Eryn Wells

Booting a Raspberry Pi Over TFTP

Raspberry Pi OS Development

In order to do this, I modified the EEPROM bootloader bootloader according to the instructions in the Raspberry Pi documentation. That page is also on GitHub which might be a more stable location. On Raspbian on the Raspberry Pi:

rpi-eeprom-config $fw > ~/bootconf.txt
vi ~/bootconf.txt
rpi-eeprom-config --out ~/pieeprom-new.bin --config ~/bootconf.txt $fw
sudo rpi-eeprom-update -d -f ~/pieeprom-new.bin
sudo reboot

My updated bootconf.txt is:


I enabled UART debugging, and set the boot order to be: network 0x2, SD card 0x1, USB mass storage 0x4, and finally reboot 0xf. These steps need to be repeated if the bootloader is updated via apt.

I enabled the TFTP server on my Mac:

sudo launchctl load -F /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/tftp.plist
sudo launchctl enable System/
sudo launchctl start

I’m not sure if the enable command is actually necessary. This doesn’t actually start the tftpd daemon. Instead, macOS starts the daemon on demand when it notices an incoming tftp request on the network. Don’t be alarmed!

The tftp server looks for files to serve out of /private/tftpboot, and those things need to be world rwx, i.e. 777. By default (this is configurable) the Raspberry Pi queries for a directory named by its serial number.

mkdir /private/tftpboot/$raspberry_pi_serial
chmod 777 /private/tftpboot
chmod -R 777 /private/tftpboot/*

Raspberry Pi looks for files of various names in that directory, one in particular by the name of start.elf.

Next, I had to update my Ubiquiti router’s DHCP server configuration (on the command line) to pass a tftp-server parameter in the DHCP payload. This step may be optional because you can also set TFTP_IP in the bootconf.txt above to specify the IP directly. On my router:

set service dhcp-server shared-network-name LAN subnet $lan_cidr_subnet tftp-server-name $ip_of_mac

I also gave my Mac a static IP, and renewed the DHCP lease so it took the new IP to make the whole process a little more smooth. Now, it appears the Raspberry Pi will attempt a TFTP boot, and I see queries in the logs on my Mac.

Further Reading