How to block updates on a rooted Fire TV or Fire TV Stick by setting a custom Fire OS version number

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This is a new method of blocking software updates on a rooted Fire TV or Fire TV Stick. It involves setting a custom software version number in the device’s build.prop configuration file. Rbox came up with this idea and asked me to test if it works. The main advantage to this update blocking method is that it can be implemented from within TWRP custom recovery before the device boots. That means, if you factory reset (i.e., wipe data partition) a Fire TV, you can ensure the device does not update during the initial setup process. Prior to this method, you had to rely on external router or OpenDNS update blocking methods when going through the Fire TV initial setup process after factory resetting. Now you can block updates internally before starting the initial setup process. If you have a rooted device and are blocking updates using the “pm disable …” method (method 1 in my blocking guide), it’s a good idea to also follow this guide to have an additional update blocking method in place.

Important

This update blocking method MUST BE REDONE EVERY TIME YOU INSTALL A ROM. That is why it’s best to use both this method and the “pm disable …” method (method 1) from my blocking guide. This blocking method does survive a factory reset, which method 1 does not. So this method will cover you when factory resetting your device, and method 1 will cover you if you flash a new ROM but forget to re-apply this method, since method 1 survives installing a new ROM.

You can implement this update blocking procedure from within TWRP or within Fire OS. Obviously, if you are following this method to block updates during the initial setup process, you need to implement this update block from within TWRP. If your device is already setup and you are following this guide to just have an additional blocking method in place, then it’s actually simpler to implement this method from within Fire OS.

Guide using TWRP

  1. Boot into TWRP Custom Recovery. Be sure you are following this guide AFTER you’re done installing a ROM. Installing a ROM will remove this blocking method, so it should be done last, just before you boot into Fire OS.
  2. Select Mount from the TWRP main menu.
  3. Check the box next to System and then return to the main menu by pressing the home shaped button in the bottom center.
  4. You now need to transfer the file /system/build.prop from your Fire TV to your PC. You can do this using ADB or by copying it to a microSD card or USB drive connected to your device.

    To transfer the file using ADB:

    1. Connect to your device via ADB. You will need to be connected over ethernet and the IP of your device is displayed in the upper left of the main TWRP menu.
    2. Transfer the file to your PC by running the command:
      adb pull /system/build.prop [PATH-ON-YOUR-PC]
      Be sure to replace [PATH-ON-YOUR-PC] with the directory on your PC where you want the file to be saved.
      Mac example:
      adb pull /system/build.prop /Users/AFTVnews/Downloads/
      Windows example:
      adb pull /system/build.prop C:\Users\AFTVnews\Desktop\

    To transfer the file using a microSD card or USB drive:

    1. Insert the microSD card or USB drive into your Fire TV.
    2. Select Mount from the TWRP main menu.
    3. If it is not already checked, check the box next to Micro SDCard or USB (depending on which one you’re using). Then return to the main TWRP menu by clicking the home shaped button in the bottom center.
    4. Click Advanced from the TWRP main menu.
    5. Click File Manager from the menu.
    6. Click the system directory.
    7. Click the build.prop file.
    8. Click Copy File from the menu.
    9. Click the external_sd if you’re using a micro SD card, or select usb if you’re using a USB drive.
    10. Click the Select Current Directory button in the lower right.
    11. Click the Swipe to Confirm button to copy the file to your external storage device.
    12. Press the home shaped button to return to the main TWRP menu. Go back into the Mount menu and uncheck your external storage device. You can now remove your microSD card or USB drive and connect it to your PC.
  5. Now that you have the build.prop file on your PC, open it with a plain text editor.
  6. Find the line (near the top) that starts with ro.build.version.number=
  7. Replace the numbers on that line with 987654321 and save the file.
  8. Now you need to transfer the file back to your Fire TV.

    To transfer the file back using ADB:

    1. Run the command:
      adb push [PATH-TO-build.prop-ON-YOUR-PC] /system/build.prop
      Be sure to replace [PATH-TO-build.prop-ON-YOUR-PC] with the location on your PC where the build.prop file is stored.
      Mac example:
      adb push /Users/AFTVnews/Downloads/build.prop /system/build.prop
      Windows example:
      adb push C:\Users\AFTVnews\Desktop\build.prop /system/build.prop

    To transfer the file using a microSD card or USB drive:

    1. Insert the microSD card or USB drive into your Fire TV.
    2. Select Mount from the TWRP main menu.
    3. If it is not already checked, check the box next to Micro SDCard or USB (depending on which one you’re using). Then return to the main TWRP menu by clicking the home shaped button in the bottom center.
    4. Click Advanced from the TWRP main menu.
    5. Click File Manager from the menu.
    6. Click the external_sd if you’re using a micro SD card, or select usb if you’re using a USB drive. (You may need to select “Up A Level” first.)
    7. Click the build.prop file.
    8. Click Copy File from the menu.
    9. Click the system directory. (You may need to select “Up A Level” first.)
    10. Click the Select Current Directory button in the lower right.
    11. Click the Swipe to Confirm button to copy the file to your /system directory.
    12. Press the home shaped button to return to the main TWRP menu.
  9. That’s it. To confirm the custom version number is saved correctly, do one of the following:
    If you’re connected via ADB, run the following command:
    adb shell cat /system/build.prop | grep number

    Or, within TWRP, go to Advanced, then to Terminal, and type the following command:
    cat /system/build.prop | grep number

    You should see ro.build.version.number=987654321 printed out. If you get the original version number printed out, then you did something wrong and need to repeat this guide from the beginning.

Guide using ES File Explorer within Fire OS

  1. It will be a lot easier to follow this guide if you have a keyboard and mouse connect to your device. First, install the app ES File Explorer onto your Fire TV or Fire TV Stick from the Amazon Fire TV appstore.
  2. Open ES File Explorer.
  3. Scroll down the menu on the left and turn on the “Root Explorer” option under the “Tools” sub-menu.
  4. Grant su permission if you’re asked.
  5. Press back or escape to dismiss the pop-up menu.
  6. Scroll up the menu on the left and select “Local”.
  7. Select “Device” from the options that appear.
  8. Scroll down and select the “system” folder.
  9. Scroll down and select the “build.prop” file.
  10. Select to open it with “ES Note Editor”
  11. Select the pencil icon in the top right to edit the file.
  12. Find the line that starts with ro.build.version.number and replace the number on that line with 987654321. It’s best to use the arrow keys on your remote or keyboard, instead of clicking with a mouse, to edit the number.
  13. Click the back arrow icon in the upper left. Not the one in the upper right.
  14. Click “Yes” when asked if you want to save.
  15. Click the back arrow icon in the upper left again.
  16. To verify your changes were saved, open the build.prop file again and ensure the number next to ro.build.version.number is still 987654321. You can also verify by connecting to your device via ADB and running the command:
    adb shell cat /system/build.prop | grep number
    You should see ro.build.version.number=987654321 printed out.

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42 comments
  1. Adam says:

    Wow. Just wow.

    This.

    This is why aftvnews.com (and rbox) are invaluable to the FireTV community. Seriously guys, great work.

    Few thoughts.

    First, the Linux commands. Hey, show respect (not you Elias) the original root was done on Linux. The Linux commands are the same as the Mac commands, not suprising given the current Mac OS’ roots. I used:

    adb pull /system/build.prop /home/users/Desktop/

    adb push /home/users/Desktop/build.prop /system/build.prop

    Second, you’ll see the correct build number, 550145120 in my case, in the About and Update Firmware section of the firmware once the FireTV is booted up. A quick adb login and grep command confirms that the build.prop on the FireTV is indeed modified.

    Third, and finally, seriously, why can’t Amazon just leave us power users be? I get that they sell the device at cost with a business model of selling videos from Amazon (do they also get a cut of something from other app providers, ie. Netflix?) But those of us that bought the device to do rooting, and Kodi, and etc, are sufficiently sophisticated that, realistically, we aren’t going to pay Amazon anymore than we actually want to. If the media is worth the price to us we’ll purchase it, if not, strongarm tactics just serve to kill the golden goose by pushing us to “alternative” means, maybe even a different device, whereupon Amazon loses ALL oppotunity to sell their digital wares.

    IOW, those of us that bought the device to do power user things are available to Amazon to sell to solely because we CAN do those things on this device. If we can’t do these things on this device, we’ll no longer be available to Amazon.

    Instead of cat and mousing the rooting methods and update-blocking methods that have been discovered, maybe it would be in Amazon’s interest that they reach a sureptitious detente with power users and stop trying to stamp out these methods that make the FireTV attractive to us. I consider the (no-longer available) rooting method and this blocking method to be sufficiently sophisticated to eliminate all but the most hackerish users, IOW, the ones most likely to abandon the device instead of just ceding to its restictions.

    If Amazon were to just relax a little accept that these users will always be there, they might find that instead of chasing them into piracy or another device, they might actually make some money off them.

    • T. Jefferson says:

      That’s a good post, and I agree with one small, but fundamentally altering point. Your position is predicated on power users – those who root, use Kodi, etc. – driving revenue for Amazon. While we both do not have visibility to that data, and both our opinions are conjecture on that matter, I disagree. I know some have made purchases, but I submit the vast majority does not, and in the totality of Amazon subsidizing the cost of the device, they are losing money.

      Amazon’s forward decisions will be based entirely on profit, as it should be. Which is more cost effective… the cat and mouse, including possibility of eliminating Kodi entirely… or perhaps integrating the Prime subscription with the purchase of the Fire TV, much like wireless providers do in phone contracts. I don’t think that is likely as my guess is there is enough incremental revenue from traditional customers who do not subscribe to prime, but who knows. And then, of course, those power users will go elsewhere.

      Amazon knows that, and based on their forward decisions we will know what are the more profitable options… and those decisions are likely not to be static as they figure that out.

      • yup says:

        Seems to me Amazon might save some money by not paying an engineer to continually find ways to harden their device against our efforts. Seems stupid when you think about it. I understand they need to protect the media content from infringement, but otherwise who cares? Build a device and put it out there.

  2. chihuahua says:

    For anyone who doesn’t have a USB keyboard you can download the fire TV app from your phones app-store and it gives you an on screen keyboard to use on your phone on the Fire TV its self.

  3. kel says:

    hi,
    tried this … how do you get the straight line when checking grep number ? all the faffing around caused me a boot loop and had to reinstall rom

  4. Mike says:

    I’m getting this error about it being not a directory:

    C:\Users\Mike>adb pull /system/build.prop C:\Users\Mike\Desktop\
    cannot create ‘C:\Users\Mike\Desktop\’: Not a directory

    I also tried a network share, but no dice. Any ideas?

    • Mike says:

      Ok, disregard. I made a directory on my desktop named test and pointed there:
      “adb pull /system/build.prop C:\Users\Mike\Desktop\test”

      Worked. :)

  5. Mike says:

    On the last step you have this:

    That’s it. To confirm the custom version number is saved correctly, do one of the following:
    If you’re connected via ADB, run the following command:
    adb shell cat /system/build.prop | grep number

    I copied that last line and it didn’t work. Then I realized I had to type:
    adb shell
    then
    cat /system/build.prop | grep number

    Easy enough to figure out, but I didn’t know if you wanted to clarify your instructions. :)

  6. kel says:

    Finally managed to do it via adb ..
    usb stick way kept stalling on reboot ?
    btw .. can we input any 9 digit grep number ?

  7. Gary says:

    I tried by using es file explorer, but when I go to save the file, I get the erroro message “Error occurred when trying to save the file. It will not be saved.” Any Ideas?

  8. Phil says:

    Using adb to pull the build.prop file, changed the ver number but cannot push the file to fire to as it says it is read only. File attributes shows it is not. Anyone had this problem

    • AFTVnews says:

      I’ll be adding a section to this guide soon, for those who want to use ADB instead of ES File Explorer, when I add the screenshots in the next few days. You need to mount the /system partition as read-write, copy the file in, then re-mount as read-only. See my boot animation guide for an example.

      • Bill says:

        Hi Elias,

        So, does this mean that the ES File Explorer method does not work (and neither does Total Commander) and we can only use push/pull through TWRP mounted image?

        Thanks,

        Bill

        • AFTVnews says:

          No. The ADB method that I will be adding is an alternative to the ES File Explorer method that is currently in the guide. The ES File Explorer method works fine.

          With the ES File Explorer method, you’re making changes to the build.prop file directly on the device without having to pull it off and put it back on. Some people prefer to just use ADB to pull the file, make the necessary changes on their PC, and then put it back on the device. That is what the upcoming ADB method will do.

  9. Jack kyle says:

    I used USB to get the file and edit it on mac. the file after overwrite on the fire tv needs chmod 775 or you get a blank screen (had a wipe and rom install done before installing the update) tested on custom rom 505 and 52x

    Cheers

  10. Tham says:

    ES File Explorer won’t let me turn on Root Explorer. It says “sorry test failed. This feature cannot run on your device.” I have just a Fire Stick, not a Fire TV. Does this method only work with a Fire TV? Of not how do I fix this? I can’t do the computer thing bc (a) I’m just not that tech savvy (but can follow the easier instructions like you put on for ES, and (b)I don’t have a computer anyway. So, again can I fix this if I only have he fire stick or do I need a fire TV?

  11. drake says:

    I used microsdcard to get the file and edit it on windows. the file after overwrite on the fire tv i check the number with terminal it says ro.build.version.number=987654321

    I have do all steps right but when i boot the fire tv normaly it freezes on the bootlogo amazon fire tv and can not load the Main Menu

    After i install the prerootet rom 5.2.1.0 again it can boot normaly but with the moded build.prop file it can not boot

    what i do wrong?

    please need help

    • infinity85 says:

      Have the same problem with sloane-5.2.1.0-rooted_r2

      Verification with terminal is ok. Reboot (and cold boot) stays forever in amazon boot animation.

      A wipe doesn’t help either. System still shows amazon-boot-animation endlessly.

  12. wesley says:

    Can I use this blocking method also with the FireTV 2?

  13. Gavin says:

    Hi
    Trying to use the ES file explorer method but when I am trying to turn on the
    ‘ Root explorer ‘ I receive the following message –
    Sorry test failed This feature cannot run on your device
    Anyone had this issues

    • Chr1s says:

      Same problem here…
      Just flashed bueller-5.2.1.0-rooted_r1 but can’t say if it would have worked before. ES File Explorer Version is 4.1.2.2

  14. Xmpp Texting says:

    And/or

    rename:

    otacerts.zip

  15. Christopher Loughrey says:

    How do you undo this block? I don’t remember the original numbers.

  16. mark says:

    sorry for asking this dump question. My fire tv (original) is running on 51.1.6.3_user_516012020. What would be the latest firmware?.

    Is it possible to update the firmware to latest? Any procedure exist?.

    Thanks.

  17. Jay says:

    I have tried the twrp method and have successfully copied the edited file. However, after reboot the screen turns black and I get a pulsing white light. If I reflash the rom and do not edit the file I can boot. Why is the edited file preventing the boot up ?

  18. Jack says:

    How can this be done on the Fire Stick , theres no ethernet connetion or
    usb port

  19. Jack says:

    Ah well OTG cable came in handy

  20. That’s really shrewd! Good to see the logic set out so well.

  21. msp says:

    Normally I’m against killing but this article slaughtered my ignorance.

  22. Y314K says:

    As per Some Doosh’s prior posts. If your going to usr the TWRP option. Then there is a part missing from this guide.

    Luckily it was added to this guide:

    (Section 1 / Step 5)
    http://marksmods.com/Hack-the-Fire-TV/How-to-Install-Android-TV-on-the-Fire-TV.html

    Specially…

    “- At the bottom of the screen click the middle symbol (the house).
    – From the TWRP main menu (the 8 gray buttons), click on Advanced.
    – Click File Manager.
    – Go to the /system folder and select the build.prop file.
    – Click the “chmod 755″ button.
    – Click on the 3 arrows button next to Swipe to Confirm.

    – Click Reboot System.
    – All of this step will need to be repeated every time your flash a ROM.”

    Elias, I hope you finally add this to this great Guide’s TWRP section.

    • Y314K says:

      And yes, If all we are doing is a simple update without any Factory Reset &/or more then cache & dalvik wiping. Then the ES File Explorer option can be followed in any File Explorer App of our choice. But if someone decides to use TWRP for the build.prop mod. Then the “chmod 755″ instructions will be needed.

  23. Martin says:

    I am having trouble changing the number with ES Explorer. When I get to step 12, clicking on select with the remote it pops up the keyboard window but the cursor goes all the way down to the bottom of the file so i can’t replace the number at all. Am I doing something wrong?

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