The Easy Way to Turn Your Nook Color Into an Android Tablet

Nook Color running Android
I'm a big believe in simplicity. (The column isn't called Hassle-Full PC, after all.) So when given the option between something simple and something complex, you can bet I'll choose the former every time--even if it means spending a few bucks.

For example, not long ago I bought the Barnes & Noble Nook Color, a 7-inch e-reader that beat the upcoming Amazon Kindle Fire to market by a full year. Although it was pretty slick right out of the box, I wanted to test its acumen as a full-blown Anroid tablet.

This is possible thanks to a process called "rooting," which effectively means breaking into the operating system so you can mess around with it--or replace it. I did some research, and although rooting didn't seem that complicated, I did find it a little intimidating. The last thing I wanted to do was "brick" my Nook, to render it non-functional owing to some glitch or screw-up.

Thankfully, I found an easy alternative. A couple enterprising developers have created special microSD cards especially for the Nook Color, cards that would allow you to dual-boot the Nook OS and a specialized version of Android. In other words, you just pop one of these cards into the Nook's microSD slot, and presto: instant Android.

The real beauty of this is that it's a semi-permanent solution. If you don't want the Android environment any longer, just turn off the Nook, pop out the card, and reboot. Presto: You're back to the Nook OS. (Actually, you don't even have to take the card out, as you can choose the OS you want from a boot menu.) That means you're not voiding your warranty, unlike when you root the Nook.

I've tested a couple of these Nook Color cards, and they're both fantastic. The first, N2A, supplies CyanogenMod, a very popular Android ROM stocked with lots of great apps, including Amazon Kindle (so you're not locked into reading Barnes & Noble e-books), Angry Birds, and Words with Friends. Of course, you can always fire up Android Market and install more.

I also tried a card from Root My Nook Color, which offers a choice of three Android ROMs: CyanogenMod, MIUI, and PhireMod. Mine came with MIUI running an iPhone/iPad theme (one of many available), and dang if my Nook didn't look like a baby iPad. Really, really cool.

Prices start at around $35 for an 8GB card; both shops offer a 16GB version for around $50, and N2A sells a 32GB card for $89.99. Bear in mind this is something you can do yourself, using your own much, much cheaper microSD cards (Newegg, for example, has a couple 16GB cards for under $20)--but it's a hassle, especially if you don't know what you're doing. The pre-made Android cards offer plug-and-play simplicity--and the results are just plain awesome.

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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