Amazon Fire TV is now one of the hottest media streaming gadgets on the market. This tiny, slick TV set-top-box offers impressive specs that easily blow other similar products away. It boasts 2 GB of RAM – 4x that of Apple TV, Roku, or Chromecast – and is powered by a quad-core CPU that delivers 3x the processing power of ATV or Roku. It also provides optical sound output and is (so far) the only streaming device of its kind that supports Dolby Digital Plus (up to 7.1). That’s some pretty kick-ass hardware, but the fun doesn’t stop there.
Fire TV also delivers Amazon’s “Prime Instant Video” service, which grants exclusive access to highly rated HBO programs like “The Sopranos”, “The Wire” and much more. Unfortunately, due to restrictive copyright laws, audiences outside the US can’t access Prime Instant Video, Pandora, Hulu Plus, or many other streaming services. Unless you know how to bypass the geo-fences of these services, you’ll find the Fire TV isn’t that useful to you after all. However, there are ways to unlock the full potential of your Fire TV and gain access to lots of very cool content.
A VPN service can assign an American IP address to your Fire TV, which you can use to access any streaming service without getting blocked. However, by default this device doesn’t support VPN, so you have to manually install it. In the following steps, we’ll show you how to install and run any VPN service on Amazon Fire TV.
Before moving ahead, I recommend you connect a keyboard/mouse set to your Fire TV using the USB port at the back. This will make typing and navigating on Fire TV a lot easier. If you don’t already have a wireless keyboard/mouse set, I recommend either Mele F10-PRO or iPazzPort Wireless Keyboard and Touchpad with IR Remote Control. These TV box remotes allow you to control your device with minimum effort.
Setting up the Fire TV development environment
To begin you first need to set up the development environment where you can connect to your Fire TV and install apps on it (often referred to as “sideload”). Fire TV’s operating system, Fire OS, is based on Android which is fairly easy to work with if you’re familiar with Android. On this page you will find information on how to set up a development environment for Fire TV, how to connect, and how to install apps on it.
Root (Jailbreak) Fire TV
Before you can install VPN on Fire TV, you first need to “root” or jailbreak it. To learn how to root your Fire TV, follow the instructions here. Next install/sideload “Busybox” application. Don’t forget to disable the “Fire TV updater” at the end of the “rooting” procedure.
Install OpenVPN Binary
You can’t use VPN on Fire TV out of the box because it doesn’t have the library files that support VPN functionality; to add VPN support to your Fire TV we’ll next install two apps: OpenVPN Installer and OpenVPN Settings. OpenVPN Installer adds the necessary VPN binary files to your Fire TV, and OpenVPN Settings makes configuring your VPN easier.
Go to APK Downloader website to find and download the following apps: “de.schaeuffelhut.android.openvpn.installer”, and “de.schaeuffelhut.android.openvpn”. Make sure you remember where the files are saved!
Sideload the Apps
- Open a command prompt or terminal window.
- Change directory (CD) to your Android SDK platform-tools directory.
- Connect to Fire TV using the following commands:
# Terminates the adb server process if it's running adb kill-server # Starts the adb server process if it's not running adb start-server # Connects to the Fire TV whose IP address is: x.x.x.x adb connect x.x.x.x
- Install the Apps
# Installs "OpenVPN Installer" package file adb install -r <path-to-openvpn-installer-apk> # Installs "OpenVPN Settings" package file adb install -r <path-to-openvpn-settings-apk>
Alternatively, you can install the above apps directly from Google play onto your Fire TV. Simply login to Google play search for and install “OpenVPN Installer”, and “OpenVPN Settings”. By default, Fire TV doesn’t support Google play, so you need to manually install and enable it.
Run the “OpenVPN Installer”
On Fire TV, go to Settings ➡ Applications ➡ Manage All Installed Applications; scroll down to find “OpenVPN Installer” and launch it. Follow the on-screen instructions to install the OpenVPN binary files.
With the OpenVPN binary files successfully installed, we’ll next configure our VPN using the following steps:
- First download the OpenVPN configuration files from your VPN provider’s website. I use IPVanish; their OpenVPN configuration files can be downloaded here.
- Make sure you’re connected to the Fire TV.
- Upload (push) the downloaded configuration files to Fire TV using the following commands:
# Make a folder: "openvpn" on Fire TV to hold the VPN config files adb shell mkdir /sdcard/openvpn # Push the config files in current folder to Fire TV adb push -p . /sdcard/openvpn
- Configure Your VPN Using “OpenVPN Settings”
On Fire TV go to Settings ➡ Applications ➡ Manage All Installed Applications; scroll down to find “OpenVPN Settings” and launch it. First, make sure you turn the OpenVPN on; then select a VPN by location from the list; finally, enter the username and password credentials of your VPN account and click “OK”.
Congratulations! Your VPN should now be running. To test it, try loading Pandora or watching HBO shows.
Now you can enjoy all the content available on your Fire TV without being blocked by geo-fencing.
This method works, but you do have to know how to jailbreak your Fire TV and install apps using command line tool, which requires some computer knowledge. If you’re not comfortable using this approach there are two alternative solutions which require less computer knowledge. You can use a DNS redirection service, or you can run the VPN on a router that supports it. In either case, we will show you exactly how to do it in an upcoming post.
The method introduced here currently doesn’t work with Private Internet Access and Cyberghost VPN but has been tested to work with Hidemyass and IPVanish; and it should also work with most VPN services that support the OpenVPN protocol.
March 15, 2015
I have just finished the article that shows you a new, improved method for using VPN to unblock your Fire TV. The new approach doesn’t require you to jailbreak your device, works with any VPN service, and is effective for most digital media players.
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