4.13. Freescale i.MX

Freescale i.MX is traditionally very well supported under barebox. Depending on the SoC, there are different Boot Modes supported. Older SoCs up to i.MX31 support only the external Boot Mode. Newer SoCs can be configured for internal or external Boot Mode with the internal boot mode being the more popular mode. The i.MX23 and i.MX28, also known as i.MXs, are special. These SoCs have a completely different boot mechanism, see Freescale MXS instead.

4.13.1. Internal Boot Mode

The Internal Boot Mode is supported on:

  • i.MX25

  • i.MX35

  • i.MX50

  • i.MX51

  • i.MX53

  • i.MX6

  • i.MX7

  • i.MX8MQ

With the Internal Boot Mode, the images contain a header which describes where the binary shall be loaded and started. These headers also contain a so-called DCD table which consists of register/value pairs. These are executed by the Boot ROM and are used to configure the SDRAM. In barebox, the i.MX images are generated with the scripts/imx/imx-image tool. Normally it’s not necessary to call this tool manually, it is executed automatically at the end of the build process.

Required entries for an i.MX image in images/Makefile.imx are for example:

pblb-$(CONFIG_MACH_MYBOARD) += start_imx6dl_myboard
CFG_start_imx6dl_myboard.pblb.imximg = $(board)/myboard/flash-header-imx6dl-myboard.imxcfg
FILE_barebox-imx6dl-myboard.img = start_imx6dl_myboard.pblb.imximg
image-$(CONFIG_MACH_MYBOARD) += barebox-imx6dl-myboard.img

The first line defines the entry function of the pre-bootloader. This function must be defined in the board’s lowlevel.c. The second line describes the flash header to be used for the image, which is then compiled into an imximg file. The prebootloader is then added to the final barebox image.

The images generated by the build process can be directly written to an SD card:

# with Multi Image support:
cat images/barebox-freescale-imx51-babbage.img > /dev/sdd
# otherwise:
cat barebox-flash-image > /dev/sdd

The above will overwrite the MBR (and consequently the partition table) on the destination SD card. To preserve the MBR while writing the rest of the image to the card, use:

dd if=images/barebox-freescale-imx51-babbage.img of=/dev/sdd bs=1024 skip=1 seek=1

Note that MaskROM on i.MX8 expects the image to start at the +33KiB mark, so the following command has to be used instead:

dd if=images/barebox-nxp-imx8mq-evk.img of=/dev/sdd bs=1024 skip=33 seek=33

Or, in case of NAND:

dd if=images/barebox-nxp-imx8mq-evk.img of=/dev/nand bs=1024 skip=33 seek=1

The images can also always be started as second stage on the target:

barebox@Board Name:/ bootm /mnt/tftp/barebox-freescale-imx51-babbage.img BootROM Reboot mode codes (bmode)

For select SoCs, barebox supports communicating an alternative boot medium that BootROM should select after a warm reset:

barebox@FSL i.MX8MM EVK board:/ devinfo gpr.reboot_mode
Driver: syscon-reboot-mode
Bus: platform
Parent: 30390000.reset-controller@30390000.of
  next: normal (type: enum) (values: "normal", "serial")
  prev: normal (type: enum) (values: "normal", "serial")
Device node: /soc@0/bus@30000000/reset-controller@30390000/reboot-mode
reboot-mode {
        compatible = "barebox,syscon-reboot-mode";
        offset = <0x94 0x98>;
        mask = <0xffffffff 0x40000000>;
        mode-normal = <0x0 0x0>;
        mode-serial = <0x10 0x40000000>;

barebox@FSL i.MX8MM EVK board:/ gpr.reboot_mode.next=serial reset -r imxwd-warm

This will cause barebox to fall into serial download mode on an i.MX8MM.

Different SoCs may have more possible reboot modes available. See the section on Reboot modes for more information. High Assurance Boot

HAB is an NXP ROM code feature which is able to authenticate software in external memory at boot time. This is done by verifying signatures as defined in the Command Sequence File (CSF) as compiled into the i.MX boot header.

barebox supports generating signed images, signed USB images suitable for imx-usb-loader and encrypted images.

In contrast to normal (unsigned) images booting signed images via imx-usb-loader requires special images: DCD data is invalidated (DCD pointer set to zero), the image is then signed and afterwards the DCD pointer is set to the DCD data again (practically making the signature invalid). This works because the imx-usb-loader transmits the DCD table setup prior to the actual image to set up the RAM in order to load the barebox image. Now the DCD pointer is set to zero (making the signature valid again) and the image is loaded and verified by the ROM code.

Note that the device-specific Data Encryption Key (DEK) blob needs to be appended to the image after the build process for appropriately encrypted images.

In order to generate these special image types barebox is equipped with corresponding static pattern rules in images/Makefile.imx. Unlike the typical imximg file extension the following ones are used for these cases:

  • simximg: generate signed image

  • usimximg: generate signed USB image

  • esimximg: generate encrypted and signed image

The imx-image tool is then automatically called with the appropriate flags during image creation. This again calls Freescale’s Code Signing Tool (CST) which must be installed in the path or given via the environment variable “CST”.

Assuming CONFIG_HAB and CONFIG_HABV4 are enabled the necessary keys/certificates are expected in these config variables (assuming HABv4):


A CSF template is located in arch/arm/mach-imx/include/mach/habv4-imx6-gencsf.h which is preprocessed by barebox. It must be included in the board’s flash header:

#include <mach/habv4-imx6-gencsf.h>

Analogous to HABv4 options and a template exist for HABv3. Secure Boot on i.MX6

For most boards, the secure boot process on i.MX6 consist of the following image constellation:

   0x0 +---------------------------------+
       | Barebox Header                  |
 0x400 +---------------------------------+       -
       | i.MX IVT Header                 |       |
       | Boot Data                       +--+    |
       | CSF Pointer                     +--|-+  | Signed Area
       +---------------------------------+  | |  |
       | Device Configuration Data (DCD) |  | |  |
0x1000 +---------------------------------+  | |  |
       | Barebox Prebootloader (PBL)     |<-+ |  |
       +---------------------------------+    |  |
       | Piggydata (Main Barebox Binary) |    |  |
       +---------------------------------+    |  -
       | Command Sequence File (CSF)     |<---+

Here the Command Sequence File signs the complete Header, PBL and piggy data file. This ensures that the whole barebox binary is authenticated. This is possible since the DDR RAM is configured using the DCD and the whole DDR memory area can be used to load data onto the device for authentication. The boot ROM loads the CSF area and barebox into memory and uses the CSF to verify the complete barebox binary.

Boards which do require a boot via SRAM, need changes akin to the implementation for i.MX8MQ described in the next chapter. Secure Boot on i.MX8MQ

For i.MX8MQ the image has the following design:

0x0 +---------------------------------+
    | Barebox Header                  |
    | i.MX IVT Header                 |
    | HDMI Firmware (Signed by NXP)   |
    +---------------------------------+        -
    | i.MX IVT Header                 |        |
    | Boot Data                       +--+     |
    | CSF Pointer                     +--|-+   |
    +---------------------------------+  | |   | Signed Area
    | Device Configuration Data (DCD) |  | |   |
    +---------------------------------+  | |   |
    | Barebox Prebootloader (PBL)     |<-+ |   |
    | Piggydata Hash (SHA256)         +----|-+ |
    +---------------------------------+    | | -
    | Command Sequence File (CSF)     |<---+ |
    +---------------------------------+      | -
    | Piggydata (Main Barebox Binary) |<-----+ | Hashed Area
    +---------------------------------+        -

In contrast to i.MX6, for the i.MX8MQ the piggydata can not be signed together with the PBL binary. The DDR memory is initialized during the start of the PBL, previous to this no access to the DDR memory is possible. Since the Tightly Coupled Memory used for early startup on i.MX8MQ has only 256Kib, the whole barebox can’t be loaded and verified at once, since the complete barebox with firmware has a size of ~500Kib.

The bootrom loads the HDMI firmware unconditionally, since it is signed by NXP. Afterwards the Prebootloader (PBL) is loaded into SRAM and the bootrom proceeds to verify the PBL according to the Command Sequence File (CSF). The verified PBL initializes the ARM Trusted Firmware (TF-A) and DDR RAM. It subsequently loads the piggydata from the boot media and calculates the sha256sum of the piggydata. This is compared to the sha256sum built into the PBL during compile time, the PBL will only continue to boot if the sha256sum matches the builtin sha256sum. Using GPT on i.MX

For i.MX SoCs that place a vendor specific header at the +1KiB mark of a boot medium, special care needs to be taken when partitioning that medium with GPT. In order to make room for the i.MX boot header, the GPT Partition Entry Array needs to be moved from its typical location, LBA 2, to an offset past vendor specific information. One way to do this would be to use the -j or --adjust-main-table option of sgdisk. For example, the following sequence

sgdisk -Z <block device>
sgdisk -o -j 2048 -n 1:8192:+100M <block device>

will create a single GPT partition starting at LBA 8192 and would place the Partition Entry Array starting at LBA 2048, which should leave enough room for the Barebox/i.MX boot header. Once that is done, the dd command above can be used to place Barebox on the same medium. Information about the imx-image tool

The imx-image tool can be used to generate imximages from raw binaries. It requires an configuration file describing how to setup the SDRAM on a particular board. This mainly consists of a poke table. The recognized options in this file are:


soc <soctype>

soctype can be one of imx35, imx51, imx53, imx6, imx7, vf610,


loadaddr <adr>

The address the binary is uploaded to

ivtofs <ofs>

The offset of the image header in the image. This should be:

  • 0x400: MMC/SD, NAND, serial ROM, PATA, SATA

  • 0x1000: NOR Flash

  • 0x100: OneNAND

Memory manipulation:

wm 8 <addr> <value>

write <value> into byte <addr>

wm 16 <addr> <value>

write <value> into short <addr>

wm 32 <addr> <value>

write <value> into word <addr>

set_bits <width> <addr> <value>

set set bits in <value> in <addr>

clear_bits <width> <addr> <value>

clear set bits in <value> in <addr>


do nothing (just waste time)

<width> can be one of 8, 16 or 32.

Checking conditions:

check <width> <cond> <addr> <mask>

Poll until condition becomes true. with <cond> being one of:

  • until_all_bits_clear

  • until_all_bits_set

  • until_any_bit_clear

  • until_any_bit_set

Some notes about the mentioned conditions.

  • until_all_bits_clear waits until (*addr & mask) == 0 is true

  • until_all_bits_set waits until (*addr & mask) == mask is true

  • until_any_bit_clear waits until (*addr & mask) != mask is true

  • until_any_bit_set waits until (*addr & mask) != 0 is true. USB Boot

Most boards can be explicitly configured for USB Boot Mode or fall back to USB Boot when no other medium can be found. The barebox repository contains a USB upload tool. As it depends on the libusb development headers, it is not built by default. Enable it explicitly in make menuconfig and install the libusb development package. On Debian, this can be done with apt-get install libusb-dev. After compilation, the tool can be used with only the image name as argument:

scripts/imx/imx-usb-loader images/barebox-freescale-imx51-babbage.img

4.13.2. External Boot Mode

The External Boot Mode is supported by the older i.MX SoCs:

  • i.MX1

  • i.MX21

  • i.MX27

  • i.MX31

  • i.MX35

The External Boot Mode supports booting only from NOR and NAND flash. On NOR flash, the binary is started directly on its physical address in memory. Booting from NAND flash is more complicated. The NAND flash controller copies the first 2kb of the image to the NAND Controller’s internal SRAM. This initial binary portion then has to:

  • Set up the SDRAM

  • Copy the initial binary to SDRAM to make the internal SRAM in the NAND flash controller free for use for the controller

  • Copy the whole barebox image to SDRAM

  • Start the image

It is possible to write the image directly to NAND. However, since NAND flash can have bad blocks which must be skipped during writing the image and also by the initial loader, it is recommended to use the barebox_update - update barebox to persistent media command for writing to NAND flash.

4.13.3. i.MX boards

Not all supported boards have a description here. Many newer boards also do not have individual defconfig files, they are covered by imx_v7_defconfig or imx_defconfig instead.