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Kindle Fire ROOTED!

[warning]Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you use any of my 1st gen Kindle Fire guides in an attempt to root the NEW Kindle Fire HD. It is an entirely different device and tools designed for the first generation KF will NOT work with the HD.

Read my review of the KF HD device here.[/warning]

This article was updated on 02/25/2013. 

UPDATE: I have lined out the outdated stuff and moved it to the bottom of this article. Run the Kindle Fire Utility and select option 5. After it is successfully rooted, then visit the links above to install JB.

Why bother rooting a functioning Kindle?

[notice]The stock (original) Kindle Fire has some SEVERE limitations in the User Interface.  Rooting the device can overcome most of those shortcomings. (Note: There are also some physical limitations with the device and rooting will not change that.)[/notice]

  • The most prominent limitation is the inability to sync with your Google accounts. On all of my other Android devices, I can see and download my free and paid apps on the Android Market, easily view & respond to my GMail, view all of my photos on PicasaWeb, connect to my Google Calendar, listen to all my stored ‘tunes on Google Music – and much more! But, on the stock device, Amazon somehow converts my normal Google address from MyName@gmail.com to MyName@kindle.com and refuses to allow me to connect to my Google accounts.
  • I can use the browser to sign in to each of my Google accounts but that adds difficulty and confusion – and there is no way to link to my Android Market account. Until recently, Amazon redirected browser calls to the Android Market and sent them instead to the Amazon Apps Store. They have now stopped doing that (with the 6.2.1 update) but, even though you can log in to the Android Market (via browser), and you may be able to tell the Market to send apps to your Fire, with no active Market account on the Fire, those apps will never be downloaded. If you can find some selected application files (.apk), you can sideload apps (note1) to the unrooted Fire but most PAID apps will refuse to run without a connection to the Android Market.
  • Although the Kindle Fire is VERY responsive (stock or rooted), I find the stock user interface (UI) to be AWFUL! The Bookcase layout is ugly and not very intuitive. The wallpapers rotate between the 21 different wallpapers in the preselected set. Personally, I find that distracting. It is also impossible (or nearly so) to change. Widgets are not allowed on your stock desktop. (Note: widgets DO something – even before you call up the app – examples are time & weather display widgets, or constantly updating Facebook or Twitter widgets).
  • The Kindle Fire does not include a recovery function. Other Android devices come with some type of recovery function to allow you to flash updates. After rooting most devices, the ClockWorkMod (CWM) Recovery image is installed to the device (replacing the stock recovery image) and CWM is then used for flashing ROMS, updates, etc and for doing NanDroid backup (there is no similar backup on the stock device) and restore, plus other maintenance functions. The lack of hardware buttons on the Fire make the use of CWM difficult. Some developers have managed to get CWM to perform some functions but even that is “iffy” at best.
  • Finally, many of the applications that I like and use are either not available on the Amazon Market, or they are not “compatible with my device.” Example: Where is the YouTube app? Although I can sideload applications (note1), that process is less than intuitive and does not work with PAID apps.

How To ROOT the Kindle Fire (1st Gen – NOT the Kindle Fire HD!)

  1. Download the Kindle Fire Utility to your WINDOWS computer. (Version 0.9.6 direct link)
  2. On your Windows computer, un-zip the KF Utility on the root of your C-Drive. It will create a folder with the files inside. To simplify changing folders in the command window (if needed), I suggest renaming the folder to a shorter name (eg, “kfu” or similar). This may not be necessary since you SHOULD be able to do everything from the Windows desktop.
  3. Run the INSTALL_DRIVERS.BAT batch file (inside the KFU folder)
  4. Connect your Fire to the computer via the mini-USB cable.
  5. On the Windows computer, use File Explorer to open the KFU folder and execute the RUN.BAT file.
  6. At this point, your screen should look similar to the following:
KFU Main Menu

Kindle Fire Utility Main Menu

Using the Kindle Fire Utility:

[notice]There are not a lot of instructions about this utility. The developer’s thread on XDA is here. I suspect that reading all of the comments in the forum would explain it better but I did not take the time to read all of them. The following is my understanding of what each option does. I will continue my research and correct  my mistakes when I find them (or when they are reported to me – your comments are encouraged).[/notice]

[important]Press “0”. Recheck Device Status – On all menus, you can press the “0” (zero) key to recheck whether the menu’s ADB commands control your Fire. If the utility does not show that your device is ONLINE (at the bottom of the menu), then nothing will work. So, if the menu says “Offline” then you must fix it before you proceed. (First) Check to assure that your USB cable is connected to your computer and to your Kindle Fire. (Second) Windows requires that the proper drivers be installed and working for ADB to function.  You  will need to MANUALLY install the Windows Drivers. You do this by exiting the utiliity’s Main menu and (with the KF still connected via USB) double-click on the other batch file: INSTALL_DRIVERS.BAT. Then follow the normal Windows dialogs to install the drivers. When the drivers are installed, exit the install drivers batch file and run the RUN.BAT file again. Press “0” again and if the utility now says “Online” then you are ok to continue. Otherwise, you must fix the problem with the drivers.[/important]

Process:

The developer says (assuming that the ADB Status is “online”) you can START with option 5 which will do all the preparatory stuff. Our user “Jason” says, “I would suggest as a first time rooter, that proceed with option 5 as described but then also perform 2 thru 6. Then reboot.”

1. Bootmode Menu – This selection will switch to another menu that will allow you to send some special ADB commands to your Fire. These options will  force the device to one of three states: Normal boot; Fastboot; or Recovery. This may be required if your Fire stops normal functioning. If the utility reports “Offline” but has Boot Status of “4002” (rather than 4000), then use Option 1 to reset the Boot Mode to 4000. Even if it SAYS “offline” it will still respond to the Boot Status change. Then the KF will reboot and you should be able to continue.

2. Install Permanent Root with Superuser – This option will install the SuperUser (SU) app on your Fire and allow root privileges. (First time use of this utility, use option 5, see above.)

3. Install Latest TWRP Recovery – After your Fire has been rooted, use this option to install both the FireFireFire & TWRP images which allow you to do the recovery functions of flashing updates/ROMs, doing backup functions, or other maintenance duties.

4. Install Latest Clockwork Recovery - The ClockWorkMod (CWM) Recovery is similar to TWRP & performs the same functions. You have a choice.

5. Install Latest FireFireFire – This is a bootloader program that will load either a recovery or the installed operating system (default).

(Note: As soon as your KF is rooted, I recommend that you visit our NEW guide and install a Jelly Bean ROM – Jelly Bean for the Kindle Fire.)

6. Extras - This will switch to the alternate menu for some additional actions. When activated, your screen should look something like this:

KFU Extras MenuThe Options on this sub-menu provide some very useful actions:

1. Install Google Apps – This will include most of the common Google applications (GMail, Market, etc) and the Go Launcher that can be (optionally) used to replace the stock User Interface (UI).

3. Lock Wallpaper – See Note3 for how to use this (and the Unlock) option. (Personally, I recommend the use of “Rotating Wallpapers” app from the Android Market, Note2)

4. Unlock Wallpaper

5. Mount Read/Write – Most system files on Android devices are set to “read only:” (see the next option) during normal (non-SuperUser) functions. However, it is sometimes desirable to modify some of these system files to force the Fire to do something that we want it to do. Before you can save changes to a system file, you need to execute this command to change the status of the file to Read/Write (R/W) so that the file can be re-written.

6. Mount Read Only – (The opposite of option 5) This will restore the system files to Read Only (R/O) status for normal operation.

7. Obtain Latest Stock update.zip - This will download a copy of the current version of Amazon’s Kindle Fire operating system that can be installed on the KF to restore it to stock configuration.

TIPS for installing the KFU:

  • The utility does NOT install GMail and other common Google apps that can be downloaded from the Android Play Store. You will need to get them there.
  • If the utility reports “Offline” but has Boot Status of “4002” (rather than 4000), then use Option 1 to reset the Boot Mode to 4000.
  • If ADB does not recognize the Kindle Fire (driver problem), uninstall the ADB Composite device if Windows reaches that point, and check the box to remove drivers. Then hit scan for hardware, and it will come back as “kindle” then just install the drivers. It can happen sometimes, its just a weird issue with windows.
  • If ADB still does not recognize the Kindle Fire, try manually adding the line 0x1949 & (on a separate line) 0x18D1 to adb_usb.ini file in the ~/.android folder.
  • If you end up stuck at the yellow triangle, in KF Utility select Boot Normal, wait for it to say <waiting for device> and then press and hold the power button 20 seconds until the fire turns off, then when its off turn it back on.
  • If you end up stuck with a yellow triangle, do not EVER unplug the Kindle Fire. Leave it plugged in. Check the windows drivers to make sure it isnt showing as “Kindle” again.

How to Install a CUSTOM ROM (Including Jelly Bean) On the KF:

If you want to add a custom ROM, then here is a short course on how to do it (after you root the device per the guide above). For more (including videos), see our post here: http://raywaldo.com/2012/07/jelly-bean-for-the-kindle-fire/

You can use the Goo Manager app (available on the Play Store). With that app, you can install TWRP, download the ROM & Gapps zip files, back up the existing system, wipe / restore to factory, & flash the downloaded zips. (To install TWRP with Goo, just select the “Flash ROM” option and it will step you through the process.) Once you have TWRP v. 2.1.4 or greater (recovery), then you should not have any problem flashing a custom ROM with the Goo Manager.

Alternately, just Download the ROM & GApps for JB. Then, boot into TWRP and complete the following process (same for any compatible ROM):

  1. Backup your existing system
  2. Wipe cache & dalvik 
  3. Suggested: Reset to Factory
  4. Flash the zip for the custom ROM 
  5. Flash the zip with the GApps
  6. Reboot & enjoy!

Here is the link to the XDA thread for one of the best Jelly Bean ROMs available for the Kindle Fire (first gen):  [JB 4.2.2] CM10.1/SGT7 for the Kindle Fire [20130223]

[warning]Confused? Click here to read our “Rooting Tips for Noobs” article. [/warning].

 

 ————————————-  Outdated Video ————————————–

————- Outdated Material ———————–

What the Kindle Fire SHOULD be:

In this review I will present a short instructional guide for rooting your device.

Rooted Kindle Fire
Rooted Kindle Fire

What I did:

[notice]The processes needed for rooting the Kindle Fire are not easy to discover. There are MANY articles about rooting but they may fail if your device has already received the Over The Air (OTA) upgrade to a newer version of the Amazon software. Others are unclear or downright confusing – even for “techies.” Although some guides are video-based, they move through the process quickly, and if there is not a simple text-based checklist attached, one may miss something and end up with a $200 “brick.” Finally, the forums require that you read many pages of comments and try to piece them all together in order to get a working process.[/notice]

  • The first thing to do is to download and execute the current version of the Kindle Fire Utility (KF Utility). This is a Windows-based program. It is an all-in-one system of batch files to set up and use the Android Debug Bridge (ADB) commands. You COULD do everything manually by setting up ADB and researching the steps required to accomplish everything. This would enable you to do it on a Mac or Linux box but — it is MUCH more difficult and the needed commands are very confusing. By using the KF Utility, everything is either included or automatically downloaded by the utility. The particular options and their functions are listed in the “How To Do It” section below.
  • The next (continuing) thing is to download and install your choice of apps from either the Android Play Store or the Amazon AppStore and then enjoy a fully functioning Kindle Fire! I recommend the VooDoo (Over The Air) OTA RootKeeper app from the Android Market as the first new app to install.
  • The real change occurs when you download a custom ROM & install it. Check our Jelly Bean for the Kindle Fire for one of the best.

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What I like about the rooted device:

  • The rooted Kindle Fire gives me OPTIONS. I can use the device exactly as it was before rooting. That includes streaming Amazon Video and using the Kindle Book Sharing Library. Or, I can switch to the Go Launcher and the device becomes a really nice android tablet.
  • My Google Accounts sync perfectly! I can use the Android Market and all of my apps (free and paid) are visible and available – as well as the majority of all other apps on the Market. Some apps are not compatible because of the limits of hardware on the Fire (no 3G/4G, no GPS, no Camera, no Microphone, and no hardware buttons) but most apps seem to work fine. I downloaded the YouTube app and it works perfectly. I checked my GMail app and it works perfectly. The Google Calendar & Google Music apps both sync up perfectly with my data on the Google servers… and, as far as I can tell, all other Google apps work (unless they require unsupported hardware). Interestingly, I had to sign in again to my Amazon account but when I did, both accounts (Amazon & Google) sync properly.
  • I now have the Team Win Recovery Project (TWRP v2). The TWRP image is installed to provide recovery functions on the Fire. TWRP is a touch driven user interface (does not depend upon using the hardware buttons) to do NanDroid backup/restore, custom ROM and update flash, and other maintenance functions. It is activated during the power on process – just hit the power button again during the first few seconds after powering on the device (while the yellow triangle is lit). The full list of functions is provided here.
  • I like the Go Launcher. The Go Launcher EX makes the Kindle Fire look and act like a Gingerbread (Android 2.3) tablet! Although I still prefer the Android 3 (Honeycomb) tablet interface, the Go interface is much  nicer than the stock Kindle interface. Just watch the video to make your own comparison.
  • I can UN-root the Fire with the touch of a button. I downloaded the VooDoo (Over The Air) OTA RootKeeper app from the Android Market after the rooting procedure was finished. This app will backup the SuperUser and root functions and then temporarily unroot the Fire. That will allow the Fire to perform all the specialized functions that Amazon shuts off when the device is rooted (Amazon Video & Kindle Lending Library, etc). The description of the app says that it also restores root if an OTA update removes root privileges (like Amazon’s update 6.2.1 did).

Unresolved issues:

[important]

There are some things that rooting does not fix. (Other than the hardware limits, these are fixed if you install the Jelly Bean Rom.)

  • The Evernote app is NOT available on the Android Market. The app on the Android Market states that it is not compatible with the Kindle Fire. This is not an issue for most users since the app *IS* available on the Amazon App Store. However, for Canadian users without a US credit card, here is a workaround: Use the browser on the Kindle Fire to visit the site: http://www.apktops.com/evernote-3-5-1.html. At the bottom of the page is a link to download the APK from apktops (here). When it finishes downloading, just sideload the app (Note1) and you are in business. Interestingly, the app then shows up on the Amazon app store. Use the “Apps” option on the top menu in the Kindle Launcher, hold the icon for a few seconds and then select “Add to Favorites.”
  • The wallpaper on MY device still will not remain set to my choice. To fix it, I downloaded the “Rotating Wallpaper” app from the Android Market. (Note2 or Note3)
  • Hardware limitations. As I stated before, rooting does NOT correct the limited hardware on the Fire (no 3G/4G, no GPS, no Camera, no Microphone, and no hardware buttons). However, both the stock and custom interfaces have managed to place soft buttons on the device to perform the needed functions.

[/important]

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 Problems:

[warning]The most significant issue is a slight possibility of bricking your Kindle Fire.  As with all such guides, YOUR USE OF THIS GUIDE assumes your full acknowledgment of responsibility for any problems that may arise. I will NOT be held accountable under any circumstances.[/warning]

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[notice]This video demonstrates how to accomplish this process. I have created several such videos related to the Kindle Fire. See them all here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCAB9B3C6980646BD&feature=mh_lolz[/notice]


NOTES:

Note1: To sideload an app, go into Settings, DEVICE (the option is hidden – normally it is in Applications) & turn ON the “Allow Installation of Applications From Unknown Sources.,” Then from your computer, download & email a file with the .apk extension to yourself. On the Fire, download the apk file (attached to the email) and use the Downloads app to open & install the file. Or, use the Fire’s browser to dowload the file on the Fire – then use the Downloads app to install it.

Note2: The Rotating Wallpaper app is kind of weird and not much info on how to set it up. I installed the app (from Android Play Store), opened the app, ADD Set, Type in your choice of name for the set, ADD a file (photo of your choice). I wanted to keep the same wallpaper & not rotate at all so I only added ONE photo/file. Visit Settings: Active Wallpaper Set – click and select your new set; Rotate Interval – I set it for one minute in case I want to add other photos later. Delay on Sleep – check. Click the BACK button and hit ROTATE NOW. Then it should set you wallpaper to the photo/photos that you added to your set.

Note3: Use the UNLOCK WALLPAPER (#4)  function, change the wallpaper to whatever you want, then use the LOCK WALLPAPER (#3) function to make it stick. (Thanks to user Andrei.)

[/notice]

 

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This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Kindle Fire

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