Installing Android 7 on a Nook HD for free

How to upgrade your Nook HD to Android 7 (Nougat)

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Synopsis: This is a quick guide on how to install Android 7 (‘Nougat’) on a Barnes and Noble Nook HD device.  (If you want to upgrade a Nook HD+ instead, please look at my other blog post, here.)

You don’t need to be a full-fledged hacker to do this, not at all, and if you have 30 minutes to spare you can breathe new life into your tablet.  Read on to learn how.  I also have a video tutorial of this on youtube, which you can see here

Do you have a Barnes and Noble Nook HD and are wondering what to do now that B&N has essentially abandoned support for it?

The trouble is, the OS on the device is a customized version of Android 4.0, several years old and which is rapidly being phased out.  If you go to the Google Play store on the Nook you’ll find more and more apps that claim they’re ‘not supported’ on the device.

That’s not because the hardware is obsolete.  The Nook HD has a dual core chip and 1 GB of RAM, roughly comparable to what the latest Kindle Fire HD uses today.  It may not have all the bells and whistles as the latest Android tablets but it has plenty of horsepower to run most apps.  So if you have one laying around, what to do?

It turns out you can upgrade the Nook to the latest (as of February 2017) Android OS, version 7.1 (‘Nougat’).  To do this you’ll need a microSD card, at least 8 GB in size, and a card reader that lets you read/write to it from a PC.  These items are very inexpensive these days.

There’s a very active community that makes current custom ‘images’ of Android that run on a variety of devices.  Luckily, the Nook HD is one of them.  It so happens that Android is an open-source platform, which means Google releases the source code for anyone to modify.  Some enterprising folks have therefore ported the code to the Nook HD and HD+.  If you see the term ‘cyanogenmod’ bandied around, that’s one group that ports Android to various devices.

This blog post is for people who want to move their Nook HD device to Android 7 quickly and with as little fuss as possible.

Let’s start by downloading three files from my dropbox folder.  They’re curated from various Android forums, and are:

  1. cm_hummingbird-ota-NMF26Q.161222.zip— this is Android 7.1, in a zip format, courtesy of a gentleman named  Andrei Măceș, someone very active and respected in this sphere.
  2. NookHD-bootable-CWM-6027-for-emmc-stock-4GB-rev3-(02.03.13).zip — this is a ‘bootloader’, something that lets you get the whole process started.  You unzip this, install/flash it on a microSD card and put it in your Nook HD and boot from it to get the installation going.   We’ll go over how to do all this.
  3. open_gapps-arm-7.1-pico-20170203.zip— this is a package that contains the Google Play Store for Android 7.  With Google Play on the device you can install all sorts of 3rd party apps (Netflix, etc.)  Google Play is your gateway to the full Android ecosystem.

Be aware that these files total 400 megabytes combined, so downloading them will take a few minutes on a good internet connection.  (Again, these files are for the Nook HD.  If you’re upgrading a Nook HD+ you need to go to my other blog post, here)

Using these three files and the steps below, you can upgrade your Nook HD to Android 7.

Start by unzipping NookHD-bootable-CWM-6027-for-emmc-stock-4GB-rev3-(02.03.13).zip to a temporary folder on your hard drive with any unzip program you like, 7-Zip or WinRar or take your pick.  Note that the file extracts from 9 MB to a ‘img’ file 3.8 GB in size– that’s some serious compression, so make sure you have room on your hard drive.

What is this image file that came out of the zip?  It’s the bootloader we’re going to use to start the Android tablet with and get the ball rolling.

With the img file unzipped, you’ll need to write it to a microSD card.  (Again, you can buy these cards and USB adapters for them to plug into your PC very cheaply these days.)

The way I wrote the img file to the card, and the way discussed in the tutorial I linked to above, is to use a free program called win32 disk imager.  This will wipe the microSD card and extract the img file to it in such a way that you can boot from the card.  (If you don’t use Windows, Mac and Linux software is out there that does the same thing.)

Install win32 disk imager on your PC and fire it up and you’ll see a dialog.  Choose the img file you just unzipped and make sure you write it to your microSD card, and _not_ one of your hard drives.

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Hit the ‘Write’ button and it’ll take a minute or two to extract the image to your microSD card.  Keep in mind this will wipe out anything on the card, so make sure you don’t have any files on there you need, and once again make sure the drive letter  (G:\ in my example) is that of your SD card, and not a hard drive!

When the image file is written to your microSD card you can simply copy the other two zip files (cm_hummingbird-ota-NMF26Q.161222.zip and open_gapps-arm-7.1-pico-20170203.zip ) to it, simply drag and drop them to the root directory with all the other extracted files.

Once you’ve extracted the bootloader and copied both zip files to the microSD card you’re ready to install Android 7 on the Nook.

Before you start, make sure your Nook is fully charged, as the Android 7 installation can take 30 minutes or so and running out of power halfway through isn’t much fun.  You’ll also want to save any ebooks, videos or other files you want from the Nook to a safe location before starting, as the procedure we’re using here is a fresh start, clear-the-decks installation that will wipe out any data you have on the device.

Once the device has a full battery, turn it off, insert your microSD card and turn it on.  You should see a ‘cyanoboot’ splash screen, which means the bootloader is doing its thing:

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This image is of the Nook HD+, but the install works fine on the Nook HD as well
I’ll note here that sometimes you may need to reboot the device two or three times in order for it to boot from the microSD card, so if you go straight to the old Nook interface, same as ever, just shut the device down and try again.  Eventually you should hit the cyanoboot screen.

(If you’re really having trouble booting from the microSD card, believe it or not you might try your luck with a different one– Nooks can be *very* picky about the cards they’ll boot from.  Try an older card, perhaps a class 4 vs class 10 one.  It sounds ridiculous but others have had success going this way.  An 8 GB microSD card is only about $8.00 shipped from ebay, so no harm trying.)

Once the splash screen fades you’ll be presented with a boot menu and options similar to the below.

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The way to navigate around the menu is to:

  • Use the volume buttons to move up and down,
  • Use the Nook home button to select the currently highlighted choice
  • Press the power button to go up one menu

The first step  is to wipe the device and start fresh.  Again, that means copying any files you want off the Nook to a safe place beforehand and choosing the ‘wipe data / factory reset‘ option.  Wiping the device will take a moment and you’ll see some progress text at the bottom of the screen as it goes through it.

Assuming you’ve wiped the data and done the factory reset, you’ll want to restart the tablet by going up to the root menu and selecting “reboot system now“.  (If, after selecting the reboot option you’re asked any questions or warnings about ‘root’, just say no to them and get the reboot going.)

When the device reboots you’ll return to the root menu.  This time, choose the ‘install zip‘ option and from there choose the external_sd folder.  In there, you’ll want to install the cm_hummingbird-ota-NMF26Q.161222.zip file:

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Give that a minute or two, then return to the same menu area and this time choose to install the open_gapps-arm-7.1-pico-20170203 zip file.  This will install Google Play on the device.

With that done, go ahead and reboot the device, this time with the microSD card removed.

The initial boot sequence may take ~10 minutes the first time through as it calibrates in the background, so get a cup of coffee at this point.

You may have to power down and reboot one or twice to get things moving– this is not unheard of, so don’t worry if the procedure seems a little slapdash.

When all is said and done, after 10 minutes and/or a reboot or two you should be in good shape and looking at an Android 7.1 device, with Google Play installed, and you’ll be ready to go.

Update 6/2017– apparently Netflix is now blocking any rooted android tablet from downloading their app from the Google Play store, because of location-specific content restrictions, which is annoying. However, you can still install Netflix on the tablet easily enough, as discussed in this article among many.