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Written by David Ramsey   
Tuesday, 06 September 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
Root Hacking the HP Touchpad Tablet PC
Installing Preware

Root Hacking the HP Touchpad Tablet PC

After HP discontinued the Touchpad and its other WebOS devices, they decided to sell out their remaining inventory at fire sale prices: $99 for the 16GB model and $149 for the 32GB model. The available units sold out within days; in fact, response was so strong that HP says they'll make one last production run of the Touchpad in October. If you were lucky enough to get a Touchpad, there are some simple things you can do to dramatically improve its performance, and Benchmark Reviews will explore them in this guide.

Since tablet computers are aimed at the consumer market, you won't find any of the tweaking options you'd expect to see in, say, a motherboard BIOS for a desktop PC. In fact most manufacturers go to some degree of trouble to lock you out of the internals of the machine, with the Apple iPad being the poster child for corporate control. To begin messing with the internals of a tablet, you must first "root" it: that is, gain "root access" to the system so that you can perform operations that are normally disabled or restricted.

The difficulty of this process varies. The iPad is the most difficult to root: there's no defined mechanism to do so, and Apple diligently works to disable the various mechanisms hackers find and exploit to root (or, in iPad parlance, "jailbreak") iPads and iPhones. Virtually every software update for the iPad and iPhone contains code to close another jailbreaking mechanism.

Android tablets are much easier to root: there are a number of "one-click" rooting tools that you simply download, install, and run to gain full root access.

But the HP Touchpad is the easiest tablet to root. You don't need to download or install anything; it can all be done directly, and quite simply.

Why root?

There are several reasons you might want to root your tablet. The most common one is so you can install software other than what's available in the vendor's "application store". All tablet vendors have a supported "store" where you can buy vendor-approved applications: the Android Market for Android devices; Apple's App Store for the iPhone, iPod, and iPad, and the HP App Catalog for the HP Touchpad:


And that's our motivation for doing this. Since the Touchpad is a discontinued product, there are few applications for it in the HP App Catalog, and it's unlikely there will be many additions. Once you gain full control of the Touchpad, you'll be able to install other applications not in the App Catalog, such as software that disables some performance-robbing features, a hacked kernel that overclocks the processor, and so on. Of course all software must still be specifically written for the Touchpad: you won't be able to run iOS or Android applications.

And the Touchpad does need help. Despite having the fastest processor of any tablet (a dual-core ARM-based CPU running at 1.2GHz) and twice the memory of an iPad 2, the stock Touchpad is, well, sluggish: programs can take 5-10 seconds to launch, and the UI often lags fractionally behind your gestures, and animations can be slow and jerky. The iPad 2, with a slower CPU and half the memory, has a silky-smooth and ultra-responsive user interface, and programs launch instantly.

You can't make the Touchpad quite as slick and smooth as an iPad, but you can make it much better than stock. Let's get started!

Turning On Developer Mode

Our first step is enabling Developer Mode. Developer Mode is the Touchpad equivalent of "rooting" other platforms: it gives you full access to the system.

Step 1: Open the "Device Info" application under the launcher's "Settings" tab:


Step 2: Tap the menu (at the upper left) and select "Custom Application":


Step 3: You'll be prompted to enter the "Custom Application Code". Enter ##3386633#


As soon as you enter the last "#", you'll be taken to a screen where you can turn on Developer Mode, and optionally put a password on it. Just touch the blue button at the upper right of the screen to enable it.


With Developer Mode enabled, our options expand. The first thing to do is to install Preware, an application similar to HP's own HP App Catalog, except that it gives you access to lots of user-written software, instead of just things approved by HP. Caveat: As always, you should exercise judgement and discretion when installing software from unknown sources!



# Easier way to enable dev modeRobert 2011-09-06 17:16
Great article - just wanted to let everyone know there is an even easier way to activate dev mode. Use the Just Type box to enter the following text:


Astute fans will recognize this as the date webOS was launched on the original Palm Pre.

After typing this the dev mode icon will appear. Just tap it and turn it on using the on/off slider. Enjoy!
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# RE: Easier way to enable dev modeRobert 2011-09-06 17:21
Oh yes, one more thing, do NOT click the set/change password. It is not required and will only create one more password for you to remember.
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# RE: Easier way to enable dev modeDavid Ramsey 2011-09-06 19:02
Yeah, I found out about that method of enabling Developer Mode after this article was posted. Thanks for the heads-up, and glad you liked it.
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# RE: RE: Easier way to enable dev modeShreyaa 2011-09-07 15:09
After installing preware onto the touch pad... how do u download android market onto it?
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# RE: RE: RE: Easier way to enable dev modeDavid Ramsey 2011-09-07 16:06
You don't download Android Market on it, because it's not an Android device. It's a WebOS device and cannot run Android programs.

There are efforts underway to port the Android OS to the Touchpad, but nothing as of yet.
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# webOS is not AndroidRobert 2011-09-07 16:09
Preware is for webOS homebrew apps. The App Catalog is for official webOS apps.
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# RE: Root Hacking the HP Touchpad Tablet PCMACK 2011-09-09 21:53
Very Cool Stuff, thanks for the article!
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# RE: RE: Root Hacking the HP Touchpad Tablet PCDavid Ramsey 2011-09-09 22:08
Don't miss the follow up on performance hacking!
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# updatebrian 2011-09-10 09:45
when can we expect the next article
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# RE: updateOlin Coles 2011-09-10 09:49
In about an hour. I'm a bad editor, and didn't get it published yesterday as planned.
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# what's nextg 2011-09-10 16:16
so after I install this I still can't install apps from apple or the android market? That's what the picture and the intro implied so I'm really bummed out since that's not the case. I'm not a techy by any means so could someone breakdown why I should do all this if I can't get non HP apps in layman's terms?

thanks people!!
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# RE: what's nextDavid Ramsey 2011-09-10 18:08
Sorry, but the intro didn't imply that at all. Specifically, I said that one of the reasons you'd want to root a tablet was so that you could install software OTHER THAN was available at the vendor's specific store.

You run Android apps on an Android tablet: a tablet running some version of the Android operating system. Similarly, you run IOS apps on a tablet running Apple's iOS operating system (i.e. an iPad). There is no way to make tablet apps designed for one operating system run on another operating system, just as you can't run Mac applications on a Windows machine.

You should do all this because you CAN get non-HP apps once you do it. HP apps are the "officially approved" applications in HP's App Catalog. With Preware, you can download "homebrew" or unofficial applications, many of which are very useful. But they're still all WebOS applications that only run on a Touchpad.
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# RE: RE: what's nextg 2011-09-10 19:04
David thanks for clarifying. On my initial read it seemed that you were alluding to installing apps from other markets besides HP's.

There are several reasons you might want to root your tablet. The most common one is so you can install software other than what's available in the vendor's "application store": the Android Market, HP's App Catalog, or Apple's App Store:

That's what I gathered after reading the above statement. And since it seems as though I was mistaken, where do I find other apps since I'm not getting them from the HP\Apple\Android market?

thanks again.
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# RE: RE: RE: what's nextDavid Ramsey 2011-09-10 19:10
g, you get the other apps using Preware. I mentioned this in the article as well as my reply to you above...Preware is the "unofficial" alternative to HP's App Store.
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# RE: RE: RE: what's nextjoe joe 2011-09-19 13:11
I agree, you made it sound like after root android and apple apps would magically be able to get installed.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: what's nextDavid Ramsey 2011-09-19 13:36
I've re-written that section to make it clearer that rooting the Touchpad doesn't allow you to install iOS or Android apps.
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# RE: Root Hacking the HP Touchpad Tablet PCwalter 2011-09-10 17:09
How can I subscribe to this series of articles that you will be doing? I would like a fast way to be notified up updates or when you published the next article.
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# RE: RE: Root Hacking the HP Touchpad Tablet PCDavid Ramsey 2011-09-10 17:58
The second article, "Performance Hacking the HP Touchpad", is up now. That's all I plan do do right now, but if you have other suggestions or questions, let me know.
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# Performance Hackingwalter 2011-09-15 17:20
I don't seem to see this article. Did I miss it? Search on web site didn't bring it up.

The second article, "Performance Hacking the HP Touchpad", is up now. That's all I plan do do right now, but if you have other suggestions or questions, let me know.
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# RE: Performance HackingDavid Ramsey 2011-09-15 17:23
The article name is actually "HP Touchpad Performance Hacking Guide", and if you look at the "BmR Featured Content" list of articles at the very top of any page on this site, you'll see it.
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# RE: Performance HackingOlin Coles 2011-09-15 17:23
Yes, you're missing it. The article is named "HP Touchpad Performance Hacking Guide", and it's linked-to directly in this article as well as this section.

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# Link To Performance Hackingwalter 2011-09-15 17:23
Sorry David
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# a couple guestionsdawn 2011-09-11 07:44
So after I do all this, is there an antivirus I can get to avoid "bad" downloads? Does Preware work like 4share on my smart phone?
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# RE: a couple guestionsDavid Ramsey 2011-09-11 07:54
There are no WebOS antivirus programs that I'm aware of. 4share is a file sharing service, while Preware is simply a way to get applications other than the official HP-approved ones. They're nothing alike.
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# preware versionsdawn 2011-09-14 18:54
I did a search on my touchpad and there is already Preware on it that I can download for .99, is this the same version you can download from your pc?
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# RE: preware versionsRobert 2011-09-14 19:06
Preware is free and must first be installed using webOS Quick Install. The .99 cent app in the catalog is called 'Preware Homebrew Documentation' and is exactly what its full title says it is, documentation. It's just a way to show your appreciation to webOS internals team.
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# Downloading prewareWilliam 2011-09-15 16:51
Where do I download preware from the hp catalog ?
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# RE: Downloading prewareDavid Ramsey 2011-09-15 16:56
Please read the "Installing Preware" section again. You _can't_ install Preware any other way; it's not available from the HP App Catalog.
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# RE: Root Hacking the HP Touchpad Tablet PCDoug Dallam 2011-09-15 19:25
I know nothing about tablets because when they first came out, they were a nonstarter for me. First, they were locked out from 3rd party applications. I mean, screw you HP, Apple, etc. Tablets are for drones. Then I read this article and saw that each tablet has it's own OS. LOL. Are we going back in time? Amazing how substandard devices take off with the masses. I guess ease of texting or getting email beats the freedom to use apps of your choice. But then again, people who by tablets don't even know the difference between a MAC and a PC. Yes, there are exceptions, but largely, that's what is driving them. But I wonder why those who use smartphones would even need a tablet? I mean the SP is good enough to text and email, and post your self pictures on Facebook--I mean you don't even need to navigate Facebook since all you're doing is waiting for other people to see you, not respond to them! So there must be more to it than that. Educate me. Because right now, I'm not feeling the tablet at all. Now if there were a tablet with the power of my dual core 17" laptop, then I could see it. Smaller is better. Until then, WTF?
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# RE: RE: Root Hacking the HP Touchpad Tablet PCSteven Iglesias-Hearst 2011-09-29 13:31
Tegra 3 (Project Kal-El) coming soon :D Said to be out performing a Core2Duo while using less power.
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# RE: RE: RE: Root Hacking the HP Touchpad Tablet PCDavid Ramsey 2011-09-29 13:38
Polite skepticism is expressed. But we'll see...assuming anyone every builds a Tegra system we can run Windows or Linux on so as to make direct performance comparisons.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: Root Hacking the HP Touchpad Tablet PCSteven Iglesias-Hearst 2011-09-29 15:06
I know there is a lot of 'techwanking' at the moment but see this video.!
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# Cool story BroDan 2011-11-18 13:50
its funny you say you have a dual core 17" laptop.. now adays thats garbage. the touchpad has 1.2ghz dual core... your laptop prolly has oh saaaaay 3ghz? touchpad can reach up to 2ghz. and its more portable than ur 8 lb laptop. if you know what you are doing... the tablet is amazing. oh well you cant really game too much on it... WAAAIIIT you can... just remote desktop or hell even port your games over if your a badass. its not all about txt email and posting pics there cupcake. I am a techy.. i love all tech things... except mac i am glad that #er is dead... I build my computers, networks, servers, Hell i even work doing that #. ALL DAY LONG. the touchpad is an amazing piece of work for the price. i didnt get my Firesale pad but i got one for 250 and it has already paid for itself... i've had it a week.. you got maybe 4 hours on your laptop... i got 13... Suck it.
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# RE: Cool story BroDavid Ramsey 2011-11-18 15:44
True enough, as far as it goes, but the Touchpad's little Snapdragon processor is based on an ARM core design. It's ultra-efficient and low power, but can't really compare to Intel cores on a clock-per-clock basis.
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# Stuck in installingshakib 2011-12-02 11:46
I did all the above steps and I'm stuck in installing window
I'm using Mac pro
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# RE: Stuck in installingDavid Ramsey 2011-12-02 15:42
I don't know what you mean by "stuck in installing window". Could you provide more detail?
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# Invalid or currupt jar fileMichael 2011-12-22 14:17
Is anyone else getting "Invalid or Currupt jar file" when trying to open web os quick install? If so please help - is this because of my java - i did an install but couldnt see a download for vista? only win 7 & xp
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# it worksbadapple 2012-01-11 20:50
I'm running the alpha 3.5, version of android on my TP. I can dual boot into webos if I want. And the only glitch I am getting is some green flicker when playing back video with the stock android player. As we'll as some camera issues when in android. Once you got android on the tablet it is a much more efficient tool for getting rid of your laptop, with android I have office suites I can use. I have working media servers like Plex that I can stream from and have working torrent clients so I can pirate like crazy. (Yea I'm looking at you apple.) All these are great reasons why the 100$ TP is better then your 600$ ipad 2 or laptop. And android on the touchpad is still only in alpha even though it Is very stable. Hasn't crashed for me once. I will never go back to Ios or webos. I even got an android phone. Now I just got to find a use for all my Ios devices, maybe as Doorstops or gifts to my non tech savvy friends.
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# rootingTisha 2012-01-19 11:08
I have hp touchpad in dev mode, I downloaded preware. How do I know if my tp is rooted
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# RE: rootingDavid Ramsey 2012-01-19 14:05
If you can install applications from Preware and run them, then you're rooted.
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# wifiTisha 2012-01-19 11:11
I want 2 b able 2 use my phone WiFi hotspot or a WiFi app off the android market. I currently have a htc desire. Waiting on cspire 2 come out with the Samsung galaxy 2. Rooting the desire didn't go so well
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