Flashing the X200 with a BeagleBone Black

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This guide is for those who want libreboot on their ThinkPad X200 while they still have the original Lenovo BIOS present. This guide can also be followed (adapted) if you brick your X200, to know how to recover.

X200 laptops with libreboot pre-installed

If you don’t want to install libreboot yourself, companies exist that sell these laptops with libreboot pre-installed, along with a free GNU+Linux distribution.

Flash chip size

Run this command on x200 to find out flash chip model and its size:

# flashrom -p internal

The X200S and X200 Tablet will use a WSON-8 flash chip, on the bottom of the motherboard (this requires removal of the motherboard). Not all X200S/X200T are supported; see the hardware page.

MAC address

Refer to mac_address.html.

Initial BBB configuration

Refer to bbb_setup.html for how to set up the BBB for flashing.

The following table shows how to connect the test clip to the BBB (on the P9 header), for SOIC-8/SOIC-16:

BeagleBoneBlack Pin on P9 SPI 25xx SOIC8 pin SOIC16 Ball DTS
I2C1_SCL 17 /CS 1 7 A16 spi0_cs0
I2C1_SDA 18 MOSI 5 15 B16 spi0_d1
UART2_RXD 22 CLK 6 16 A17 spi0_sclk
UART2_TXD 21 MISO 2 8 B17 spi0_d0
GND 1 or 2 GND 4 10 GND GND
VDD_3V3D 3 or 4 Vcc 8 2 VDD_3V3D VDD_3V3D

Pictures of flash chip location are located further down on this page

If onboard 3.3V supply happens to be insuficient, use a separate module/power supply and set its current limit to 400mA. Do not forget that in this case ground has to be continuous across between motherboard, BBB and PSU (all three)!

On the X200S and X200 Tablet the flash chip is underneath the board, in a WSON package. The pinout is very much the same as a SOIC-8, but such package makes it impossible to use testclip. In order to enable external flashing of device, chip has to be changed to SOIC-8 one. Such procedure requires hot air station and soldering station (with “knife” K-Tip to easily solder SOIC-8).

Check the list of SOIC-8 flash chips at List of supported flash chips 25XX series SPI NOR Flash in 8/16MiB sizes will work fine with libreboot.

The procedure

This section is for the X200. This does not apply to the X200S or X200 Tablet (for those systems, you have to remove the motherboard completely, since the flash chip is on the other side of the board).

Remove these screws:

Gently push the keyboard towards the screen, then lift it off, and optionally disconnect it from the board:

Disconnect the cable of the fingerpring reader, and then pull up the palm rest, lifting up the left and right side of it:

This shows the location of the flash chip, for both SOIC-8 and SOIC-16:

Lift back the tape that covers a part of the flash chip, and then connect the clip:

On pin 2 of the BBB, where you have the ground (GND), connect the ground to your PSU:

Connect the 3.3V DC supply from your PSU to the flash chip (via the clip):

Now, you should be ready to install libreboot.

Flashrom binaries for ARM (tested on a BBB) are distributed in libreboot_util. Alternatively, libreboot also distributes flashrom source code which can be built.

Log in as root on your BBB, using the instructions in bbb_setup.html#bbb_access.

Probe for chips with flashrom:

# ./flashrom -p linux_spi:dev=/dev/spidev1.0,spispeed=512

In this case, the output was:

flashrom v0.9.7-r1854 on Linux 3.8.13-bone47 (armv7l)
flashrom is free software, get the source code at http://www.flashrom.org
Calibrating delay loop... OK.
Found Macronix flash chip "MX25L6405(D)" (8192 kB, SPI) on linux_spi.
Found Macronix flash chip "MX25L6406E/MX25L6436E" (8192 kB, SPI) on linux_spi.
Found Macronix flash chip "MX25L6445E/MX25L6473E" (8192 kB, SPI) on linux_spi.
Multiple flash chip definitions match the detected chip(s): "MX25L6405(D)", "MX25L6406E/MX25L6436E", "MX25L6445E/MX25L6473E"
Please specify which chip definition to use with the -c <chipname> option.

Here is how to backup factory.rom:

# ./flashrom -p linux_spi:dev=/dev/spidev1.0,spispeed=512 -r factory.rom
# ./flashrom -p linux_spi:dev=/dev/spidev1.0,spispeed=512 -r factory1.rom
# ./flashrom -p linux_spi:dev=/dev/spidev1.0,spispeed=512 -r factory2.rom

Note: the -c option is not required in libreboot’s patched flashrom, because the redundant flash chip definitions in flashchips.c have been removed.

Now compare the 3 images:

# sha512sum factory*.rom

If the hashes match and if hex editor (like dhex) shows that they have valid contents (eg. it’s not filled entirely with 0x00/0xFF), then just copy one of them (the factory.rom) to a safe place (on a drive connected to another system, not the BBB). This is useful for reverse engineering work, if there is a desirable behaviour in the original firmware that could be replicated in coreboot and libreboot.

Follow the instructions at ../hardware/gm45_remove_me.html#ich9gen to change the MAC address inside the libreboot ROM image, before flashing it. Although there is a default MAC address inside the ROM image, this is not what you want. Make sure to always change the MAC address to one that is correct for your system.

Now flash it:

# ./flashrom -p linux_spi:dev=/dev/spidev1.0,spispeed=512 -w path/to/libreboot/rom/image.rom

You might see errors, but if it says Verifying flash... VERIFIED at the end, then it’s flashed and should boot. If you see errors, try again (and again, and again); the message Chip content is identical to the requested image is also an indication of a successful installation.

Example output from running the command (see above):

flashrom v0.9.7-r1854 on Linux 3.8.13-bone47 (armv7l)
flashrom is free software, get the source code at http://www.flashrom.org
Calibrating delay loop... OK.
Found Macronix flash chip "MX25L6405(D)" (8192 kB, SPI) on linux_spi.
Reading old flash chip contents... done.
Erasing and writing flash chip... FAILED at 0x00001000! Expected=0xff, Found=0x00, failed byte count from 0x00000000-0x0000ffff: 0xd716
ERASE FAILED!
Reading current flash chip contents... done. Looking for another erase function.
Erase/write done.
Verifying flash... VERIFIED.

Wifi

The X200 typically comes with an Intel wifi chipset, which does not work without proprietary software. For a list of wifi chipsets that work without proprietary software, see ../hardware/#recommended_wifi.

Some X200 laptops come with an Atheros chipset, but this is 802.11g only.

It is recommended that you install a new wifi chipset. This can only be done after installing libreboot, because the original firmware has a whitelist of approved chips, and it will refuse to boot if you use an ‘unauthorized’ wifi card.

The following photos show an Atheros AR5B95 being installed, to replace the Intel chip that this X200 came with:

WWAN

If you have a WWAN/3G card and/or sim card reader, remove them permanently. The WWAN-3G card has proprietary firmware inside; the technology is identical to what is used in mobile phones, so it can also track your movements.

Not to be confused with wifi (wifi is fine).

Intel Turbo Memory

Some X200 devices were sold with Intel Turbo Memory installed in the top-most mini PCI-e slot.

If you have one installed, you should probably remove it as it mostly likely brings no benefits, while having many issues: - It has been shown to be ineffective at disk caching or battery saving in most use cases. Having it installed might lead to more battery consumption. - Using it will most likely lead to data loss because with its driver, “data cannot be written/read back reliably”. The driver development has also stopped. - It might also be a security risk as it may have access to the system RAM through the PCIe bus.

Memory

In DDR3 machines with Cantiga (GM45/GS45/PM45), northbridge requires sticks that will work as PC3-8500 (faster PC3/PC3L sticks can work as PC3-8500). Non-matching pairs may not work. Single module (meaning, one of the slots will be empty) will currently only work in slot 0.

NOTE: according to users reports, non matching pairs (e.g. 1+2 GiB) might work in some cases.

Make sure that the RAM you buy is the 2Rx8 configuration when buying 4GiB sticks (In other words: maximum of 2GiB per rank, 2 ranks per card).

In this photo, 8GiB of RAM (2x4GiB) is installed:

Boot it!

You should see something like this:

Now install GNU+Linux.

X200S and X200 Tablet users: GPIO33 trick will not work.

sgsit found out about a pin called GPIO33, which can be grounded to disable the flashing protections by the descriptor and stop the ME from starting (which itself interferes with flashing attempts). The theory was proven correct; however, it is still useless in practise.

Look just above the 7 in TP37 (that’s GPIO33):

By default we would see this in lenovobios, when trying flashrom -p internal -w rom.rom:

FREG0: Warning: Flash Descriptor region (0x00000000-0x00000fff) is read-only.
FREG2: Warning: Management Engine region (0x00001000-0x005f5fff) is locked.

With GPIO33 grounded during boot, this disabled the flash protections as set by descriptor, and stopped the ME from starting. The output changed to:

The Flash Descriptor Override Strap-Pin is set. Restrictions implied by
the Master Section of the flash descriptor are NOT in effect. Please note
that Protected Range (PR) restrictions still apply.

The part in bold is what got us. This was still observed:

PR0: Warning: 0x007e0000-0x01ffffff is read-only.
PR4: Warning: 0x005f8000-0x005fffff is locked.

It is actually possible to disable these protections. Lenovobios does, when updating the BIOS (proprietary one). One possible way to go about this would be to debug the BIOS update utility from Lenovo, to find out how it’s disabling these protections. Some more research is available here: http://www.coreboot.org/Board:lenovo/x200/internal_flashing_research

On a related note, libreboot has a utility that could help with investigating this: ../hardware/gm45_remove_me.html#demefactory

Copyright © 2014, 2015 Leah Rowe info@minifree.org

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation with no Invariant Sections, no Front Cover Texts, and no Back Cover Texts. A copy of this license is found in ../fdl-1.3.html

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