This page describes the NetBSD/evbarm port on Raspberry Pi hardware. All board variants are believed supported, and specific boards know to work are listed. We use e.g. "RPI2" to refer to "Raspberry Pi 2" to save precious bytes on this page. This web page is 32-bit (aarch32) centric, as that has been until mid-2018 the only approach.

Initial, limited, Raspberry Pi support was introduced in NetBSD 6.0. NetBSD 7.0 adds complete support for the board, along with introducing support for the quad-core Raspberry Pi 2 board. Raspberry Pi 3 support was added for NetBSD 8, and backported to NetBSD 7 in July of 2017. (This page assumes those using NetBSD 7 are using 7.2 or later, but note that everyone uses 8 or -current.)

In mid-2018, -current gained support for 64-bit ARM (aarch64) support.


  1. What works (and what doesn't yet)
    1. NetBSD 7 and NetBSD 8
    2. NetBSD current
    3. What needs documenting if it works
    4. What needs work
  2. CPU types
  3. Installation
    1. SD card structure
    2. Choosing a version
    3. Getting bits to install
    4. Preparing a uSD card
    5. Console approaches
    6. Installation via ebijun's image
    7. Configuring 802.11
    8. Links
  4. Maintaining a system
    1. vcgencmd
    2. Updating the kernel
    3. Updating the firmware
    4. Booting
    5. Split-mode aarch32/aarch64
  5. X11 and GPU
    1. Video playback
    2. OpenGL ES
    3. Quake 3
    4. RetroArch / Libretro
  6. Developer notes
    1. Updating the firmware version in the NetBSD sources
    2. Testing with anita and qemu

(Raspberry Pi image by Christopher Lee used under CC-By-2.0 license)

What works (and what doesn't yet)

NetBSD 7 and NetBSD 8

NetBSD current

What needs documenting if it works

What needs work

CPU types

Note that one can run a build of earmv6hf on the 2 and 3. There will still be a kernel7, built to use the 2/3 hardware, but with the armv6 instruction set.

In theory the code compiled for earmv7hf will be faster, but anecdotal experience is that it doesn't matter that much.

While the evbarm port has "eb" variants (for big-endian mode), the RPI systems do not support eb and these variants will not work. Systems built with older CPU architectures (earm, earmv4, earmv5) are not expected to work on RPI.

The RPI2-1.2 and RPI3 have an armv8 CPU that supports aarch64 (64-bit mode) in addition to aarch32 (regular 32-bit ARM). This is supported, in -current only, by the "aarch64" MACHINE_ARCH of evbarm, also available in via the alias evbarm64. This is sometimes referred to as NetBSD/aarch64.


SD card structure

The Raspberry Pi looks for firmware and kernel.img on the first FAT32 MBR partition of the uSD card. A separate kernel (kernel7.img) is used on RPI2 and RPI3. The NetBSD kernel will then find NetBSD MBR partition and within that the root disklabel partition, and use that FFS partition as the root filesystem.

A 2 GB card is the smallest workable size, and the installation image will fit. After the first boot, the system resizes the NetBSD root partition to fill the card. Note that swap is after /boot and before /, and not contained in the NetBSD fdisk partition. However, if you don't try to change the partition structure, this should not cause you any trouble.

Note that SD cards generally have limited write tolerance, so you may wish to disable atime updates via the noatime option, as is done by the default installation.

Choosing a version

First, decide if you want to install a formal release (7.2 or 8.0), a stable branch build (netbsd-7, netbsd-8), or NetBSD-current. For people who don't know how to choose among those, a recent build of netbsd-8 is probably best, with 8.0 the choice for those who value being at exactly a formal release.

See also "ebijun's image", below, which is NetBSD-current and includes packages.

Getting bits to install

You can either build a release yourself with, or get a release from the NetBSD HTTPS/FTP servers. The bits from both sources should match, except for things like timestamps, or because the sources are from slightly different points along branches.

Building yourself

Getting sources and building a release with is not special for evbarm. However, the evbarm port has a very large number of CPU types, compared to i386 and amd64 which have one each. The standard approach is to use -m to define MACHINE and -a to define MACHINE_ARCH. supports aliases that can be passed as a MACHINE value, but denote both MACHINE and a MACHINE_ARCH. The third line uses an alias and is equal to the second, for RPI2/3. Note that the aliases start with "evb" while the MACHINE_ARCH values do not, and that aliases have "-el" or "-eb", while the MACHINE_ARCH values have no suffix or "eb".

Consider setting RELEASEMACHINEDIR if you wish to build multiple MACHINE_ARCH values for a MACHINE; see Use something like "evbarm-earmv7hf", so that 1) earvm6 and earmv7 don't collide and 2) anita will recognize it as a type of evbarm.

NetBSD autobuild HTTPS/FTP servers

NetBSD provides nightly builds on The next directory level is the branch being built (netbsd-7, netbsd-8, HEAD, and more), plus optionally things like compiler type. It is followed by date/time, e.g. "HEAD/201811051650Z"; once a build is complete the symlink "latest" is adjusted to point to it. The next level is "${MACHINE}-${MACHINE_ARCH}", e.g. "evbarm-earmv7hf", and multiple combinations are provided.

An example URL, arguably the standard approach for first-time NetBSD/RPI users, is

release layout

Once you get to the releasedir, self-built and autobuild releases have the same structure.

\todo Explain why there is no armv7_inst.gz.

Preparing a uSD card

Once you have rpi.img.gz (or rpi_inst for earmv6 boards), put it on a uSD card using gunzip and dd, for example:

Console approaches

The standard approach is to use a USB keyboard and an HDMI monitor for installation.

Serial Console

By default the rpi.img is set to use the HDMI output. If you wish to use a serial console, mount the FAT32 partition on another system and edit cmdline.txt and remove '"console=fb"'.

Enabling ssh for installation without any console

If you want to enable ssh with the standard image, so that you can log in over the net without either a serial or HDMI console, you can edit the configuration of a uSD card before booting. On another computer, mount the ffs partition, place /root/.ssh/authorized_keys, uncomment PermitRootLogin in /etc/ssh/sshd_config, and comment out the rc_configure=NO in /etc/rc.conf. Besides having to find the IP address (e.g. from DHCP server logs), you will have to wait for the partition resizing and reboot.

Installation with sshramdisk image (and hence the FTP site) also creates an image 'rpi_inst.img.gz' specifically for installation without HDMI or a serial console, when built for earmv6hf. Note that this image is much smaller and that you will need to fetch the sets over the network. To use this method, write that image to a uSD card as above, and then:

The rpi_inst.img.gz image will only work for systems that use earmv6hf kernels (so not RPI2/3). See this port-arm message for details.

Installation via ebijun's image

As an alternative to the standard installation images, Jun Ebihara provides an install image for Raspberry Pi that includes packages. It is based on NetBSD-current and is built for earmv6hf, and thus will work on Raspberry Pi 1, 2 and 3. This image is typically updated every few weeks.

Configuring 802.11

After installation, the Ethernet will function as on any other NetBSD system; simply enable dhcpcd or configure a static address. USB WiFi devices will also function as on any other NetBSD system; in addition to dhcpcd or static, configure and enable wpa_supplicant.

Note that the built-in WiFi in the RPI3 is not yet supported. USB WiFi interfaces (that work on NetBSD in general) should all work. In particular, the following are known to work:


The following pages have been published by NetBSD community members. (Note that some of them are old.)

Maintaining a system


The program vcgencmd, referenced in the boot section, can be found in pkgsrc/misc/raspberrypi-userland.

Updating the kernel

Updating the firmware

A section below describes the process of updating NetBSD's copy of the firmware from upstream, with testing, by NetBSD developers. This section is about updating a system's firmware from the firmware in a version of NetBSD.

\todo Explain where the firmware is in the source tree, and if it is in the installed system image (such as /usr/mdec). Explain how to update a system (presumably /boot) from either an installed system's new firmware files, or the source tree. Explain any particular cautions.

Probably, for the RPI3+, one needs to use -current, or use -8 with firmware from -current. \todo Defuzz.

\todo Explain if using updated firmware from one branch (e.g. netbsd-current) on a system using a different branch (e.g. netbsd-8) is safe. Explain if pullups are done to release branches with new firmware.


The device boots by finding a file "bootcode.bin". The primary location is a FAT32 partition on the uSD card, and an additional location is on a USB drive. See the upstream documentation on booting and read all the subpages.

The standard approach is to use a uSD card, with a fdisk partition table containing a FAT32 partition marked active, and a NetBSD partition. The NetBSD partition will then contain a disklabel, pointing to an FFS partition (a), a swap partition (b) and the FAT32 boot partition mounted as /boot (e). The file /boot/cmdline.txt has a line to set the root partition.

One wrinkle in the standard approach is that the disk layout is "boot swap /", but the NetBSD fdisk partition starts at the location of /, so the swap partition is not within the NetBSD fdisk partition. The / partition can hold a disklabel, while swap cannot. It is normal to have swap after / (and thus within the fdisk partition), but the arrangement used permits growing / on first boot, for the typical case where a larger uSD is used, compared to the minimum image size.

An alternate approach is to have the boot FAT32 partition as above, but to have the entire system including root on an external disk. This is configured by changing root=ld0a to root=sd0a or root=dk0 (depending on disklabel/GPT). Besides greater space, part of the point is to avoid writing to the uSD card.

A third approach, workable on the Pi 3 only, is to configure USB host booting (already enableed on the 3+; see the upstream documentation) and have the boot partition also on the external device. In this case the external device must have an MBR because the hardware's first-stage boot does not have GPT support. In theory the procedure to program USB host boot mode will function on a NetBSD system because the programming is done by bootcode.bin. \todo Confirm that putting program_usb_boot_mode=1 in config.txt and booting works to program the OTP bit. Confirm that one can then boot NetBSD from external USB.

There is no well-defined USB enumeration order, so the preferred approach if one has multiple USB mass storage devices is to use named wedges in both fstab and cmdline.txt.

Split-mode aarch32/aarch64

\todo Verify this, and add any necessary cautions about boot code.

The aarch64 kernel can run aarch32 binaries, so one can boot a aarch64 kernel on a system with aarch32 userland.

X11 and GPU

Video playback

Accelerated video playback is supported in NetBSD 7 with the OMXPlayer application and through GStreamer with the omx plugin.


Accelerated OpenGL ES is supported in NetBSD 7. The GL ES client libraries are included with the misc/raspberrypi-userland package.

Quake 3

A Raspberry Pi optimized build of ioquake3 is available in the games/ioquake3-raspberrypi package. To use it, the following additional resources are required:

Place the pak0.pk3 file in the /usr/pkg/lib/ioquake3/baseq3 directory.

RetroArch / Libretro

Using emulators/retroarch it is possible to run many emulators at full speed the Raspberry Pi. Emulator cores for various gaming consoles are available in the emulators/libretro-* packages. To begin using retroarch:

$ retroarch-joyconfig -o gamepad.cfg
$ retroarch --appendconfig gamepad.cfg -L /usr/pkg/lib/libretro/ game.gbc

Developer notes

These notes are for people working on improvements to RPI support in NetBSD.

Updating the firmware version in the NetBSD sources

(Note that trying new firmware may result in a non-bootable system, so be prepared to recover the bootable media with another system.)

Upstream firmware releases are on GitHub. Copy all files except kernel*.img into /boot and reboot.

New firmware should pass all of the following tests before being committed to NetBSD.

Tests should be run on all of rpi[0123].

Testing with anita and qemu

See the anita section in the evbarm page.

It is not currently known how to emulate a RPI in qemu, and therefore anita does not yet have support for this. \todo Add a command-line example to run qemu emulating some RPI model.

Most of the userland and the kernel in NetBSD 7.0 seem to be built with -mfloat-abi=soft (this is from earmv6hf). Indeed, if you look at the Makefile generated when you're preparing to build a new kernel you will see -mfloat-abi=soft is defined. For example the openssl in base has the following performance characteristics:

Doing md4 for 3s on 16 size blocks: 91199 md4's in 2.68s

If I build a new openssl with -march=armv6k -mfloat-abi=hard -mfpu=vfp' in my/usr/pkg/etc/mk.conf`, I get the following:

Doing md4 for 3s on 16 size blocks: 221820 md4's in 2.85s

That's quite a substantial improvement. Could you please tell me the reasoning behind not doing this in the default distribution?


Comment by josh64 late Wednesday night, October 15th, 2015


I am kaku. How can I use the DS3231 RTC module for raspberry pi ?

Thank you very much!

Comment by hchguoyq at lunch time on Wednesday, December 16th, 2015
Just wondering whether anyone is working on porting either xserver-xorg-video-fbdev or xf86-video-fbturbo to NetBSD? It would be great to have an accelerated X driver. I'd be more than happy to test any driver that is being worked on. :)
Comment by nickdate Thursday afternoon, December 24th, 2015
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