The hardware on the Kindle Fire HD is pretty sweet. Nice screen, sexy speakers, and a durable-if-forgettable build. The gigantic BUT, however, comes in the form of Amazon’s custom skin that they slather all over the Kindle Fire series. Thankfully, you don’t have to settle for Amazon’s software — by rooting and flashing a custom ROM, there is Another Way.
In this feature, we’re going to be holding your hand and walking you through how to root your Kindle Fire HD, how to purge it of Amazon hell, and then exactly what you need to do to flash a custom ROM. As ever, you should be aware that rooting will most likely void your warranty, and that we take no responsibility if it all goes tits-up and bricks your device (though we will be very sorry).
Finally, rooting and flashing a custom ROM will wipe the device, so if you’ve got anything you want to save, make sure you have your device backed up first, either with a proper backup tool like Carbon, or just using the standard Google account backup (though that won’t save app data).
Before you can get started with removing the Amazon bloatware, you’ve got to gain root access to your Kindle. That means rooting.
- Ensure ADB is enabled on your Fire HD (Settings–>Security–>Enable ADB).
- Run ‘Kindle Fire ADB drivers’. (If the install fails, alternate drivers can be found here, which you’ll need to extract before you install, using WinRAR or similar.)
- Unzip the ‘Root_with_Restore_by_Binary’ folder, and run the RunMe.bat. Choose the normal method.
- Once it’s done, your device will reboot. As soon as it’s back up and running, extract the QemuRoot folder, and run RootQemu. Choose option 1, root. Your device will reboot, and you’ll have to “press any key to continue” a few times.
- Once the final reboot is done, you’ll get a success message, and if you look on your device, you’ll notice you have the Superuser app installed safe and sound.
TWRP is a ‘recovery’: essentially a tiny bit of software that runs outside the normal OS, allowing you to install a new version of the operating system. In this case, we need to install it now, so that we can flash a custom ROM later.
- Download and install the Android SDK from here.
- Download the stack override file, boot img, TWRP, and stock firmware. Move them to the same folder as your ADB program. (ADB is the Android Device Bridge, a component of the Android SDK you downloaded earlier. It can be found in wherever you installed the SDK to\SDK\platform-tools.)
- Run command prompt (you can find it on Windows by searching for ‘cmd’). Point it to the adb location by typing:
cd C:\adt-bundle\sdk\platform-tools You might have to change the directory location, depending on exactly where you installed the SDK to.
Your command line should now point to that location. Enter ‘adb’, and you should get some lines of text whizzing up the screen. That’s good, as it means ADB is up and running.
You can now backup your stock partitions, just in case. With your device up and running (and with ADB enabled, obviously), run these lines of code (one at a time):
adb shell su -c “dd if=/dev/block/platform/omap/omap_hsmmc.1/by-name/boot of=/sdcard/stock-boot.img”
adb shell su -c “dd if=/dev/block/platform/omap/omap_hsmmc.1/by-name/recovery of=/sdcard/stock-recovery.img”
adb shell su -c “dd if=/dev/block/platform/omap/omap_hsmmc.1/by-name/system of=/sdcard/stock-system.img” # This will take a few minutes
adb pull /sdcard/stock-boot.img
adb pull /sdcard/stock-recovery.img
adb pull /sdcard/stock-system.img # This will take a few minutes
Hint: you can copy the text, and then right-click–>Paste in command prompt.
Now, we need to install the stack override. Run these lines:
adb push stack /data/local/tmp/
adb shell su -c “dd if=/data/local/tmp/stack of=/dev/block/platform/omap/omap_hsmmc.1/by-name/system bs=6519488 seek=1″
Now these lines:
adb shell su -c “mount -o remount,rw ext4 /system”
adb shell su -c “mv /system/etc/install-recovery.sh /system/etc/install-recovery.sh.bak”
adb shell su -c “mount -o remount,ro ext4 /system”
If you’re running software version 7.3.0 or later, you get an extra step (you lucky things). Download this file, copying it to the same location as all the other ones. Run this line of code:
fastboot -i 0×1949 flash bootloader kfhd7-u-boot-prod-7.2.3.bin
Now, power your device off. For the following commands, you enter the first line of code with your Fire powered off and unplugged. You should get the message <waiting for device>, at which point you should plug your Fire in, and it should boot into fastboot mode. You can then run the rest of the commands.
First up, power off and unplug, and then run this line of code:
fastboot -i 0×1949 flash bootloader kfhd7-u-boot-prod-7.2.3.bin
Then, power down and unplug, and run the following lines of code (remember, plug in after running the first line of code, as outlined above:
fastboot -i 0×1949 flash boot kfhd7-freedom-boot-7.3.0.img
fastboot -i 0×1949 flash recovery kfhd7-twrp-18.104.22.168-recovery.img fastboot -i 0×1949 reboot
Ok, so now we’re done with the hacky stuff, and can reboot into recovery. Power the device down, and then power it back up. As soon as you see the normal Kindle Fire logo, hold down the volume up button. The logo should change to being blue. Keep holding that button, until your finger falls off and/or the TeamWin logo shows up, shortly followed by TWRP.
Once you’re booted into TWRP, you need to re-flash the stock Amazon software. (This is something horrifically complicated to do with missing files that went astray when installing TWRP or something.) Go install–>sdcard, and then find the ‘kfhd7-amazon-os-7.3.0.zip’ file, and install it. Reboot the device as normal, just to check everything’s working.
Congrats! All the hard work is done, so all that’s left is to flash a custom ROM, and reap the rewards. There are two decent ROMs for the Kindle Fire HD: CyanogenMod, and Kinology. Both give a broadly stock version of Android, with a few improvements. Generally, CyanogenMod gives a better experience; however, the CM build for the Kindle Fire HD is relatively new, and still a little buggy. So, if you need a more stable build (read: one less likely to crash), you’ll be wanting Kinology.
Download your ROM of choice (either Kinology or CyanogenMod), and copy over to the sdcard partition of your device via USB. If you’re installing CyanogenMod, you’ll also need to download and flash Google Apps, using the same method as you do for the CM .zip; just flash the CM zip first, then flash the Google Apps. Boot into TWRP by the same method we used earlier, and first, go to Wipe, and wipe both the cache and the dalvik cache.
Then, go to ‘install’, and choose the first zip to install (you’ll want to do them in the order specified in the thread). TWRP allows you to queue up multiple .zips to install, so go ahead and queue up everything you want to flash, and then hit go. Once the flash is all done and dusted, you can reboot as normal, but you’ll probably notice that the logo is a wee bit different.
Now that we’re done with all the messing around with ADB and drivers and stuff, you can enjoy your newly-refreshed device. What exactly you do with it is up to you — that’s the beauty of Android — but we’ve got a few recommendations.
For CyanogenMod, there’s all sorts of things you can do. Again, I’d recommend changing the launcher if you don’t like stock Android; Tasker and Titanium Backup are two other excellent apps that require root to take advantage of.
Tweakmodo is Gizmodo’s new guide to getting the very best out of your electronics. Every week, we’ll be doing the magic to a different device. Got a bit of kit you want to see pimped up, or think we’ve missed a vital hack? Let us know in the comments!
To get creative guides, app tips and the full lowdown on Samsung’s S4, Note 8.0 and Note II, check out Samsung’s Your Mobile Life over here.