Autoreinstallation image

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542-stopicon.png This page has a more up-to-date location: Clean-install procedure

If you are not a developer

This page is for software developers only. It does not apply to laptops received from a school or Give One Get One laptops unless you first get a developer key; until then, please use olpc-update or clean-install procedure.

Before you begin

This process is not recommended for newer machines and newer builds, unless debugging problems. Please use the olpc-update method instead.

This page describes how to update the software image on your laptop. 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.

This process changes regularly, so please read the instructions carefully. Some important changes are noted below. The basic procedure has three parts:

  1. Preparing the hardware;
  2. Preparing the autoupdate image; and
  3. Upgrading the machine.

The software version you choose depends on: what version of laptop hardware you are upgrading and whether you want to use a stable version or one of the experimental development versions of the software. The development versions have more features, but also many more bugs (sometimes big ones). The Test Group Release Notes describe the development versions. The release notes describe the status of important software problems you may have encountered previously. Most people with recent laptops will use the stable version. People with older laptop prototypes may need to use older versions. Developers may wish to use newer versions.

What firmware/build am I currently running?

While the current firmware number should be stored in /ofw/ec-name, this can be stale, so run 'olpc-bios-sig' or try watching the initial boot process. The current build number is stored in /boot/olpc_build and is displayed as part of the login prompt in the console. Both firmware number and build number are displayed in the developer console.

What type of laptop do I have?

It is important to identify which version of the laptop hardware you are upgrading.

See Laptop models.

Important Notes

Older notes and upgrading older builds: see the archive

If you are upgrading firmware, and anything goes wrong which is not mentioned on this page, do not turn off the machine; please get help from OLPC, preferably immediately on IRC or by email.

Firmware q2c26 is the last firmware safe to use for the 406.x and old 5xx stable series builds.

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 text file in the boot directory.

As of Build 613 (firmware Q2C28), the "X" game-key is not used when doing an upgrade. So if you are upgrading from a firmware before q2c28, to a firmware of q2c28 or later, the "X" gamekey gets pressed once, before the firmware upgrade, but not the second time, for the user file backup and os upgrade.

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.

As of autoreinstallation image "2007-08-17 16:35Z" activating a previously-unactivated machine after the upgrade has been simplified; see details below.

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.

These procedures work for B4 and MP machines. It has only been tested with Open Firmware.

System Update Procedure

Preparing the hardware

For older, pre-G1G1 laptops, see Preparing old laptops for autoreinstallation

  1. Plug in your laptop and ensure the battery is charged. It is very important that the update process (Which takes about 3 minutes) not be interrupted.
  2. 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).
    • Autoreinstallation will not work if the flash key or disk is partitioned such that the partition type code says "83" (Linux ext2 or ext3), even if the actual filesystem inside the partition is FAT.
    • If the USB disk is not partitioned, builds before 552 will fail to activate.

Preparing the autoupdate image

We strongly recommend that you use a factory-formatted USB key.

These instructions are for loading an autoupdate image onto a USB flash key or USB disk drive. The instructions for preparing an SD card are similar.

NOTE: If your XO-1 is internet connected and you have a recent build (> 650) you can use SoftwareBinaryDifferentialUpdates to reduce data transfer.

Preparing the latest image (automatically)

If you have Python available and some familiarity with the command line, then the initialization of the auto-installation directory and the preparation of an update image can be accomplished automatically with Sugar-update.

Initializing the auto-installation directory (manually)

  1. Download (make sure you have the correct .rom file after unzip; see below)
  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, Q2E41.rom, usbupgos.img, and usbupgrd.img.

Preparing the latest image (manually)

  1. If you have previously created an auto-installation image, remove the .img and .crc files from the boot directory of the flash or disk drive - but not those named usbupgos.img or usbupgrd.img!. (Don't forget to "Empty Trash.")
  2. Download the latest build image (.img) and its checksum file (.crc). You may choose between the the latest stable build and the the latest unstable development build.
    • See Test Group Release Notes for build differences.
    • The image is called osNNN.img ("NNN" represents the build number). The checksum file of the same name has the .crc extension.
    • If you are downloading a build earlier than Build 530, the files on the download site will need to be renamed. 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.
    • If you are downloading a build with a non-integer number, e.g., Build 542.3, you need to rename it without the decimal point, e.f., os5423.img and os5423.crc.
  3. Copy osNNN.img and osNNN.crc files to the boot directory of the flash or disk drive.
  4. One of the files in the boot directory should be the latest firmware image, Q2E41.rom. If the Firmware page lists a newer firmware release than the one you have, download it to the boot directory.
    • The firmware will be named qXXXX.rom, where XXXX is the firmware release number in hexadecimal (letters A-F and numbers 0-9).
  5. Verify that these six files exist in the directory named boot on your USB key or disk: Q2E41.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.
  6. You're now ready to upgrade the machine!

Upgrading the machine

Please follow these steps:

(A) Switch off the laptop;
(B) Provide power: put in a battery; plug in the laptop;
(C) Insert the USB key with the autoupdate image;
(D) Switch on the laptop, and watch it carefully;
(D.1) If your current firmware is between Q2C11 and Q2C27 (inclusive), hold down the X game key on the bezel above the power button, while you press the power button; then release the game key when the screen lights up.
(D.2) if the laptop says "Firmware is already current" you can skip to Step (I) below; if instead you see "Updating firmware from q2XXX to q2YYY", then continue with Step (E);

(E) Let the firmware update complete; the laptop will then turn off automatically;
(F) Remove all power from the laptop. This step is very important (it resets the embedded controller). Do not remove the USB key yet.
(F.1) unplug the laptop; take out the battery;
(F.2) wait 30 seconds;
(G) Put in the battery; plug the machine back in;
(H) Switch on the laptop;
(H.1) If you are upgrading to a firmware between Q2C11 and Q2C27 (inclusive), hold down the X game key on the bezel above the power button, while you press the power button; then release the game key when the screen lights up.

(I) The XO will now, by itself,
boot, to backup the user files, (possibly pausing afterwards for half a minute)
reboot, to upgrade the base image,
reboot, to restore the user files, (finally says "done", and "you can power down now", then pauses)
then powers down itself;(XO doesn't power off sometimes. Instead it restarts and get stuck at 'ok' prompt. If you see message "Firmware is already current; skipping update" then you can remove USB key and power-off XO manually. Then power-on XO without USB key inserted. This time XO shall boot with the latest build you have upgraded with. Congratulations!)
(J) Remove the USB key;
(K) Power on the laptop again without the USB key inserted.

Congratulations: you are running a new build image.

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

Additional notes

  • If you have Open Firmware version Q2C11 (2007-05-06) through Q2C27 (2007-09-19), hold down the X game key on the bezel above the power button, while you press the power button; then release the game key when the screen lights up. With versions earlier than Q2C11, or later than Q2C27, turn on the power without pressing a game key.
  • 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.
    Icon displayed when activation fails.
    If this happens: turn off the machine; reinsert the USB key; and hold down the 'X' and 'check' game buttons down while turning the power on. (If your XO is pre-B4 and does not have a 'check' button, use the 'O' button instead.) Release the buttons when directed. The system should boot into the new system image and perform activation using the activation lease stored on the USB key; Do not remove the USB key until you've reached the sugar "XO" screen, or the activation process will fail;
    • If the USB disk is not partitioned, builds before 552 will fail to activate.
  • 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 disc), 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.
  • 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.
  • When removing all power from the laptop, any external USB peripherals should be disconnected, just in case they are faulty and supply current to the system.
  • If anything else goes wrong do not turn off the machine; please get help from OLPC, preferably immediately on IRC (on #olpc or #olpc-help freenode's channels) or by email.
  • 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'.

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 q2c25
Reading disk:\boot\{{Latest Releases/firmware number}}.rom
Got firmware version: CL1  Q2C25  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   Q2C25  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 Q2C25
Firmware is already current; skipping update
Existing firmware version is Q2C25
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

  • The majority of problems that have been reported are due to the file format on the USB key or SD card. If you have trouble, the first remedy to try is factory-formatted media, which by default should be a flavor of FAT.
  • Installation failed. Solution: download the new autoreinstallation image ( onto a newly formatted USB key and try again.
  • Authentication failed! Solution: power off, reinsert the autoreinstallation USB key, hold down the X and the 'check' button (use the 'O' button if you don't have a check button) and while holding them turn the power on. Leave the USB key in until you get the Sugar prompt to enter your name.
  • If the USB disk is not partitioned, builds before 552 will fail to activate.
  • 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.
    • There is a situation where a disk can appear to both have a partition table and also have a FAT file system starting in the first sector. We are not yet able to support this anomalous situation.
  • We have seen some USB disks that take several seconds to detect. In those cases, hold the Game Key for 2+ sec or let the count down expire.
  • 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.
  • If Laptop loses activation (a message "Could not activate this XO" appears after the kernel has booted) you might need to revert to a previous image (like 515 as suggested in or follow the procedure described in "Additional Notes" above for an unactivated machine.
  • under some circumstances olpc-update fails OSError: [Errno 2] No such file or directory: '/versions/run/... /drivers/input/joydev.ko' Under these circumstances you need to recover by upgrading to the latest firmware.

Multi-card readers

There is a common problem with multi-card readers. Each slot appears as a different "SCSI Logical Unit Number". OFW does not do a "deep probe" to determine exactly which slots are currently populated at any given instant (because doing so would slow down booting for the vast majority of cases where there is no choice). Consequently, when OFW tries to resolve the "disk" devalias, it doesn't know which LUN to use. It guesses 0, which has only a 1 in N chance of being right.

There are two possible workarounds:

(1) Put the SD card directly into the XO's SD slot (below the screen; you have to rotate the display 90 degrees to get to it) and then do the 4-keys procedure

(2) Assuming that you can get to the ok prompt (i.e. your system is not in secure mode), there is a manual workaround:

ok  " usb1/disk@3"  fs-update-from-list


(a) There must be one space after the first " (i.e. between " and u), and one or more spaces after the second "

(b) Depending on your multi-reader, you might need to use "usb2" instead of "usb1". You can find out by typing "probe-usb" and noting which list shows your device.

(c) The "@3" is just an example - you will need to search manually for the number that corresponds to the SD slot in your multi-reader. The arrow keys can save you some typing during this search.

Reporting problems

If you are unable to update your machine, please let us know:

  1. What version of the software you were upgrading from;
  2. What version you were upgrading to;
  3. What type of machine you have (b1, b2-1, b2-2, b3, b4, etc);
  4. What type of installation media you were using (USB flash key, SD card, something else?);
  5. (if you know this) how your installation media was formatted (FAT16, FAT32, ext2/3, etc) and partitioned (no partition, one partition, etc).
    • Did you follow the instructions in Step K (above) carefully for an unactivated machine?
    • Did you see the following text under "possible problems": "If the USB disk is not partitioned, builds before 552 will fail to activate."?

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\Q2E41.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.)

Some additional details

Making a "clean" install

By default, installation process preserves files in /home/olpc. If some of those files are corrupted, it may be desirable to make clean installation.

  • With firmware q2c28 (2007-10-01) or later, just press the SQUARE game key cheat code when installing. Done.
  • With firmware before q2c28 (2007-10-01), the easiest thing to do is delete the datastore and config files. They will be replaced by clean copies upon reinstallation. From the console:
rm -r /home/olpc/.sugar/default/datastore/
rm /home/olpc/.sugar/default/config
rm /home/olpc/.sugar/default/owner.key*
rm /home/olpc/.sugar/default/nm/*
rm /home/olpc/.sugar/default/friends

Then proceed with the standard installation process.


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

If you tried to load a build that is older than the one currently installed on your XO, then you will have gotten a message that the software is up to date. Follow this procedure to load an older version:

Automatic downgrade

Note: please confirm that this method works (it may not for all combinations; the force.os didn't work for at least one case).

(610 q2c27->609 worked for me MitchellNCharity 14:12, 1 October 2007 (EDT))
(542.3 q2c26->405.16 worked for me Hummingbird 20:58, 15 October 2007 (EDT))
  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 both the osNNN.img and osNNN.crc files to which you are downgrading, but not any newer os image.
  2. Create a new file in the boot subdirectory with the name 'force.os'. (It does not matter what is in it; it just matters that the subdirectory exists and has a file with that name.) This will cause the autoreinstallation script to try to install the image in boot/, regardless of whether it is older or newer than the current build on your XO.
  3. Follow the standard autoreinstallation procedure above.

Manual downgrade

You can also downgrade by using the copy-nand command at the OK prompt.

copy-nand d:\boot\os525.img

After the copy, you need to activate your laptop:

  1. reboot the machine holding the 'X' and 'check' game-pad keys; (If your XO does not have a 'check' key, use the 'O' key.)
  2. leave the USB stick in while it writes the activation code.

(Note that automatic backup of user files will fail with this technique.)

Reinstalling the same image

If you want to reinstall the *same* image you've currently got, you should find an earlier stable build, use the downgrade procedure, and then the standard upgrade procedure to your new image.

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.

Customizing Nand / Generating CRC files

You can create a custom build, but you will then need to generate a CRC file; please follow these instructions:

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

The output is in myfile.crc

Network upgrade

The olpc-upgrade command can be run from the console (as root) to upgrade from recent (612+) builds. Usage is olpc-upgrade build#, e.g.,

olpc-upgrade 613

Where to find experimental builds

There are test builds available for developers (joyride, meshtest, debian, etc.). Details are available here.

Cheat codes

Boot options can be controlled by pressing game key Cheat codes at power-on.