How To Fix Your PD10 / PD20 Freelander Tablet When It Won't Connect To A Google Account

If you've never heard of the Freelander range of Android tablets it wouldn't be the biggest surprise, however for those in the know they are a fantastic (and cheap) way of getting a fully functioning, GPS enabled Android tablet for under £100. I bought one for use on the boat, the PD20 comes with a suction cup mount that fits perfectly on my boats dash and with the help of some clever Android mapping software (DrDepth) it far and away surpasses my £1500 dedicated marine GPS unit! All great so far but unfortunately towards the end of 2012 a fatal flaw was found, the Freelander PD10 and PD20 tablets stopped working with Google accounts. At first this may not seem like a big problem but when you think that one of the great selling points of the Freelanders over many other budget tablets was access to the Google Play store it became a very big issue, no play store equals a very limited app choice. So what is the problem and how do you fix it? Plenty of places on the internet contain bits and pieces of information but here is my attempt at explaining the most straight forward way of sorting it out and getting your Google account working with the Freelander tablets again.

What Is The Problem?

After much and I mean a lot of messing about I discovered the problem is to do with the hard coding of an IP address. Without getting too technical some bright spark decided to utilise the hosts file on these tablets to route all Google account requests to one Google IP. The moment that IP stopped working so did all Google account functionality, you may be going errrrrr what? In simple terms your Android device is looking in the wrong place when it tries to communicate with Google.

How Do I Fix My Freelander Tablet?

Before getting into the actual details it's best to have an overall idea of what you are TRYING to do! In order to fix the entry in the hosts file you needs to gain access to your tablets operating system and edit it. In technical terms, you'll need to jailbreak/root your Android tablet and then use a root enabled file explorer/editor to edit and save the file. Doing this wrong could render your tablet a brick so before doing anything if you are not technically minded it may be best to find somebody who is to do it for you. Also you are doing this at your own risk, I've done it and it worked fine but I'm not taking any responsibility if you do screw the job up! All the software is available free and the only hardware you'll need is a USB cable to connect your PC to your tablet.

Getting Root Access To Your Freelander PD10/PD20 Android Tablet

This should be really simple. All you need is the free UnlockRoot Pro software. However, in order to use the software you need to be able to connect your device to your computer in USB debug mode and this requires a USB driver. Good luck with trying to find a USB driver that works with these the Freelander tablets (it's a common issue with cheap Chinese tablets that don't have developer support). I spent a couple of days downloading more huge ROM files from the internet than is healthy and all with no joy, then I found the solution. All you need is the PDANet software available from here (this is the 32-bit version, I couldn't find a working 64-bit download location). Download it, install it (if you can't manage this then you really need to get somebody a bit more technically minded to help you) and follow the instructions for connecting to an "others" device, we are only interested in the USB driver remember. Make sure your tablet is in USB debug mode (Settings/Developer Options) and when you connect it to your computer (after being prompted by the PDANet software) it will now be correctly identified as an Android device. This software has its own USB driver that works brilliantly with the PD10/PD20 tablets and is a god send.

Close PDANet leaving your device connected, you can now use the UnlockRoot Pro software to gain root access to your tablet, it's just a simple case of selecting your device when prompted from the Unlock Pro software and then one click and you're done. What could be easier?

The excellent news is that you're 50% of the way to getting your tablet working again. Now you have root access you can edit the hosts file, all you need is a file manager/editor. And this is where we have problem number 2. With no Android store where do we get one of these from, fortunately ES File Explorer has a "use as root" option and is available from multiple download locations on the internet, I use this one.

Once you have ES File Explorer running hit your Menu key, Settings and scroll down. Select Root settings. You'll need to enable 3 check-boxes, Root Explorer, Up to Root and Mount File System as writable. On using these settings you'll be prompted to allow super user rights, make sure you do this.

This is where you have to be careful and not edit anything other than the hosts file. You need to use ES File Explorer to browse to the /etc/ directory and select the hosts file in it, edit it with a text editor (ES Note Editor). If you are in any way unsure here get somebody technically proficienct to help you. In this file you'll see 2 lines, the first being for localhost and the second being the entry for Google accounts, you need to delete the second line ONLY and save the file (your hosts file should contain only 1 line that looks like... locahost ). On doing this you will now be able to use your Freelander PD10 or PD20 with a Google account again.

Clearing Up

First things first, once you have edited and saved the hosts file go back into the ES File Explorer settings and un-check all root access settings. This should stop any unhappy mistakes from people playing around with it, remember you now have a device with root access but that doesn't mean you need to utilise it. The next thing I did was remove the 2 bits of software I'd installed on my PC, PDANet and UnlockRoot Pro. I know where they are if I need them again (the USB driver remains in case you ever need it again) but I don't consider them the sort of things I'll need on a regular basis. The final step is to go into your tablets settings and disable debug mode from the Developer options.

I hope you've found this useful, the hardest part for me was getting the computer to talk to the tablet as an Android device but the PDANet software really solved that. After that it was a piece of cake and well worth the effort for having a fully functioning GPS enabled Android tablet for less than £100 again!