[Tutorial] Custom Upgrade BlackBerry OS 7.1 Walkthrough

So I just purchased a BlackBerry Bold 9900 first released back in 2011. Many, I am sure you do, ask why purchase such legacy device while I could purchase a smartphone sporting quad-core processor, gigabytes of memory, Super AMOLED screen, HD resolution, LTE network connectivity, 1080p camera/video recording quality camera available. Well the answer is pretty obvious and common, I want to try out their touted physical keyboard and landline-like voice quality. Most importantly, it is cheap and serve as an adapting window before trying out the next flagship, the Blackberry Q20 or Blackberry Classic (alias) that is simply an improved version of the Bold 9900 in many aspects. There is no reason to purchase Bold 9900 after Q20 is announced, hopefully release sometime in November if the rumor are to be believed. I won't become a laughing stock by purchasing it now, since many Bold users still complains and even hold their purchase on Q10, especially the lack of a dedicated top panel for answering/rejecting calls, accessing BB menu, back buttons, and optical trackpad.

Of course, this is only going to be my communication device for text messaging, voice call, replying emails, and nothing else. Well perhaps browsing some website and social feeds occasionally. For anything else, I had my iPhone covered. This might shock you but the Bold 9900 makes a return in North America just recently back in June.

There are mainly two reasons as to why I dived into writing this tutorial to custom upgrade BB OS:
1. Most tutorials are outdated.
2. I faced intermittent carrier signal quality dropped despite staying on average coverage area, which is not what I expected from a BB.

So some information about my network carrier, DiGi in Malaysia. Though it might not matters to you.

Several notes about Blackberry OS before diving into the steps:

  • The latest Blackberry OS release is OS 7.1.1098 from O2 carrier in United Kingdom. The last denominator is the revision on this release and differs from each carrier. I recommend using 7.1.923 from NTT Docomo (Japan) as reported by many as being a stable OS with fast signal lock.
  • The OS itself is built upon Java Virtual Machine and applications are developed using Java language. You can't expect Android or iOS quality like apps on BB. It is simply business.
Why bother upgrading BBOS yourself when you can simply use Blackberry Desktop Software?
The main reason is the latest revision available when using this approach is 7.1.74x which has a non-working Blackberry App World. Although there is a workaround for this by simply download the latest App World .jad files from website such as xxx, I had issues with my carrier resulting in intermittent signal drop between 1 to 3 bars, and sometimes, SOS with no signal at all!

Now let's take a look at your recipe:
- BlackBerry OS (Operating System) downloadable from BlackBerry official website. Simply google with keywords such as "your carrier/telco name + blackberry os". For example, 'digi blackberry os' and the correct software download link here. It is usually bundle with package name such as 9900AllLang_PBr.7.1.0_rel2930_PL5.1.0.701_A7.1.0.1098_O2_UK.exe'. The red highlighted text denotes the revision number for the release. In this case, it is revision 1098 for OS 7.1.0.

* The installation directory for each revision is located under:
C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Research In Motion\Shared\Loader Files

- BlackBerry Desktop Software to backup your core files such as calendars, contacts, messages, and etcetera. Note that it does not backup any third party applications, i.e. those applications that does not came with the release such as LinkedIn, Tune-In Radio, etc. It is available in both Windows and Mac.

BBSAK (BlackBerry Swiss Army Knife) to backup your third party applications downloaded from Blackberry World. Unfortunately you will need a Windows OS for this.

* It is recommended to use a Windows OS natively (no virtual machine) to proceed with this tutorial to avoid complications while flashing the ROM or uploading the OS image. Most people, myself included  stuck during 'Uploading ROM Image' phase.
* Make sure you installed all the recipes properly before proceeding.

So now that the recipe is ready, let's go through it step-by-step:

* The whole process will took around 20 minutes.

1. Open BlackBerry Desktop Software and backup your essential stuffs such as contacts, BBM chat messages, calendars, tasks, etc. You can choose to backup everything but there might be some problem in case the upgraded OS cannot read. Well if you're simply changing between revisions of the same major release such as 7.1 there should be no problem restoring a full backup since the differences between revisions are usually minor patches.

2. Open BBSAK and use it to backup your third party apps.

3. With your BlackBerry device still connected, click Wipe All button to erase everything on your BB device.

During this process you will see a LED red flash followed by the booting process page, with 'Error 507 Reload Software' around 3/4 of the progress bar.

4. Click the Load OS buttons in BBSAK and you will asked to select which OS to install. You might see multiple OS'es when you installed multiple revisions.

5. Follow the wizard, select the items to installed, and wait.

* If you are stuck in 'Uploading RAM image' during this step, you are probably ignoring my advice and using Virtual Machine to proceed. I experienced this when using Parallel Desktop and solved it when natively install using a Windows OS.

6. Once it is complete your BB device will restart and enjoy your newly installed OS. Hopefully seeing a more stable carrier signal reception. :)

Advanced Reading

How to Install Hybrid OS

Long story short, simply grab a release such as Berrylicio.us release candidate, extract, and replace all the files in the recommended BB OS Loader folder.

A more lengthly and detailed explanation can be found here > How to Install Hybrid BB OS


1. The process stuck when trying to 'Upload ROM image'.
Install on a native Windows OS.

2. App Loader cannot find anything to install.
Delete all the vendors.xml files. They are located in two places:

For 64-bit Windows OS:
- C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Research In Motion\AppLoader\
- C:\Users\<Your Username>\AppData\Roaming\Research In Motion\BlackBerry\Loader XML\


What is hybrid OS?
Since the files for the OS is modifiable, some people took the liberty to modify some kernel files for faster signal locking. I had tried out the Berrylicious.us RC (Release Candidate) 15 and 22 with OS 7.1.923 and 7.1.1098 respectively but simply could not noticed any differences.

Why switch to hybrid OS over official OS?
Some noticeably experienced faster signal locking, more stable mobile hotspot activation, better battery life. Though it all depends on your network carrier. Trust me, selecting the right base OS and the right hybrid OS can be a huge hassle and time waster, and I simply cannot tell the differences between hybrid or official release on my carrier.



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