The Misadventures of Quinxy truths, lies, and everything in between!

How to Keep your Unofficial Android Install Up to Date

This was written as an offshoot of my latest past time, modding a Nook Color, but most of it applies in principle to all unofficial Android installs, and actually almost all modded installs.  If you're looking to build the best, smallest, cheapest tablet out there, you're looking for my guide to installing CyanogenMod on Nook Color.

Once you've got your system up and running you'll inevitably want to update it.  There are two separate things you'll update, the first is the operating system and the second is the kernel/ROM.  While the  operating system includes a kernel, most modders run kernels which are independently maintained and hacked for reasons of performance and bug fixes.

Updating the Operating System

Minor Upgrades

Assuming the update you are going to apply is relatively minor, such as a new update of CyanogenMod 7, you can probably upgrade in place, without losing any of your data.  An upgrade will involve letting the system update (replace) the existing operating system files with those in the update.  With CM 7 the process is very simple, you copy the updated OS zip to the boot partition and boot into a special mode where a script will see and execute the upgrade.  Other installs will have this or an alternative approach.  Backups are certainly recommended before undertaking this sort of upgrade, just in case.

Major Upgrades

If you are going to do a major upgrade, such as from one OS install to another (e.g., phiremod nook to verygreen CM 7 or from Froyo SD to verygreen CM 7), the process is much more involved.  The quickest and safest route I recommend involves the following process:

  1. Backup your entire system. If you are booting from a microSD card, make an image of the microSD card on your PC.  You can always write the image back to the microSD if you change your mind or need something you forgot to transfer.
  2. Backup your apps and their data. Buy Titanium Backup Pro (it's only a few bucks) and use it to back up all your user apps and their data.  It will store the backups on your microSD card.  Once the backup is complete shut down the Nook Color, and place the microSD card in your PC.  Copy the Titanium Backup folder from the SD card to your PC.  You will need this folder later to recover.
  3. Backup all your personal / media files. When the microSD card is in your PC copy all of your personal files (documents, personal photos, etc.) and media files (audio/video/downloaded photos) to your computer.  You will need these when you want to put them back on your new Nook OS.
  4. Install the new OS. Now you install the OS you've chosen, over-writing the SD card as needed.  Hope you backed everything up and made the copies you needed!
  5. Reinstall your apps and their data. You'll now need to get your Titanium Backup folder data copied back from your computer onto the SD card, make sure you restore it to its original path, which should be /sdcard/TitaniumBackup.  With this done, run Titanium Backup Pro.  Press the virtual menu button from the TB screen, then choose "Batch", then choose "Restore missing apps with data".  TB will show you a list of apps which are not currently installed.  Be careful what you install this way!  I recommend choosing only those apps which are least likely to be integrated with the OS.  For example, I would personally be reluctant to install Gmail this way (since I might expect trouble, given its integration wish OS-level features related to syncing), but I wouldn't fear installing Google Earth this way.  To be really safe you may wish to work through the list iteratively, first installing those apps you are most confident will cause no problems (e.g., games), and then over several iterations and reboots and testing work through the rest of the list.  Some apps may not work properly once restored!  This can relate to what is stored in their app data, which might have dependencies that no longer make sense on this new OS.  If this is the case you can clear this data via the app info screen and if that doesn't work uninstall then re-install the app; you will lose that apps settings/progress/etc. in that situation.  Fortunately very few apps experience this.
  6. Replace your personal / media files. You can now restore your persona and media content from the copy you made to your PC.
  7. Recreating your OS settings / home screen customizations / etc. Unfortunately one thing you will always lose is the customizations you make to things like your home screen, and the OS settings.  There's not much you can do about this if you are radically altering the operating system (e.g., Froyo to Gingerbread/CM7).  If your conversion is less severe, and within the same underlying OS (e.g., verygreen's CM7 to phiremod's nook) you may be able to backup and restore the "system settings" using that batch scenario in Titanium Backup.  Typically you just need to expect to recreate these sorts of changes, which are often fundamental to the new OS.  New functions / features often make previous settings you had meaningless.

Fortunately this process isn't as bad as it sounds.  Assuming you're satisfied with getting your system 97% upgraded, then making the minor home screen / OS customizations over the days which follow, you can realistically complete a major upgrade in under an hour (barring problems).

Upgrading the Kernel / ROM

Upgrading the kernel (aka ROM) can be incredibly easy.  The basic process is simple, pick the kernel appropriate to your OS install, download it to your PC, copy it to the right location on your Nook Color.  The actual steps very wildly depending on what OS install you have, but the process always involves those basic components.  Some tools like ClockworkMod exist to automate this process, and potentially remove the PC from the equation, but more on that at a later time.

Because each OS install requires a different process I won't go into any detailed explanation of what you need to do here, I'll just mention a few things you might not know if you are new to this.

For most OS installs the kernel / ROM is a single file, called "uImage".  When you are upgrading the kernel all you are doing is replacing that single file.  You should always keep a copy of the last kernel you were using, in case something goes wrong and you need to revert to it.  Personally when I am going to upgrade my kernel I rename the existing uImage to something which records the version info.  I might rename "uImage" to "uImage.03302011" which indicates to me it was dalingrin's 03/30/2011 release of his kernel (obviously the name doesn't record it was dalingrin's, or that it was his SD CM7 version, but since his are the only kernels I'm using, and since I'd only be using the SD CM7 version on this device, I don't record that info in the name).

It's always a good idea to read the change log to see what is being updated in each kernel release, and if it ain't broke consider not fixing it.  Some releases are critical, adding Bluetooth support, adding hardware acceleration to video, but others may not mean anything to you, like adding VPN support.  If your system is fine and a kernel update doesn't give you anything, it's okay to let one go by!  New kernels can add new problems, let somebody else work out the bugs if you're happy with your current kernel!

It seems obvious, but make sure you pick the right kernel for your OS!   Most people's problems relate to having picked the wrong one.  A Froyo OS should have a Froyo kernel, a CM7 OS should have a CM 7 kernel.  While one kernel might work with another OS you're just asking for trouble.

Comments (23) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Hello – I’ve enjoyed your site and it has been very helpful. I have CM7 installed and have actually used ROM manager Pro. I wondered 1. Had you ever used the ROM manager to update ROMs 2. What I really want to know relates to updating CM nightlies. With ROM manager, it notifies me there’s a new nightly. When I go to apply it, it asks me do I want to install ROM Addons Google Apps (I check this box), then it will want to know if it should wipe Davlik or cache or all data (I am not entirely sure what it presents, but something like that). When doing nightlies or smaller updates, do you JUST wipe Davlik (sp) or one of the other options. Thanks!

  2. You write “With CM 7 the process is very simple, you copy the updated OS zip to the boot partition and boot into a special mode where a script will see and execute the upgrade.”

    But you don’t say where exactly to put it. It’s not very helpful.

  3. PS,

    While I can appreciate your needing more help than the average person, you are the only person I’ve seen who has asked for something without even bothering with a courtesy “thank you” or “thanks in advance” or other non-critical statement. And, presumably your tendency towards discourtesy is nothing new which explains why you are the only person I’ve seen posting on my blog using a fake (mailinator) email address. Kinder people have less need for such devices in this context.

    The answer is in fact fairly complete. The boot partition is purely for booting. It has NO folders, thus the question of where exactly you put it on the boot partition is moot; you put it in the only place available, the root of your boot partition. And, this statement was not intended to hand hold you through the upgrade since I presume you’ve managed to install CyanogenMod 7 successfully to the point that you now need to update it. As such, you would be familiar with all these items I cursorily touched on.

  4. he did say thanks Dick Head

  5. or is it that your just an arrogant bastard

  6. exwelder –

    Huh? You seem to think user “PS” is the same person as user “Brian”. They are not. They posted 24 hours apart, from different locations in the US, and with different email addresses. So, user “PS” did not say thanks, and was just needlessly unpleasant, apparently much like yourself.

  7. Quinxy
    Thank you in advance for all the hard (and free of charge) work you have done in writing the how-to guides for the Nook Color.

    I’m totally blow away by the shear rudeness of some of the readers of your blog.

    ,Furthermore, having read some of your guides (although I have not done the work of upgrading my previously rooted Nook Color to a sd card bootable Cm7), I am very pleased with your clear, concise writing ability.

    Since my background is as a Sr. technical writer in the software industry, I believe I can speak with some “authority” on this issue. Thanks again.

    Paul

  8. Paul

    I truly appreciate the compliment and comments. I have a great respect for you technical writers, coalescing the vapors of a profoundly complicated subject and distilling them into something understandable to a varyingly technical audience is sheer literary wizardry. You do an extremely difficult job, and when you do it well (as I’m sure you do!), it is an absolute joy to behold! I suspect I don’t have nearly enough passion or patience to do a job like yours, but thankfully on topics near enough to my present interests (whatever those might be) I have fun trying. And if you ever have any advice for someone trying to break a little bit into the field, just enough to have cause to write more and for an audience that might find it interesting, please share your wisdom. All the best.

  9. Quinxy,
    Hello.
    I regretfully didn’t find your site in time. I am a novice at the NookColor and want to know is there anyway to bring it back to the original B&N state to then put the info on a micro SD card. I know I have already voided my warranty; however, 1) my nook won’t register, 2) Market.android isn’t recognizing my device, 3) my nook is not connected to my account and 4) I am unable to get it to set up my account from my nook. I access the internet through my Nook, check my web emails and can watch Youtube, so I know it is connecting with the internet.

    If you have already covered this, please direct me to your post if you will.
    Thank you,
    Derick

  10. Derick,

    You can indeed restore to the original, for the latest info and links to the ROMs/etc. go here:
    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=914690

  11. Thank you for your time on this. It has been a lot of fun. I used the Agnostic image and think this is great.

  12. Quinxy,

    I posted on another page. I reiterate my appreciation for this page. You convinced me that hacking my Nook Color was doable. I successfully (mostly) performed the SD-card/non-root version. My Nook still reverts to original when I remove the card. I am using market, Google, et al, and have downloaded a number of apps, and files. VERRRRRY happy to have done this, and am planning the bluetooth keyboard so I can leave my macbook at home entirely.
    I have been worried about backing all this up, so in case of calamity, I do not have to start from scratch, or lose files or apps.
    I have two questions: One, you note above that Titanium backs up all non-OS stuff to the SD card. Is that kosher with the OS on the card? I am about to purchase it, based on yours and other recommendations, but I want to be clear about this. My assumption is that I could also make a mirror of the Titanium backup and the root files in case the card gets corrupted or lost or whatever. Should I make an OS mirror separately?

    Second, I never did get the Nook app for Android working, and wonder what I am doing wrong, or if anyone has. I am using CM7, 7.0.3 version. It seems there are lots of complaints about it not running. Mine freezes and says force close when I try to open a book in that app.

  13. Quinxy, your site is great! I installed CM 7.0.3 to a bootable SD and it was pretty much smooth sailing until I lost my WiFi (it can’t find any routers). I would like to try and update to a recent nightly but I’m not sure what you mean by “boot into a special mode” (under “Minor Upgrades”). I’ve copied a recent nightly zip file to the boot directory of the SD card but don’t understand how to make my Nook Color boot up and run the script to look for and execute the upgrade.

    Thanks in advance for any help. Keep up the great work!

    Al

  14. Thanks for the passion! I have one problem, and I’m not sure what I’m missing. Every time I take my SD card out of my Nook, it appears unformatted and I have lost the Root partition/folder. Is this normal? It then seems there’s no way I can update anything because I seem to be starting from scratch each time. What am I missing?

    Thx!
    Angus

  15. Angus, I’m not sure what’s going on, but I suspect it is more a problem of perception rather than reality. When you say you take the SD out of your Nook I assume you’re talking about an SD-based OS install. Is your Nook powered off at the time? You would never want to pull out the SD if the OS was running because of possible file corruption. If you’re doing that then it could explain the problem. If not then when you say it appears unformatted are you connecting it to a Windows PC? With a Windows PC you’ll only see the first partition, which is FAT, but you probably already know that (the others are hidden since their filesystem type is not understood by Windows). In theory you could be misunderstanding this, though.

  16. Quinxy.

    I just want to thank you in advance for all the effort you’ve put into these guides/pages. I had planned on doing a mSD -based install tonight, but my wife’s latest novel seems to have other ideas (and the mSD card I want to use is in the Nook now so I can’t even get ahead). Everything I’ve read hear makes it sounds pretty simple though now that guys like you have done all the work of figuring it out for guys like me.

    Thanks again,
    Tom

  17. Tom, you can always buy a super cheap micro SD card from any cell phone store for the SD-based install, wouldn’t set you back more than about $10. Your other option would be to make a backup of your current SD card, make sure you really do back up everything! And then create the SD based install, and then if you did things right you could make the SD partition on the SD card visible to both the SD-based install and the normal install… but, I don’t know exactly how you’d do that, as I’ve never tried. I just know it should be possible (if your original Nook install is rooted).

  18. Hi,
    thanks for all the help here. I don’t understand one thing, what file do i use to update the cm7, the new nightly build? do i then rename that to update.zip? i think i am missing some thing here. keep up the great work

    michael

  19. Quinxy,

    I’ve been researching this for quite a while and this is by far the best laid out description on how to load a different OS on the Nook. Thank you for all your work. Have you used the dual boot image yet, where you can boot into phiremod or deeper blue’s honeycomb? I have been using it and the phiremod is solid, with the honeycomb a bit quirky. Any ideas on where to get a better version of honeycomb.

    Thanks,.

  20. Steven, I’ve not tried honeycomb for any length of time. I’ve just reached the point where I want my Nook just to work reliably and having all the latest bells and whistles is just not that important to me. But that’ll likely change as I have more free time or do more development with it.

  21. Okay, since you like me like to be welcomed and thanked every once in a while for pulling miracles out of our respectful behinds, I give you a hearty “THANK YOU SIR!!!!”

    I have successfully NOOTERED my wife’s old Nook Color once her new Nook Tablet arrived as her 15th wedding anniversary present using your walk through. I’m new to this whole Android OS hacking environment but NOT new to linux, OS, systems performance etc. It’s what I do for a living actually. I have found that your instructions are spot on for the most part.

    I found one tiny issue that I think needs to be addressed since your last updates and the fact that I found absolutely ZERO information on the issue I had and it sounds like others are running into it as well.

    So hear goes.

    Once you WinImage the sd card with the the agnostic boot image and copy over the nightly build or which ever one you choose, (I tried multiple versions and they all do the same thing coming up). The SD boot extractor program somehow mangles the FAT32 partitions so when you put them in a normal Windows XP sp3 or Win7 computer later to say install GoogleApps… It simply can’t be done like normal.

    Put the sd card back into the Nook Color and it works great, just the Windows platform refuses to see ANY of the partitions.

    The fix for this for me was to reboot my laptop with the standard Linux Rescue CD release. Once booted and fired up GPartEd, it sees all the partitions on the SD card just fine. So LINUX sees things okay. So next up was to mount both my windows laptop drive AND the boot partition on the SD card to separate mount points. Once that was done, I just copied the GoogleApps download from the readonly NTFS partition that I mapped to the sd card mapped partition.

    Shut down the laptop. Put SD card back in the Nook Color which booted into rescue mode since that was the mode I selected upon shutting down. Voila GoogleApps kicked off the configuration process and all was well.

    Keep up the great work!

    There is definitely SOMETHING being set incorrectly at the partitioning level in the latest Size Agnostic installer which is the cause of people not being able to see the fat32 partitions like normal when they remove the SD card and put in a Windows machine.

    Thanks again for all the hard work!

    ppuskari

  22. Quinxy,

    First of all, great site. You have also convinced me to turn my Nook Color into an Android Tablet, and I finally got it. I am running CM 7.1(Encore) from the SD card (not rooted). I did not intentionally download ROM manager (v4.5.0.1), but I am assuming it came with the CM I downloaded. In ordered to keep updating my CM regularly, what do I need to do without doing everything over again? I tried to look through the directions, but I am lost as to which applies to me.

    When I open ROM manager and click check for ROM updates, it tell me to install Clockworkmod…do I do this from flashing? How do I do this?

    Thanks again!

    Clinton

  23. Hello,

    Thank you for your work…. and yes I am very much behind the times.
    I have a buddy with a nook color that would like to try the sd version of froyo. I have looked everywhere that I can find and none of the links to the software are still active.

    Is this this option no longer working or is it just that that the hardware is old enough that nobody is keeping the links active?

    Sorry to be a late adopter, but if you could at least tell me if this isnt possible anymore I would greatly appreciate it.


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