The latest software update for the Amazon Kindle Fire is designed to improve performance and make the tablet easier to customize. For most users, it’s a big improvement over the software that originally came with the tablet.
But if you’ve rooted your Kindle Fire, the last thing you want is to install the over-the-air updates. That’s because they breaks root, replaces any custom bootloaders or recovery apps you may have, and can kill access to the Google Android Market or other apps you’ve installed.
Some software updates also prevent the tools commonly used to root earlier versions of the tablet software from working.
Update 5/04/2012: If you’re running Kindle Fire Software Version 6.3.1 or earlier, you can follow our new guide for rooting a Kindle Fire using Kindle Fire Utility.
Unfortunately it’s hard to prevent your Kindle Fire from installing the update. The tablet is designed to grab software updates automatically when you’re connected to WiFi and install them without asking for your permission.
The simplest way to keep your tablet on software version 6.2 is simply to turn off WiFi. But that’s not really much of a solution if you plan to use the device to surf the web, stream music or movies, or download apps or music from Amazon’s digital storefronts.
But it turns out there are a few things you can do to prevent the software update from occurring, install a custom version of Android 6.2.1 that’s already been rooted, or even root the tablet again after it’s already running 6.2.1.
Blocking automatic software updates
Users have been spending days searching for tricks that would prevent the Kindle Fire from downloading and installing software updates. Most of the proposed methods don’t work.
But the folks at Gizmodo have found one that does appear to work.
You’ll need to install a free app called DroidWall. It lets you restrict which apps on your Android device can connect to the internet.
You can download DroidWall from the Android Market or from Google Code. If you don’t have the Android Market installed on your tablet or want to turn on WiFi on your tablet yet, you should probably grab the version from the Google Code page.
In order to sideload the DroidWall APK, you can connect the Kindle Fire to a PC with a USB cable, copy the file to your device storage, and then tap to install using a file browser such as ES File Explorer.
Once DroidWall is installed, open the app on your Kindle Fire and check only the apps that you want to allow to connect to the internet.
As long as you’re in “White list” mode, any app that’s not checked won’t be able to connect to WiFi and that means your device shouldn’t be able to download any updates.
Make sure to enable the firewall when you’re done (and make sure to disable it before uninstalling DroidWall if you want to remove the app).
You can also use a “Black list” mode which will only block selected apps — but since it’s still not entirely clear which apps are responsible for downloading the software update, that method might not be fullproof yet.
Installing a pre-rooted version of Kindle Fire software 6.2.1
OK, so you’ve managed to prevent your Kindle Fire from updating automatically and killing your root access. But you really want the smoother scrolling and ability to remove items from the recently used carousel on the home screen.
Fortunately there’s already a pre-rooted Kindle Fire 6.2.1 software update available.
Installing the pre-rooted version of Kindle 6.2.1 is a bit of a pain. You need to have a Kindle Fire that’s already rooted with the FireFireFire bootloader installed and the TWRP 2.0 custom recovery.
But when you’re done you’ll all the benefits of Amazon’s latest software, plus the ability to keep the Android Market installed.
Replace the Kindle Fire operating system with CyanogenMod
If you’re more interested in having a $199 Android tablet than an Amazon tablet per se, you can simply replace the Amazon software with CyanogenMod 7 and never worry about Amazon pushing out software updates ever again.
CyanogenMod 7 is a custom version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread based on the Android Open Source Project. The most recent version of CM7 for the Kindle Fire includes working support for audio and video.
The tablet feels fast and responsive when running CM7, supports the Android Market, and does almost everything you’d expect any other Android tablet to do — assuming you don’t expect it to take pictures or record audio. The Kindle Fire doesn’t have a mic or camera.
You can follow our step-by-step guide for installing CyanogenMod 7 on the Kindle Fire.
Note that if you install CyanogenMod you’ll lose some of the features you get with Amazon’s software. You won’t be able to stream video from the Amazon Instant Video service, and the Kindle eBook app won’t support personal documents or the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
The good news is that you can always restore your tablet to factory conditions. It’s much easier to go from CM7 to the Kindle Fire OS than vice versa.
Developers are also working to port CyanogenMod 9 to the Kindle Fire, which will bring Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich to the 7 inch tablet.
How to root a Kindle Fire running software version 6.2.1
Update 12/23/2011: There’s now a method for rooting a Kindle Fire with OS 6.2.1 that doesn’t require dissecting the tablet or using a special cable. It’s still a little risky since you can get stuck in fastboot mode if you’re not careful. But that’s usually a temporary problem at worst.
You can find steps for rooting a Kindle Fire running 6.2.1 in our step-by-step tutorial, but I’ll leave the more complicated/dangerous method below because it will probably continue working even after Amazon’s next major software update… and the one after that.
Every tweak mentioned above relies on one thing: A Kindle Fire that’s still running version 6.2 of the Amazon software. If your device is running Android 6.2.1 it’s much more difficult to proceed because the one-click utilities that people have been using to root the Kindle Fire since day one simply don’t work.
But there is a way to root the Kindle Fire even after it’s running 6.2.1. It’s just a lot more dangerous and it can kill your tablet. Really. Don’t do this unless you really know what you’re doing or don’t mind turning your Kindle Fire into a $199 doorstop if anything goes wrong.
Basically what you need to do is convince the Kindle Fire to boot over a USB connection instead of booting from internal storage. If you have a special developer cable, doing this is relatively safe. But you don’t necessarily need that cable. You just need nerves of steel.
Xda-developer member pokey9000 had posted instructions.
Here’s the short version. You have to:
- Download the bootloader and recovery apps to a Linux computer
- Disassemble the Kindle Fire (which will probably damage the case)
- Plug a USB to microUSB cable into your computer
- Run a command on your Linux PC
- Tap a metal point with a paperclip or tweezers to cause a short
- Plug the cable into our tablet
If this works you’ll end up replacing the bootloader and recovery with FireFireFire and TWRP 2.0 which will make it easier to root the device, replace the operating system, or make other changes.
If it doesn’t, you may find out what a melted Amazon tablet looks like.
There are relatively safer methods. You can try building your own developer cable. At least one professional electronics repair technician has offered to make and sell cables, so you might be able to buy one soon as well.
Or you could just wait until someone finds another way to root the Kindle Fire that doesn’t require shorting a circuit or using special hardware. That day may or may not ever come (although given the active community of Kindle Fire hackers, I’m guessing that someone will come up with a new method eventually).