Despite owning two android phones, a Nexus One and a Droid Incredible, I felt that my Android life was incomplete without a tablet. To fill this void, I purchased a NOOKcolor from Barnes and Nobles with the intent to root it and release its full potential. There is a large community on the net that makes rooting the NOOKcolor a relatively easy process as long as your willing to scour the internet for information and do the necessary research. In this post, I decided to collate everything I found to make rooting the NOOKcolor even easier. Below are links and detailed walkthroughs of the tools and processes you’ll need to root your NOOK and the steps afterward to create a full functioning Android tablet.

Important Notes Before Starting

Remember: Rooting your NOOKcolor carries the RISK of damaging your device and voiding your warranty. Please proceed only after reading all of the instructions first and then feeling comfortable with the steps.

Share The Bytes, myself, or any affiliated parties may not be held liable for any damage caused to your device or any loss of warranty if you choose to continue.

Proceed at your own risk!

Be forewarned that I used Linux to root my NOOK, thus my instructions follow that operating system. If you are using Windows or Mac, fear not as the links I give also include instructions for the other OS’s or can be easily translated to the platform you are working with.

Tools

  • NOOKcolor
  • Micro SD card 128Mb or greater
  • Android Debug Bridge (aka adb)
    • This tool is part of Google’s Android sdk.

 

The Rooting Process

nookdevs.com gives a very complete walkthrough with how to root your NOOKcolor. Use their instructions to first prepare your NOOK, load the new firmware onto the SD card, and then install the rooted software. Below are my notes that will hopefully make things a little clearer.

  1. Complete the Barnes and Nobles registration process to create a NOOK account. You do not need to enter any credit card information. Just create an account with a password. This is to allow you to still use the NOOK as an e-reader with Barnes and Nobles books.
  2. Verify your firmware version and choose the correct autonooter program. Instructions on nookdevs show you how to upgrade your device firmware version before rooting.
  3. I choose to use the auto nooter 2.12.25 software to root my Nook. Make sure you unzip the file before writing it to the SD card.
  4. Be patient when activating the root. It’s okay to run autonooter multiple times if you think you made a mistake. When finished, remove the SD card from your NOOK.
  5. After rooting, follow the follow-up instructions.
  6. Do not worry to much about setting up Soft-keys according to the instructions. Just make sure that Soft-keys is an option when pressing the physical NOOK home button at the bottom of the device. I will talk in more detail about Soft-keys later on.
  7. Pay particular attention to the Enable Market instructions. I became easily confused in this section and had to repeat these steps several times.
  8. I detail my experience with re-enabling YouTube if you have any problems following the nookdev instructions.
  9. Apps can be accessed from the Extras Menu in the pop-up tool bar.

 

Launcher Screen

Once the NOOK is rooted, you will probably want to change the default launcher screen so that you can add icons to the screen as well as enable extra functionality. Go to the android market and first install Home Switcher. This app will allow you to choose temporarily or permanently which launcher is loaded when you press the physical NOOK button or the Soft-keys Home button. Next install a launcher window of your choice. Below are a few examples.

The default toolbar at the bottom of the screen will be present regardless of which launcher you choose. The good news is that the Back and Menu button will now be persistent. Along with the physical Home button, you will no longer need to run the Soft-keys app at all times.

 

ADB Access

Since the NOOKcolor is such a new device, the Android Debug Bridge(adb) may not recognize the device when it is plugged into your computer. ADB is useful if you wish to install/uninstall apps without using the market or if you need to make adjustments to the device directly, such as improving battery life. You will need the latest version of the Android sdk. If you have previously downloaded and installed the Android sdk, you will need to update it to the latest version.

<sdk Directory>/tools/android update sdk
<sdk Directory>/tools/android update adb

In the latest sdk, adb has been moved to the <sdk Directory>/platform-tools/ directory.

The next step is to add the NOOKcolor usb device ID to your machine and/or install the proper drivers to your computer depending which operating system you are using. The nookdevs website contains a posting on how to do this for each type of OS.

In Linux, with your device plugged into your computer, execute the following command to see a list of currently connected usb devices.

lsusb

Your NOOKcolor device ID will be 0x2080. Once this device ID is added to your home directory, the NOOKcolor will be visible to adb. To add the device ID, execute the following command.

sudo sh -c "mkdir -p ~/.android; echo 0x2080 > ~/.android/adb_usb.ini; <sdk Directory>/platform-tools/adb kill-server; <sdk Directory>/platform-tools/adb devices"

Troubleshooting

To verify that the usb driver was successfully installed, execute the following.

<sdk Directory>/platform-tools/adb devices

With luck you should see your device now when you run adb devices. If you see a series of question marks, then the adb server was not properly started. To restart the adb server, execute the following. Make sure that when you start the server, you are executing it with sudo and/or root access.

sudo <sdk Directory>/platform-tools/adb kill-server
sudo <sdk Directory>/platform-tools/adb start-server

 

Battery Life

One of the big selling points of the NOOKcolor is it’s long battery life. Oddly, the Cell Phone Standby service is still active in the stock NOOK firmware and is one of the biggest battery drainers. Just take a look at the battery usage list and you will see Cell Phone Standby at or near the top of the list. Fortunately this service can be easily disabled using adb. Follow the instructions written by xboxexpert in his post on the xdadevlopers forums.

Soft-keys also sits at the top of the battery usage list. If you have a new launcher installed, you will usually have a persistent toolbar with the Back and Menu buttons available all the time and thus no longer need the Soft-keys app. All you need is a task killer app to shut down any programs that hide the toolbar and prevent using the Back button. These programs are few and far between, so it’s safe to uninstall the Soft-keys app.

 

YouTube

As noted by the nookdevs team, YouTube will no longer work after rooting. This is caused by some issue with being logged into your YouTube account. It is necessary to remove the login information from YouTube. nookdevs suggest using Titanium Backup to remove all YouTube user data. Other people have said that clearing out YouTube data through Android’s Settings->Applications tools work as well. Neither solution worked for me, so I was forced to uninstall YouTube and then reinstall it. To uninstall and reinstall YouTube, use the following instructions.

  1. Follow the uninstall directions on the nookdevs.com website, under “If YouTube fails to start”
  2. Download the YouTube apk from here.
  3. Use adb to install the file, or copy the apk to you NOOK and install manually using a file manager.

 

Android Market

When browsing apps on the android market, you will need to rotate the NOOKcolor to landscape in order to see all the available apps in the scroll list. This is a bug in Android Market since it was designed for smaller screens. The scroll list only shows the first ten apps and won’t expand unless it detects the screen edge. Portrait mode is too big for ten items to reach the bottom, thus requiring you to rotate the NOOK to landscape.

 

Live Wallpapers

I’m happy to say that live wallpapers work very well on the NOOKcolor. The stock live wallpapers are not included with the stock NOOK firmware despite showing up as choices in the Live Wallpaper menu list. If you want to use the stock live wallpapers, you will have to search for their apk’s and install them manually. Otherwise all live wallpapers available on the Android Market are good to use. You will need to use an alternative launcher screen other than the default NOOKcolor launcher in order to access and use live wallpapers.

 

Useful Apps

Below are apps that I have downloaded and used to improve the functionality of the NOOKcolor.

  1. ES File Explorer
    • Very good file manager. Also provides an application manager.
  2. ES Task Manager
    • Provides a widget to show how many services are currently running. Also allows you to kill all running services with just a tap. Add services to the exclusion list that you want to remain running, such as live wallpapers.
  3. File Expert
    • A very good file manager. Allows you to connect to network drives. Has a built in gallery function to view pictures. Much better than the stock gallery app.
  4. Battery Status
    • Provides an excellent widget to show current battery levels.