The first generation Kindle Fire is now three years old, and while it remains a great tablet, it lags behind newer models. So why not refresh it by flashing a standard Android ROM?
The First-Gen Kindle Fire Explained
It was never a super-powered tablet, but the original Kindle Fire was at least a step up from the monochrome delights of the popular Kindle eReader, and just as simple to set up. The Fire has a full colour 1024×600 display, 8 GB storage, a dual-core 1 GHz CPU, and runs the Kindle Fire operating system – a modified version of Android 2.3.3 built around the bookshelf/newsstand motif rather than a typical home screen/launcher.
Although updates still roll out for the device, its usability as a tablet is reduced somewhat by the user interface design. Furthermore, the lack of access to the official Google Play Store – Amazon offers its own app store – brings with it some unwelcome restrictions.
A rooted first-gen Kindle Fire can be flashed with a new ROM, however, which essentially means you get rid of the old operating system and install a brand new one. This enables you to take advantage of the standard Android operating system and increase the functionality and lifespan of your eReader and mobile entertainment device!
Rooting Your Kindle Fire
To customize the software on your Kindle Fire, you should root it. This is a process whereby you gain access to parts of the file system that are usually locked, and assign permission to certain utilities.
Please note that this method for rooting the Kindle Fire is for first generation devices only. Using it on second or later generation Kindle Fire tablets will likely brick your device. We are not responsible if you damage or brick your device.
Backup Your Kindle Fire
With a rooted Kindle Fire you can backup your data, which is pretty important.
You shouldn’t be attempting to flash a new Android ROM without first backing up your data. You might normally do this by syncing your media and data with Dropbox, or by using one of the many backup tools that are available in the Amazon App Store, but being rooted gives you even more options.
After rooting your Kindle Fire using the Kindle Fire Utility, the TWRP Recovery should be installed. By rebooting into TWRP Recovery Mode (run the Kindle Fire Utility and select 1 Bootmode Menu > 3 Recovery), you will be able to take a full, complete backup image of your tablet that can be restored later if something goes wrong or you don’t want to continue with the stock Android ROM.
Do this by selecting Backup once in TWRP Recovery Mode, then check the data types that you need archiving. You also have the option of setting a name for the backup. When you’re ready to proceed, swipe the button at the bottom of the screen to confirm and wait. Backing up shouldn’t take too long, and when it has completed you’ll be able restore the data at any time from Recovery Mode.
The next step is to choose a suitable ROM. You’ll find some great choices at XDA-Developers.com’s Kindle Fire subforum, where you will find links to download customised versions of Android designed to run on the Kindle Fire.
For added awesome, however, I’m going to explain how to install Android 4.2 Jelly Bean on the Kindle Fire first generation tablet, using the stock Jelly Bean 4.2.2 r1 release available from XDA-Developers.
If this isn’t to your taste, you should find many alternatives, from the latest CM11 to versions of Android Jelly Bean that have been revised to be specifically designed for use on a tablet (despite the fact that Jelly Bean itself is intended for tablets). There is even a version that is based on the genuine Kindle Fire ROM but with various performance enhancements and a cooked-in Google Play.
The steps for flashing are generally the same, but please consult the documentation associated with your chosen ROM.
Preparing For Android: Download The ROM, Install FireFireFire
Get yourself prepared by commencing the download of the ROM you plan to use. We’re continuing with this tutorial using the AOSP JELLY BEAN 4.2.2_r1 linked to above. While this is downloading to your computer, connect your Kindle Fire and run the Kindle Fire Utility, selecting option 5 Install Latest FireFireFire.
FireFireFire is a custom bootloader that you will need to install any custom ROM. Finally, with FireFireFire now installed, copy the ROM to your Kindle Fire using any micro-USB to USB cable. Your computer should recognize it as an external storage device, just like a USB drive.
Using TWRP To Flash Your Kindle Fire’s Android ROM
With the Kindle Fire booted into TWRP Recovery Mode, begin by selecting Wipe to factory reset your device. This will remove all data from the various caches, a prerequisite for successfully flashing your chosen ROM.
When this is done, switch to the main menu and select Install. From here, browse to the ROM file and slide the confirmation switch to begin flashing. Make sure you have enough battery to make it through the flash, because it could cause major problems if your tablet dies in the middle of the flashing process.
Give it five minutes, and your new ROM will be flashed. Use the reboot option and wait a few moments as Android prepares your tablet.
One Last Thing: Mind The GApps
With your Kindle Fire now sporting a full Android look and native apps, you might think that you’re free to hit the store and start installing apps.
Yes, it is possible, but first you’ll need to flash the Google Apps package, which you’ll find at goo.im/gapps – use the option listed for Android 4.2.2 or the version number of your respective ROM.
Once downloaded, copy the file to your Kindle Fire and again use TWRP to flash the ROM. After completion, restart your Kindle Fire, which will now sport all of the software features you would expect from a new Google Android tablet!
(You may notice that the Kindle Fire Utility also offers a Google Apps install via 6 Extras (Requires Root) > 1 Install Google Apps / Go Launcher Ex. This should automate the process for you, and you can disable Go Launcher Ex once Android is running. However, when testing this method for this tutorial I was unable to get an up-to-date version of Google Apps, so the manual option is probably best here.)
You Just Added Years To Your Kindle Fire – And It Still Reads Books!
With a new operating system on your old, first generation Kindle Fire, you’ll find that the device is as fast and impressive as it was on the day you pulled it out of the box.
As long as the hardware holds up, you can expect several more years of multimedia tablet entertainment from your device.
Better still, by installing the standard Android Kindle reader app by Amazon, you’ll still be able to enjoy your library of books. (Although if you prefer to leave things as they are, our unofficial Kindle Fire first gen manual should help you get the out most of your tablet/eReader.)
Have fun with your revived Kindle Fire!