By Eric Mack
Rooting the Nook Tablet expands the slate’s horizons with the addition of the Android Market
The Nook Tablet from Barnes and Noble offers meatier specs than Amazon’s Kindle Fire for half the price of an iPad, but the selection of apps on offer for the e-Reader/tablet hybrid is a bit underwhelming. Fortunately, it takes less than 30 minutes to turn a Nook into a fully-functional Honeycomb tablet with access to the Android Market.
Before the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet came along, B&N’s Nook Color e-Reader was the go-to budget Android tablet for folks in the know, who used one of a number of tools to root it and install the Android OS and market. The new Nook Tablet is essentially just a Nook Color with a hardware upgrade, and it can be converted to Honeycomb just as easily.
If you’re not familiar, rooting is the process of circumventing the existing OS or skin that the device ships with, allowing for a new ROM, mod or operating system to be loaded onto it. Rooting also provides access to more of a device’s functions.
Of course, with more power comes more responsibility, so if you’re here because you’re looking to root your own Nook, keep in mind that rooting can carry the risk of voiding your warranty, bricking the device, and may even violate local laws (it has been determined to be legal in the U.S.).
Still interested? OK, then. You’re going to need your Nook Tablet, a USB cord and a PC connected to the Internet. There are multiple tools and methods to root your Nook using a PC, Mac or Linux system, but for our purposes we’ll be going through the process with a Windows PC and tools available from the xdadevelopers forum. These tools are among the best and easiest out there for rooting the Nook, and the forum provides a great place to get support should you run into a problem.
Steps to Rooting
- First step is to open up this thread at the xda forum in a browser tab alongside this one.
- Download the following files (you can also find them over on the xda thread): the USB drivers you’ll need for the root and the “Zerg” rooting script.
- Next open this YouTube video walk-through of the whole process in its own browser tab, pause it and let it fully buffer, because we’re going to be disconnected from your network in a later step and it’s a great visual resource should you get lost.
- Turn on your Nook, point its browser to the same xda forum thread (might be easier to get there by searching for “xda root nook tablet”) and download the app to enable USB debugging – it’s under “Needed files for root.”
- Open the app. You’ll be prompted to allow outside apps to run on your Nook. Do so in the settings and while still in settings, tap on “Development” and enable both USB debugging check boxes. Also, uncheck the “Auto Mount” option.
- The next step is to make sure your PC recognizes the Nook. Before connecting it via USB, I recommend turning off your computer’s network card to take it offline, that way it won’t search for drivers for the Nook – it’s important that your system not install a driver for the Nook. If for some reason it does recognize it – likely as a USB composite or Android device – you’ll need to uninstall the associated drivers, make sure you’re offline, and reconnect the USB.
- With the Nook connected via USB, go to your PC’s device manager in the “System” section of the control panel. You should see an icon labeled “Nook tablet” with a yellow exclamation point indicating that Windows sees the device but doesn’t know what to do with it. If so, this is good news. Disconnect the Nook and get ready to run the scripts to root it. If not, go back to the previous step or try on a different PC.
- At this point, start up that YouTube video and follow along through some of the steps you’ve just completed and check your work. My method is the same except for the added precaution of disconnecting from the Internet, which you’ll want to keep off until the root is complete.
- You’re now ready to perform the root following the process outlined in the xda forum thread under “Instructions to root.” The steps are self-explanatory, and the video can help guide you, too. You can start at step three, as you’ve already downloaded the needed files before turning off your net access.
- Follow all the prompts and you should have a rooted Nook. You’ll also be given the option to install the Google Apps including the Market, which I recommend, and to uninstall some of the Nook apps and disable native search, which I don’t recommend. When you’ve run all the way through the scripts, the Nook will promptly restart itself. I recommend disconnecting from the PC at this time, which you can also reconnect to your network. If the Nook is acting at all strange, another reboot should work out all the kinks.
You should now have a rooted Nook running Android Honeycomb with access to the wide world of apps in the market. Enjoy! Should you change your mind, the same xda forum thread has instructions for de-rooting.
According to reports from from the xda-developers forum, the Nook’s new 1.4.1 firmware update that was rolled out this week disables root access and removes the ability to load third-party apps. Since the update is applied automatically when the Nook is connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi, many people will find themselves unable to root the device – although the root script mentioned in the above instructions also disables over the air updates so if you haven’t already received the update the above method should still work..
Also, if you’ve already rooted your Nook before receiving the 1.4.1 update then already-installed apps will still work and you’ll still be able to access the Android Market – BUT, while you’ll be able to purchase new apps there, you won’t be able to install them and will receive a message saying, “Install blocked. For security reasons, only apps purchased through the NOOK shop can be installed.” Judging by comments on the xda-developers forum, Barnes & Noble will be seeing quite a few Nook’s returned as a result of this move.