Building and using MCUboot with Zephyr
MCUboot began its life as the bootloader for Mynewt. It has since acquired the ability to be used as a bootloader for Zephyr as well. There are some pretty significant differences in how apps are built for Zephyr, and these are documented here.
Please see the design document for documentation on the design and operation of the bootloader itself. This functionality should be the same on all supported RTOSs.
The first step required for Zephyr is making sure your board has flash partitions defined in its device tree. These partitions are:
boot_partition: for MCUboot itself
slot0_partition: the primary image slot
slot1_partition: the secondary image slot
scratch_partition: the scratch slot
Currently, the two image slots must be contiguous. If you are running
MCUboot as your stage 1 bootloader,
boot_partition must be configured
so your SoC runs it out of reset.
The flash partitions are typically defined in the Zephyr boards folder, in a
boards/<arch>/<board>/<board>.dts. An example
.dts file with
flash partitions defined is the frdm_k64f’s in
boards/arm/frdm_k64f/frdm_k64f.dts. Make sure the labels in your board’s
.dts file match the ones used there.
Installing Requirements and Dependencies
Install additional packages required for development with mcuboot:
cd ~/mcuboot # or to your directory where mcuboot is cloned pip3 install --user -r scripts/requirements.txt
Building the bootloader itself
The bootloader is an ordinary Zephyr application, at least from
Zephyr’s point of view. There is a bit of configuration that needs to
be made before building it. Most of this can be done as documented in
CMakeLists.txt file in boot/zephyr. There are comments there for
guidance. It is important to select a signature algorithm, and decide
if slot0 should be validated on every boot.
To build MCUboot, create a build directory in boot/zephyr, and build it as usual:
cd boot/zephyr mkdir build && cd build cmake -GNinja -DBOARD=<board> .. ninja
In addition to the partitions defined in DTS, some additional
information about the flash layout is currently required to build
MCUboot itself. All the needed configuration is collected in
boot/zephyr/include/target.h. Depending on the board, this information
may come from board-specific headers, Device Tree, or be configured by
MCUboot on a per-SoC family basis.
After building the bootloader, the binaries should reside in
build is the build
directory you chose when running
cmake. Use the Zephyr build
flash target to flash these binaries, usually by running
make flash (or
ninja flash, etc.) from the build directory. Depending
on the target and flash tool used, this might erase the whole of the flash
memory (mass erase) or only the sectors where the boot loader resides prior to
programming the bootloader image itself.
Building Applications for the bootloader
In addition to flash partitions in DTS, some additional configuration is required to build applications for MCUboot.
This is handled internally by the Zephyr configuration system and is wrapped
CONFIG_BOOTLOADER_MCUBOOT Kconfig variable, which must be enabled in
samples/zephyr/hello-world in the MCUboot tree contains
a simple application with everything you need. You can try it on your
board and then just make a copy of it to get started on your own
application; see samples/zephyr/README.md for a tutorial.
CONFIG_BOOTLOADER_MCUBOOT configuration option
provides additional details regarding the changes it makes to the image
placement and generation in order for an application to be bootable by
With this, build the application as your normally would.
Signing the application
In order to upgrade to an image (or even boot it, if
MCUBOOT_VALIDATE_SLOT0 is enabled), the images must be signed.
To make development easier, MCUboot is distributed with some example
keys. It is important to stress that these should never be used for
production, since the private key is publicly available in this
repository. See below on how to make your own signatures.
Images can be signed with the
scripts/imgtool.py script. It is best
to look at
samples/zephyr/Makefile for examples on how to use this.
Flashing the application
The application itself can flashed with regular flash tools, but will need to be programmed at the offset of slot-0 for this particular target. Depending on the platform and flash tool you might need to manually specify a flash offset corresponding to the slot-0 starting address. This is usually not relevant for flash tools that use Intel Hex images (.hex) instead of raw binary images (.bin) since the former include destination address information. Additionally you will need to make sure that the flash tool does not perform a mass erase (erasing the whole of the flash) or else you would be deleting MCUboot. These images can also be marked for upgrade, and loaded into slot-1, at which point the bootloader should perform an upgrade. It is up to the image to mark slot-0 as “image ok” before the next reboot, otherwise the bootloader will revert the application.
Managing signing keys
The signing keys used by MCUboot are represented in standard formats,
and can be generated and processed using conventional tools. However,
scripts/imgtool.py is able to generate key pairs in all of the
supported formats. See the docs for more details on
Generating a new keypair
Generating a keypair with imgtool is a matter of running the keygen subcommand:
$ ./scripts/imgtool.py keygen -k mykey.pem -t rsa-2048
The argument to
-t should be the desired key type. See the
the docs for more details on the possible key types.
Extracting the public key
The generated keypair above contains both the public and the private
key. It is necessary to extract the public key and insert it into the
bootloader. The keys live in
boot/zephyr/keys.c, and can be
extracted using imgtool:
$ ./scripts/imgtool.py getpub -k mykey.pem
This will output the public key as a C array that can be dropped
directly into the
Once this is done, this new keypair file (
mykey.pem in this
example) can be used to sign images.