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Thursday, 16 October 2008

Symbian hacks can't be installed on phones with the latest Nokia firmware, hacks applied before updating your firmware remain partially functional

Symbian S60
Posted on October 16, 2008.
Last update December 4, 2008.

When Nokia released new firmware for the Nokia N82, those who like to control their own phones were not amused when they discovered that the set-Symbian-free hacks couldn't be installed on the new firmware. The Nokia E90 update played the same dirty trick, and Nokia's new N96 was locked down right from day one. And the recent firmware editions for the Nokia 6220 Classic and Nokia 5320 XpressMusic snatch the keys out of your pocket too. Nokia E66, Nokia E71, the upcoming N79 and 5800 XpressMusic... the list of phones with new hackproof firmware gets longer and longer.

But phones hacked before installing new firmware stay somewhat open after a firmware update. The new firmware may resist hacking, but a hacked copy of installserver.exe that was already present before updating the firmware keeps working. And that hacked copy of installserver.exe is one of the keys to a phone that you control, because it allows you to install the Symbian software of your choice on your own phone without having to beg the censors at Symbian Signed for permission. So if you want to combine the benefits of the new firmware (if any) with the freedom of not having to deal with Symbian Signed, make sure to hack your phone and install installserver.exe before letting the new firmware in.

FCA, the developer of the original AppTRK and HelloCarbide hacking methods, is working on a solution to fix what Nokia has broken. Unfortunately, nobody knows if he'll succeed or how long it will take. So before you install new firmware on your phone, you better ask yourself if it's really worth the risk of having Nokia kick you out of the drivers seat.

The damage so far:

The Nokia N79, N85, N96, 5800 XpressMusic Tube, and the Samsung i8510 INNOV8 can not be hacked by any method yet. Yes, that sucks, so it may be a good idea to postpone buying a new Nokia until the firmware becomes hackable. If you can't wait, consider shopping elsewhere. Nokia is not the only company that makes smartphones. If their attempts to lock down Symbian backfire through lost sales, maybe the managers at Nokia start to use their brains (assuming they have any).

The Nokia E66, E71, E90, N82, N95, 6120 Classic, 6220 Classic, and 5320 XpressMusic can be hacked if they don't have the latest, hackproof firmware. So always check the version number before buying any of these models. If you update the firmware after hacking, your hacked copy of installserver.exe keeps working, so you can still install whatever you like without having to ask the censors at Symbian Signed for permission. That's good news, but keep in mind that just because you can install whatever you like, the new firmware will still reduce the functionality of your programs. For example, being able to read the contents of system folders doesn't mean you can write data to them.

Update: list of phones and firmware versions that can be hacked.

Always make a backup copy of your entire phone memory before updating your firmware, so you can run a restore to put your hacked version of installserver.exe back where it belongs. And keep in mind that subsequent firmware updates might kill any pre-existing hacks, so check the latest news before hitting the update button. Once the new firmware sits on your phone you'll have little or no chance to reverse the update, and you'll have to wait until a new hacking method becomes available, which may be tomorrow, next week, or never.

November 8, 2008 update: If you upgrade your Nokia 6220 Classic to the latest firmware, it will overwrite your hacked copy of installserver.exe, and you'll no longer be able to install unsigned programs. New firmware updates for other phones (such as the recent E66 and E71 updates) will probably do the same.

In case you're wondering why you'd want to hack your phone to begin with, check out the links below. Contrary to popular belief, hacking your Symbian phone is not just a sport for software pirates. Setting your copy of Symbian free allows you to install unsigned programs, make backups of all sorts of things without having to use the piece of Windows-only bloatware called PC Suite, customise menus and icons, switch off that annoying camera shutter sound, and much more.

• Step by step guides to hack Symbian, install unsigned programs, make backups without PC Suite, customise menus and icons, switch off the camera shutter sound, and more on
list of phones and firmware versions that can be hacked
• The modding section of the Symbian Freak forum (login or registration required, if you don't want to sign up you may find a working username and password on BugMeNot)


Skynet said...

This really piss me off. I've bought a new n6220 already with firmware 3.24 in it, and whatahell can I do now? Is there any chance how to load up a previous version to a phone, that has the newer one already from a factory? I guess there isn't. So I can just hope there will be another unselfish person like FCA00000 and make some serious changes.

Crash said...

I forgot to check if the firmware had any restrictions on my hacked E90 because I forgot that I hacked it half year ago.

Sufficient to say that even though I restored a backup that was made prior the upgrade didn't helped regaining back the hacking possibilities.

Too bad.

Anonymous said...

After upgrading my 6120 classic from v5.11 to v6.01 I noticed that HelloCarbide didn't work anymore. Unfortunately I didn't check this site who warnes us against updating the firmware. However, I hacked my phone before and I am still able to use installserver.exe to sign appz.