DebianOn is an effort to document how to install, configure and use Debian on some specific hardware. Therefore potential buyers would know if that hardware is supported and owners would know how get the best out of that hardware.

The purpose is not to duplicate the Debian Official Documentation, but to document how to install Debian on some specific hardware.

If you need help to get Debian running on your hardware, please have a look at our user support channels where you may find specific channels (mailing list, IRC channel) dedicated to certain types of hardware.

Translation(s): none

Models covered
?SiFive ?HiFive Unleashed

Distributed by ?CrowdSupply:

Overall Status

Core Components


Boot Standard Kernel:


LAN network card (Cadence GEM):


Detect hard drives (mini SD mmc):




Extra Features

CPU Frequency Scaling




Sleep / Suspend


Legend :
{OK} = OK ; {X} Unsupported(No Driver) ; /!\ = Error (Couldn't get it working); [?] Unknown, Not Test ; [-] Not-applicable
{i} = Configuration Required; X-( = Only works with a non-free driver and or firmware

Important Note

Debian on the ?HiFive is very new. There are no public images available yet.


Installing Debian on HiFive

The easiest way at present to run Debian binaries on a ?HiFive is to boot the official ?SiFive image with a Debian install on the second partition and chroot into it. From there Debian's apt, ssh, apache, etc. can be run. A Debian chroot can be created with debootstrap or multistrap, each with some caveats. Multistrap leaves more of the system to configure. Debootstrap at present requires a version of qemu that is newer than what is in sid.

Creating a chroot with multistrap

apt install multistrap debian-ports-archive-keyring

cat >/tmp/multistrap-riscv64.conf <<EOF
aptsources=Unstable Unreleased Sid-main
bootstrap=Unstable Unreleased Sid-main




multistrap -d /tmp/riscv64-chroot -f /tmp/multistrap-riscv64.conf

That will make a chroot you can copy to the second partition of the mini-sd card. Then boot that up, log in as root/sifive. By default, the image does DHCP and starts ssh.

mount /dev/mmcblk0p2 /mnt
chroot /mnt
cat /etc/debian_version

mount proc -t proc /proc

You may have to do this to clean up the package system:

/var/lib/dpkg/info/dash.preinst install
dpkg --configure -a
# Make sure all is ok
apt -f install

Building a Kernel

The stock kernel from ?SiFive won't boot Debian as it is missing a few modules. A kernel from ?SiFive's git repo can be built which will (mostly) boot Debian. Run this to build a kernel and bootloader under Debian Stretch. (Buster and Sid had build issues for me.) This is a big download (multi gig) and takes a long time to compile. It is much faster to re-build if ccache is installed.

There is a Linux kernel config draft available attached to this wiki page and here:

# Install build dependencies:

apt install build-essential ccache gawk texinfo bison flex libmpfr-dev libgmp-dev libmpc-dev zlib1g-dev bc unzip libssl-dev python wget gdisk libncurses5-dev

# Set up ccache. Not necessary, but makes re-builds much faster.
echo 'PATH=/usr/lib/ccache:$PATH' >> ~/.bashrc
. ~/.bashrc
ccache -M 2G

git clone

cd freedom-u-sdk
git submodule update --init --recursive

Install this image on the mini SD card. Change /dev/sdXXX to your mini SD card (see dmesg | tail after inserting for device name). Note, be sure to get the right device name as this will overwrite data. It repartitions the device, uses dd to write the first partition, and formats the second partition ext4. (When you later have your Debian chroot copied to the second partition, comment out the mkfs line for the second partition in the Makefile or it will format over it!)

sudo make DISK=/dev/sdXXX format-boot-loader

Then take the mini-sd card, insert it in ?HiFive, power on and it will boot (no need to change default jumper settings). This will be a minimal non-Debian busybox system. Login is root/sifive.

Configuring kernel

How to configure the kernel using ?SiFive's SDK, cloned in the steps above.

make linux-menuconfig
# Then install on mini-sd:
sudo make DISK=/dev/sdXXX format-boot-loader

Ya, that's it. :)

If you are going to boot the Busybox system, use this:


If you have a Debian system on the second partition, use the following. The rootdelay is so the mmc has time to start up to be used as a root device. It may need just 2 seconds or so.

CONFIG_CMDLINE="earlyprintk root=/dev/mmcblk0p2 rootdelay=3 ip=dhcp"

You can also add "init=/bin/bash" to the CONFIG_CMDLINE to have it boot directly into a shell.

Linux defconfig

A kernel defconfig that will boot a Debian system can be found here:

systemd kernel needs

Information about modules needed to get systemd going can be found here:

The Fedora kernel also has some pointers:


Other info...


There is no display output hardware on the ?HiFive. Use minicom to connect via USB serial port. Settings 115200 baud, 8N1, no hardware/software flow control.

minicom -D /dev/ttyUSB1

Keyboard, Video, Mouse

There is no USB or PS/2, so no keyboard or mouse. Video output is serial console.

Power Management

The units default to running at 1GHz. Units that shipped via Crowdsupply can run up to 1.5GHz:

echo 1500000000 > /sys/devices/platform/soc/10000000.prci/rate

If that locks your system you can tell as the 4 LEDs by the USB power will be unlit. You can try a lower frequency:

echo 1450000000 > /sys/devices/platform/soc/10000000.prci/rate


Ethernet Cadence GEM.

There is no wifi.

System Summary



Some configuration files and sample outputs.

  • [get | view] (2018-04-12 00:16:37, 5.0 KB) [[attachment:linux-config-hifive.txt]]
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