Hardware investigate

How to hack the $250 Nook Color into a full Android tablet

The Nook Color is a $250 e-reader powered by Android. Learn how to hack it into a powerful and fully functional Android tablet.

The Android Honeycomb 3.0 operating system and the first fleet of tablets that are going to run it are all looking mighty impressive. Unfortunately, it's also looking like most of them will be even more expensive than the Apple iPad, which starts at $500.

If you're tempted for an Android tablet but don't want to spend a small fortune, then you may want to try the Barnes & Noble Nook Color (right). Out of the box, it's primarily intended to be an e-reader but it's a 7-inch touchscreen device that is actually running Android under the hood. It even gives you a few apps like Chess, Sudoko, Crossword puzzles, and Pandora.

However, you can also kick things up a notch with the Nook Color by hacking it to run a full version of the Android OS. Then you can install your favorite homescreen UI and your favorite Android apps. You can even install the Amazon Kindle app and other e-reader apps and libraries so that you're no longer locked into just the Barnes & Noble library on this device.

Of course, hacking or "rooting" the Nook Color will void your warranty and should only be done by those who are very comfortable fiddling with technology. Also, TechRepublic is not responsible for any damage that you do to your Nook Color while attempting any of the steps that we're about to show. Proceed at your own risk.

Nevertheless, the process is relatively simple and if you run into trouble you can always do a factory reset on the device and start from scratch. Just keep in mind that if you're not tech-savvy and you do this incorrectly then you could cause your Nook Color to become unbootable.

Okay, now that we've got the disclaimers out of the way, let's go through the steps on how to hack the Nook Color.

Hack Nook Color into Android tablet

These steps are based on the work done by NookDevs.com. I'm going to show you how to "root" a Nook Color using a Windows computer. You can also do it from Mac or Linux, but the steps are a little bit different (consult the NookDevs guide for details).

Before you begin, you'll also need a MicroSD card (with an SD adapter). It will need to be at least 128MB, but I'd recommend a 1GB card so that you've got plenty of room. You'll also need an SD card adapter to connect the SD card to your computer, unless your computer has an SD card slot built-in.

Now, here are the steps:

  1. Charge up and then power on your Nook Color and register your Barnes & Noble account on the device (you won't be able to do this step after you root it).
  2. Mount your SD card on your Windows PC and make sure all of the files are cleared off of it. Go into My Computer and check the drive letter of the SD card.
  3. Download Win32DiskImager and then extract the ZIP file.
  4. On the Nook Color, go to Settings | Device Info | About Your Nook Color and check "Software version"
  5. Next you need to download a little program called "auto nooter" (by GabrialDestruir) that creates a bootable SD card image for booting the Nook Color. However, the version you need to download will depend on the software version of your Nook Color. For example, if you're running Nook 1.0.0 then you need to download auto-nooter-2.12.18.img.zip and if you're running Nook 1.0.1 then you need to download auto-nooter-2.12.25.img.zip. For later versions, see the NookDevs guide for links.
  6. Once you've downloaded your version of auto-nooter, unzip it and note the location.
  7. Open Win32DiskImage.exe
  8. Click the folder icon to select the auto-nooter file that you just downloaded and unzipped.
  9. Click the Device drop-down and select the drive letter of SD card (from Step 2).
  10. Click the Write button. The software will erase the MicroSD card and replace its contents with the bootable Android files. Once it has completed, you can click Exit.
  11. Remove the SD/MicroSD card from your computer.
  12. Hold down the power button on your Nook Color and then select "Power off"
  13. Insert the MicroSD card into the Nook Color (The MicroSD slot is on the back in the lower right corner underneath the little gray "Nook" door.)
  14. Plug the Nook's USB cable into the PC and into the Nook Color. This will cause the Nook Color to boot. (The Nook's power cable may blink and Windows may complain about missing drivers.)
  15. If you're using auto-nooter for Nook 1.01 or later, then after the root process is completed it will automatically boot into the boot animation and the new boot sequence. If you're using auto-nooter for Nook 1.0.0 then once the device shows up in Windows, wait 5 minutes for the scripts to finish running and then disconnect the USB cable, remove the MicroSD card, and hold down the power button for 15 seconds to boot the Nook Color. It will boot into the Nook logo animation and the new boot sequence.
  16. Once the Nook Color boots you'll see the Android logo and welcome message. Touch the Android logo and then log in with your Google account. Your now ready to download apps and customize your Nook Color as an Android tablet.
  17. I'd recommend going into the Extras screen and opening the Android Market and downloading an alternative homescreen app (my favorites are HelixLauncher and LauncherPro). That will override most of the Nook UI and give you a more native Android experience.

Once you get your Nook Color rooted and running your favorite Android apps, you can always kick it up another notch by trying out an early version of the Honeycomb 3.0 tablet OS that has been hacked to run on the Nook Color using a bootable MicroSD card.

Photo gallery

Check out our photo gallery of unboxing the Nook Color, comparison photos with Galaxy Tab and iPad, and the images of the Nook Color running the full Android OS. As you'll see, the Nook Color is a pretty nice piece of hardware.

Also read

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

62 comments
Di27
Di27

Please pardon my ignorance, I would really like to "hack" my Nook to and Android OS but I do not want to mess this up, so I am looking for some more details/help. Everything I have read thus far only talks about the 1.01, can I still follow these instructions? Which "Win32DiskImager" do I use, source or binary? I have purchased a 32gGB micro card, will this work? I think that's it....for now....I hope! ;)

nasty7
nasty7

Why is Sep 1 the last post? Has this been eliminated? Really is any info available for hacking the new Nook Color 2? I really like this site, hope it continues, I plan to buy the new Nook if info is available...

charlie_2m
charlie_2m

Is this hack a replacement of the original OS on the tablet or, since it's going into the SD card, is it an option, where you can revert to the original OS if you pull the SD card out? That would be, in my opinion, the best of both worlds. I've had a Nook Color for about 8 months now, using it only as an ereader, but I am ready to take it to the the next level. Thanks, CEF

fdaugherty
fdaugherty

Does anyone know if I can do the following - I would like to unregister my Nook and give it to someone. If I unregister a nootered Nook, can it be registered again? I remember reading something about making sure it was registered before you nooter. If I have to register it before, are their instructions to de-nooter (setting the Nook back to the 1.1 version). Then I can register and re-nooter. Thanks

shegamer78
shegamer78

I have a nook color, and I have to say I'm very interested in the rooting process. I am considering rooting the nook very soon but have one question that I hope someone can help me with. In the instructions it states to download "Win32DiskImager" When I click the link I see two downloads on the right side. One for "Binary" and one for "Source" Which one of these should I download?

jslcb
jslcb

I have version 1.2.0 I can not find out wich neuter version I need to use. Any help would be apprecaited.

carinruby
carinruby

I put Android on a Micro SD card for my Nook Color (running 1.2), but can't figure out how to add Android Market. Just doesn't work... Any suggestions, please???!!!

fdaugherty
fdaugherty

I tried to manually install the update last night on my re-rooted Nook. I followed the instructions and moved the zip file to the "main" folder, which I interpreted as the root directory of the device. The device did not recognize the zip file. The upgrade did not execute. Guess I'll wait and let it be pushed down to me.

amyyxrawrr
amyyxrawrr

i followed all the steps. everything was going fine until it booted back up. the android logo never pops up. just the nook screen after it says touch the future of reading. help?

mheyder
mheyder

I have the same problem with mine, had it running fine following the directions and worked for 3 days until I let the battery run down completely. Now, it does the same as yours, boots to the Android robot logo and has no other functions. I tried to re set (twice) and it goes through the motions but nothing changes......

sonexus
sonexus

I used autonooter 2.12.25 on my Nook Color 1.0.1 and after the scripts ran, the Nook was stuck on a screen showing an N and a message about it using some Adobe technology. I waited and waited and it didn't progess any further. I reset it with the power button and the same thing happened, it just sat on that particular screen. At least the restore guide located here works http://nookdevs.com/Flash_back_to_clean_stock_ROM Has anyone else had this problem? Did you find a solution? -Justin

fdaugherty
fdaugherty

Wondering if anyone has upgraded to Honeycomb? I rerooted and am loving it. I was thinking about updated the OS, but was wondering if anyone had any problems with it?

ben127b
ben127b

I used Auto-Nooker 3.0.0 also on an 8 gig card. Got it working just fine, added a bunch of apps, then let the battery run down completely. Since I did not have the Nook Color charger that came with the unit I was using a 500mA charger that would not charge it. After researching this problem I learned a dead Nook Color battery needs min 1500mA to get the charging started. Bought one and got past the red batery discharged warning, When I power up I get a brief message "Touch the Future of Reading", then "Contains Reader Mobile Technology by Adobe Systems...", and finally the Android logo screen. The Nook button at the bottom does nothing, and the Android logo screen keeps redrawing. If I try to shut down by holding the power button and releasing when the screen goes blank it simply tries to reboot. Any help solving this problem will be greatly appreciated. Thanks Ben

jmerritt3
jmerritt3

I couldn't wait to try this on my NC after reading this article, but I am having trouble getting it to work. My NC is v1.1.0. The first time I tried this, it booted into a different screen than the Nook and I thought I had it. However, after I connected to my wireless network, I went to sign into Google and the keyboard would not let me type correctly. For every keystroke I hit, four to six letters popped into the field. I tried for over an hour and could not get my password entered properly because of all of the random characters that jumped on top of the intended ones. I started over and the same thing happened the second time. I tried again and on attempt number three and going forward it does not even boot to that screen. It boots normally to the Nook screen. I have tried two separate downloads of Auto-Nooter 3.0.0 from two separate sources and I have used two different Micro SD cards - SanDisk 8GB and PNY 4GB. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks, Jess

mg000000
mg000000

I wish to confirm if this is for installing Android 2.1, 2.2? It seems based on the final paragraph (Once you get your Nook Color rooted and running your favorite Android apps, you can always kick it up another notch by trying out an early version of the Honeycomb 3.0 tablet OS that has been hacked to run on the Nook Color using a bootable MicroSD card.) that you need to follow a separate set of instructions to install Android 3.0? If true, please confirm. If i want to still use these instructions to get a version prior to 3.0, but then wish to go ahead with the other instructions to get honeycomb, will i lose everything i've done on the Nook if i upgrade? If i start downloading app's, if i customize things will i lose it all? Should we all consider which Android version we want and just pick one to boot? thank you.

dz1mm3rm4n
dz1mm3rm4n

Worked very well. Took a while tho because I kept getting an error saying that there was not enough space on my SD Card. Tried 32 GB, 16GB and even a 2GB micro SD Card. Even attempted to use DD for Windows instead on Win32 Disk Imager and switched over to an XP machine instead of my current Windows 7. I don't own a Mac and don't currently have a Linux install to test with. Finally I tried Win32 Disk Imager VERSION 1.5 instead of 2.0 and worked with no trouble whatsoever. The screen shots here appear to be 2.0, though there is no mention of which version to use.

iluvsweetpea999
iluvsweetpea999

Once the Nook Color has been modified to have the full Android OS, can it be reversed back to the Nook Color default OS? Meaning, the way it was "out-of-the-box."

mg000000
mg000000

Howdy. So once this is completed, has anyone dnld'd iTunes and used it with, say, connecting a hard drive that you've stored your library to? Does iTunes work well on N Color?

bowlingbrad
bowlingbrad

It all went smoothly. Now I need to figure out how to use an android device. Are there any good tutorials out there?

flashtube1
flashtube1

I was really impressed with the info when I researched the unit and for the money and performance level of the Nook Color, it out performs the Apple iPad hands down. I purchased this unit for my wife's birthday and she absolutely loves it! If I had one, I would definitely install the Hack. For now I will download the instructions and required software to perform this upgrade for future use, unless something much better comes down the line.

jnheroy
jnheroy

Now all would be perfect if we had a place to send the Color Nook for a battery replacement when it begins to die.

michele.marek
michele.marek

Bought my 16 yro a NC for her birthday & this sounds intriguing- I am new to Android & netbook - can some recommend some links to read so I can get familiar with Android basics and common apps- so I could do this with eyes wide open?

rberman
rberman

Can the author perhaps give a short statement about the performance after the hack? Especially with 3.0?

fdaugherty
fdaugherty

The Nook is a cool thing, but does one really need to carry their whole library around with them. As a single use device it would take 50+ book purcahses just to break even with the cost of the color Nook. But if you can root it to allow multiple functions for a reasonable price - now you've got something. And yes now I'll go buy one this week.

soulprotector
soulprotector

where would i go for help on the process? i did everything but it's still stuck on the grey nook logo.. smh.. female student frustrated.. help?

kydna
kydna

I rooted my 1.1 Nook Color about a month ago via NookDevs. I love it! As a photographer enthusiast, I like to show my fotos to people that wish to see them. The HD screen is beautiful, Android works great, plus I still have my B&N UI to pull back to if needed (not). What's nice is that you can revert the NC back to its original if you're not satisfied. As for effect on battery life, in my case, seems to be the same. Some guys on NookDevs have been creating programs to overclock it AND create longer battery life. Haven't tried that yet, as I'm waiting for a little more feedback from those who have overclocked. More info can be found at the NookDev web site. I have the full Android Market now and I haven't looked back.

mhbowman
mhbowman

A company developes a device, disables many of it's capabilites, and the name of software used to restore those capabiities is called nooter. As in neuter? Anyone? :)

fdaugherty
fdaugherty

consult the NookDevs guide for details

fdaugherty
fdaugherty

As I understand it, it replaces the OS. I have pulled my SD out afterwards and it still functions as a tablet. There are procedures on the web site above to reverse nooter (not sure if its de-nooter, un-nooter) :o)

JWHJWHJWH
JWHJWHJWH

Your a courageous person fdaugherty! I'm surprised the manual upgraded failed to do anything though. I can see it corrupting something, undoing the rooting, or even putting up a message "sorry this nook is not in the right initial state (not rooted), for this update to be applied". But just not recognizing the update at all? That sounds like a different issue ...

kydna
kydna

Sounds like a cool idea, but the parameters to satisfy it are numerous. You must have this, but you can't use that; tether with this, but it won't work with that; use this version, as others don't cut it, yada-yada... for all that hassle, if you really want/need GPS on a tablet form, it would be better to wait a couple of months more when other companies will be releasing their newest versions of the tablet with different form factors and pricing, etc.

kydna
kydna

How long did you wait? When I rooted mine, it took about 5-6 minutes before the install completed after performing the last step.

mg000000
mg000000

How do you join / create an account there on nookdevs.com? I have looked all over besides clicking the create account link at very top of their site which only takes me back to the home-page. I want to ask there for help, since i cannot get past the step for writing the auto nooter file to my sd card. The imager isn't seeing the .img file that i've unzipped. Any idea what may be stopping it? Could it be the sd reader/writer device itself?

dz1mm3rm4n
dz1mm3rm4n

The Nook is running 2.1 OS. All you are really doing here is rooting the device and gaining access to the market. The orignal launcher to get to the Nook Homescreen is still there, I just set mine to Launcher Pro as default. I do not yet know what would happen if Honeycomb were installed.

kydna
kydna

I read in a root forum that some peeps were having problems also. One of the resolves was to use a Class 6 card. I used a Class 4 with no problems. I assume the resolve is dependent upon the specific problem.

kydna
kydna

Yes. Go into the B&N Nook Color Settings. There you will find the way to revert it to a pristine, out-of-the-box condition.

kydna
kydna

I know what you mean about familiarizing one's self with the Android platform. I myself am stumbling around with the OS and slowly getting the hang of it. Reminds me the first attempts at using Windows 95! As for tutorials, I'm sure a Google search will yield plenty of info.

RobertBetzSchÃ
RobertBetzSchÃ

I am also looking for a website to replace the battery. Still on the go, does anybody have a recommendation?

flashtube1
flashtube1

Sounds like a new business opportunity, I think I'll go buy one.

fdaugherty
fdaugherty

I finally bought the Nook Color tonight. Rerooted it tonight very cool.

kydna
kydna

Don't know what happened wrong. Did you wait long enough in order for the root to completely finish? If I remember correctly, it took about 5 or so minutes for mine to do so. Also, did you download and install the correct version of the root? The Nook Color may have one of two versions on it. Check yours in Settings to see if you're using the correct one. Restore your Nook Color to factory (easy to do, need a Wi-Fi connection though) and try again with the correct version of the root if that was the problem. Once you get it Goldilocked (just right), you'll have a great, modestly priced little tablet!

fdaugherty
fdaugherty

Last night I popped the SD card and tried to download again - nothing. The manual download loads the file to the SD card, which appears to be the wrong place for the Nook to recognize it for install. I unzipped the file on the SD card and still nothing. I'm going to stop now before it stops working completely. You know, because it is no longer under warranty. :o)

sonexus
sonexus

I gave it 15 minutes after Windows recognized the hardware via the USB cable.

sonexus
sonexus

And you know whats really strange? I followed the exact same procedure on the Nook this morning, and successfully completed it. Not sure why it didnt go the first time. Oh well!