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Kernels can really change the way a smartphone performs, so today I want to show you how to install a custom kernel on the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T.

It can be difficult to explain to someone all of the things a kernel does for a smartphone (and basically a computer). I generally like to use a metaphor to relate a custom ROM to an automobile, and then relate a custom kernel to the driver. The custom ROM (the car) has all of the features, but it’s the custom kernel (the driver) that chooses how fast/slow it goes and how the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T performs.

The main draw of a custom kernel (for some) can be the ability to increase the performance of a smartphone, or to increase the battery life.

Now, using a custom kernel isn’t going to add hours of screen on time to your smartphone, but it can help in some cases. Battery life is really a sensitive subject when it comes to smartphones because everyone uses their device differently. What adds battery life to someone’s smartphone, might not add any extra battery life to someone else’s.

This is just because we all use our phones differently. And just like in the video below, I want you to be careful when you start tinkering with the settings of a custom kernel. You technically can’t brick or break your device, but it can become unstable (especially if you start to tweak the voltages).


To install a custom kernel, you will need to unlock the bootloader of the OnePlus 3. You will also need to install TWRP on the OnePlus 3, or any other custom recovery. You technically don’t need to root the OnePlus 3, unless you want to customize the settings with a kernel tweaking app. As always, I recommend that you create a Nandroid backup of the OnePlus 3 before installing any kernel.

Note – Be sure the custom kernel you install is compatible with the firmware/custom ROM you’re using. I installed ElementalX in my video down below and I made sure to get the OxygenOS version since I am on the stock firmware. If you’re running CM13, or any custom ROMs based on it, then make sure the custom kernel you install is compatible with it.

OnePlus 3 Install Custom Kernel

  1. Download the Custom Kernel of Choice to the OnePlus 3
  2. Boot the OnePlus 3 into Recovery Mode
  3. Tap on the ‘Install’ button
  4. Browse to and tap on the custom kernel ZIP file you downloaded
  5. Swipe the white arrows to the right to confirm the installation
  6. Go through the AROMA installer if applicable
  7. Then tap on the ‘Reboot System’ button once the installation is complete
  8. And download a kernel tuning application if you want to tweak it afterwards (I recommend Kernel Adiutor)


I always recommend that you download your kernels and ROMs from XDA (unless the developer hosts their own stuff like CM does) and then store that file onto your OnePlus 3. You’ll then want to boot the OnePlus 3 into TWRP and tap on the Install button. From here, locate and tap on the custom kernel ZIP file that you downloaded. Then simply swipe the white arrows to the right to install the custom kernel on the OnePlus 3 and you’re done.

Now, if your custom kernel download came in an IMG file format, then you’ll want to tap on the Install Image button as shown in the video above. Different kernel developers choose to distribute their kernels in different ways. The most common is ZIP though, and that’s why I showed you this method in the YouTube video. If your custom kernel has an AROMA installer, then you’ll have to go through this before you can tap on the Reboot System button to go back into Android.

OnerPlus 3 Install Custom Kernel Options
Some basic settings to tweak with a custom kernel tuning application.

As mentioned, I enjoy Kernel Adiutor as my kernel tweaking application of choice, but you don’t even have to use one. Custom kernel developers create their kernels in a certain way. Some pre-select variables to make it better for battery life, performance, etc. While some disregard this and keep things stock so that you can customize things with your own application. You’ll just want to hang out in their XDA thread and get a feel for how the developer does things.

If you do choose to use a custom kernel tweaking application like I showed you in the video, be sure to tread carefully. Setting a feature the wrong way can make your device unstable and that’s never a good thing. Nothing a kernel can do should break your device, but if it becomes unstable then it can be hard to revert (especially if you have the on boot option checked). Before making major changes, be sure to have a recent backup that you don’t mind restoring.

Customizing the kernel settings can be really fun at times. Just make sure you have a recent backup to restore from in case something goes wrong.

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