How to Flash Linux System from U-boot

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Return to the Sitara Linux Software Developer's Guide


This article applies to Sitara SDK 4.0.1 which uses the Platform Support Package (PSP) software version

for AM35x and AM37x devices.   This information is obsolete as newer software has different NAND ECC requirements.


This guide will show how use u-boot to flash the NAND of an OMAP3 EVM (for AM37x, DM37x or OMAP35xx devices) or an AM3517EVM (for AM35x devices) with Linux system binaries. 

  • Assumptions:
  1. SD card with system binaries (x-loader, u-boot, Linux kernel) on boot partition
  2. Linux root filesystem in rootfs partition of SD card or root filesystem available via NFS


The procedures here will erase the NAND flash of the EVM.  This includes all u-boot environment variables.  Use the "printenv" command (or just "pri") in u-boot to print a complete list of environment variables.  Copy and paste these to a text file for safe keeping.

Boot EVM into SD/MMC card boot mode

The SD card must at least have the files MLO, u-boot.bin, and uImage.  All of these files can also be found in the "./psp/prebuilt-images" directory in the Sitara SDK installation (with names that include the platform name and software revision info).  The MLO file is simply a re-named copy of the file x-load.bin.ift that is produced by rebuilding x-loader and signing the file.  When the board is booted in SD/MMC card boot mode, the ROM code looks specifically for the file with the name MLO as the primary bootloader.

To boot from this SD card, the boot switches should be set to SD/MMC boot:

For Mistral OMAP EVM (AM37x, DM37x or OMAP35xx devices)

Set SW4 switches #1, #2, #3 and #6 to the ON position and all others OFF (MMC1, UART3 boot order)

For LogicPD AM3517EVM (AM35x device)

Set SW7 switches #1 and #4 to the ON position and all others OFF.  (USB, UART, MMC1, XIP boot order)

Start the board and interrupt the boot process when prompted by hitting any key in the UART terminal application:

Texas Instruments X-Loader 1.45 (Mar 19 2010 - 19:44:19)
Starting X-loader on MMC
Reading boot sector

212504 Bytes Read from MMC
Starting OS Bootloader from MMC...
Starting OS Bootloader...
U-Boot 2009.11 (May 06 2010 - 16:57:54)

OMAP34xx/35xx-GP ES1.0, CPU-OPP2 L3-165MHz
I2C: ready
DRAM: 128 MB
NAND: 256 MiB
*** Warning - bad CRC or NAND, using default environment

In: serial
Out: serial
Err: serial
Read back SMSC id 0x92200000
Die ID #731c0000000000000156087c0a023021
Net: smc911x-0
Hit any key to stop autoboot: 0

All of the commands in this guide are performed at the u-boot prompt. 




Run the u-boot commands to flash the NAND

All of the following commands are performed at the u-boot prompt.

  These commands are actually a series of u-boot commands that are connected together with semicolons.  The individual commands can be entered separately or simple pasted from here.

  • Complete xloader write from MMC to NAND (only erases one block=128k).
mw.b 0x81600000 0xff 0x20000;nand erase 0 20000;mmc init;fatload mmc 0 0x81600000 x-load.bin.ift;nandecc hw; nand write.i 0x81600000 0 20000


  • Complete uboot write from MMC to NAND (only erases two blocks=256k)
mw.b 0x81600000 0xff 0x40000;nand erase 80000 40000;mmc init;fatload mmc 0 0x81600000 u-boot.bin;nandecc sw; nand write.i 0x81600000 80000 40000


  • Complete kernel write from MMC to NAND (erases 3M)
mw.b 0x81600000 0xff 0x1400000;nand erase 280000 300000;mmc init;fatload mmc 0 0x81600000 uImage;nandecc sw; nand write.i 0x81600000 280000 300000 



Put the EVM in NAND boot mode

 With the EVM in NAND boot mode and the images flashed in NAND as detailed above, the SD card does not need to be in the EVM at boot up.  X-loader and u-boot will run from NAND.  In order to also pull the Linux kernel (uImage) from NAND it will be necessary to halt the boot process and edit some u-boot environment variables.

For Mistral OMAP EVM (AM37x, DM37x or OMAP35xx devices)

Set SW4 switches #2, #4 and #6 to the ON position and all others OFF (NAND, UART3 boot order)

For LogicPD AM3517EVM (AM35x device)

Set SW7 with switches #1 thru #8 all to the OFF position. (NAND, EMAC, USB, MMC1 boot order)


  • Save off the original boot command
setenv bootcmd_original ${bootcmd}

  • Create command for reading the kernel from NAND and then another command for doing the boot where the kernel is pulled from NAND and the root filesystem is from the SD/MMC card. 
setenv nand_kernel 'nand read.i ${loadaddr} 280000 300000'
setenv nand_mmc_boot 'run nand_kernel;setenv bootargs ${mmcargs}; bootm'

Run this last command to actually perform the boot.  And always save the environment after making changes.

run nand_mmc_boot



Flashing the Root File System to NAND

A jffs2 file system can be copied into NAND flash.  Copy the file rootfs.tar.gz to the /home/root directory on the SD Card. Boot the EVM to Linux and enter the following commands:

[prompt]$ flash_eraseall –j /dev/mtd4
[prompt]$ mount /dev/mtdblock4 /media/nand –t jffs2
[prompt]$ cd /media/nand
[prompt]$ tar xzf /home/root/rootfs.tar.gz
[prompt]$ reboot –f

The bootargs under u-boot must be altered to use this new NAND file system.

NOTE:After the reboot the board is now running in u-boot, remember to stop the autoboot sequence by typing any key. The following are u-boot commands:

setenv bootargs 'mem=128M console=ttyS0,115200n8 noinitrd root=/dev/mtdblock4 rw rootfstype=jffs2 ip=dhcp'

Mounting File System from NFS

The file system can also be mounted as a Network File System (NFS).  The NFS is simply a sub-directory of the Linux host development system. 

Another command can be made to pull the root filesystem via NFS.  This command can be combine with the one to pull the bootloaders and kernel from NAND.  (The IP address and path to the NFS is an example and should be changed by the user).

setenv serverip <ip address of nfs host>
setenv nfsargs 'setenv bootargs mem=128M console=ttyS0,115200n8 noinitrd rw ip=dhcp root=/dev/nfs nfsroot=${serverip}:/home/user/ti-sdk-AM3715-evm-,nolock,rsize=1024,wsize=1024'
setenv nand_nfs_boot 'run nand_kernel;run nfsargs; bootm ${loadaddr}'
run nand_nfs_boot


Default NAND partitioning (from x-loader)

/* NAND is partitioned:
* 0x00000000 - 0x0007FFFF Booting Image (512k)
* 0x00080000 - 0x0023FFFF U-Boot Image (1.6M)
* 0x00240000 - 0x0027FFFF U-Boot Env Data (256k)
* 0x00280000 - 0x0077FFFF Kernel Image (5M)
* 0x00780000 - 0x08000000 File System

  • Block size = 0x00020000 (128k)
    * Page size = 0x00000800 (2k)