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Using fastboot on sunxi devices

Fastboot is a diagnostic protocol, primarily used to modify the filesystems on the flash device via USB or UDP. It requires that the device is started in a boot loader or Secondary Boot Loader mode.

This document currently walks through an installation with a device with eMMC storage.


  • fastboot binaries installed on client machine
  • sunxi-tools installed on client machine (optional)
  • u-boot tools (mkimage)
  • u-boot binaries for the target sunxi device
  • filesystem images:
    • root file system containing operating system
    • EFI partition (VFAT) for u-boot scripts
  • Sunxi device connected to client via OTG port

Getting your device into Fastboot mode

To enter into fastboot mode, execute the `fastboot` command in U-Boot:

 fastboot usb 0

On the client machine, you can check whether the device is visible using the `fastboot devices` command. And for fun, you can also fetch the bootloader version using the fastboot protocol:

 $ fastboot devices 
 1234567890abcdef	Android Fastboot
 $ fastboot getvar version-bootloader
 version-bootloader: U-Boot 2023.01-00003-g84563525cd
 Finished. Total time: 0.000s

Preparing the device for flashing

MBOX icon important.png On some older devices booting directly from eMMC might fail due to BROM not supporting newer eMMC variants. To overcome this, some manufacturers are also populating the board with SPI EEPROM for storing the SPL and u-boot, so you do not have to populate loader1/loader2 partitions.

Now that the device is in the fastboot mode, we can continue with creating the partitions on the device. By default, u-boot for sunxi defines following partitions:

  • loader1 - partition for SPL - secondary program loader (not needed for SPI-based bootloader)
  • loader2 - partition for u-boot (not needed for SPI-based bootloader)
  • esp - EFI system partition (VFAT), for u-boot scripts (boot.scr)
  • system - Root partition for system

These partitions have also assigned GUID's according to Discoverable Partitions Specification, to enable automatic discovery of partitions and their mountpoints.

You can start by formatting the internal storage by executing the `fastboot oem format` command from client:

 fastboot oem format

This equivalent to running the `gpt write mmc 1 $partitions` from u-boot.

Flashing the device

Now that we have the partitions created, all that is left for us is to flash the data.

`loader1` is used for storing the Secondary Program Loader, in our case, it is the `spl/sunxi-spl.bin` in the u-boot directory:

 fastboot flash loader1 spl/sunxi-spl.bin

`loader2` is for storing the u-boot binary. Depending on architecture, it's either `u-boot.img` (for arm32) and ` (for arm64) :

 fastboot flash loader2 <file..>

`esp` partition (EFI System Partition) can be kept empty, although if it is VFAT partition, u-boot automatically looks up the `boot.scr` file for device-specific configuration. (You can create empty vfat partition by `fallocate -l 32M esp.img && mkfs.vfat esp.img`)

 fastboot flash esp esp.img

`system` partition is where the operating system resides. Creating that is left as an exercise to the reader.

 fastboot flash system system.img

Now, if everything has been properly set up (aka proper kernel with machine-specific dtb installed on system.img, and boot.scr on esp partition), you can reboot the machine:

 fastboot reboot

See also