Hackers have been tweaking the Amazon Kindle Fire ever since the $199 tablet started shipping in November. It’s turned out to be a surprisingly hacker-friendly device, and users have figured out how to root the tablet, install the Android Market, replace the operating system with CyanogenMod and make many other changes.
But the latest Amazon software update could put a stop to all of that — at least temporarily.
Amazon is pushing out version 6.2.1 of the Kindle Fire software, and it users are reporting that it removes root privileges on tablets that have been rooted. Unlike previous updates, you can’t simply re-root the device using the SuperOneClick utility.
Update: There’s now a method for rooting a Kindle Fire running OS 6.2.1 or earlier. It’s a bit more complicated than using SuperOneClick, but it lets you root the tablet so you can install the Android Market or make other changes. You can also replace the bootloader and recovery which lets you flash custom ROMs such as CyanogenMod.
The Amazon Kindle Fire is designed to receive software updates automatically when a tablet is connected to a WiFi network, so if you have a Kindle Fire that’s running Amazon’s software (rather than CyanogenMod or something else), odds are you’re going to get stuck with this update soon whether you like it or not.
The good news for those that have no interest in rooting their tablets is that version 6.2.1 of the tablet’s software improves performance and offers some additional features such as the ability to remove recently used items from the carousel on the home screen.
If you do want to replace Amazon’s software with an alternate version of Android there’s more good news. It’s easier than ever to replace the Amazon software with CyanogenMod and prevent future software updates. If you want to do that, and if you haven’t already installed the 6.2.1 software update, turn off your WiFi and take the following steps.
Before you get started though, you should realize that if you replace the stock Amazon software you could void your warranty, you may damage your device (or at least put it into a state that’s hard to recover from without some advanced know-how), and you’ll lose access to some Kindle Fire features such as support for Amazon Instant Video and the Amazon Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
1. Download and run the Kindle Fire Utility.
You’ll need to connect your Kindle Fire to a Windows PC with a USB cable to use the Kindle Fire Utility. You may also need to manually install the drivers included in the utility ZIP archive.
2. Choose the option for ZergRush to root the tablet.
3. Once that’s finished, choose the option to “Install latest TWRP Recovery.”
TWRP 2.0 makes it easy to backup and restore your device and install custom firmware. You can read more about it in our post on installing it manually, but Kindle Fire Utility makes the process much simpler.
When you install TWRP 2.0 it will also replace the Kindle Fire bootloader with a new one called FireFireFire which lets you enter recovery mode by pressing the power button during boot.
4. Download the latest build of CyanogenMod 7 (or the operating system of your choice. For the best version of CM7, check out the first post in Whistlestop’s thread on the xda-developers forum.
5. Copy the update.zip file to your Kindle Fire’s storage.
6. Turn off the Kindle Fire and then press the power button to start it up again.
7. When you see a yellow triangle with a fire in the middle, press the power button for about two seconds to enter TWRP 2.0.
7a. It’s a very good idea at this point to create a backup of your system.
7b. Tap the backup button.
7c. Select the items you want to backup. At the very least you should backup the system, data, and boot partitions.
7d. Tap the “Backup now button” and when the backup is complete tap the Main Menu button to return to the main menu. This way you can restore the stock Amazon software and all of your data and settings using the TWRP 2.0 restore function.
8. Tap the install button.
9. Use the file browser to locate the update.zip file you downloaded.
10. Select the appropriate zip file.
11. Tap the Flash button.
12. Go back to the TWRP Home screen and choose reboot.
That should be all you need to do to install CyanogenMod 7 or other firmware. This should prevent your device from automatically downloading the latest Amazon software.
Note that the steps above will not install the Android Market or other Google apps on your device. To do that, just download the latest gApps.zip from goo-inside.me, place it on the “sdcard” portion of your Kindle’s storage, and follow the steps above to install it the same way you installed the update.zip file.
If you’re already running OS 6.2.1, you may have to wait until hackers find another way to root the tablet though.