If you want to get the most out of your Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, you need to keep Amazon’s version of Android, Fire OS, up to date. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about how to update an Amazon Fire TV Stick or box.
What Version of Fire OS Do You Currently Have?
The newest (3rd generation) Amazon Fire TV runs Fire OS 6, but all Fire TV Sticks and 1st and 2nd generation Amazon Fire TVs run Fire OS 5.
Fire TV / Fire TV Sticks can receive automatic Fire OS updates. However, it’s still a good idea to check if there’s an update available – particularly if you haven’t used your Fire device in a while.
You can check your current version of Fire OS and see if there’s an update available by navigating to Settings → System → About.
Fire OS 6
Fire OS 6 is based on Android 7.1, aka Android Nougat.
The most notable feature upgrades in Fire OS 6 are:
- Picture in Picture (PiP). This allows you to pin a video to a corner of the screen while navigating to other areas.
- Content recording. With content recording, you can record shows and movies on your Fire TV, like a DVR.
- Time-shifting features. Lets you pause, rewind, or fast-forward live content.
Fire OS 5
Fire OS 5 is based on Android 5.1, aka Android Lollipop.
Unfortunately, if you have a Fire TV Stick or a 1st or 2nd generation Fire TV, you can’t upgrade to Fire OS 6.
“At this time, the previous Fire TV devices will not uplevel to Fire OS 6.” – Amazon Developer Blog
In other words: if you want to record, use PiP and time shift you’re going to have to get the new Fire TV.
You can, however, get a few extra features if you upgrade to the latest version of Fire OS 5 (more on that below).
The Benefits of Updating Fire OS
If you have a 1st or 2nd generation Amazon Fire TV or if you have an Amazon Fire TV Stick, the latest version of Fire OS 5 gives you two new features:
- Voice typing. Upgrading to the latest version of Fire OS will allow you to input text using your voice via Amazon Alexa instead of the on-screen keyboard.
- Screen magnifier. The new screen magnifier lets you zoom in on hard-to-read text.
New 3rd generation Fire TVs ship with both of the features mentioned above, so all you’ll get is standard bug fixes and security patches if you upgrade.
If you’ve got an Amazon Fire TV Television you get voice typing and a screen magnifier when you update Fire OS, plus:
- Expanded My Favorites functionality. The improved My Favorites feature lets you mark favorites via the “On Now” row.
- Improved picture and sound settings. Extra picture/sound settings menus give you a few more ways to tweak your display and sound.
Here’s another good reason to upgrade your Amazon device: some apps – like the original Netflix for Fire TV app, for example – do not work at all with older versions of Fire OS.
There’s only one real reason to opt out of updating
You may not be able to root your Fire TV / Fire TV Stick if you decide to update Fire OS.
Rooting is the process of obtaining privileged control (known as root access) over Fire OS.
With root access, you can do geeky stuff like change what your controller buttons do if you use Fire TV with a game controller.
If you want to find out more about how to root your Amazon Fire TV or Amazon Fire TV Stick, this guide from AFTVNews is a good place to start.
How to Update an Amazon Fire TV Stick or Box
- Go to Settings.
- Select System.
- Select About.
- Select Check for System Update.
That’s all you have to do. If a Fire OS update is available, you’ll be able to install it. If not, that means that you’re already up to date.
How to Update Amazon Fire OS Apps
Once you update your Fire TV / Fire TV Stick to the latest version of Fire OS, it’s a good idea to update all your apps. This will ensure that they’ll all work properly and efficiently.
How to update official Amazon Appstore apps
To update an official Appstore app, all you have to do is select the app you want to update in the Your Apps Library and click update.
Here are some screenshots to guide you through the process.
- Scroll down to apps, then go to Your Apps Library.
- An “update” button will appear under your apps if an update is available. If you don’t see the update button, that means that you already have the latest version.
- Once you click the update button, you’ll see a box that looks like this:
- Select Update App Now to download and install the update.
How to update 3rd party apps
Updating ordinary Amazon Appstore apps is easy. Updating 3rd party apps isn’t difficult, but the process is a bit more complicated.
Downloader, ES File Explorer and File Commander are the 3 most popular utilities for installing and updating 3rd party apps. Here is a quick summary of their similarities and differences.
Downloader is one of the best apps for sideloading and updating 3rd party Amazon apps.
All you have to do is point Downloader at a website that contains a 3rd party app’s installation files and Downloader basically handles the rest of the update/installation process for you.
If Downloader doesn’t locate any app installation files on the site that you punch in, a mini web browser appears. You can then use the web browser to navigate to wherever the installation files are.
Other programs that do the same thing as Downloader are far more complicated to use.
Downloader is available via Amazon’s Appstore, so it’s very easy to install. It’s also totally free.
“Downloader is an app I created for the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. It is the easiest way to download files from the internet onto a Fire TV device. The app is especially helpful in sideloading 3rd-party apps onto the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, without needing any additional hardware, like a computer or external drive.” – AFTVNews
Watch the video embedded below to find out how to install and use Downloader.
ES File Explorer
Before Downloader came out, ES File Explorer was the go-to utility for installing 3rd party apps on Amazon devices. Android users also liked ES File Explorer, so it had good reviews on Google Play as well.
After the original creators of ES File Explorer sold it off to a company called Estrong, however, things took a turn for the worse.
Estrong embedded annoying ads and added phony features into ES File Explorer shortly after taking over. XDA blogger Tomek Kondrat skewered the changes:
“It appears that Estrong is trying to re-invent the wheel, which is always a bad idea. I don’t like ES File Explorer anymore. I loved it in 2013 when it was so great, but recent changes had lead me to the conclusion that I have to find something different.”
Estrong reacted by fixing many of the issues that everyone was complaining about and removed its phony, ad-infested features. The latest version of ES Explorer still contains ads, but it is a lot better than the bloated version of ES File Explorer that drew so much ire several years ago.
Though ES File Explorer isn’t as easy to use compared to Downloader, it can do a whole lot more than just install and update apps. ES File Explorer can also:
- Play music and video files.
- Integrate with Dropbox and other cloud storage services.
- Unzip RAR and ZIP files.
- Access FTP servers.
Because ES File Explorer works with cloud storage services, you can save time when you install 3rd party APKs on your Fire TV / Fire TV Stick. Just save whatever APK you want to install to the cloud using your laptop or desktop computer first, then open it up using ES File Explorer.
Watch the video below to learn how to install and use ES File Explorer.
File Commander is basically a stripped-down version of ES File Explorer that contains less adware, but also doesn’t have as many features.
AFTVNews gave File Commander a positive review when it first came out about a year ago.
“Although it may not be able to technically do as much as ES File Explorer, File Commander might be the better option for many of you, thanks to its superior user interface and Amazon Drive support.”
File Commander’s user interface is similar to ES File Explorer’s, but it’s somewhat more intuitive.
Like ES File Explorer, File Commander integrates with a number of cloud storage services. Cloud storage integration gives you the option to locate and save app installation files using a different computer.
AppStarter is a convenient little utility that can install the open source media players known as Kodi and SPMC and keep them up to date.
Kodi and SPMC are basically the same, only SPMC has a slightly different interface and works
better with Android-based operating systems like Fire OS.
In addition to installing/updating Kodi and SPMC, you can also use AppStarter to:
- View a list of all your apps (both official and 3rd party).
- Hide any app.
- Display detailed system and device information.
- Schedule automatic app updates.
AppStarter got kicked out of the official Amazon Appstore last year, but you can still sideload it.
Watch the video embedded below to find out how to install AppStarter using ES File Explorer.
The new 3rd generation Fire TVs run Fire OS 6. Older Fire TVs and Fire TV Stick can’t run Fire OS 6. However, you can still stand to benefit if you upgrade your Fire TV / Fire TV Stick to the latest version of Fire OS 5.
The latest version of Fire OS 5 lets you use your voice instead of the on-screen keyboard to enter in text. There’s a new magnifier feature available, as well.
Fire OS 5 and 6 are both easy to update. The entire process takes just a few mouse clicks.
Official Amazon apps aren’t difficult to update either, but 3rd party apps are a bit trickier. Fortunately, there are a variety of different utilities you can use that reduce the number of steps you have to take.
The best 3rd party app updater out there right now is Downloader. However, ES File Explorer and File Commander are fairly decent, too.