This build of Android 4.2 is designed for the first Kindle Fire — the one that came out in late 2011. which runs a heavily modified version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread.
It has a 7 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display and a TI OMAP 4430 dual core processor. It’s not quite as fast as a Nexus 7, and the screen resolution is lower. But it’s not a bad device if you’ve already got one lying around — and you can pick up a refurbished Kindle Fire from Best Buy for $130. From time to time retailers offer even lower prices.
Amazon offers a newer Kindle Fire (2nd generation) with a slightly faster processor and software based on Android 4.0. This build of Android 4.2 isn’t designed for that tablet. It also won’t work on the Kindle Fire HD 7 or Kindle Fire HD 8.9.
There are a few good reasons to stick with Amazon’s software. You lose access to the Amazon Instant Video streaming app and the Amazon Kindle Owners’ Lending Library if you install a custom ROM. You may also take a wrong move and end up with an unbootable Kindle (although it’s tough to make an irreversible mistake with a first-generation Kindle Fire).
How to update a Kindle Fire to Android 4.2 from another custom ROM
If you’re already running CyanogenMod or another custom ROM on the Kindle Fire and you have a custom recovery (such as ClockworkMod or TWRP) installed, updating to Android 4.2 is easy.
All you have to do is boot into recovery, perform a factory wipe and wipe the system partition, then install Hashcode’s custom ROM and the latest Google Apps packages.
This will wipe all of your data, settings, and apps. If you want to preserve them, you should download and run Titanium Backup first to backup all of your apps and associated data.
Then you can install Titanium Backup again after updating to Android 4.2 and run it to restore your apps. Not only will this re-install your apps and games, but it will even restore saved game data and other information associated with those apps.
Performing a fresh install of Android 4.2 on an original Kindle Fire
If you’ve never installed a custom ROM on your Kindle Fire, then you’ll want to download the latest version of the Kindle Fire Utility and use it to install TWRP or ClockworkMod Recovery as well as the FireFireFire Bootloader.
While the Fire Utility is designed to run on Windows computers, some of the tools may also be useful for Mac or Linux users. But that’s beyond the scope of this tutorial. For now I’ll assume you’re running a Windows computer.
Install Kindle Fire drivers
If you’ve previously rooted your Kindle Fire using a Windows PC, you probably already have the proper drivers installed and you can skip ahead to the next section.
If not, the first thing you’re going to need to do is plug your Kindle Fire into your PC with a USB cable and navigate to the folder where you unzipped Kindle Fire Utility. Then double-tap the fie called “install_drivers.bat.”
This will attempt to install driver so that your PC can recognize the Kindle Fire.
It can be persnickety though. You can check to see if the drivers were installed correctly by firing up Kindle Fire Utility in the next step and seeing if the ADB Status is listed as “online or offline.” If it’s offline, the drivers you need aren’t installed and you can try this:
- Open your Windows Device Manager by typing “device manager” into the Windows run box and hitting enter.
- Look for an item labeled “Amazon” or something similar. It should have a yellow exclamation point next to it.
- Right-click on that item and select “update driver.”
- From the following menu choose “Browse my computer for driver software.”
- On the following screen choose “Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer.”
- From here I selected “Android Composite ADB Interface.” The “Android ADB Interface” option might work as well, but I can confirm that the Composite option does work.
- Click Next and wait for the installation to complete.
Run Kindle Fire Utility and install permanent Root
Now go back to the Kindle Fire Utility folder and double-click the run.bat file. It will open up a black window with red text and after a moment it should show you a menu with a number of options.
Check to make sure that ADB Status is shown as “online.” If it isn’t then your Kindle Fire isn’t plugged in properly or your drivers aren’t installed properly. Go back to step two for help configuring the drivers.
To root the tablet, choose the option that says “Install Permanent Root with Superuser.”
This will root your tablet and install a custom bootloader and recovery. These are the first steps toward installing the Google Play Store or custom ROMs.
Warning: Wait for the Fire Utility to tell you it’s safe to unplug your device before you do anything else!
The next thing I’d recommend doing is entering the custom Recovery and making a backup of your device before doing anything else.
You can do this by pressing and holding the power button on your tablet and choosing the shut down option.
Once your device is off, press the power button again to turn it on. Once you see an icon on the screen press and hold the power button again for a few seconds to enter your custom recovery app (this should work with TWRP or ClockworkMod).
Then choose the backup option to create a backup of your device.
If anything ever goes wrong with your tablet you can enter the custom recovery again and restore from this backup to bring your Kindle Fire back to the condition it’s in right now.
You can also use TWRP or ClockworkMod to install custom ROMs. Just download the latest zip file for the ROM you want to install and follow the on-screen instructions from the recovery to install or “flash” the zip file.
If you want to stick with the standard Kindle experience but want access to Google apps including the Play Store, Gmail app, and Google Maps, choose the option in Kindle Fire Utility marked “Extras” and then use the option for “Install Google Apps.”
Troubleshooting (stuck at the boot logo)
If anything goes wrong there’s a chance that you may get stuck at the boot logo. This doesn’t mean your Kindle Fire is dead. It probably means you’re stuck in fastboot mode instead of normal boot or recovery mode.
To fix this, try plugging your Kindle Fire into your PC and running Kindle Fire Utility again.
You want Boot Status to say 4000. If it does not, try the option for Bootmode Menu. Choose the option that says Normal (4000). If all goes according to plan, your tablet should reboot and load your Android operating system.
If that doesn’t work for some reason, you can also try to change the boot mode manually:
Open a command prompt on your computer by typing “cmd” into the run box.
Navigate to the folder where you unzipped the Kindle Fire Utility by using “cd dirname” to navigate to a directory (where “dirname” is the name of that directory. For example “cd program files” will take you to c:\program files).
Navigate to the “tools” subfolder.
Type the following commands, one at a time:
fastboot oem idme bootmode 4000
It’s pretty hard to completely break a Kindle Fire. But getting stuck at the bootloader is no fun. Hopefully these tips will help if you find yourself stuck staring at the boot logo after attempting to root the tablet.
How to install Android 4.0 on the Kindle Fire
Once you’ve installed a custom recovery, you can skip to the “Boot into TWRP” section of our tutorial on installing custom ROMs on the Kindle Fire.
It’s a good idea to make a backup of your system in case anything goes wrong — or in case you want to restore the tablet to its current condition.
Then you can use TWRP or ClockworkMod to wipe your device and install Android 4.2.