GM45 chipsets: remove the ME (manageability engine)

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This sections relates to disabling and removing the ME (Intel Management Engine) on GM45. This was originally done on the ThinkPad X200, and later adapted for the ThinkPad R400/T400/T500. It can in principle be done on any GM45 or GS45 system.

The ME is a blob that typically must be left inside the flash chip (in the ME region, as outlined by the default descriptor). On GM45, it is possible to remove it without any ill effects. All other parts of coreboot on GM45 systems (provided GMA MHD4500 / Intel graphics) can be blob-free, so removing the ME was the last obstacle to make GM45 a feasible target in libreboot (the systems can also work without the microcode blobs).

The ME is removed and disabled in libreboot by modifying the descriptor. More info about this can be found in the ich9deblob/ich9gen source code in resources/utilities/ich9deblob/ in libreboot, or more generally on this page.

More information about the ME can be found at http://www.coreboot.org/Intel_Management_Engine and http://me.bios.io/Main_Page.

Another project recently found: http://io.smashthestack.org/me/

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ICH9 gen utility

It is no longer necessary to use ich9deblob to generate a deblobbed descriptor+gbe image for GM45 targets. ich9gen is a small utility within ich9deblob that can generate them from scratch, without a factory.bin dump.

ich9gen executables can be found under ./ich9deblob/ statically compiled in libreboot_util. If you are using src or git, build ich9gen from source with:
$ ./oldbuild module ich9deblob
The executable will appear under resources/utilities/ich9deblob/

Run:
$ ./ich9gen

Running ich9gen this way (without any arguments) generates a default descriptor+gbe image with a generic MAC address. You probably don’t want to use the generic one; the ROM images in libreboot contain a descriptor+gbe image by default (already inserted) just to prevent or mitigate the risk of bricking your laptop, but with the generic MAC address (the libreboot project does not know what your real MAC address is).

You can find out your MAC address from ip addr or ifconfig in GNU+Linux. Alternatively, if you are running libreboot already (with the correct MAC address in your ROM), dump it (flashrom -r) and read the first 6 bytes from position 0x1000 (or 0x2000) in a hex editor (or, rename it to factory.rom and run it in ich9deblob: in the newly created mkgbe.c will be the individual bytes of your MAC address). If you are currently running the stock firmware and haven’t installed libreboot yet, you can also run that through ich9deblob to get the mac address.

An even simpler way to get the MAC address would be to read what’s on the little sticker on the bottom/base of the laptop.

On GM45 laptops that use flash descriptors, the MAC address or the onboard ethernet chipset is flashed (inside the ROM image). You should generate a descriptor+gbe image with your own MAC address inside (with the Gbe checksum updated to match). Run:
$ ./ich9gen --macaddress XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX
(replace the XX chars with the hexadecimal chars in the MAC address that you want)

Two new files will be created:

Assuming that your libreboot image is named libreboot.rom, copy the file to where libreboot.rom is located and then insert the descriptor+gbe file into the ROM image.
For 16MiB flash chips:
$ dd if=ich9fdgbe_16m.bin of=libreboot.rom bs=1 count=12k conv=notrunc
For 8MiB flash chips:
$ dd if=ich9fdgbe_8m.bin of=libreboot.rom bs=1 count=12k conv=notrunc
For 4MiB flash chips:
$ dd if=ich9fdgbe_4m.bin of=libreboot.rom bs=1 count=12k conv=notrunc
Your libreboot.rom image is now ready to be flashed on the system. Refer back to ../install/#flashrom for how to flash it.

Write-protecting the flash chip

Look in resources/utilities/ich9deblob/src/descriptor/descriptor.c for the following lines in the descriptorHostRegionsUnlocked function:

   descriptorStruct.masterAccessSection.flMstr1.fdRegionWriteAccess = 0x1;
   descriptorStruct.masterAccessSection.flMstr1.biosRegionWriteAccess = 0x1;
   descriptorStruct.masterAccessSection.flMstr1.meRegionWriteAccess = 0x1;
   descriptorStruct.masterAccessSection.flMstr1.gbeRegionWriteAccess = 0x1;
   descriptorStruct.masterAccessSection.flMstr1.pdRegionWriteAccess = 0x1;

Also look in resources/utilities/ich9deblob/src/ich9gen/mkdescriptor.c for the following lines:

    descriptorStruct.masterAccessSection.flMstr1.fdRegionWriteAccess = 0x1; /* see ../descriptor/descriptor.c */
    descriptorStruct.masterAccessSection.flMstr1.biosRegionWriteAccess = 0x1; /* see ../descriptor/descriptor.c */
    descriptorStruct.masterAccessSection.flMstr1.meRegionWriteAccess = 0x1; /* see ../descriptor/descriptor.c */
    descriptorStruct.masterAccessSection.flMstr1.gbeRegionWriteAccess = 0x1; /* see ../descriptor/descriptor.c */
    descriptorStruct.masterAccessSection.flMstr1.pdRegionWriteAccess = 0x1; /* see ../descriptor/descriptor.c */

NOTE: When you write-protect the flash chip, re-flashing is no longer possible unless you use dedicated external equipment, which also means disassembling the laptop. The same equipment can also be used to remove the write-protection later on, if you choose to do so. *Only* write-protect the chip if you have the right equipment for external flashing later on; for example, see ../install/bbb_setup.html.

Change them all to 0x0, then re-compile ich9gen. After you have done that, follow the notes in #ich9gen to generate a new descriptor+gbe image and insert that into your ROM image, then flash it. The next time you boot, the flash chip will be read-only in software (hardware re-flashing will still work, which you will need for re-flashing the chip after write-protecting it, to clear the write protection or to flash yet another ROM image with write protection set in the descriptor).

Flashrom will tell you that you can still forcefully re-flash, using -p internal:ich_spi_force=yes but this won’t actually work; it’ll just brick your laptop.

For external flashing guides, refer to ../install/.

ICH9 deblob utility

This is no longer strictly necessary. Libreboot ROM images for GM45 systems now contain the 12KiB descriptor+gbe generated from ich9gen, by default.

This was the tool originally used to disable the ME on X200 (later adapted for other systems that use the GM45 chipset). ich9gen now supersedes it; ich9gen is better because it does not rely on dumping the factory.rom image (whereas, ich9deblob does).

This is what you will use to generate the deblobbed descriptor+gbe regions for your libreboot ROM image.

If you are working with libreboot_src (or git), you can find the source under resources/utilities/ich9deblob/ and will already be compiled if you ran ./oldbuild module all or ./oldbuild module ich9deblob from the main directory (./), otherwise you can build it like so:
$ ./oldbuild module ich9deblob
An executable file named ich9deblob will now appear under resources/utilities/ich9deblob/

If you are working with libreboot_util release archive, you can find the utility included, statically compiled (for i686 and x86_64 on GNU+Linux) under ./ich9deblob/.

Place the factory.rom from your system (can be obtained using the external flashing guides for GM45 targets linked ../install/) in the directory where you have your ich9deblob executable, then run the tool:
$ ./ich9deblob

A 12kiB file named deblobbed_descriptor.bin will now appear. Keep this and the factory.rom stored in a safe location! The first 4KiB contains the descriptor data region for your system, and the next 8KiB contains the gbe region (config data for your gigabit NIC). These 2 regions could actually be separate files, but they are joined into 1 file in this case.

A 4KiB file named deblobbed_4kdescriptor.bin will alternatively appear, if no GbE region was detected inside the ROM image. This is usually the case, when a discrete NIC is used (eg Broadcom) instead of Intel. Only the Intel NICs need a GbE region in the flash chip.

Assuming that your libreboot image is named libreboot.rom, copy the deblobbed_descriptor.bin file to where libreboot.rom is located and then run:
$ dd if=deblobbed_descriptor.bin of=libreboot.rom bs=1 count=12k conv=notrunc

Alternatively, if you got a the deblobbed_4kdescriptor.bin file (no GbE defined), do this: $ dd if=deblobbed_4kdescriptor.bin of=libreboot.rom bs=1 count=4k conv=notrunc

The utility will also generate 4 additional files:

These are C source files that can re-generate the very same Gbe and Descriptor structs (from ich9deblob/ich9gen). To use these, place them in src/ich9gen/ in ich9deblob, then re-build. The newly built ich9gen executable will be able to re-create the very same 12KiB file from scratch, based on the C structs, this time without the need for a factory.rom dump!

You should now have a libreboot.rom image containing the correct 4K descriptor and 8K gbe regions, which will then be safe to flash. Refer back to ../install/#flashrom for how to flash it.

demefactory utility

This takes a factory.rom dump and disables the ME/TPM, but leaves the region intact. It also sets all regions read-write.

The ME interferes with flash read/write in flashrom, and the default descriptor locks some regions. The idea is that doing this will remove all of those restrictions.

Simply run (with factory.rom in the same directory):
$ ./demefactory

It will generate a 4KiB descriptor file (only the descriptor, no GbE). Insert that into a factory.rom image (NOTE: do this on a copy of it. Keep the original factory.rom stored safely somewhere):
$ dd if=demefactory_4kdescriptor.bin of=factory_nome.rom bs=1 count=4k conv=notrunc

TODO: test this.
TODO: lenovobios (GM45 thinkpads) still write-protects parts of the flash. Modify the assembly code inside. Note: the factory.rom (BIOS region) from lenovobios is in a compressed format, which you have to extract. bios_extract upstream won’t work, but the following was said in #coreboot on freenode IRC:

<roxfan> vimuser: try bios_extract with ffv patch http://patchwork.coreboot.org/patch/3444/
<roxfan> or https://github.com/coreboot/bios_extract/blob/master/phoenix_extract.py
<roxfan> what are you looking for specifically, btw?

0x74: 0x9fff03e0 PR0: Warning: 0x003e0000-0x01ffffff is read-only.
0x84: 0x81ff81f8 PR4: Warning: 0x001f8000-0x001fffff is locked.

Use-case: a factory.rom image modified in this way would theoretically have no flash protections whatsoever, making it easy to quickly switch between factory/libreboot in software, without ever having to disassemble and re-flash externally unless you brick the device.

demefactory is part of the ich9deblob src, found at resources/utilities/ich9deblob/

The sections below are adapted from (mostly) IRC logs related to early development getting the ME removed on GM45. They are useful for background information. This could not have been done without sgsit’s help.

Early notes

Flash chips

Early development notes

Start (hex) End (hex)   Length (hex)    Area Name
----------- ---------   ------------    ---------
00000000    003FFFFF    00400000    Flash Image

00000000    00000FFF    00001000    Descriptor Region
00000004    0000000F    0000000C        Descriptor Map
00000010    0000001B    0000000C        Component Section
00000040    0000004F    00000010        Region Section
00000060    0000006B    0000000C        Master Access Section
00000060    00000063    00000004            CPU/BIOS
00000064    00000067    00000004            Manageability Engine (ME)
00000068    0000006B    00000004            GbE LAN
00000100    00000103    00000004        ICH Strap 0
00000104    00000107    00000004        ICH Strap 1
00000200    00000203    00000004        MCH Strap 0
00000EFC    00000EFF    00000004        Descriptor Map 2
00000ED0    00000EF7    00000028        ME VSCC Table
00000ED0    00000ED7    00000008            Flash device 1
00000ED8    00000EDF    00000008            Flash device 2
00000EE0    00000EE7    00000008            Flash device 3
00000EE8    00000EEF    00000008            Flash device 4
00000EF0    00000EF7    00000008            Flash device 5
00000F00    00000FFF    00000100        OEM Section
00001000    001F5FFF    001F5000    ME Region
001F6000    001F7FFF    00002000    GbE Region
001F8000    001FFFFF    00008000    PDR Region
00200000    003FFFFF    00200000    BIOS Region

Start (hex) End (hex)   Length (hex)    Area Name
----------- ---------   ------------    ---------
00000000    003FFFFF    00400000    Flash Image

00000000    00000FFF    00001000    Descriptor Region
00000004    0000000F    0000000C        Descriptor Map
00000010    0000001B    0000000C        Component Section
00000040    0000004F    00000010        Region Section
00000060    0000006B    0000000C        Master Access Section
00000060    00000063    00000004            CPU/BIOS
00000064    00000067    00000004            Manageability Engine (ME)
00000068    0000006B    00000004            GbE LAN
00000100    00000103    00000004        ICH Strap 0
00000104    00000107    00000004        ICH Strap 1
00000200    00000203    00000004        MCH Strap 0
00000ED0    00000EF7    00000028        ME VSCC Table
00000ED0    00000ED7    00000008            Flash device 1
00000ED8    00000EDF    00000008            Flash device 2
00000EE0    00000EE7    00000008            Flash device 3
00000EE8    00000EEF    00000008            Flash device 4
00000EF0    00000EF7    00000008            Flash device 5
00000EFC    00000EFF    00000004        Descriptor Map 2
00000F00    00000FFF    00000100        OEM Section
00001000    00002FFF    00002000    GbE Region
00003000    00202FFF    00200000    BIOS Region

Build Settings
--------------
Flash Erase Size = 0x1000

It’s a utility called ‘Flash Image Tool’ for ME 4.x that was used for this. You drag a complete image into in and the utility decomposes the various components, allowing you to set soft straps.

This tool is proprietary, for Windows only, but was used to deblob the X200. End justified means, and the utility is no longer needed since the ich9deblob utility (documented on this page) can now be used to create deblobbed descriptors.

GBE (gigabit ethernet) region in SPI flash

Of the 8K, about 95% is 0xFF. The data is the gbe region is fully documented in this public datasheet: http://www.intel.co.uk/content/dam/doc/application-note/i-o-controller-hub-9m-82567lf-lm-v-nvm-map-appl-note.pdf

The only actual content found was:

00  1F  1F  1F  1F  1F  00  08  FF  FF  83  10  FF  FF  FF  FF  
08  10  FF  FF  C3  10  EE  20  AA  17  F5  10  86  80  00  00  
01  0D  00  00  00  00  05  06  20  30  00  0A  00  00  8B  8D  
02  06  40  2B  43  00  00  00  F5  10  AD  BA  F5  10  BF  10  
AD  BA  CB  10  AD  BA  AD  BA  00  00  00  00  00  00  00  00  
00  00  00  00  00  00  00  00  00  00  00  00  00  00  00  00  
00  01  00  40  28  12  07  40  FF  FF  FF  FF  FF  FF  FF  FF  
FF  FF  FF  FF  FF  FF  FF  FF  FF  FF  FF  FF  FF  FF  D9  F0  
20  60  1F  00  02  00  13  00  00  80  1D  00  FF  00  16  00  
DD  CC  18  00  11  20  17  00  DD  DD  18  00  12  20  17  00  
00  80  1D  00  00  00  1F  

The first part is the MAC address set to all 0x1F. It’s repeated haly way through the 8K area, and the rest is all 0xFF. This is all documented in the datasheet.

The GBe region starts at 0x20A000 bytes from the *end* of a factory image and is 0x2000 bytes long. In libreboot (deblobbed) the descriptor is set to put gbe directly after the initial 4K flash descriptor. So the first 4K of the ROM is the descriptor, and then the next 8K is the gbe region.

GBE region: change MAC address

According to the datasheet, it’s supposed to add up to 0xBABA but can actually be others on the X200. https://communities.intel.com/community/wired/blog/2010/10/14/how-to-basic-eeprom-checksums

“One of those engineers loves classic rock music, so they selected 0xBABA”

In honour of the song Baba O’Reilly by The Who apparently. We’re not making this stuff up...

0x3ABA, 0x34BA, 0x40BA and more have been observed in the main Gbe regions on the X200 factory.rom dumps. The checksums of the backup regions match BABA, however.

By default, the X200 (as shipped by Lenovo) actually has an invalid main gbe checksum. The backup gbe region is correct, and is what these systems default to. Basically, you should do what you need on the *backup* gbe region, and then correct the main one by copying from the backup.

Look at resources/utilities/ich9deblob/ich9deblob.c.

  • Add the first 0x3F 16bit numbers (unsigned) of the GBe descriptor together (this includes the checksum value) and that has to add up to 0xBABA. In other words, the checksum is 0xBABA minus the total of the first 0x3E 16bit numbers (unsigned), ignoring any overflow.

Flash descriptor region

http://www.intel.co.uk/content/dam/doc/datasheet/io-controller-hub-9-datasheet.pdf from page 850 onwards. This explains everything that is in the flash descriptor, which can be used to understand what libreboot is doing about modifying it.

How to deblob:

There’s an interesting parameter called ‘ME Alternate disable’, which allows the ME to only handle hardware errata in the southbridge, but disables any other functionality. This is similar to the ‘ignition’ in the 5 series and higher but using the standard firmware instead of a small 128K version. Useless for libreboot, though.

To deblob GM45, you chop out the platform and ME regions and correct the addresses in flReg1-4. Then you set meDisable to 1 in ICHSTRAP0 and MCHSTRAP0.

How to patch the descriptor from the factory.rom dump

This means that libreboot’s descriptor region will simply define the following regions:

The data in the descriptor region is little endian, and it represents bits 24:12 of the address (bits 12-24, written this way since bit 24 is nearer to left than bit 12 in the binary representation).

So, x << 12 = address

If it’s in descriptor mode, then the first 4 bytes will be 5A A5 F0 0F.

platform data partition in boot flash (factory.rom / lenovo bios)

Basically useless for libreboot, since it appears to be a blob. Removing it didn’t cause any issues in libreboot.

This is a 32K region from the factory image. It could be data (non-functional) that the original Lenovo BIOS used, but we don’t know.

It has only a 448 byte fragment different from 0x00 or 0xFF.

Copyright © 2014, 2015 Leah Rowe info@minifree.org
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Copyright 2015-2017 Leah Rowe info@minifree.org
Copyright 2017 Alyssa Rosenzweig alyssa@rosenzweig.io

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