The Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet ships with a custom version of Google Android 2.3 Gingerbread. But it doesn’t include the Android Market and it has an unusual app launcher and home screen and only allows you to use 1GB of the available 12GB of disk space for files not downloaded from the B&N Shop.
Adventurous NOOK Tablet hackers have found ways to deal with most of those issues — but if you want to simply scrap the B&N software that comes with the $249 NOOK Tablet and install CyanogenMod 7 for a more traditional Android 2.3 experience, now you can.
A group of independent developers has been testing an early build of CyanogenMod for a few weeks. Now that some of the most dangerous bugs have been removed, developer CelticWebSolutions has made his build of CM7 available for download.
It’s still alpha software, which means there may be some bugs. But as of CyanogenMod 7 Alpha 12 for the NOOK Tablet, HD video works, YouTube HD video works, Netflix video playback is supported, and the odds of turning your tablet into a $249 brick are much smaller than they used to be.
Note that you’ll lose access to the B&N app store if you install CyanogenMod, but you can install the NOOK app from the Android Market if you want to read eBooks or periodicals from the NOOK store.
You’ll also probably void your warranty and forfeit any actual support from B&N if you do this, so proceed with caution.
Here’s how to install CyanogenMod 7 on the NOOK Tablet:
1. Install ClockworkMod Recovery
ClockworkMod Recovery is a utility that you can use to backup and restore all the data on your tablet or flash (install) custom software. There are a few different ways to install it, but I’m going to cover two methods here.
Method 1: Using a microSD card
The first is probably the simplest way if you haven’t already rooted your NOOK Tablet.
Xda-developers forum member Indirect has put together a Windows utility that lets you prepare a microSD card with ClockworkMod Recovery so that when you boot the NOOK Tablet with the SD card installed it will load ClockworkMod (CWM).
In order to use the utility you’ll need a microSD card with 2GB of space or more. The tool will wipe all data on the card, so make sure you backup any important files first.
Then download Indirect’s utility and follow the instructions from xda-developers.
Note that he also explains how to use this method to root your tablet and install the Android Market, but this isn’t strictly necessary if you’re planning to install CyanogenMod, which is pre-rooted.
Method 2: Using an Android app
Once you’ve run the app and flashed CWM, you should be able to reboot your tablet into ClockworkMod.
2. Download CyanogenMod 7 Alpha
OK, this is the easiest part of the tutorial. Just download the latest version of CM7 from the download link at the xda-developers forum and copy it to your NOOK Tablet.
You can either put it in your tablet’s built-in storage or on a microSD card. It doesn’t really matter.
3. Boot into ClockworkMod
If you’ve installed ClockworkMod using method 2, you an fire up the NOOK Tab recovery flasher app and choose the “Reboot Recovery” option.
If you used method 1, you’ll need to install ROM Manager or another app that gives you an option to reboot into recovery.
Either way, go ahead and do that now. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
When you reboot into recovery your device will shut down and then load a white screen with a box in the center for a moment — and then a black screen with some blue text. That’s CWM.
4. Backup your system
OK, technically this step is optional, but I highly recommend it. This will let you go back to the stock B&N software any time you want.
- On the CWM home screen, scroll down (by pressing the volume down key) until you’re at the “backup and restore” option.
- Select that option by pressing the Nook button.
- If you want to backup to your microSD card, choose the “backup” option. If you want to backup to internal storage, scroll down to the option that says “backup to internal sdcard.”
- Note that the NOOK Tablet sometimes fails to recognize your removeable SD card. If this happens, just pop it out, slide it back in, and then choose the backup option again.
- After a few minutes the backup will complete.
- If the system doesn’t dump you back at the home screen, press the power button to return to the previous menu.
Now any time you want to restore your system to the backup you just created, you can fire up ClockworkMod and navigate to the backup and restore menu and choose the restore option instead of backup.
5. Install CyanogenMod 7
Now that your data is safe, it’s time to install CyanogenMod 7. It may be a good idea at this point to use the wipe data/factory reset option (if you have a backup, this is relatively safe). But you can also do it after completing the following steps.
In fact, if you want to keep your settings intact, you may be able to get away without performing a factory reset at all, but that’s not really the recommended course.
- Use the volume keys to scroll down to “install zip from sd card” and select it by pressing the NOOK key.
- On the following screen, select “choose zip from sdcard” or “from internal sdcard” depending on where you stored the file.
- Navigate until you find CM-7NT-Alpha12_Public1.zip or the latest zip file and select it.
- From the following screen, scroll down until you reach the option that says “yes” and select it”
- Wait for the install process to complete and dump you back at the home screen.
- Choose the option that says “reboot system now” to boot into CyanogenMod 7.
6. Installing the Android Market and other Google apps
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that you want to be able to download apps from the Android Market, run Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube and other Google apps on the NOOK Tablet. In order to do that, you’ll need to download and install the latest gApps package for CyanogenMod.
To do that, just download the latest gApps package for CyanogenMod 7 from the CyanogenMod Wiki and copy the file to your SD card and then follow the above steps. But this time use gapps-gb-20110828-signed.zip or the latest version of gApps instead of CM-7NT-Alpha12_Public1.zip.
In fact, you can download gApps at the same time as CyanogenMod and install it immediately after flashing CyanogenMod and before you reboot your tablet if you like. Or you can run CyangenMod first and then later go back and install gApps.
Now that you’ve installed ClockworkMod you can backup your CM7 installation for safe keeping and restore to the official B&N software if you like — or install other custom ROMs.
Eventually you’ll be able to use this same method to install CyanogenMod 9 or other software based on Android 4.0 on the NOOK Tablet. But right now CyanogenMod 7 Alpha with Android 2.3 is the most functional custom ROM available for this tablet.