The Amazon Kindle Fire may not look like your average Android tablet thanks to its highly modified user interface. But under the hood it’s running a tweaked version of Google Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and it turns out to be a fairly easy tablet to root.
Rooting allows you to access system settings that might not otherwise be available and install third party apps that can access those settings. For instance, some apps use root access to take adjust your CPU speed, backup your apps, data, and settings, or explore the complete file system on your Android device.
You’ll also need to root your device if you plan to replace the default software with a custom ROM such as CyanogenMod.
There’s at least one good reason not to root the tablet is because Amazon Instant Video streaming will not work on a rooted device. Fortunately you can unroot the tablet with one click if you want to remove root privileges and regain Instant Video privileges. You can find the details below.
Fortunately you also don’t need to root the Amazon Kindle Fire if all you want to do is install apps that aren’t available from the Amazon Appstore. For that, all you have to do is open the Settings menu and select the option that lets you install apps from unknown sources.
That will let you download APK installer files from the internet or transfer them to your Kindle Fire and install them. Not all Android apps will work properly on the Kindle Fire, but many will.
If you do decide to root your tablet though, here’s what you’ll need to do.
Android Debug Bridge (ADB) is a utility that lets your Android tablet talk to a computer.
The first step is to install ADB on your computer. If you’ve already done this, or installed the complete Android Software Developer Kit you can skip down to the section where we explain how to add the Kindle Fire to your adb_usb.ini file.
- Download the latest Android SDK package from Google.
- If you want, you can install the full SDK — but you can also just download and unzip the zip archive file to a folder on your computer if you want to save time and space.
- Whether you’ve installed the SDK or just unzipped the files, navigate to the folder where your files are, for example c:\Program Files\android-sdk-windows.
- Double-click the SDK Manager executable file.
- A window will pop up asking you to select packages to install.
- Make sure Android SDK Platform-tools is checked. You can uncheck any of the others if you don’t plan to do Android app development.
Technically that’s it. You’ve just installed ADB on your computer. But if you want to save time when you use it, you’ll want to set a path variable. Here’s how to do that on Windows.
You might want to create a system restore point first in case anything goes wrong.
- Right click on “Computer” or “My Computer” from the Windows start menu, Windows Explorer, or your desktop.
- Select the option for Advanced System Settings.
- Choose the “Environmental Variables” option at the bottom.
- In the System Variables window scroll down until you see “Path.”
- Click the Edit button below the box.
- Add this to the end of the line of text in the edit box: ;c:\android-sdk-windows\tools;c:\android-sdk-windows\platform-tools.
Note that it’s very important not to delete anything in the existing Path string. You just want to add that last line to the end. If this sounds scary, that’s why I suggested you create a system restore point.
Enable ADB for the Kindle Fire
OK, so now you’ve got ADB on your computer. But your PC still won’t recognize the Kindle Fire unless we do one more thing.
You need to add the Kindle Fire ID to your ADB settings. Here’s how to do that on a Windows computer.
- Open the start menu.
- Type “cmd” into the run box to open a command prompt.
- Enter the following text (without quotes): “echo 0x1949 >> “%USERPROFILE%\.android\adb_usb.ini”
- Press enter.
You may also have to modify the android_winusb.inf file. Death2all110 at xda-developers recommends finding that file in your google-usb_driver folder and adding the following listing to the Google.NTx86 and google.NTamd64 sections using a text editor.
%SingleAdbInterface% = USB_Install, USB\VID_1949&PID_0006
%CompositeAdbInterface% = USB_Install, USB\VID_1949&PID_0006&MI_01
You may also need to locate your adb.usb.ini file and add a line to reads “0x1949” (without the quotes).
Update: The method listed below for using SuperOneClick requires Kindle Fire OS 6.2 or earlier. If your device is running version 6.3 you can use Kindle Fire Utility to root your tablet.
Kindle Fire Utility also simplifies the process of installing a custom bootloader and recovery and loading the Google Play Store and other apps.
Root a Kindle Fire running OS 6.2 or earlier with SuperOneClick
Xda-developers member death2all110 has discovered that one of the most popular tools for rooting Android devices works with the Kindle Fire. It’s called SuperOneClick and it provides something close to a one-click solution. That’s assuming you’ve already gone through the steps listed above to enable ADB on your computer and add support for your tablet.
Here’s how to use it to root the Kindle Fire.
- Make sure you’ve enabled “unknown sources” on the Kindle Fire tablet and connect the Fire to your PC with a USB cable.
- Download the latest version of SuperOneClick from xda-developers or ShortFuse.
- The app is designed to run on Windows, but you may also be able to get it to work with Linux or OS X by reading the instructions in the original forum thread.
- Unzip the SuperOneClick zip file to a directory on your computer.
- Navigate to that directory and double-click the SuperOneClick.exe file.
- The app should launch. Just click the Root button and it should do the rest.
Now you should be able to install apps that require root access and advanced users will have more access to the file system and settings of the Kindle Fire. It probably won’t be long until users start figuring out ways to modify the $200 tablet to better suit their needs.
You can unroot the Kindle Fire by running SuperOneClick again and choosing the Unroot option. You’ll have to reboot your device for the change to take effect.
Update: Nope, it wasn’t long. You can now install the Google Android Market and access thousands of additional third party apps on the Kindle Fire.
Amazon is likely selling the Kindle at or below cost in the hopes of earning revenue from eBook, music, movie, and app sales — and for the most part I think Amazon will make money from those things. I suspect most Kindle Fire users have no interest in rooting the device. But many will want to pick up the Kindle Fire for use as an inexpensive all-purpose tablet and use it in ways that Amazon may not have intended.
The Kindle Fire may not have some of the features found on other tablets such as a microphone, camera, GPS, Bluetooth, or SD card. But it’s a $200 tablet with a 1 GHz TI OMAP4 dual core processor, a 7 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel IPS display with good viewing angles, and the relatively versatile Android operating system. It can be much more than just a device for consuming media and playing games.