Installation instructions


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This section relates to installing Libreboot on supported targets.

NOTE: if running flashrom -p internal for software based flashing, and you get an error related to /dev/mem access, you should reboot with iomem=relaxed kernel parameter before running flashrom, or use a kernel that has CONFIG_STRICT_DEVMEM not enabled.

Libreboot flashing can be risky business. Please ensure that you have external flashing equipment, in case anything goes wrong. The general rule of thumb with firmware is this: if it’s non-free, replace it, but if you’re already running free firmware and it works nicely for you, you do not need to update it. However, you might want to tweak it or try out newer releases of Libreboot if they have bug fixes for your board, and/or new security fixes.

If you’re already running libre firmware on your board, you should decide for sure whether you wish to risk it. See changelogs on the release announcements via the news page and decide for yourself.

About ROM image file names

Init types and display mode

NOTE: On Libreboot 20210522, libgfxinit in the only init type provided on the pre-compiled ROM images, but the build system does support other types defined below.

NOTE: regardless of init type, on desktops, an external/add-on GPU can always be used. On laptop hardware in Libreboot, libgfxinit will always be used. On desktop/server hardware, if available, libgfxinit will also always be used by default (but in that setup, SeaBIOS can be used if you want to use an add-on graphics card, e.g. on KCMA-D8, KGPE-D16, GA-G41M-ES2L)

This means that on desktop hardware such as KCMA-D8, KGPE-D16, G43T-AM3, GA-G41M-ES2L and others, you can use either the internal GPU or an add-on PCI-E graphics card. Simply use a ROM image that starts with SeaBIOS, and you can use both. On desktop/server hardware, libgfxinit simply means that you CAN use the internal graphics chip, but you don’t have to; external add-on GPUs will also still work! However, if libgfxinit is enabled, that disables coreboot from loading/executing PCI option ROMs which means you MUST use SeaBIOS if you wish to use the add-on cards!

libgfxinit

In this setup, on supported systems, coreboot’s own native video initialization code is used. This is referred to generically as libgfxinit, which is coreboot’s library in 3rdparty/libgfxinit but not all boards with native video initialization use libgfxinit; some of them are using coreboot’s older style of video initialization method, written purely in C.

corebootfb (libgfxinit)

high resolution coreboot framebuffer used on startup

txtmode (libgfxinit)

int10h text mode is used on startup.

vgarom

NOTE: no configs in libreboot are currently available that use this method.

With this method, coreboot is finding, loading and executing a VGA option ROM for your graphics hardware. This would not be done on laptops, because that implies supplying non-free binary blobs in Libreboot, so this setup would only ever be provided on desktop hardware where no GPU exists or where it is desirable for you to use an external/add-on graphics card

vesafb (vgarom)

high resolution VESA framebuffer used on startup

txtmode (vgarom)

int10h text mode is used on startup

normal

int10h text mode startup is implied here.

In this setup, coreboot is neither implementing libgfxinit / native graphics initialization nor is it finding/loading/executing VGA option ROMs. In this setup, SeaBIOS would most likely be used for that.

The normal setup is supported in the Libreboot 20210522 build system, but not currently used. It is there for desktop hardware that will be added in the future, where those desktop boards do not have an onboard GPU and therefore an add-on GPU is always used..

Payload names

grub

ROM images with just grub in the file name will start first with the GNU GRUB payload. They may or may not also provide other payloads in the menu, such as memtest86+, SeaBIOS, Tianacore and so on.

seabios

ROM images with just seabios in the file name will start first with the SeaBIOS payload. They will only contain SeaBIOS, but may also contain memtest as an option in the boot menu.

seabios_withgrub

ROM images that have seabios_withgrub in the file name start with SeaBIOS first, but also have GNU GRUB available in the boot menu when you press ESC.

seabios_grubfirst

ROM images that have seabios_grubfirst in the file name start with SeaBIOS, but SeaBIOS is configured via special bootorder file in CBFS so as to ONLY load GNU GRUB. This setup would be most useful on desktops, where you wish to only have GNU GRUB available, but want to use an add-on GPU while also having the option to use libgfxinit, if a supported GPU/framebuffer chip is present on your board.

Which systems are supported?

Refer to the hardware compatibility page

MAC address on GM45+ICH9M hardware (ThinkPad X200/R400/T400/T500/W500)

The MAC address is stored in a region of the boot flashed called GbE NVM which is short for gigabit ethernet non-volatile memory. Refer to the following article:

ich9utils documentation

Libreboot puts a default MAC address in the available ROM images, but this is a generic MAC address and it’s identical on every ROM image. Technically, you can use it but if you encounter other Libreboot users on the same ethernet switch, using the same physical network as you, you will encounter a MAC address conflict.

NOTE: R500 thinkpads do not have an Intel gigabit ethernet NIC, so on that laptop you can just flash the default ROM and you do not have to worry.

There are also some Intel X4X platforms that use an ICH10 southbridge, supported in Libreboot, but these are flashed in a descriptorless setup, which means that the MAC address is irrelevant (either there will be an Intel PHY module that is now unusable, and you use an add-on card, or it doesn’t use an Intel PHY module and the onboard NIC is usable).

Install via host CPU (internal flashing)

On all mainboards is a built-in programmer, which can read, erase and rewrite the boot flash. However, it is not always usable by default. For example, it may be configured to restrict write privileges by the host CPU.

In some situations, the host CPU can rewrite/erase/dump the boot flash. This is called internal flashing. This means that you will run software, namely flashrom, to read/erase/write the contents of the boot flash from a running operating system on the target device.

NOTE: please also read the sections further down this page. On some systems, external flashing is required. This means that you power the system down and use a special tool that connects to and reprograms the boot flash.

NOTE: in some cases, external flashing is possible but special steps are required. This depends on your mainboard. Again, please read this page carefully.

Run flashrom on host CPU

You can simply take any ROM image from the Libreboot project, and flash it. Boot a GNU+Linux distribution on the target device, and install flashrom.

In some cases, this is not possible or there are other considerations. Please read this section carefully.

Flash chip size

Use this to find out:

flashrom -p internal

In the output will be information pertaining to your boot flash.

Howto: read/write/erase the boot flash (PLEASE CHECK LIST OF EXCEPTIONS BELOW BEFORE YOU ATTEMPT THIS!!!!)

How to read the current chip contents:

sudo flashrom -p internal:laptop=force_I_want_a_brick,boardmismatch=force -r dump.bin

You should still make several dumps, even if you’re flashing internally, to ensure that you get the same checksums. Check each dump using sha1sum

How to erase and rewrite the chip contents:

sudo flashrom -p internal:laptop=force_I_want_a_brick,boardmismatch=force -w libreboot.rom

If you are re-flashing a GM45+ICH9M laptop (e.g. ThinkPad X200/X200S/X200T, T400, T500, R400, W500 etc - but not R500), you should run the ich9gen utility to preserve your mac address. Please read the ich9utils documentation: /docs/install/ich9utils.html

NOTE: force_I_want_a_brick is not scary. Do not be scared! This merely disables the safety checks in flashrom. Flashrom and coreboot change a lot, over the years, and sometimes it’s necessary to use this option. If you’re scared, then just follow the above instructions, but remove that option. So, just use -p internal. If that doesn’t work, next try -p internal:boardmismatch=force. If that doesn’t work, try -p internal:boardmismatch=force,laptop=force_I_want_a_brick. So long as you ensure you’re using the correct ROM for your machine, it will be safe to run flashrom. These extra options just disable the safetyl checks in flashrom. There is nothing to worry about.

If successful, it will either say VERIFIED or it will say that the chip contents are identical to the requested image.

NOTE: there are exceptions where the above is not possible. Read about them in the sections below:

Exceptions

If your boot flash is currently write-protected

You must flash it externally

ASUS Chromebook C201 (regardless of firmware)

Ignore this section. Instead, refer to the following guide:

ASUS Chromebook C201 installation guide

NOTE: C201 is dropped in recent Libreboot releases, but will be added later with u-boot instead of the depthcharge bootloader. For now, use Libreboot 20160907 on this machine.

Lenovo ThinkPad X200/X200S/X200T/T400/T400S/T500/W500/R400/R500 running non-free Lenovo BIOS

If you’re running one of these, it cannot be flashed internally if you’re still running the non-free Lenovo BIOS firmware.

You must flash it externally

See notes further down on this page. We have guides for specific thinkpads, related to disassembly and reassembly so that you can access the flash.

Please also see notes about the built-in MAC address inside the boot flash, for the onboard NIC (ethernet one); not relevant on R500, which doesn’t use an Intel NIC.

Intel D510MO and D410PT running non-free Intel BIOS

You must flash it externally

D410PT is more or less the same board as D510MO, but we would like more info about this board. If you have a D410PT mainboard, please contact the Libreboot project via IRC and ping leah before you flash it. When you do so, please reference this paragraph on this web page.

Gigabyte GA-G41M-ES2l (any firmware)

Ignore this section. Internal flashing is possible, but there are two chips and you must flash both chips. Refer to the guide:
Gigabyte GA-G41M-ES2L installation guide

Macbook1,1 running non-free Apple EFI firmware

This laptop requires external flashing. Remove the mainboard and refer to the external flashing guide; if Libreboot is already running, you can flash internally.

MacBook2,1 can be flashed internally.

ASUS KFSN4-DRE?

Simply boot GNU+Linux with the default vendor firmware, and flash it internally, but before you do: take a push pin, remove the metal pin, and superglue the plastic part to the chip. Then remove the chip after you booting your GNU+Linux system. Install a new chip, and flash that.

This board uses LPC flash in a PLCC32 socket. This coreboot page shows an example of the push pin as a proof of concept: http://www.coreboot.org/Developer_Manual/Tools#Chip_removal_tools

ASUS KGPE-D16 running non-free ASUS BIOS

You must flash it externally

ASUS KCMA-D8 running non-free ASUS BIOS

You must flash it externally

ASUS D945GCLF running non-free Intel BIOS

You must flash it externally

ThinkPad X60/X60S/X60T/T60 with Lenovo BIOS

I forgot to actually add the flashrom patches in the Libreboot 20210522 release. When you see the notes below about _sst and _mx, for now just use the util archive from Libreboot 20160907. That release has a utils archive with pre-compiled flashrom binaries, including patches binaries for Macronix and SST flash chips on these machines. Bucts is also included, pre compiled. They are statically linked binaries, so they should work on any distro. Use those binaries, but with the ROM images from the Libreboot 20210522 release!

Here are a list of targets:

Download and build flashrom, using the instructions on the Git page, and download the bucts software using the notes on that very same page.

You can replace Lenovo BIOS with Libreboot, using flashrom running on the host CPU. However, there are some considerations.

Firstly, make sure that the yellow CMOS battery is installed, and functioning correctly. You could check the voltage. The battery is a CR2032 coin cell and it should be providing a 3V signal. You should check this while it is connected to the board, because this will give a more accurate reading (if the battery is weak, it will have severe voltage drop when there is any load on it, which there will be. This coincell powers the real-time clock and CMOS memory).

Lenovo BIOS restricts write access, but there is a weakness in it. With a specially patched flashrom binary, you can easily flash it but the top 64KiB region of the boot flash, containing your bootblock, cannot be flashed just yet. However, there is a register called the Backup Control or BUC register and in that register is a status bit called Top Swap or TS.

There are 2 bootblocks possible. The other bootblock is below the upper 64KiB one, which can’t be flashed, but the lower one can. By using bucts, you can set the machine to boot using that lower 64KiB bootblock, which is read-write. You do this by setting the BUC.TS register to 1, using the bucts program referenced below.

Libreboot ROM images already have the upper 64KiB bootblock copied to the lower one, so you don’t have to worry about copying it yourself.

If you build flashrom using the libreboot build system, there will be three binaries:

It’s these last two binaries that you should use. Now compile bucts (just run make in the bucts source directory).

Run the bucts tool:

sudo ./bucts 1

Ensure that your CMOS battery is connected too. Now you must determine whether you have Macronix or SST. An X60/T60 thinkpad will have either an SST or a Macronix chip. The Macronix chip will have “MX” written on the chip. You will use flashrom_i945_sst for the SST chip, and flashrom_i945_mx for the Macronix chip.

Now run flashrom (for SST):

sudo ./flashrom_i945_sst -p internal -w coreboot.rom

Or Macronix:

sudo ./flashrom_i945_mx -p internal -w coreboot.rom

NOTE: you can just run both. One of them will succeed. It is perfectly harmless to run both versions of flashrom. In fact, you should do so!

You’ll see a lot of errors. This is normal. You should see something like:

Reading old flash chip contents... done.
Erasing and writing flash chip... spi_block_erase_20 failed during command execution at address 0x0
Reading current flash chip contents... done. Looking for another erase function.
spi_block_erase_52 failed during command execution at address 0x0
Reading current flash chip contents... done. Looking for another erase function.
Transaction error!
spi_block_erase_d8 failed during command execution at address 0x1f0000
Reading current flash chip contents... done. Looking for another erase function.
spi_chip_erase_60 failed during command execution
Reading current flash chip contents... done. Looking for another erase function.
spi_chip_erase_c7 failed during command execution
Looking for another erase function.
No usable erase functions left.
FAILED!
Uh oh. Erase/write failed. Checking if anything has changed.
Reading current flash chip contents... done.
Apparently at least some data has changed.
Your flash chip is in an unknown state.

If you see this, rejoice! It means that the flash was successful. Please do not panic. Shut down now, and wait a few seconds, then turn back on again.

WARNING: if flashrom complains about /dev/mem access, please run sudo ./bucts 0. If flashrom is complaining about /dev/mem, it means that you have CONFIG_STRICT_DEVMEM enabled in your kernel. Reboot with the following kernel parameter added in your bootloader: iomem=relaxed and try again with the above instructions. DO NOT continue until the above works, and you see the expected flashrom output as indicated above.

If you did run flashrom and it failed to flash, but you set bucts to 1 and shut down, don’t worry. Just remove the yellow coin-cell battery (it’s underneath the keyboard, connected to the mainboard), wait a minute or two, reconnect the coin-cell and try again from scratch. In this instance, if flashrom didn’t do anything, and didn’t flash anything, it means you still have Lenovo BIOS but if bucts is set to 1, you can flush it and set it back to 0. BUC.TS is stored in volatile memory, powered by that CR2032 coin-cell battery.

Assuming that everything went well:

Flash the ROM for a second time. For this second flashing attempt, the upper 64KiB bootblock is now read-write. Use the unpatched flashrom binary:

sudo ./flashrom -p internal -w libreboot.rom

To reset bucts, do this:

sudo ./bucts 0

ONLY set bucts back to 0 if you’re sure that the upper 64KiB bootblock is flashed. It is flashed if flashrom said VERIFIED when running the above command.

If it said VERIFIED, shut down. If it didn’t say VERIFIED, make sure bucts is still set to 1, and consult the libreboot project on IRC for advice, and avoid shutting down your system until you get help.

If all went well, Libreboot should now be booting and you should be able to boot into your operating system.

If you messed up, there are external flashing instructions. See main navigation menu on this page. These “external” instructions teach you how to flash externally, using special equipment (requires disassembling your laptop and removing the mainboard).

Install using external flashing equipment

In many situations, the host CPU is restricted from rewriting/erasing/dumping the boot flash. In this situations, you must re-flash the chip (containing the boot firmware) externally. This is called external flashing.

DO NOT buy CH341A! Read the above link, which explains why you shouldn’t use it. CH341A will damage your flash chip, and other components on your mainboard.

How to use external flashing equipment

Refer to the following article:
Externally rewrite 25xx NOR flash via SPI protocol

ASUS KFSN4-DRE

The KFSN4-DRE has an LPC chip. Most people have been flashing these internally, hot-swapping the chip out after boot, preserving the original chip, and using flashrom on a new chip as described above.

TODO: Document PLCC32 (LPC) flashing. The FlexyICE has been used to flash these chips, but it is hard to find now. A custom flasher may be made such as flashrom serprog stm32 or teensy flasher

TARGET: Apple Macbook2,1, Macbook1,1 and iMac5,2 (i945 platform)

iMac5,2 is essentially the same board as Macbook2,1, and it is compatible with Libreboot.

Refer to the following article:
Macbook2,1 and MacBook1,1 installation guide

iMac5,2 isn’t documented but you can find the flash chip on that board quite easily. See the generic flashing guide:
Externally rewrite 25xx NOR flash via SPI protocol

TARGET: Gigabyte GA-G41M-ES2L mainboard

Refer to the following article:
Gigabyte GA-G41M-ES2L

TARGET: Intel D510MO and D410PT mainboards

Refer to the following article:
Intel D510MO and D410PT boards

TARGET: Intel D945GCLF mainboard

Refer to the following article:
Intel D945GCLF

TARGET: ASUS KGPE-D16 mainboard

Refer to the following article:
ASUS KGPE-D16

TARGET: ASUS KCMA-D8 mainboard

Refer to the following article:
ASUS KCMA-D8

TARGET: ASUS Chromebook C201 laptop

Refer to the following article:
ASUS Chromebook C201

TARGET: Lenovo ThinkPad X60 laptop

Refer to the following article:
ThinkPad X60

TARGET: Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet laptop

Refer to the following article:
ThinkPad X60 Tablet

TARGET: Lenovo ThinkPad T60 laptop

Refer to the following article:
ThinkPad T60

TARGET: Lenovo ThinkPad X200 laptop

Refer to the following article:
ThinkPad X200

TARGET: Lenovo ThinkPad X200S or X200 Tablet laptop

Software-wise, identical to regular X200 but SMD rework skills are required. You must de-solder the default flash chip, and replace it with another one.

Refer to the following article:
25xx NOR flashing guide

That guide, linked above, has instructions for how to deal with these machines.

TARGET: Lenovo ThinkPad T400 laptop

Refer to the following article:
ThinkPad T400

TARGET: Lenovo ThinkPad T400S laptop

Software-wise, identical to regular T400 but SMD rework skills are required. You must de-solder the default flash chip, and replace it with another one.

Refer to the following article:
25xx NOR flashing guide

TARGET: Lenovo ThinkPad R400 laptop

Refer to the following article:
ThinkPad R400

TARGET: Lenovo ThinkPad T500 or W500 laptop

These two laptops have identical mainboard, except for a few minor changes.

Refer to the following article:
ThinkPad T500/W500

TARGET: Lenovo ThinkPad R500 laptop

Refer to the following laptop:
ThinkPad R500

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