Skip to content
Switch branches/tags


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time
                                   __   _
                                  / /  (_)__  __ ____ __
                                 / /__/ / _ \/ // /\ \ /
                                      / _ \/ _ \
                      __   _ __      _\___/_//_/ __             _
                     / /  (_) /____ | |/_/__| | / /____ __ ____(_)__ _____  __
                    / /__/ / __/ -_)>  </___/ |/ / -_) \ // __/ (_-</ __/ |/ /
                   /____/_/\__/\__/_/|_|    |___/\__/_\_\/_/ /_/___/\__/|___/

                   Copyright (c) 2019-2022, Linux-on-LiteX-VexRiscv Developers


Note: Tested on Ubuntu 18.04/20.04 LTS.

[> Intro

This project is an experiment to run Linux with VexRiscv-SMP CPU, a 32-bits Linux Capable RISC-V CPU written in Spinal HDL. LiteX is used to create the SoC around the VexRiscv-SMP CPU and provides the infrastructure and peripherals (LiteDRAM, LiteEth, LiteSDCard, etc...). All the components used to create the SoC are open-source and the flexibility of Spinal HDL/LiteX allow targeting easily very various FPGA devices/boards: Xilinx, Intel, Lattice, Microsemi, Efinix FPGAs are tested with very various configuration: SDRAM/DDR/DDR2/DDR3/DDR4 or HyperRAM RAMs, RMII/MII/RGMII/1000BASE-X Ethernet PHYs, SDCard (in SPI or SD mode), SATA, PCIe, etc...

On Lattice ECP5 FPGAs, the open source toolchain even allows creating full open-source SoC with open-source cores and toolchain!

This project demonstrates how high level HDLs framework like Spinal HDL, LiteX can enable new possibilities and complement each other. Results shown here are the results of a productive collaboration between various open-source communities.

[> Demo


[> Supported boards

All boards supported in LiteX-Boards with...:

  • Enough FPGA logic to fit VexRiscv-SMP + LiteX SoC.
  • 32MB of RAM (Reduced to 8MB when rootfs can be put on a SDCard).
  • A UART.

... could run this project.

The board support is directly imported from LiteX-Boards and the configuration is just adapted for the project in

The current list of boards that have been tested and are supported can be obtained by running ./ --help:

├── acorn
├── acorn_pcie
├── alveo_u250
├── alveo_u280
├── arty
├── arty_a7
├── arty_s7
├── butterstick
├── camlink_4k
├── colorlight_i5
├── de0nano
├── de10nano
├── de1soc
├── ecpix5
├── genesys2
├── hadbadge
├── icesugar_pro
├── kc705
├── kcu105
├── minispartan6
├── mnt_rkx7
├── netv2
├── nexys4ddr
├── nexys_video
├── orangecrab
├── pipistrello
├── qmtech_ep4ce15
├── qmtech_ep4ce55
├── qmtech_wukong
├── sds1104xe
├── stlv7325
├── titanium_ti60_f225_dev_kit
├── trellisboard
├── trion_t120_bga576_dev_kit
├── ulx3s
├── vc707
├── versa_ecp5
├── xcu1525
├── zcu104

Adding support for another board from LiteX-Boards satisfying the requirements should only be a matter of adding a few lines to

Note: Avalanche support can be found in RISC-V - Getting Started Guide thanks to Antmicro.

Note: On FPGA without distributed ram (as Cyclone IV), consider using the --without-out-of-order-decoder option to reduce area.

[> Prerequisites

$ sudo apt install build-essential device-tree-compiler wget git python3-setuptools
$ git clone
$ cd linux-on-litex-vexriscv

[> Pre-built Bitstreams and Linux/OpenSBI images

Pre-built bistreams for the common boards and pre-built Linux images can be found here and will get you started quickly and easily without the need to compile anything.

[> Installing LiteX

$ wget
$ chmod +x
$ ./ --init --install --user (--user to install to user directory)

For more information, please visit:

[> Installing a RISC-V toolchain

$ wget
$ tar -xvf riscv64-unknown-elf-gcc-8.1.0-2019.01.0-x86_64-linux-ubuntu14.tar.gz
$ export PATH=$PATH:$PWD/riscv64-unknown-elf-gcc-8.1.0-2019.01.0-x86_64-linux-ubuntu14/bin/

[> Installing Verilator (only needed for simulation)

$ sudo apt install verilator
$ sudo apt install libevent-dev libjson-c-dev

[> Installing OpenOCD (only needed for hardware test)

$ sudo apt install libtool automake pkg-config libusb-1.0-0-dev
$ git clone
$ cd openocd
$ ./bootstrap
$ ./configure --enable-ftdi
$ make
$ sudo make install

[> Running the LiteX simulation

$ ./

You should see Linux booting and be able to interact with it:

        __   _ __      _  __
       / /  (_) /____ | |/_/
      / /__/ / __/ -_)>  <

 (c) Copyright 2012-2019 Enjoy-Digital
 (c) Copyright 2012-2015 M-Labs Ltd

 BIOS built on May  2 2019 18:58:54
 BIOS CRC passed (97ea247b)

--============ SoC info ================--
CPU:       VexRiscv @ 1MHz
ROM:       32KB
SRAM:      4KB
MAIN-RAM:  131072KB

--========= Peripherals init ===========--

--========== Boot sequence =============--
Booting from serial...
Press Q or ESC to abort boot completely.
Executing booted program at 0x20000000
--============= Liftoff! ===============--
VexRiscv Machine Mode software built May  3 2019 19:33:43
--========== Booting Linux =============--
[    0.000000] No DTB passed to the kernel
[    0.000000] Linux version 5.0.9 (florent@lab) (gcc version 8.3.0 (Buildroot 2019.05-git-00938-g75f9fcd0c9)) #1 Thu May 2 17:43:30 CEST 2019
[    0.000000] Initial ramdisk at: 0x(ptrval) (8388608 bytes)
[    0.000000] Zone ranges:
[    0.000000]   Normal   [mem 0x00000000c0000000-0x00000000c7ffffff]
[    0.000000] Movable zone start for each node
[    0.000000] Early memory node ranges
[    0.000000]   node   0: [mem 0x00000000c0000000-0x00000000c7ffffff]
[    0.000000] Initmem setup node 0 [mem 0x00000000c0000000-0x00000000c7ffffff]
[    0.000000] elf_hwcap is 0x1100
[    0.000000] Built 1 zonelists, mobility grouping on.  Total pages: 32512
[    0.000000] Kernel command line: mem=128M@0x40000000 rootwait console=hvc0 root=/dev/ram0 init=/sbin/init swiotlb=32
[    0.000000] Dentry cache hash table entries: 16384 (order: 4, 65536 bytes)
[    0.000000] Inode-cache hash table entries: 8192 (order: 3, 32768 bytes)
[    0.000000] Sorting __ex_table...
[    0.000000] Memory: 119052K/131072K available (1957K kernel code, 92K rwdata, 317K rodata, 104K init, 184K bss, 12020K reserved, 0K cma-reserved)
[    0.000000] SLUB: HWalign=64, Order=0-3, MinObjects=0, CPUs=1, Nodes=1
[    0.000000] NR_IRQS: 0, nr_irqs: 0, preallocated irqs: 0
[    0.000000] clocksource: riscv_clocksource: mask: 0xffffffffffffffff max_cycles: 0x114c1bade8, max_idle_ns: 440795203839 ns
[    0.000155] sched_clock: 64 bits at 75MHz, resolution 13ns, wraps every 2199023255546ns
[    0.001515] Console: colour dummy device 80x25
[    0.008297] printk: console [hvc0] enabled
[    0.009219] Calibrating delay loop (skipped), value calculated using timer frequency.. 150.00 BogoMIPS (lpj=300000)
[    0.009919] pid_max: default: 32768 minimum: 301
[    0.016255] Mount-cache hash table entries: 1024 (order: 0, 4096 bytes)
[    0.016802] Mountpoint-cache hash table entries: 1024 (order: 0, 4096 bytes)
[    0.044297] devtmpfs: initialized
[    0.061343] clocksource: jiffies: mask: 0xffffffff max_cycles: 0xffffffff, max_idle_ns: 7645041785100000 ns
[    0.061981] futex hash table entries: 256 (order: -1, 3072 bytes)
[    0.117611] clocksource: Switched to clocksource riscv_clocksource
[    0.251970] Unpacking initramfs...
[    2.005474] workingset: timestamp_bits=30 max_order=15 bucket_order=0
[    2.178440] Block layer SCSI generic (bsg) driver version 0.4 loaded (major 254)
[    2.178909] io scheduler mq-deadline registered
[    2.179271] io scheduler kyber registered
[    3.031140] random: get_random_bytes called from init_oops_id+0x4c/0x60 with crng_init=0
[    3.043743] Freeing unused kernel memory: 104K
[    3.044070] This architecture does not have kernel memory protection.
[    3.044472] Run /init as init process
mount: mounting tmpfs on /dev/shm failed: Invalid argument
mount: mounting tmpfs on /tmp failed: Invalid argument
mount: mounting tmpfs on /run failed: Invalid argument
Starting syslogd: OK
Starting klogd: OK
Initializing random number generator... [    4.374589] random: dd: uninitialized urandom read (512 bytes read)
Starting network: ip: socket: Function not implemented
ip: socket: Function not implemented

Welcome to Buildroot
buildroot login: root
login[48]: root login on 'hvc0'
# help
Built-in commands:
  . : [ [[ alias bg break cd chdir command continue echo eval exec
  exit export false fg getopts hash help history jobs kill let
  local printf pwd read readonly return set shift source test times
  trap true type ulimit umask unalias unset wait

[> Running on hardware

Build the FPGA bitstream (optional)

The prebuilt bitstreams for the supported boards are provided, so you can just use them for quick testing, if you want to rebuild the bitstreams you will need to install the toolchain for your FPGA:

FPGA family Toolchain
Xilinx Ultrascale Vivado
Xilinx 7-Series Vivado/SymbiFlow*
Xilinx Spartan6 ISE
Lattice ECP5 Yosys+Trellis+Nextpnr
Altera Cyclone4 Quartus Prime

Once installed, build the bitstream with:

$ ./ --board=XXYY --cpu-count=X --build

Note: *=to select a different toolchain use the --toolchain option, i.e.:

./ --board=arty --toolchain=symbiflow --build

Load the FPGA bitstream

To load the bitstream to you board, run:

$ ./ --board=XXYY --cpu-count=X --load

Note: If you are using a Versa board, you will need to change J50 to bypass the iSPclock. Re-arrange the jumpers to connect pins 1-2 and 3-5 (leaving one jumper spare). See p19 of the Versa Board user guide.

Load the Linux images over Serial

All the boards support Serial loading of the Linux images and this is the only way to load them when the board does not have others communications interfaces or storage capability.

To load the Linux images over Serial, use the litex_term terminal/tool provided by LiteX and run:

$ litex_term --images=images/boot.json /dev/ttyUSBX

The images should load and you should see Linux booting :)

Note: litex_term is automatically installed with LiteX.

Note: By default baudrate is set to 115200 bauds. You can use --uart-baudrate argument of to increase it on the board and use --speed argument of litex_term to reflect the change. This is useful to increase upload speed when binaries can only be uploaded over Serial.

Note: Since on some boards JTAG/Serial is shared, when you will run litex_term after loading the board, the BIOS serialboot will already have timed out. You will need to press Enter, see if you have the BIOS prompt and type reboot.

Since loading over Serial is working for all boards, this is the recommended way to do initial tests even if your board has more capabilities.

Load the Linux images over Ethernet

For boards with Ethernet support, the Linux images can be loaded over TFTP. You need to copy the files from images directory to your TFTP root directory. The default Local IP/Remote IP are but you can change it with the --local-ip and --remote-ip arguments.

Once the bistream is loaded, the board you try to retrieve the files on the TFTP server. If not successful or if the boot already timed out when you see the BIOS prompt, you can retry with the netboot command.

The images will be loaded to RAM and you should see Linux booting :)

Load the Linux images to SDCard

For boards with SDCard support, the Linux images can be loaded from it. You need to copy the files from images directory to your SDCard root directory (with a FAT partition).

The images will be loaded to RAM and you should see Linux booting :)

Note: For more information about the possible ways to load application code to the CPU with LiteX, please have a look at the LiteX's wiki.

Configure/Use the peripherals

Please visit the HOWTO document to learn how to configure and use the peripherals from Linux.

[> Generating the Linux binaries (optional)

$ git clone
$ cd buildroot
$ make BR2_EXTERNAL=../linux-on-litex-vexriscv/buildroot/ litex_vexriscv_defconfig
$ make

The binaries are located in output/images/.

[> Generating the OpenSBI binary (optional)

$ git clone --branch 0.8-linux-on-litex-vexriscv
$ cd opensbi
$ make CROSS_COMPILE=riscv-none-embed- PLATFORM=litex/vexriscv

The binary will be located at build/platform/litex/vexriscv/firmware/fw_jump.bin.

[> Generating the VexRiscv Linux variant (optional)

If the VexRiscv configuration you ask isn't already generated, you will need to install java and SBT on your machine to enable their local on demande generation.

To install java and SBT see Install VexRiscv requirements:

[> Udev rules (optional)

Not needed but can make loading/flashing bitstreams easier:

$ git clone
$ cd litex-buildenv-udev
$ make install
$ make reload