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version of the Debian-Installer for various sunxi-based systems for [[https://deb.debian.org/debian/dists/stable/main/installer-armhf/current/images/netboot/SD-card-images/|stable]] or [[https://d-i.debian.org/daily-images/armhf/daily/netboot/SD-card-images/|daily builds of unstable]]. The images are provided in the form of a device-specific part (containing the partition table and the device-specific u-boot) and a device-independent part (containing the actual installer), which can be unpacked and concatenated together to build a complete installer image. version of the Debian-Installer for various sunxi-based systems for [[https://deb.debian.org/debian/dists/stable/main/installer-armhf/current/images/netboot/SD-card-images/|stable]] or [[https://d-i.debian.org/daily-images/armhf/daily/u-boot/|daily builds of unstable]]. The images are provided in the form of a device-specific part (containing the partition table and the device-specific u-boot) and a device-independent part (containing the actual installer), which can be unpacked and concatenated together to build a complete installer image.



Support for boards using the Allwinner "sunxi" (sun4i, sun5i, sun6i, sun7i, sun8i, sun50i) family of processors, e.g. A10, A13, A31/A31s, A20, A23/A33, A64, etc.

Install Using Debian-Installer

Supported Platforms

Debian-installer should work out of the box on all the following sunxi-based systems, but as the developers do not have access to all of them, the installer has only been tested on particular systems. If you have used the installer on one of the untested systems, please submit an installation-report to the Debian project (cf. the Submitting Installation Reports chapter in the Debian installation-guide).


Hardware systems tested and confirmed working in Buster or older.


Device Tree Blob


Cubietech Cubieboard


Installation Reports: [1], [2], Wiki notes

Cubietech Cubieboard2


Cubietech Cubietruck (Cubieboard3)


LeMaker Banana Pi


LeMaker Banana Pro


Installation Report

Olimex A10-OLinuXino-LIME


Olimex A20-OLinuXino-LIME


Installation Report

Olimex A20-OLinuXino-LIME2


Installation Report, Wiki notes

Olimex A20-Olinuxino Micro


Installation Report

Olimex A20-SOM-EVB


Installation Report (gigabit ethernet issues)

Olimex A64 Teres-I


Wiki page



Wiki page



Wiki page

Stable untested

Hardware systems for which the installer has support code in Buster or older, but on which installation has not been tested yet.

If you succeed in installing Debian on one of these boards, then please file an installation report.


Device Tree Blob

Cubietech Cubietruck Plus (Cubieboard5)


!FriendlyARM NanoPi NEO 2


Lamobo R1


LinkSprite pcDuino


LinkSprite pcDuino3


Nano Pi Neo


Olimex A64-OLinuxino


Orange Pi Plus


OrangePi Zero Plus2


Pine64 LTS




Sinovoip Banana Pi M3


Sinovoip Banana Pi M2 Berry


Wiki notes


Unstable untested

Hardware systems for which the Sid installer has support code, but on which installation has not been tested yet.

If you succeed in installing Debian on one of these boards, then please file an installation report.


Device Tree Blob

!FriendlyARM NanoPi NEO Plus2


kernel in Buster but u-boot only since Bullseye

Nano Pi Neo Air


Olimex A20-OLinuXino-LIME2-eMMC


Olimex A64-OLinuxino-eMMC


The installer can also be used on other sunxi-based systems as long as device-tree support for them is available, but on those systems manual intervention during the installation is required (see below).

Unsupported Platforms

Unsupported installer

Hardware systems that should work using purely Debian with all essential parts available in same release of Debian, but involving custom setup of debian-installer.

If you succeed in installing Debian on one of these boards (e.g. by manually adding the official Debian u-boot to a "bare" debian-installer SD-card image), then please a) file an installation report, and b) consider offering your help to the installer team to get it supported officially in Debian.


Device Tree Blob


Cubietech Cubieboard4


NextThing C.H.I.P.


Olimex A10s-Olinuxino Micro


Installation Report

Orange Pi Zero


PineRiver Mini X-Plus


Unsupported bootstrapping

Hardware systems which should work with linux kernel packages officially part of Debian, but lacks boot support in official Debian u-boot or some related package.

If you succeed in installing Debian on one of these boards (e.g. using a fork of the official Debian u-boot package combined with a "bare" debian-installer SD-card image), then please a) file an installation report, and b) consider offering your help to the u-boot maintainers to get the board supported officially in Debian.


Device Tree Blob


A10s-Wobo i5


Allwinner A23 Evaluation Board


Allwinner A31 APP4 EVB1 Evaluation Board


Allwinner A83T H8Homlet Proto Dev Board v2.0


Allwinner GA10H Quad Core Tablet (v1.1)


Allwinner GT90H Dual Core Tablet (v4)


Allwinner R16 EVB (Parrot)


Amarula A64-Relic


Auxtek t003 A10s hdmi tv-stick


Auxtek t004 A10s hdmi tv-stick


BA10 tvbox


Banana Pi BPI-M1-Plus


Banana Pi BPI-M2-Plus


Banana Pi BPI-M2-Plus H5


since Bullseye

Banana Pi BPI-M2-Plus v1.2 H3


since Bullseye

Banana Pi BPI-M2-Plus v1.2 H5


since Bullseye

Banana Pi BPI-M2-Ultra


Banana Pi BPI-M2-Zero


BananaPi M2 Magic




Beelink GS1


since Bullseye

Beelink X2


Chuwi V7 CW0825 - CSQ CS908 top set box


Colorfly E708 Q1 tablet


CSQ CS908 top set box


Difrnce DIT4350


Dserve DSRV9703C


Emlid Neutis N5 Developer board


since Bullseye

Emlid Neutis N5H3 Developer board


since Bullseye

Empire Electronix D709 tablet


Empire Electronix M712 tablet


ET Q8 Quad Core Tablet (v1.6)


FriendlyARM NanoPi A64


FriendlyARM NanoPi Duo2


since Bullseye

FriendlyArm NanoPi M1 Plus


FriendlyArm NanoPi M1


Gemei G9 Tablet


HAOYU Electronics Marsboard A10


HSG H702


Hyundai A7HD


I12 / Q5 / QT840A A20 tvbox


ICnova-A20 SWAC




INet-86DZ Rev 01


INet-97F Rev 02


INet-98V Rev 02


iNet-9F Rev 03


INet-D978 Rev 02


iNet Q972 tablet


Ippo Q8H Dual Core Tablet (v1.2)


Ippo Q8H Dual Core Tablet (v5)


Itead Ibox A20


Iteaduino Plus A10


Jesurun Q5


Lamobo R1 [Linutronix Testbox v2]


since Bullseye

Libre Computer Board ALL-H3-CC H2+


Libre Computer Board ALL-H3-CC H3


Libre Computer Board ALL-H3-CC H5


Libre Computer Board ALL-H3-IT H5


since Bullseye

Libre Computer Board ALL-H5-CC H5


since Bullseye

Lichee Pi One


Lichee Pi Zero


Lichee Pi Zero with Dock


LinkSprite pcDuino2


LinkSprite pcDuino3 Nano


requires (at least) non-Debian U-boot; on-board Ethernet card needs a non-free firmware, on-board 4GB Flash doesn't work out-of-the-box

MapleBoard MP130


since Bullseye

Mele A1000G Quad top set box


Mele A1000


Installation Report requires custom build of mainline U-boot; on-board wifi card needs a non-free firmware, installation done via eth

Mele I7 Quad top set box


Mele M3


Mele M9 top set box


Merrii A20 Hummingbird


Merrii A31 Hummingbird


Merrii A80 Optimus Board


Miniand Hackberry










MSI Primo81 tablet


NextThing C.H.I.P. Pro


NextThing GR8-EVB


Nintendo NES Classic Edition


Nintendo SuperNES Classic Edition


Oceanic 5205 5inMFD


since Bullseye

Olimex A13-Olinuxino Micro


Olimex A13-OLinuXino


Installation Report requires custom build of mainline U-boot; some EHCI timeouts in u-boot

Olimex A20-Olimex-SOM-EVB-eMMC


Olimex A20-OLinuXino-MICRO-eMMC


Olimex A20-SOM204-EVB-eMMC


Olimex A20-SOM204-EVB


Olimex A33-OLinuXino


Orange Pi Mini


Orange Pi


OrangePi 3


since Bullseye

OrangePi Lite2


since Bullseye

OrangePi One Plus


since Bullseye

OrangePi Win/Win Plus


OrangePi Zero Plus2 H3


since Bullseye

Pine64 PinePhone Braveheart (1.1)


since Bullseye

Pine64 PinePhone Developer Batch (1.0)


since Bullseye

Pine H64 model A


Pine H64 model B


since Bullseye



since Bullseye

PocketBook Touch Lux 3


since Bullseye

Point of View Protab2-IPS9


Polaroid MID2407PXE03 tablet


Polaroid MID2809PXE04 tablet


Q8 A13 Tablet


Q8 A23 Tablet


Q8 A33 Tablet


Q8 A33 Tablet


R7 A10s hdmi tv-stick


RerVision H3-DVK


since Bullseye

Sinlinx SinA31s Development Board


Sinlinx SinA33


Sinovoip BPI-M2


Sipeed Lichee Zero Plus


since Bullseye

SoPine with baseboard




since Bullseye

Tanix TX6


since Bullseye

TBS A711 Tablet


Utoo P66


Wexler TAB7200


WITS A31 Colombus Evaluation Board


Wits Pro A20 DKT


Xunlong Orange Pi 2


Xunlong Orange Pi Lite


Xunlong Orange Pi One


Xunlong Orange Pi PC 2


Xunlong Orange Pi PC Plus


Xunlong Orange Pi PC


Xunlong Orange Pi Plus 2E


Xunlong Orange Pi Prime


Xunlong Orange Pi R1


Xunlong Orange Pi Zero Plus


Yones TopTech BS1078 v2 Tablet


Storage options

Debian-Installer allows installing to either a SATA disk or to an MMC/SD card. Installation to the on-board NAND flash available on some sunxi-based systems is not supported.

Booting the installed system directly from a SATA disk requires a u-boot with AHCI support (see the corresponding uboot information below).

Pre-installation preparations

On sunxi-based systems, u-boot is the system firmware that initializes the hardware and then allows to boot an operating system. It is the sunxi-equivalent of the BIOS on a PC. In contrast to PCs, where the BIOS is stored in an on-board flash memory chip, on sunxi-based devices u-boot is usually stored on an SD card. Some sunxi-based devices have on-board flash memory and even contain a stripped-down u-boot version in it, but this version is usually unsuitable for Debian. Therefore you usually have to setup an SD card with the appropriate u-boot version for your particular device (see below) as a prerequisite for installing Debian. If you use the pre-made SD card images with the installer, this step is not necessary, as these images already contain u-boot.

Installing over the network by TFTP

Debian provides a ready-made netboot tarball (Buster version, Bullseye version, daily sid build) that can simply be unpacked in the root directory of a TFTP server. It contains the installer as well as a network boot script which can automatically be executed by mainline u-boot as part of the default boot order (MMC/SD -> SATA -> USB mass storage -> TFTP). Manually executing the boot script is possible by entering "run bootcmd_dhcp" at the u-boot prompt.

Manually setting up TFTP booting

If you do not want to use the netboot tarball, you can of course also manually set up TFTP booting:

Download the kernel vmlinuz, installer initrd.gz and the appropriate Flattended Device Tree (FDT) Blob (or DTB) for the board and copy them to a path on your TFTP server. e.g.

# mkdir -p /srv/tftp/didaily/armhf/daily/{netboot,device-tree}
# cd /srv/tftp/didaily/armhf/daily/
# wget -P netboot http://d-i.debian.org/daily-images/armhf/daily/netboot/vmlinuz http://d-i.debian.org/daily-images/armhf/daily/netboot/initrd.gz
# wget -P device-tree http://d-i.debian.org/daily-images/armhf/daily/device-tree/sun7i-a20-cubietruck.dtb

Create a script to boot the installer. e.g. /srv/tftp/didaily/cubietruck:

#setenv diargs <EXTRA ARGUMENTS>

setenv fdt_addr       0x43000000
setenv ramdisk_addr_r 0x48000000
setenv kernel_addr_r  0x47000000

setenv dibase /didaily/armhf/daily

tftp ${kernel_addr_r} ${dibase}/netboot/vmlinuz
setenv bootargs "console=ttyS0,115200 --- ${diargs}"

tftp ${fdt_addr} ${dibase}/device-tree/sun7i-a20-cubietruck.dtb
fdt addr ${fdt_addr} 0x40000

tftp ${ramdisk_addr_r} ${dibase}/netboot/initrd.gz
bootz ${kernel_addr_r} ${ramdisk_addr_r}:${filesize} ${fdt_addr}

then to make a script which u-boot can run:

# mkimage -T script -A arm -d /srv/tftp/didaily/cubietruck /srv/tftp/didaily/cubietruck.scr

At the u-boot prompt, boot the images which were just downloaded via the script:

uboot> setenv autoload no
uboot> dhcp
uboot> tftp ${scriptaddr} /didaily/cubietruck.scr
uboot> source ${scriptaddr}

Install in the usual way. Use setenv diargs foo=bar to pass arguments to the installer (e.g. for preseeding)

Installing from a USB stick

The daily installer builds offer the option to install the system from a USB stick, provided you are running mainline u-boot and have a device for which u-boot provides EHCI support.

Unpack the daily hd-media tarball or stable hd-media tarball onto a USB stick with a filesystem that is supported by u-boot (FAT16 / FAT32 / ext2 / ext3 / ext4) and copy the ISO image of either the weekly testing Debian/testing CD #1 or the weekly testing Debian/testing DVD #1 or for stable Debian/10.4 CD #1 onto the stick.

Notes: Prepare USB stick: Create an empty DOS parition table using fdisk and create a new primary parition. Use mkfs.ext2 to create file system on the new parition. Choose HDMI for installer display: On A20-Olinuxino-Lime2, the serial console is selected by default, so you need to run bootargs=console=tty1 and saveenv commands to choose HDMI display.

Insert the USB stick into the target system and issue the command

uboot> run bootcmd_usb0

at the u-boot command prompt to start the installer.

Notice: The combination of the daily-built hd-media tarball and the weekly-built CD/DVD image might not work correctly in periods of kernel transitions in Debian. The installer assumes that the kernel in the hd-media tarball and the kernel modules in the ISO image have the same version, which of course might not be the case directly after a kernel version bump.

Installing from an SD card image

Debian offers SD card images with u-boot and the netinstall version of the Debian-Installer for various sunxi-based systems for stable or daily builds of unstable. The images are provided in the form of a device-specific part (containing the partition table and the device-specific u-boot) and a device-independent part (containing the actual installer), which can be unpacked and concatenated together to build a complete installer image.

The device-specific part is named firmware.<board_name>.img.gz and the device-independent part is named partition.img.gz. To write a full image to an SD card, simply unpack, concatenate and write the parts to an SD card in a single step with

zcat firmware.<board_name>.img.gz partition.img.gz > /dev/SDCARD_DEVICE

These images are meant for the SD card slot on the device and will not work when SD card is inserted into USB based SD card readers. Once the installer is started, it runs completely in the system's RAM and does not need to load anything from the SD card anymore, so you can delete all existing partitions and use the full card for installing Debian. It is recommended to use the "guided partitioning" option in the installer to create a proper partition layout on the SD card.

The above installation methods may require a serial cable to interact with the installer. Debian installer by default uses the HDMI output with simplefb. To change that, at the u-boot prompt, use tty1 as console and disable framebuffer in the installer:

uboot> setenv console tty1
uboot> setenv bootargs console=tty1 fb=false
uboot> saveenv
uboot> boot

You can install a non-default system (e.g. an older system using a newer installer) by changing the debconf priority to low when choosing the mirror.

If your USB-Keyboard does not work in u-boot, you can mount the partition.img, copy the configuration directives from boot.scr to boot.cmd (i.e. strip initial "noise") and insert the setenv commands above manually. Then run the following command

mkimage -C none -A arm -T script -d boot.cmd boot.scr

taken from here https://linux-sunxi.org/Mainline_U-boot and the installer will boot in non-framebuffer mode without any further input needed.

Booting the installed system

Booting the Installed System from MMC/SD Card

If you are running a current mainline u-boot or a recent u-boot-sunxi (cf. the u-boot overview below), have installed the system to an MMC/SD card and have used the guided partitioning option in the installer, auto booting the installed system works without requiring any user interaction. Note that guided partitioning must be selected to use the *whole* card and not only available space. Otherwise Debian installer will not be removed from the card. To fix this then please use the instruction for Creating a bootable SD Card with u-boot from above to install a recent U-Boot version.

Some background information:

By default, u-boot-sunxi expects the first partition on the MMC/SD card to be the boot partition and to contain either a FAT or an ext2 filesystem. The guided partitioning option in the installer takes care of this and sets up an ext2-formatted /boot partition as the first partition. If you have chosen a different layout, you have to manually set the u-boot environment variable ${partition} to the number of the partition containing /boot.

Mainline u-boot does not impose restrictions on the filesystem type of the boot partition, as long as u-boot generally supports the particular filesystem (which by default includes ext2/ext3/ext4). Mainline u-boot also does not use the ${device}/${partition} scheme used by u-boot-sunxi, but instead automatically checks all available devices for a boot script.

Booting the Installed System from a SATA Disk on Mainline U-Boot

If booting from MMC fails and a SATA disk is available, mainline u-boot automatically tries to boot from it. If you want to manually boot from a SATA disk at the u-boot prompt, just enter the command "run bootcmd_scsi0".

Booting the Installed System from a SATA Disk on U-Boot-Sunxi

Note: u-boot-sunxi does by default not support booting from SATA. This paragraph applies only if you use a u-boot-sunxi version on which additional AHCI patches have been applied.

U-boot-sunxi does not have an autoboot mechanism for SATA disks. To manually boot from a SATA disk on u-boot-sunxi, run the following at the u-boot prompt:

uboot> scsi scan
uboot> setenv device scsi
uboot> setenv partition 0
uboot> load ${device} ${partition} ${scriptaddr} boot.scr
uboot> setenv bootargs console=ttyS0,115200n8 root=/dev/sda2 rootwait
uboot> source ${scriptaddr}

This can be made the default with:

uboot> setenv device scsi
uboot> setenv partition 0
uboot> setenv bootargs console=ttyS0,115200n8 root=/dev/sda2 rootwait
uboot> setenv boot_debian scsi scan\;load \${device} \${partition} \${scriptaddr} boot.scr\;source \${scriptaddr}
uboot> setenv bootcmd run boot_debian
uboot> saveenv
uboot> boot

Installing on systems that are not supported out of the box

First find a suitable device tree blob (DTB) for your board. You might find one in the daily builds, or in the device-tree git repo. The latter is a repository containing all of the device tree files shipped with the upstream Linux kernel but in a separate git tree (which is much quicker to clone and build than the full kernel) which tracks mainline Linux development. You can build all of the ARM (and therefore Allwinner/sunxi) device tree blobs in that tree in only a few seconds devices with:

$ sudo apt-get install device-tree-compiler git make cpp
$ git clone git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/devicetree/devicetree-rebasing.git
$ cd devicetree-rebasing
$ make -j all_arm

The device tree blobs will be found in src/arm/*.dtb. You can build a single device tree by passing it to make instead of all_arm. e.g.

$ make src/arm/sun7i-a20-cubietruck.dtb

Otherwise you might need to write a device tree file yourself (or find someone who is willing to do it for you). If you only have the device tree source (DTS) you can convert it to DTB using these commands:

$ sudo apt-get install device-tree-compiler
$ dtc -I dts -O dtb infile.dts > outfile.dtb

Once you have a suitable DTB you can populate the TFTP server with the vmlinuz, initrd.gz and the DTB and create a suitable installer boot script by modifying the one above.

Boot the installer and proceed as usual. Towards the end you will encounter:

   ┌─────────────────┤ [!] Continue without boot loader ├──────────────────┐
   │                                                                       │
   │                       No boot loader installed                        │
   │ No boot loader has been installed, either because you chose not to or │
   │ because your specific architecture doesn't support a boot loader yet. │
   │                                                                       │
   │ You will need to boot manually with the /vmlinuz kernel on partition  │
   │ /dev/sda1 and root=/dev/sda2 passed as a kernel argument.             │
   │                                                                       │
   │                              <Continue>                               │
   │                                                                       │

This is expected. Make a note of the partitions and continue. Once the installer has completed the installation you need to boot the resulting system, but using the DTB from TFTP in order to fix things up. This can be done like in the following example (which assumes an installation to a SATA disk):

uboot> setenv fdt_addr       0x43000000
uboot> setenv ramdisk_addr_r 0x48000000
uboot> setenv kernel_addr_r  0x47000000
uboot> setenv dibase /didaily/armhf/daily
uboot> setenv autoload no;dhcp
uboot> tftp ${fdt_addr} ${dibase}/device-tree/sun7i-a20-cubieboard2.dtb
uboot> fdt addr ${fdt_addr} 0x40000
uboot> scsi scan
uboot> load scsi 0 ${kernel_addr_r} /vmlinuz
uboot> load scsi 0 ${ramdisk_addr_r} /initrd.img
uboot> setenv bootargs console=ttyS0,115200n8 root=/dev/sda2 rootwait
uboot> bootz ${kernel_addr_r} ${ramdisk_addr_r}:${filesize} ${fdt_addr}

This should now boot you to a login prompt.

Login and install flash-kernel and the u-boot-tools:

# apt-get install flash-kernel u-boot-tools

Now you need to create a flash-kernel database entry. Start by copying the entries for Cubietech Cubietruck from /usr/share/flash-kernel/db/all.db to /etc/flash-kernel/db. Now you need to modify the Machine and DTB-Id fields.

For the Machine use the output of:

# cat /proc/device-tree/model ; echo

For DTB-Id if you used a DTB from the daily builds then use that name for DTB-Id. If you got the DTB from somewhere else then install it as /boot/dtb-$(uname -r) and omit the DTB-Id field. In this case you will need to take care around kernel upgrades.

Now run flash-kernel and reboot. At this point you should be able to boot using the process from Booting the Installed System above. If this fails the boot again using the manual method described above and try again e.g. fix your /etc/flash-kernel/db.

Once you have it working run reportbug flash-kernel and report a wishlist bug to support your platform. Be sure to include the contents of /etc/flash-kernel/db and say where the DTB came from.

Mainline kernel and linux-sunxi.org 3.4 kernel

There are two different Linux kernel series for sunxi-based systems:

  • mainline kernel
  • linux-sunxi.org kernel

Development for sunxi-based systems had originally begun based on an Allwinner android kernel. The linux-sunxi.org 3.4 kernel series is based on this android kernel and is maintained by a group of volunteers at linux-sunxi.org.

The mainline kernel is the "official" Linux kernel series released by Linus Torvalds. Beginning with kernel 3.8, several developers have been working on integrating sunxi support into the mainline kernel. An overview of the progress can be found in the linux-sunxi.org wiki.

Debian uses the same kernel on all supported architectures and therefore supports only the mainline kernel. The disadvantage of the mainline kernel compared to the linux-sunxi.org kernel is that not all sunxi-specific drivers have yet been ported. The mainline kernel contains support for serial console, USB, SATA, Ethernet and MMC/SD, but the version in Buster may lack native display and audio drivers for some sunxi hardware. When using mainline u-boot v2015.01 or newer and a suitable kernel version, it is possible to run Linux with graphics support by using the simplefb driver. Simplefb works similar to vesafb on PC hardware - u-boot initializes the display hardware with a fixed mode and the Linux kernel just uses the pre-initialized framebuffer. Support for this kind of operation is available in the mainline kernel from version 3.19 onwards and has been backported to the Debian kernel version 3.16.7-ckt7-1. The major disadvantage of simplefb in comparison to a "proper" display driver is that the kernel has no way to reconfigure the display controller, which means that it is e.g. impossible to change the resolution and there is no display power management available. Buster has been released with u-boot v2019.01 which has simplefb-support.

First patches to implement a native kernel driver for the display engine used in the A10/A10s/A13/A20 have been posted to the Linux kernel mailing list, but those are still preliminary and probably won't enter the mainline kernel before version 4.6. An audio driver that supports the headphone jacks on some sunxi-based systems has recently been written; support for the first boards has been included in kernel 4.4, support for further boards is planned for kernel 4.5. Linux kernel in Buster is 4.19.

While the installer always uses the mainline kernel, it is possible to manually install a linux-sunxi.org kernel on a Debian system later on, but in that case you are on your own with regard to kernel updates and bootloader setup. Several of the automatic mechanisms in Debian to smoothly handle kernel updates and bootloader configuration will not work properly with the linux-sunxi.org 3.4 series.

U-boot versions for sunxi-based systems


There are several u-boot versions for sunxi-based systems:

  • the original Allwinner u-boot
  • u-boot-sunxi
  • mainline u-boot

Allwinner u-boot

You can mostly ignore the original Allwinner u-boot for Debian purposes. Compared to u-boot-sunxi and in particular to mainline u-boot its codebase is rather old, and it relies on proprietary bootloader components ("boot0"/"boot1") to perform basic hardware initialization. About the only use case for it is booting from the NAND flash available on some sunxi-based boards in conjunction with using an android or android-derived kernel version that contains the original Allwinner NAND flash driver for Android.


U-boot-sunxi is derived from the original Allwinner u-boot and is maintained by a group of volunteers at linux-sunxi.org. It contains an SPL component that takes care of the basic hardware initialization and therefore does not need the proprietary boot0/boot1 loaders from Allwinner. It can boot locally from MMC/SD card and over the network by TFTP, but it cannot access the NAND flash. The current version (as of 08/2014) has been updated to the featureset of mainline u-boot v2014.04; it does not have PSCI-, AHCI- and EHCI-support. Development of u-boot-sunxi has mostly stopped; active development happens in mainline u-boot nowadays. Therefore u-boot-sunxi is only interesting for a few systems which are not yet supported by mainline u-boot.

Mainline u-boot

Mainline u-boot is the official upstream u-boot version. It contains PSCI-, AHCI- and EHCI-support. The first mainline u-boot version with sunxi support was v2014.10, the current mainline u-boot (v2016.01) has added support for many more sunxi-based systems. If a system is supported by mainline u-boot, you should use it instead of u-boot-sunxi. Mainline u-boot has - besides the master git tree at http://git.denx.de/u-boot.git/ - so-called "custodian trees" for each supported platform, in which platform-specific changes get integrated first before being merged into the central u-boot git repository for the next release. The sunxi custodian tree is available at http://git.denx.de/u-boot-sunxi.git/ and provides "bleeding-edge" development versions. Those are primarily interesting for developers, normal users should use the master git tree instead.

During the v2014.10 development cycle for mainline u-boot, some rather invasive changes have been introduced. This includes restructuring the build system and introducing a new default environment and a new generic bootcmd handling. The new default environment is not fully compatible with some older bootscripts written for u-boot-sunxi, but flash-kernel >= 3.24 creates bootscripts that work with both the old and the new default environment. If you are using a flash-kernel version older than 3.24 and intend to change from u-boot-sunxi to mainline u-boot, you should update flash-kernel first.

Creating a bootable SD Card with u-boot

Debian provides mainline u-boot images for a variety of supported systems in the daily installer builds at http://d-i.debian.org/daily-images/armhf/daily/u-boot/. The daily builds contain both a ready-made gzipped SD card image (<boardname>.sdcard.img.gz) as well as a gzipped "bare" u-boot image (u-boot-sunxi-with-spl.bin.gz).

The easiest way to create a bootable SD card with u-boot is to copy the ready-made card image to the card, e.g. with

$ zcat Cubietruck.sdcard.img.gz > /dev/SDCARD_DEVICE

Please note that writing the SD card image overwrites an already existing partition table on the card and thereby causes loss of any data that was on the card previously!

U-Boot images can also be taken from the u-boot-sunxi:armhf package. To create a bootable SD card with help of the u-boot-sunxi package, copy the appropriate u-boot image to offset 8kb on the SD card, e.g. with

$ dd if=/usr/lib/u-boot/Cubietruck/u-boot-sunxi-with-spl.bin of=/dev/SDCARD_DEVICE bs=1k seek=8

for the Cubietruck. This method keeps an existing partition table on the SD card untouched.

Please note that the u-boot-sunxi package contains both normal as well as FEL images for various systems. FEL mode is a special boot mode that allows sunxi-based systems to be booted via a USB cable from another system instead of from a mass storage device. FEL mode requires specifically adapted u-boot builds which are unsuitable for booting from SD card, so use the normal non-FEL images for building bootable SD cards.

To install the u-boot-sunxi:armhf package on a non-armhf system (e.g. on an amd64-based PC), you can use Debian's multiarch functionality:

$ sudo dpkg --add-architecture armhf
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install u-boot-sunxi:armhf

SMP/PSCI support

For SMP support on Allwinner SOCs, i.e. for using more than one CPU core, the mainline Linux kernel requires support for PSCI (Power State Coordination Interface) in u-boot, which is only available in mainline u-boot.

AHCI support

AHCI support allows u-boot to boot the kernel, initrd and dtb from a SATA harddisk. U-boot itself has still to be installed on an SD card, but the rest of the system can be put onto a (much faster) harddisk. This feature is available in mainline u-boot for most mainline-supported systems with a SATA socket.

EHCI support

EHCI support allows u-boot to boot the kernel, initrd and dtb from a USB mass storage device such as a USB memory stick or a USB harddisk. U-boot itself has still to be installed on an SD card, but the rest of the system can be put onto a USB device. This feature is available in mainline u-boot for most mainline-supported systems with a USB host (type "A") socket.

Board Specific Information

Cubietech Cubietruck

Wifi requires non-free firmware firmware-brcm80211 at least version 0.42 plus an additional firmware file which is not yet packaged but can be installed with:

wget -O /lib/firmware/brcm/brcmfmac43362-sdio.txt http://dl.cubieboard.org/public/Cubieboard/benn/firmware/ap6210/nvram_ap6210.txt

Message such as brcmfmac: brcmf_fil_cmd_data: Failed err=-23 are expected and do not represent a actual problem.

Olimex A20-OLinuXino-MICRO/A20-OLinuXino-LIME2 + 7" or 10"LCD

If you have one of those boards+lcd display and want to use the mainline kernel with simplefb http://karme.de/prisirah/ might be interesting for you.

Olimex A20-OLinuXino-LIME2 rev. K

1G network is not working on these boards without a u-boot built with CONFIG_GMAC_TX_DELAY=3 option (see #911560). Here's the recipe to build and install u-boot for this card.

Note that the revision of the card is written on the PCB of the device.

Setup u-boot source:

  • git clone https://salsa.debian.org/debian/u-boot.git

  • sudo apt build-dep u-boot

In u-boot repository:

  • apply all debian patches: quilt push -a

  • run: make CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf- A20-OLinuXino-Lime2_defconfig

  • edit .config to set CONFIG_GMAC_TX_DELAY=3 (or run make CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf- menuconfig

  • build u-boot: make CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf-

You should get a u-boot-sunxi-with-spl.bin file which is the bootloader to install on your SD card (see Sunxi doc)

First backup your SD card:

  • sudo cp /dev/$sdcard backup.img

Then copy the bootloader:

  • sudo dd if=u-boot-sunxi-with-spl.bin of=/dev/$sdcard bs=1024 seek=8

In both case, $sdcard is to be replaced with the block device file of your SD card.

Banana PI M2 Berry

(Those are just notes at this point, added by LucasNussbaum)

  • You will need a UART (console) cable.

Installing Debian

Post-installation stuff

  • It might be a bit difficult to get the system to boot, because the installer does not set everything up correctly. You will need to install flash-kernel.
  • Ethernet does not work, because the device tree file for the device is incomplete. Add the data related to ethernet in the M2 ultra dts and recompile the dtd.
  • Wifi needs an additional firmware that is not shipped in the firmware-brcm80211 package (see https://bugs.debian.org/797779, that is not going to be fixed).