Install A Better Custom ROM On The Amazon Kindle Fire

As some of you may know, I travel a lot.  I am always on a plane without internet and not much to do.  Up until now I’ve been using my iPad for watching the few movies I purchased from Google Play because Google Play lets you watch offline.  The problem with this is my iPad doesn’t have a lot of storage space and can’t keep me entertained on a six or more hour flight.  I heard Amazon Prime members can download movies for free and I saw that Amazon Kindle Fire tablets were only $40.00 with an expandable SD card slot.

I purchased one of these $40.00 tablets and a large micro SD card with the intention of downloading a bunch of movies as part of my Prime subscription.  The problem is that my Prime subscription was part of a household account, which has fine print that says I can only stream, not download.  This rendered the Kindle Fire tablet rather useless to me.

This lead me down the path of wanting to root the tablet and install a custom ROM to it.  These are the things I did to turn my $40.00 disappointing Kindle Fire tablet into something comparable to the $200.00 tablets in circulation.

Before proceeding, please be aware that if you mess up your Kindle Fire device, I am not responsible for it.  I’m happy to help you troubleshoot in the comments should this event happen.

The Requirements

Let me first start by sharing the equipment and software I used:

  • 8GB Kindle Fire 5th generation tablet
  • Fire OS 5.12
  • SuperTool by Root Junky
  • Nexus ROM

Let me explain a few things first.  My Kindle Fire is the edition with advertisements.  When I purchased it, the tablet was $40.00 and it was the 5th generation of it.  The tablet came with Fire OS 5.12.1 which, as of May 2016, was incompatible with the existing root tools.

The root tool I used was called KingRoot and was installed as part of SuperTool.  If KingRoot doesn’t support Fire OS 5.12.1 or higher at the time of reading this, you’ll need to downgrade your Kindle Fire firmware.

Downgrading Fire OS

If KingRoot supports your version of Fire OS, feel free to disregard this.

Remember, my Kindle Fire came with 5.12.1, which was incompatible.  I had to downgrade to 5.12 which was supported by KingRoot.  This earlier version can be directly downloaded from here.  If for some reason that link doesn’t work, XDA Developers has a list of Kindle Fire images.

To downgrade (or upgrade), power down your Kindle Fire tablet and start it in recover mode by pressing the volume down + power at the same time.

When in the Amazon System Recovery, choose apply update from ADB and take your business to the ADB tool on your computer.  From your Terminal (Mac and Linux) or Command Prompt (Windows), execute the following:

Make sure to swap out file.bin with the file you downloaded.  It may take a few minutes to apply the fresh image.

Use SuperTool to Root Your Kindle Fire

SuperTool by Root Junky does a few things for us related to getting a custom ROM installed as well as a few things that are very useful, but not really relevant to this article.

SuperTool will install KingRoot which will root the Kindle Fire, giving us root level access to the tablet operating system as well as install FlashFire which will allow us to load a custom ROM.

Yes, everything that SuperTool does can be done manually.  I’m just sharing it because it is the easiest way to get this job done for most people.  It works for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Using your Command Prompt (Windows) or Terminal (Mac and Linux), execute the appropriate .bat or .sh file found in the SuperTool downloaded directory.

SuperTool for Kindle Fire by Root Junky

Option 2 will do half of what we need.  Midway through the root process you’ll need to run KingRoot.  This process took me a few minutes and failed a few times due to me running an incorrect version of Fire OS.  If your Fire OS is correct it should succeed and when finished, you can continue the SuperTool root process.

After the tablet was rooted, FlashFire needs to be installed with SuperTool.  This is option 6 in the command line interface.  It shouldn’t take more than a second or two to install.

Download the Nexus ROM and Install it with FlashFire

The Kindle Fire tablet at this point should be rooted.  If it has not been rooted, what comes next will not work.

Like I’ve already mentioned we’re going to be installing the Nexus ROM.  There are other ROMs out there, for example an unofficial CyanogenMod ROM.  The Nexus ROM is a very vanilla version of Android which I’ve found to work very well on this low budget tablet.  You can get the latest version of this ROM from XDA Developers, but this direct link might work as well.

With the ROM downloaded somewhere on the tablet’s internal storage, open the FlashFire application that was installed via SuperTool.

FlashFire for Kindle Fire Options FlashFire for Kindle Fire Wipe FlashFire for Kindle Fire Custom ROM

You must follow these steps exactly, otherwise you risk the installation having problems:

  1. Select the red plus (+) button to expand a selection of options, choosing Wipe.
  2. Select System data, 3rd party apps, and Dalvik cache if they are not already checked.
  3. Click the red plus (+) button again and choose Flash ZIP/OTA.
  4. Search for the Nexus ROM that you’ve downloaded and choose it.
  5. Automount and Mount /system read/write need to be unchecked.
  6. Drag Wipe to the top of the queue.

As soon as you hit the FLASH button it will do its thing which includes tablet restarts.  It could take around thirty minutes to complete.  A version of these instructions can also be found on the XDA Developers website.

Boot the tablet and your Kindle Fire should have received an awesome upgrade.

Amazon Kindle Fire AOSP Nexus ROM

Above is the AOSP Nexus ROM that I installed to my Kindle Fire.  It no longer uses Amazon’s Fire OS.

Conclusion

Although not what I had originally planned, I now have a cheap tablet with expandable memory that can still carry a decent selection of Google Play movies on it.  After rooting and custom flashing an Android ROM to the Kindle Fire tablet, the tablet’s performance and battery life got significantly better.  It is a potentially risky process, but I recommend it to anyone looking for a cheap win.

Nic Raboy

Nic Raboy is an advocate of modern web and mobile development technologies. He has experience in Java, JavaScript, Golang and a variety of frameworks such as Angular, NativeScript, and Apache Cordova. Nic writes about his development experiences related to making web and mobile development easier to understand.

  • Good to know. I’ve always been a fan of custom roms. They’re great, for many reasons, such as your situations. 40$ is a pretty good value for money (minus the OS that it comes)

  • Flint

    Isn’t the price is technically 50$? Asking because maybe for your region the price is other.

    • Hmm, seems Amazon raised the price by $10. I purchased a few weeks ago and it was $39.99. Even at $50, I think it is a great deal if you put a custom ROM on it.

  • Chema Vascuence

    Excellent post, crystal clear explanation, fully functional links.
    Many thanks.

  • Daniel Miola

    Hi, i’ve tried to downgrade Fire OS to the version required in the post so i can root my device and it bricked. Anyone with this same probem and could solve it?

  • Hamed

    Can you give me a link that shows me how to install and use adb software on windows

    • I don’t use Windows, so I could be wrong on this, but I think in Windows 10 you can use Linux shell commands in your PowerShell.

      Best,

  • Jon Kingsbury

    Hi, I’ve installed FlashFire and the icon is there, but when I try to open flashfire it just closes instantly…is this a common bug??

    • Jon Kingsbury

      It’s OK I’ve sorted the problem out. Needed to use v0.52

    • Haden Odom

      I had the same thing. If you installed FlashFire using the SuperTool from RootJunky like I did, uninstall it immediately and reinstall it from a different source – I had to find the APK and manually install it.

      Apparently, it also has problems with KingRoot. If you’re using KingRoot, try replacing it with SuperSU.

  • MitchKonnor

    Were you able to get full stock android functionality?

    I am seeking a replacement for my trusty, but dead. Nexus 7 LTE. The Kindle Fire HDX seems very close spec-wise, but previous experiments with my wife’s Kindle taught me that its purpose in life is to be more a vector for Amazon purchases, less a full-featured tablet,

    But if it can be flashed with stock Android and retain full functionality, it looks like a great deal.

    So… can it be?

    Thanks

    • I’m sure someone has probably made an Android image for it. Don’t use the image from this guide because it will probably break your device. It was meant for my specific version of the tablet. Might check XDA-Developers for the proper image and try the steps?

    • Anh

      Which generation of hdx you re using

  • Joshhud

    So i gave this a shot and it froze mid installing the new ROM and now it wont load past the “Amazon” screen Any suggestions?

    • You using the 7″ 5th gen tablet like I was? Not the HDX. What versions of everything are you trying to use?

      • Joshhud

        Yup 5th gen and I used the links in the article. Is the tablet trash now or can I try to load it using and SD Card or something?

        • If you can boot into the recovery loader you should be able to install from the SD card. You just need to make sure you have the correct image for your version of tablet. If there isn’t a compatible image for 5.1.3, you’ll have to downgrade and work your way up.

          Best,

          • Joshhud

            Good to know, I’ll give that a shot and try again. Thanks!

          • Yea, applying custom ROMs is often a pain in the butt. It doesn’t benefit device retailers when you remove their software and potentially other bloatware. They definitely aren’t going to make it easy for you.

            As long as you can enter the recovery loader, your device should be fixable. If you corrupt your recovery mode or lock yourself out due to a password or something, then you’re in trouble. I never bricked my Kindle Fire, but have gone through this with other Android devices. Scary to think you messed up, but I ended up fixing them in the end.

            Best,

          • Joshhud

            i sideloaded 5.3.1 which is compatible with the newer root monkey; However root king keeps failing. ;Im just going to call it a day

          • Santa

            Had the same problem when trying KingRoot on 5.3.1. Found that you need to go settings, security and allow apps from other sources for it to work

      • Joshhud

        Yup just bought it on black Friday.. I may have forgetting to downgrade the OS as I think it came with 5.1.3…. Is it possible to perform that step now and get the original OS back or is it a paper weight?

        • Chance Fulton

          Just follow the downgrade to 5.1.2 and then it works fine.

  • Jacob Gabriel

    Hi there so I did this as per your instructions. All went well, so thank you for that. Only gripe is that I constantly get the following error popup on my screen: Google App has stopped working. Its fairly constant. Any ideas?

    • You might need to download the latest Google Apps package depending on the version of Nexus ROM that you chose to use. You have to match the Apps package to the ROM.

      • Jacob Gabriel

        ahhh… okay… will this not update itself? i’m guessing not?

        • Usually you have to get the correct Google Apps package first then it will auto update

          • Jacob Gabriel

            you’ll find that the ROM you reference has GApps installed already … albeit pico i believe.

  • aaron

    I’ve installed the latest version of this rom and I really like it. Have you been able to get cordova-plugin-camera to work on yours? Mine never even brings up the camera, and never registers success or error callbacks. And yes, this means I want to take pictures with my tablet.
    Thanks.

  • vsdingsda

    My 5 gen. Fire (7in, arrived today^^) died during the reboot after step hitting the flash button. As a consequence, every time I do a reboot, I end up with the Amazon logo. I just followed the steps, and I dopn’t see how I should end up in any recovery mode, i didn’t have installed any extra sd before installation. The device doesn’t get shown in my win 10 systems, so I don’t get any connectibility. I have a spare SD-Card. wolud this help now?

  • Davide Lustro

    Nice, after the upgrade with adb sideload my kindle fire is death.
    No 40” reset works. Any idea?

    • When you say “No 40 reset works”, I really have no idea what you’re talking about.

      If your tablet won’t start, boot into recovery mode and try to restore it from there.

      Best,

      • Davide Lustro

        Ok, I explain better. I have a 5th gen fire tablet 7” . I followed your instruction and I used the adb sideload with the file specified. The system patched the upgrade. After this I wiped, reset and rebooted. Death tablet. Maybe is brokd for itself, I don’t know, but doesn’t work at all. Doesn’t work any way to switch on, nether the hard reset nether the recovery mode boot. What do you think about it?

        • If you messed up you wont be able to boot in standard or from recovery. This is because your tablet OS is now broken. Recovery mode is like the firmware to a computer. Even if Windows or Mac becomes corrupt, you can still use the recovery mode to install a new version. Same applies when it comes to Android.

          I based this tutorial off of what I did when I installed a custom ROM on my Fire tablet. I understand versions might have changed since, but I have not had any experience with the newer versions, only what I used here.

          • Dan

            It’s my bad for not reading the latest version of the XDA thread of the firmware downgrade but you should probably add a warning above that step letting people know that most newer versions of the Fire OS won’t work with a downgrade.

            I’ve got a hard bricked device now. I was on 5.3.1 which can’t be rooted or downgraded.

  • Caleb

    Has anybody else had issues Adopting a MicroSD Card as Internal Storage. I can’t figure this out. Without this there isn’t much room for movies…..

  • Jeremy J Cutler

    Could you please add to the article the fact that when you go to downgrade, that we should make sure to wipe and clear the cache after flashing old firmware as in http://www.rootjunky.com/amazon/amazon-fire-7in-5th-gen/ If you don’t do this, you will brick your tablet. At least that’s what happened to me.

    • Penny Kingsley

      Were you able to fix this? Got a bricked device and feeling crappy about it.

      • Dan

        Ditto.

        • John Adamson

          If you’re having problems I highly recommend you check out ‘RootJunky’s’ channel on Youtube. He has videos for doing a factory reset if you brick your device.

  • Steve Beans

    Is there any way to make apps or games work (like FIFA 16 or modern combat 5) if I put the obb files on my SD card to save more space.

    • John Adamson

      Yes. You will need to install the XPosed Framework (included with RootJunky’s SuperTool). Once installed open it, do to downloads and download the module ‘Obb on SD’. Go to Modules and makes sure that its enabled (this can be quite fiddly as you have to tick a small box on the right hand side).
      To run games copy the obb folder to the sd card (make sure that its Android, obb folder (create if you haven’t got one). Then just copy the name of that folder into the internal drive’s obb folder. I’ve yet to find a game that hasn’t worked with this 🙂

      • Steve Beans

        Thank you. It worked perfectly! 🙂

  • Jay

    Is it work for Kindle Fire HD 7 FireOs 4 (soho) 3 generation? I already rooted with Kingroot.

  • klutch14u

    I have an old Kindle Fire 5th gen I bought last year but never opened. It has 5.0.1 OS on it, do I need to come up to 5.1.2 to execute this?