to void your warranty. Our intention and the specific design of all instructions is such that you should be able to recover using the webOS Doctor should anything go wrong, and put your Pre back to a state which is indistinguishable from a factory-new Pre, but we give no guarantee. Use any information from this site at your own risk. At the very least, you should be prepared to lose all data on your phone at any time. We cannot tell you what you should do - we provide the information, but it's up to your own sense of personal responsibility to determine what you do with that information. We require you to use the webOS Doctor to put your Pre back to factory condition before contacting Palm or your cellular carrier for service or support.

You might also want to consider backing up any files you have in the usb drive portion of the Pre.


In general, simply installing the Palm SDK gives you everything you need for full access to the Linux operating system on the Pre or Pixi. There is no special "rooting" or "jailbreaking" process. Simply installing the SDK provides you with unlimited access to the Linux operating system logged in as the root user. Palm does not see this as a bad thing. Palm provides all these tools for download by anyone, anytime, for free.

  1. Download the Palm SDK.
  2. Install it using the installation instructions for Mac, Linux, or Windows. These links to the Palm site point to a page with broken download links, some older still working links are available on the Web Archives version of this page Web Archive Page
  3. Enable dev mode on your Pre:
    1. In Card view or in the Launcher application, type the following: webos20090606
    2. Tap the resulting Developer Mode Enabler icon.
    3. In the application, move the Developer Mode slider to the On position.
    4. Tap Reset the Device .
      • When reset is complete, Developer mode is enabled.
  4. Plug the device into the computer via the USB cable, and select "Charge only."
  5. The next step varies:
    • On Mac or Linux, type novaterm in a command (terminal) window to directly access the Linux command line.
    • On Windows you will need to download and install a novaterm program.
      • On 32 bit Windows download novaterm1.zip and unzip it into the \program files\palm\sdk\bin directory.
      • On 64 bit Windows download novaterm64.zip and unzip it into the \program files\palm\sdk\bin directory.
      • Then, just like the Mac and Linux users you can just type novaterm.

At this point you will have a window with a prompt that says root@webos-device: or something similar.

You are now logged in as root on your webOS device and can do anything you would normally do on a Linux device.

Please be careful, you can seriously bork your phone now.

IMPORTANT NOTE: With the addition of the ability to install Optware packages to Preware, unless you have a need or desire to type commands into the native Linux shell of your Palm device, there is no need to use the novaterm terminal to log into your devices. Webos Quick Install (a java program for your desktop) and Preware (an app to run on your device) are fully capable of installing any Optware IPK (including *.patch and *.diff) to Palm devices. Linux command line access is needed by very few people. If you came here from a web page that talked about "root access" or "rooting your Pre" be aware that most of the instructions which require root access have been superseded.

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