Autoreinstallation image


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This page describes how to update the software image on your laptop. This process changes regularly, so please read the instructions carefully. Important changes are noted below. The update procedure creates a USB flash key or disk that when booted on an OLPC laptop, updates its firmware and installs a new version of the operating system image onto NAND flash.

The Software Release Notes document the status of the most important issues of this software.

The Test Group Release Notes describe the status of development versions of the software.

Important Notes

Starting with autoreinstallation image "2007-08-15 18:23Z", the upgrade process automatically backs up user data before the upgrade and restores it afterward. The USB key must be large enough to hold both the image to be installed and any and all files the user may have created in /home/olpc. WARNING: the old update procedure entirely erased the flash memory of the system.

Be sure you know which version of the autoreinstallation image you are using; download the newest image from the link below if you are not certain.

The autoreinstallation image version is displayed at the start of the upgrade process. You can also find the version string at the top of the olpc.fth in the boot directory.

As of Build 542 (firmware Q2C20e), we have fixed a bug that corrupted USB keys which were formatted FAT32.

  • Please redownload the autoreinstallation image ( and use the new files.
  • You may also want to either reformat your USB key or use a file system checker on it to repair any corruption that may have occurred with the old firmware.

As of Build 525, we have added an activation step to the update process.

  • You will need to use the new version of the autoreinstallation image files.
  • You must leave the USB flash key or disk in the machine after the upgrade, while it reboots.
  • Note that the activation code is only in the build, not in the firmware, so you can (until further notice) keep your firmware up to date while still running Build 406.15, the current recommendation for those of you with B2-1 machines.

As of Build 406, we have added a checksum file to the update process.

  • You will need both the .img file and the .crc file to update.

This procedure works for all types of OLPC hardware:

  • Including A-test boards (but not for firmware more recent than Q2C18);
  • Most B1 (see workaround below); and
  • All B2 laptops.

It has only been tested with Open Firmware:

System Update Procedure

Before you begin

(1) Plug in your machine and ensure the battery is charged. It is very important that the update process not be interrupted. To upgrade both the NAND image and firmware will take about 3 minutes.

(2) Also, before you begin, get a USB flash key or disk with at least 300 MiB of free space in the primary partition.

  • The filesystem should be FAT (like a factory-formatted device).
  • It does not have to be partitioned.
    • It will not work if it is partitioned such that the partition type code says "83" (Linux ext2 or ext3), even if the actual filesystem inside the partition is FAT.

Preparing the image for loading

(1) Download the autoinstallation (olpc.fth) script and related files (

(2) Unzip at the root of the USB flash key or disk drive, thus creating a directory called boot.

  • If you drag and drop the files from the zip archive, you'll have to create the boot directory manually on the flash or disk drive.
  • There will be four files in the boot directory initially: olpc.fth, q2c23.rom, usbupgos.img, and usbupgrd.img.

(3) Download the latest build image, and its checksum file.

  • If you want a stable build, download the the latest stable build
    • The filesystem image is called osNNN.img (with the "NNN" replaced by the build number). The checksum file has the same name, plus the extension .crc.
    • Download these files and copy them to the "boot" directory on your USB flash key or disk drive.
  • For an unstable development build, download the the latest unstable development build.
    • The filesystem image is called osNNN.img (with "NNN" replaced by the build number) and the checksum file is called osNNN.crc. Download them and save them both to the "boot" directory on your USB flash key or disk drive.
    • If you are downloading a build earlier than Build 530, the files on the download site will have longer names, and you will need to rename them. For instance, if you want to download Build 528, you would download olpc-redhat-stream-development-build-528-20070720_0056-devel_jffs2.img, and rename it to os528.img, and likewise for its .crc file.

(4) As noted in Step 2 above, one of the files in the boot directory should be the latest firmware image (q2c23.rom).

  • If the Firmware page lists a newer firmware release, download it to the boot directory.
    • The filename should be qZZZZ.rom, where the Z's are the firmware release number in hexadecimal (which means it uses the letters A-F as well as the numbers 0-9).

(5) There should now be at least six files in the directory named boot on your USB key or disk for the automatic update to occur: q2c23.rom; osNNN.img; osNNN.crc; usbupgos.img, usbupgrd.img, and olpc.fth, where the NNNs are the build number to which you are updating.

  • Do not use a flash key or disk for which there have been any errors reported during unzipping: the files may be damaged. As a further safeguard, the firmware checks the integrity of the flash image before reflashing.
  • The CRC file is required even though earlier firmware did not check for the CRC file.

Upgrading the machine

Please follow these 12 steps:

(A) Power off the laptop;
(B) Connect up AC and insert a battery;
(C) Insert the USB disk with the autoupdate image;
(D) Power on the laptop and watch it carefully; if it says "Firmware is already current" you can skip to Step (I); if instead you see "Updating firmware from q2XXX to q2YYY", then continue with Step (E);
(E) Let the upgrade complete; the laptop will power off automatically after the firmware upgrade;
(F) Remove both AC power and the battery and let it sit unpowered for 10 seconds (Do not remove the USB disk.);
(G) Reconnect AC power and re-insert the battery;
(H) Power up the laptop and let it finish the install;
(I) The XO will boot, backup the user files, reboot, upgrade the base image, then boot again to restore the user files; it will then power down;
(J) Remove the USB key;
(K) Power on the laptop again without the USB key inserted;
Icon displayed when activation fails.
if you are upgrading an unactivated machine (prior to Build 542), you may see either a message that says, "Could not activate this XO" followed by the serial number of your machine, or else a XO icon in the center of the display with a lock icon in the bottom right corner; if this happens, reboot the machine, wait until you see 6 icons in the top left, then insert the USB key; the system should boot into the new system image and perform activation using the activation lease stored on the USB key during autoreinstallation; Do not remove the USB key until you've reached the sugar "XO" screen, or the activation process will fail;

Congratulations: when you reboot, you'll be running a new build image.

Step F is very important: you must remove all power from the laptop in order to reset the embedded controller.

  • If you have Open Firmware Q2C11 or later, hold down any one of the game keys on the bezel above the power button, while you press the power button to turn on the laptop; then release the game keys when the screen lights up.
  • If you have Open Firmware before version Q2C11, just turn on the power without pressing a game key.
  • If your USB device is a harddisk instead of flash, you may need to interrupt the Open Firmware boot sequence by pressing the Esc key (the upper left key on the keyboard, marked with an X in a circle), waiting a moment, then entering probe-usb2. You should see additional entries compared to the initial list that Open Firmware displayed. Then you can enter boot and the update should proceed. This is because many external hard drives take a long time to come ready. Recent firmware should fix this issue.
  • After the upgrade, a backup of your user files can be found on the USB key with the name 'backup/<your XO's serial number>/complete.tgz'.

A sample transcript of the update procedure is shown in following section.

  • If you are upgrading firmware, the machine will power off and not reboot. Please power the machine on by hand.
    • As per above, if the machine does not power on, you need to reset the EC: (a) unplug the machine; (b) remove the battery; (c) wait 30 seconds; (d) reinsert the battery; (e) reconnect power (i.e., plug in the machine); and (f) power on the machine.This behavior is expected for machines with Li batteries so be prepared for that. Please do not remove the USB key until the activation process is completed.
  • If anything else goes wrong do not turn off the machine; please get help from OLPC, preferably immediately on IRC or by email.

Transcript of System Update

Release the game key to continue
OLPC B1, 256 MiB memory installed, S/N Unknown
Open Firmware  CL1   Q2C08  Q2C

USB2 devices:
USB1 devices:
Type the Esc key to interrupt automatic startup
Boot device: /usb/disk:\boot\olpc.fth  Arguments:
Autoreinstallation version: 2007-08-15 19:27Z

Existing firmware version is q2c08

Updating firmware from q2c08 to q2c23
Reading disk:\boot\q2c23.rom
Got firmware version: CL1  Q2C23  Q2C
Checking integrity ...
SPI FLASH is type 13 - Spansion, Winbond, or ST
Merging existing manufacturing data
Powering off

[Then you remove power, replace power, and turn it back on again...]

OLPC B4, 256 MiB memory installed, S/N Unknown
OpenFirmware  CL1   Q2C23  Q2C

Can't assign address ranges larger than 32-bits
USB2 devices:
USB1 devices:
Type the Esc key to interrupt automatic startup
Boot device: /usr/disk:\boot\olpc.fth  Arguments:
Autoreinstallation version: 2007-08-02 23:28Z

[Boots into Linux]

....lots of kernel boot messages....
Backing up /home/olpc, size 13487
Backing up /security, size 1
Total used KB: 13473, disk free KB: 734112
Skipping from ignore list: /home/olpc/Library

tar: Removing leading '/' from member names
 *** Done ***


Autoreinstallation version: 2007-08-02 23:28Z

Existing firmware version is Q2C23
Firmware is already current; skipping update
Existing firmware version is Q2C23
Firmware is already current; skipping update
Activation lease created successfully.
Checking existing OS image on NAND FLASH
Existing OS build is 353 .0

Updating OS image on NAND FLASH from build 353 .0 to build 542 .0
Check file is /pci/usb@f,5/scsi@1,0/disk@0:\boot\OS542.crc
Writing 6fd blocks
Filling with cleanmarkers ...

Booting into linux to restore user files.

[Linux boots up again]

....lots of kernel boot messages....
**** Restoring from backup ****
 *** Done ***

The machine powers off. Upgrade is complete.

Possible Problems

  • Installation failed. Solution: download the new autoreinstallation image ( onto a newly formatted USB key and try again.
  • Authentication failed! Solution: remove the autoreinstallation USB key, power off, and reinsert it just after you see the penguin in the top left. Leave the USB key in until you get the Sugar prompt to enter your name.
  • The image on the laptop has a higher build number than the image on the USB flash. Solution: use the downgrading instructions below.
  • It is better if the USB disk is partitioned, but:
    • The partition type must agree with the filesystem type; a FAT filesystem inside a partition marked ext2 won't work
    • The updater files should be in the partition that is marked as "bootable", or if there isn't one, in the first partition.
  • If the USB disk is not partitioned, builds before 548 will fail to activate.
  • The main files (olpc.fth, osNNN.img, osNNN.crc, usbupgos.img, usbupgrd.img, and q2XXX.rom) must be in the boot/ subdirectory.
  • The current Open Firmware releases do not support USB keys that identify themselves as class "mass_storage/removable" – as opposed to the more common "mass_storage/scsi", which is supported. (A fix for this problem is in the release pipeline, but that doesn't help for upgrading from existing firmware.) The way to check for this is to insert your USB key, power-on the system and stop the auto-boot by typing the Esc key (upper left key) at the countdown. Then look at the list of "USB2 devices". If you see an entry like "/pci/usb@f,5/removable@1,0", your disk has the problem. (If you are running an old version of OFW that does not display the "USB2 devices" list automatically, type "show-devs /usb" to see the list.) The workaround procedure is below.
  • The current firmware also fails with USB devices whose hardware sector size is not 512 bytes. To determine the sector size of your device, you can use fdisk on the device under Linux, and it will tell you when it first accesses the device if the sector size is not 512. The workaround is the same as for the "removable" problem, i.e. the procedure below.
  • Many Multi-Function devices do not work.
  • On an ATest board the X Server may fail to start up. You may need to provide a custom configuration.

Workaround for LinuxBIOS or Insyde BIOS

If you are running LinuxBIOS, this process will probably not work (it has not been tested). The old version of this procedure may work for you.

If you are still running Insyde BIOS, you will first have to upgrade the firmware using procedures described elsewhere.

Workaround for old B1 systems

If you have a B1 system that has never been upgraded, it is very important to use this page's Autoreinstallation procedure for your first update; do not try to use the "netnandwrite" tool. The reason is that this procedure automatically fixes a manufacturing error in the identification data that was stored in the system firmware FLASH, and updates the firmware, neither of which is done by the network-based tool. Also, some old firmware will not update with the auto-update script. If the standard procedure above doesn't update, instead, follow these steps:

  1. Insert the autoupdater key;
  2. boot up the laptop and when it says "Press a key to interrupt" then press any key;
  3. at the Ok prompt type "flash disk:\boot\q2c23.rom". The machine will turn off when finished.
  4. power up again and boot the autoupdater normally; (It will reflash the NAND with the new build.)


Note: DO NOT DOWNGRADE Q2Cxx firmware to Q2Bxx firmware. This will destroy the manufacturing information. For details, see Firmware.

If you are trying to load a build that is older than the one on the XO, you will get a message that the software is up to date. Follow this procedure to load an older version:

  1. Download the osNNN.img and osNNN.crc files for the old build into the boot/ directory of your autoreinstallation key. Make sure that the boot directory contains os515.img and os515.crc but not os528.img or any other newer os image.
  2. Create a new file in the boot subdirectory with the name 'force.os'. It doesn't matter what's in it, it just matters that it's there and has that name. This will cause the autoreinstallation script to try to install the latest version in boot/, regardless of whether it is older or newer than the current build on the XO.
  3. Follow the standard 12-step autoreinstallation procedure above.

If you want to reinstall the *same* image you've currently got, you should find an earlier build such as 515 (known to be good), use the procedure above to downgrade to 515, and then upgrade from there to your new image.

Some additional details

Resetting the EC

There is a capacitor on the reset line of the EC that controls how long the reset signal is asserted. This capacitor is the wrong value so the reset timing is invalid. This means that when you reset the EC with the power enabled there is a good chance it will not boot correctly.

If the EC does not reset correctly then the laptop will not start. Any laptop that is earlier than CTest may have this problem.

The only way to guarantee that the EC is fully reset after you upgrade the firmware is to power it off. The only way to really power off the EC is to remove the external power and the battery. Even when the power to the laptop CPU is off the EC is still powered. The capacitors in the system will hold their charge for several seconds after you remove power. You have to wait 10 seconds to make sure that all the capacitors have discharged.

The reason you do not remove the USB disk is that when the laptop powers off the upgrade procedure is not finished. You still have to boot with the USB disk so that it updates the OS image.

Generating CRC files

If for some reason you need to generate a CRC file -- for example, if you make a custom build -- please follow these instructions:

git clone git://
cd pilgrim/crcimg
./crcimg myfile.img

The output is in myfile.crc

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