Tutorial: Booting Linux on the ZCU102

This post contains a step-by-step walk through on booting Linux on Xilinx’s ZCU102 MPSoC evaluation board.

Installing Linux on the Zynq MPSoC board is fairly straightforward if you take Xilinx’s advice and use their PetaLinux tool; however, I wanted to try my hand at getting a working Linux installation up and running without using PetaLinux, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, PetaLinux is massive. The initial download comes in close to 6 GB, with 10’s of GB more during the build process.

Second, PetaLinux is a nice process abstraction if you need to get something up quickly or if you don’t particularly care about knowing how the Linux boot process works, but that does not describe me. I didn’t want Xilinx to hold my hand and do everything for me. Understanding how things work is what makes a good engineer, so I wanted to at least get a working installation up on my own before resorting to a tool like PetaLinux.

It turns out that this process is a bit more involved than I would have assumed. Xilinx’s documentation in this area is scant and fragmented. The entire process is outlined in their wiki, but the information is often stale, badly formatted, obscure, or just plain wrong. This guide aspires to be what Xilinx’s wiki should be: a step-by-step solution from nothing to Linux.

What You’ll Need

  1. A ZCU102 evaluation board
  2. A USB-connection to the board’s UART (the kit comes with this cable)
  3. An SD card with 2 partitions: a FAT32 boot partition, and an ext4 file system partition
  4. Some kind of Linux installation (a virtual machine on Windows is fine)
  5. A Vivado installation, including the Vivado SDK. You can run Vivado and the SDK on Windows if you like, but you must have SDK installed on Linux, even if you don’t use it. The SDK distribution contains all of the cross compilers and other tools required to build the Linux kernel and other components.

Step 1: Build your design in Vivado

This process is pretty well outlined in Vivado’s tutorials and in many other places, so I won’t go too in-depth here. Basically, create whatever design it is you want in Vivado (using the Zynq IP and any other IP you want to use) and create a bitstream. This part should be familiar to anyone who’s programmed an FPGA with Vivado before.

Once the bitstream is finished compiling, go to File > Export > Export Hardware. Make sure “Include bitstream” is checked.

Step 2: Launch SDK

While still in Vivado, go to File > Launch SDK. You can accept the defaults in the Launch SDK window or specify a custom location – it doesn’t really matter, but just put it somewhere easy to find because you’ll be digging files out of this location eventually.

Once in SDK you’ll have a hardware platform called <your_top_module>_hw_platform_0.hdf. The hardware platform is what contains all of the files to initialize the processing system (PS) to the settings you gave it in the IP integrator. The HDF file also contains your bitstream and any drivers for custom IP you might have included.

Step 3: Create the First Stage Boot Loader (FSBL)

In the Vivado SDK, go to File > New > Application Project. In the New Project dialog that appears, call the project fsbl and set the OS Platform to standalone. Make sure your hardware platform is selected in the Hardware Platform dropdown box, and also make sure psu_cortexa53_0 is selected in the Processor box. Don’t worry about any of the options in the Target Software group. Click Next. The next window is the Templates window. In the left pane, select Zynq MP FSBL (near the bottom). Finally, click Finish.

You can optionally enable debugging statements in the FSBL. In the Project Explorer, expand the newly created fsbl application and open the file xfsbl_config.h under the src directory. Enable debug printing by changing one of the following #define values to 1U. Each line enables more verbose output, i.e. enabling FSBL_DEBUG_DETAILED_VAL will print basically everything, while FSBL_PRINT_VAL will print much less. If you’re not sure, go ahead and enable FSBL_DEBUG_DETAILED_VAL, just in case:

#define FSBL_PRINT_VAL              (0U)
#define FSBL_DEBUG_VAL              (0U)
#define FSBL_DEBUG_INFO_VAL         (0U)

Step 4: Create the PMU Firmware (PMUFW)

This step is almost identical to the last one. Create a new Application Project and this time call it pmufw. Set the Processor to psu_pmu_0. Click Next and select the only option in the Templates window (ZynqMP PMU Firmware). Click Finish.

Step 5: Create the Device Tree Binary (dtb) files

First, clone Xilinx’s device-tree-xlnx repository (it doesn’t matter where). Once cloned, make sure you check out the tag corresponding to the Vivado version you are using. This is very important, and has potential to really trip you up down the road if you forget this step. For example, I built mine using Vivado 2018.2, so I checked out the tag xilinx-v2018.2 using

$ git checkout tags/xilinx-v2018.2

Once you’ve checked out the correct tag, go back to Vivado SDK and click Xilinx > Repositories in the menu bar. Click New… next to Global Repositories and add the device-tree-xlnx directory you just cloned. Click OK.

Go to File > New > Board Support Package. Near the bottom of the window you should see a box called “Board Support Package OS”. This box should now have an option called device_tree. Click that option and then click Finish. In the Board Support Package Settings window that comes up, click device_tree on the left and enter {BOARD zcu102-rev1.0} in the Value column of periph_type_overrides.

Finally, press Ctrl+B or click Project > Build All to build the FSBL, PMU Firmware, and device tree sources. You will need to compile the device tree sources into flattened blobs (.dtb) yourself. Many Linux distributions contain a tool called dtc that does this, or you can clone it from here and build it yourself. Whichever path you take, the command to use will be:

$ dtc -I dts -O dtb -o system.dtb system-top.dts

Note the change from system-top.dts to system.dtb. The top-level device tree source file from SDK is called system-top.dts, but the default U-Boot configuration Xilinx expects a device tree blob called system.dtb. This is an annoying gotcha.

In my case, SDK produced both a system-top.dts and a system.dts file. This appears to be due to a bug in Xilinx’s device tree generator (see here). The system.dts file contains only a single entry that sets the local MAC address of the Ethernet controller. You can either add the line

/include/ "system.dts"

to the top of your system-top.dts file or you can append the contents of system.dts to system-top.dts.

Once you have your system.dtb file, copy it to the FAT32 (boot) partition of your SD card.

Step 6: Compile U-Boot

Clone Xilinx’s U-Boot repository. Again, be sure to check out the tag corresponding to the version of Vivado you’re using. First, we need to set up our build environment:

$ source /path/to/Vivado/SDK/settings64.sh
$ export CROSS_COMPILE=aarch64-linux-gnu-

Note that you’ll need to repeat that for every new terminal window you open.

To build U-Boot, navigate to the U-Boot repository you cloned earlier and run the following:

$ make xilinx_zynqmp_zcu102_rev1_0_defconfig
$ make menuconfig
$ make

Once U-Boot is done compiling, you should see a u-boot.elf file in that directory.

Step 7: Compile Arm Trusted Firmware (ATF)

This process is similar to building U-Boot. Clone Xilinx’s ARM Trusted Firmware repository, check out the tag corresponding to your Vivado version, set the CROSS_COMPILE environment variable, and then run

$ make PLAT=zynqmp bl31

Once complete, you should have a bl31.elf file under build/zynqmp/release/bl31/.

Step 8: Create a boot image

This step is covered pretty well in Vivado’s Embedded Design Tutorial. See the chapter on Boot and Configuration. The only thing that tutorial leaves out is including your FPGA bitstream. The FPGA bitstream MUST be added before the ARM Trusted Firmware (bl31.elf). This is because when the FSBL prepares to load the bitstream, it loads it into the same memory region that the ATF is loaded. If the ATF is loaded before the bitstream, then the ATF will be overwritten.

Copy the BOOT.bin file you just created to the FAT32 (boot) partition of your SD card.

An even easier way to do this is to use the zynqmp-boot-apps tool. Simply clone the tool and follow a few simple instructions to generate both the BOOT.bin file and your system.dtb file:

$ cd ~
$ git clone https://github.com/gpanders/zynqmp-boot-apps
$ mkdir -p ~/zynqmp-boot-apps/build
$ cp /path/to/u-boot.elf ~/zynqmp-boot-apps/build
$ cp /path/to/bl31.elf ~/zynqmp-boot-apps/build
$ cp /path/to/your/hardware_description_file.hdf ~/zynqmp-boot-apps/
$ cd ~/zynqmp-boot-apps
$ source /opt/Xilinx/SDK/<version>/settings64.sh
$ make

If the FAT32 (boot) partition of your SD card is mounted to /media/sd, then you can install the boot files using

$ sudo make INSTALL_DIR=/media/sd install

Step 9: Compile the Linux kernel

Clone Xilinx’s fork of the Linux kernel and check out the tag corresponding to your Vivado version. Again, make sure your CROSS_COMPILE and ARCH environment variables are set to aarch64-linux-gnu- and arm64, respectively.

Run make xilinx_zynqmp_defconfig to generate a default config file for the ZCU102. You can optionally run make menuconfig (or make nconfig or make xconfig or any of the other config make targets) to configure the Linux kernel, but it’s fine to leave it at the default settings if you want.

Run make to start building the kernel. This step usually takes a while. Once complete, you will have a file called Image under arch/arm64/boot. The Image format is uncompressed and does not have a U-Boot header. If you want to boot this image using bootm in U-Boot, you must manually use the mkimage utility from U-Boot to wrap this image in a U-Boot header. However, U-Boot also has a booti command that allows us to use an uncompressed image with no header and this is, in fact, what the default bootcmd is set to use by the Xilinx U-Boot fork.

Copy the Image file to the FAT32 (boot) partition of your SD card.

Step 10: Find or create a file system

There are a thousand and one ways to procure a file system for Linux, so do whatever works for you. If you want just a minimal Debian or Ubuntu file system, you can download one from eewiki.

You can also use a tool like buildroot or Yocto Linux to generate a customized file system for your specific application.

If your development machine is running a Debian-based distribution (such as Ubuntu) and you also want to use a Debian-based distribution on your board, you can use a tool called debootstrap. To create a Debian-based root file system, use the process outlined here.

However you get it, install the file system to the ext4 partition of your SD card.

Step 12: Boot Linux

We’re finally there! Put your SD card into your device and make sure the boot pins are set to boot from SD card mode (see ZCU102 User Guide in the section titled “MPSoC Device Configuration”). Set up your serial console to listen to interface 0 (on Linux this is /dev/ttyUSB0, on Windows it’s Silicon Labs USB to UART Bridge: Interface 0) and turn on the device. You should see the FSBL debug statements going through each of the partitions of the BOOT.bin. The FSBL will first program the FPGA with the bitstream, then load the ARM Trusted Firmware, finally followed by U-Boot. If everything is done correctly, U-Boot should then start booting Linux (assuming you don’t interrupt the autoboot process).

In the 2019.1 version of Xilinx’s U-Boot fork the default $bootcmd has been changed. As of this update, this new default command does not work for me, but you can revert the $bootcmd to its old value by running the following from the U-Boot prompt:

ZynqMP> setenv bootcmd "run sdboot"
ZynqMP> saveenv

Note that using run sdboot is technically deprecated (you will see a message in the console saying as much), so this should only be a temporary stopgap.

And that’s it! From here, everything else is just configuration and the hardest part is out of the way.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions for improvement.

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