From postmarketOS

Netboot describes the means of booting a device when the rootfs is not on the device but accessed via network, in this implementation via USB networking.


Make sure your kernel has the necessary kernel config options for netboot.

$ pmbootstrap kconfig check --netboot $kernel-package-name

If not you need to adjust your kernel config otherwise netboot won't work.


First prepare a rootfs for your device. It is advisable to use the --extra-space argument to increase the size of your rootfs (in the example you will get 1000MB of extra space) as no image resize will happen at runtime. Also, some devices are configured to be flashed with a sparse image, but that is not compatible with netboot currently.

$ pmbootstrap --extra-space 1000 install --no-sparse

Then prepare your boot.img and flash it to the device:

$ pmbootstrap initfs hook_add netboot
$ pmbootstrap flasher boot # or however you flash/boot the kernel

After booting the device a network interface should appear over USB networking.

Finally you need to start the netboot server on your computer with the following command:

$ pmbootstrap netboot serve

Make sure to open up tcp port 9999 on your computer's firewall so the phone can connect to your netboot service.

If you've never used netboot for the current device, then the image from the previous pmbootstrap install will get copied to $pmbootstrap_work/images_netboot/ and will persist normal pmbootstrap zap calls as you will probably have data in your rootfs.

Note: For android devices, you may need to run fastboot erase dtbo before flashing/booting the kernel. If you are running an a/b slot device, make sure to add the correct suffix (dtbo_a or dtbo_b).

Replacing persisted rootfs

You can replace the persisted rootfs image with a fresh image from pmbootstrap install:

$ pmbootstrap netboot serve --replace

Deleting all netboot images

You can delete all persisted rootfs images:

$ pmbootstrap zap --netboot

Resizing a netboot image

When you run out of space in your netbooted rootfs, you can increase the size of the image! The following example increases the size of the image fairphone-fp4.img by 1 GiB.

$ cd ~/.local/var/pmbootstrap/images_netboot/
$ sudo bash -c "dd if=/dev/zero bs=1M count=1000 >> ./fairphone-fp4.img"
$ sudo parted ./fairphone-fp4.img
(parted) resizepart 2 100%
(parted) quit
$ # If your device has deviceinfo_rootfs_image_sector_size set to e.g. 4096, add "--sector-size 4096" to the losetup command, otherwise the next commands will fail
$ sudo losetup --find --show --partscan ./fairphone-fp4.img
$ sudo e2fsck -f /dev/loop0p2 # verify that you will be operating on the correct loop device!
$ sudo resize2fs /dev/loop0p2
$ sudo losetup --detach /dev/loop0

See also


As of 01/31/2022, there are a couple known issues:

  • The initfs netboot hook currently expects a boot sector size of 512 bytes, but many android devices may be configured with a sector size of 4096 using the deviceinfo_rootfs_image_sector_size property. This will give an error like "unable to find boot partition". Using debug-shell (add to install with pmbootstrap initfs hook_add debug-shell) to modify the /etc/postmarketos-mkinitfs/hook/ file and setting the nbd-client sector size to 4096 should fix this.
  • Some android devices may set deviceinfo_flash_sparse to true and this causes the generated block device to be unusable by netboot. You can pass "--no-sparse" to your pmbootstrap install command to override this.