Chromebook Netboot Setup Guide

What is Netboot?

Netboot firmware is a special firmware that instead of loading kernel from storage, it downloads a light weight kernel (vmlinuz) from TFTP server. And the kernel will download ChromeOS images from factory server. This is helpful when you need to re-flash ChromeOS images frequently. Also, this can be used in some early phase of projects (e.g. Proto builds), when images might be changed during the build, so you don't want to pre-flash it by copy machine.


  • A Linux machine, which will be running TFTP and factory server

  • An USB Ethernet dongle for DUT

  • Connect DUT and Linux machine by ethernet,

    • Assume that the ethernet device on Linux machine is eth2
    • Assume that eth2 is set up
  • Assume that the board we are going to use is reef

  • Assume that the Linux machine is running Ubuntu (otherwise the network config files might need to be changed according to your Linux distribution).

Initial Setup

Decide a folder to put TFTP files, for example, /var/tftp

sudo mkdir /var/tftp
sudo chown "${USER}" /var/tftp
mkdir -p "/var/tftp/chrome-bot/${BOARD}"

Create a dnsmasq setup config in TFTP root, for example, /var/tftp/dnsmasq.conf, with the following contents:


Assuming that you are running Ubuntu, you can setup static IP for eth2 by adding a file /etc/network/interfaces.d/eth2.conf (you can change the name eth2.conf to whatever you like):

auto eth2
allow-hotplug eth2
iface eth2 inet static

Reload the configuration by running:

sudo ifup eth2

Then ip addr show eth2 and check if it has inet address assigned. If not, reboot Linux machine and see if that works.

Make sure you have dnsmasq installed on Linux machine (e.g. Ubuntu / Debian)

sudo apt-get install dnsmasq

In the tftp-root, create sub folder under chrome-bot using the board name. For example, reef board should be /var/tftp/chrome-bot/reef/.

Copy the netboot kernel into tftp board folder with name vmlinuz.

If you are setting up with a factory zip, the netboot kernel is in path factory_shim/netboot/vmlinuz. So you have to copy it into tftp board folder manually. For example:

cp factory_shim/netboot/vmlinuz /var/tftp/chrome-bot/reef/vmlinuz

If you are setting up with a factory bundle (prepared by finalize_bundle command and is usually a tar.bz2 archive), the tftp folder is already prepared in netboot/tftp. So you have to copy everything to your tftp root, or start dnsmasq server from there. For example:

cp -r netboot/tftp/* /var/tftp/
Note: Some boards might call vmlinuz as “vmlinux.bin”.

If you want to build the netboot kernel from source, do this inside chroot:

cd ~/trunk/src/scripts
./build_images --board "${BOARD}"
./ --board "${BOARD}"

And find the netboot kernel in ../build/images/${BOARD}/latest/netboot/vmlinuz.

The location of factory server can be specified in omahaserver_${BOARD}.conf in to level of tftp, with its content set to what you'll set in CHROME_AUSERVER. For example, in /var/tftp/omahaserver_reef.conf:

Start DHCP & TFTP server

sudo dnsmasq -d -C /var/tftp/dnsmasq.conf

Put Device Into Netboot Mode

Find firmware blob (which should be available in both and firmware archive, or you can build it locally).

flashrom -p host -w


Create an additional cmdline in TFTP board folder to override default kernel boot options. For example, in /var/tftp/chrome-bot/reef/cmdline:

lsm.module_locking=0 cros_netboot_ramfs cros_factory_install cros_secure
cros_netboot tftpserverip= console=ttyS2,115200n8 loglevel=7
earlyprintk cros_debug

Note all optional must be in one line. No newline is allowed.

The console parameter might be different from board to board, if you are not sure which should be used, please refer to “Care & Feeding” document for your project.

Prepare Images

You should download the recovery image, test image and from CPFE in following steps,

  • Click Image Files on the left

  • Select board (e.g. reef)

  • Select Image type

    • RECOVERY_IMAGE for recovery image (signed)
    • TEST_IMAGE_ARCHIVE for test image

As we mentioned above, you can extract netboot firmware and vmlinuz from Or, if you'd like to use a specific version of firmware, you can download it by selecting FIRMWARE_IMAGE_ARCHIVE in above steps.

Deploy to Factory Server

You have to first setup a Factory Server and create a project. When ready, login to the Dome web interface, select your project and upload the images for deployment.

To do that, you can create a complete Bundle, or deploy only files you need to testing and development.

Setting GBB Flags

When the device boots from vmlinuz, vmlinuz will connect to factory server and download images from the server. chromeos-firmwareupdate will be extracted from recovery image, which will be used to install the real firmware. chromeos-firmwareupdate will preserve the GBB flag from netboot firmware. Therefore, you might need to change GBB flag of netboot firmware.

If you are setting up with a factory zip, the netboot image is in path factory_shim/netboot/ You can change GBB flag by futility. For example,

futility gbb -s --flags 0x1239 factory_shim/netboot/

If you are setting up with a factory bundle, the netboot image is in path netboot/ You can change GBB flag by futility. For example,

futility gbb -s --flags 0x1239 netboot/