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Full System Example

This chapter aims to explain the basic concepts needed for RAUC using a simple but realistic scenario.

The system is x86-based with 1GiB of disk space and 1GiB of RAM. GRUB was selected as the bootloader and we want to have two symmetric installations. Each installation consists of an ext4 root file system only (which contains the matching kernel image).

We want to provide update bundles using a USB memory stick. We don't have a hardware watchdog, so we need to explicitly tell GRUB whether a boot was successful.

This scenario can be easily reproduced using a QEMU virtual machine.

PKI Setup

RAUC uses an x.509 PKI (public key infrastructure) to sign and verify updates. To create a simple key pair for testing, we can use openssl:

> openssl req -x509 -newkey rsa:4096 -nodes -keyout demo.key.pem -out demo.cert.pem -subj "/O=rauc Inc./CN=rauc-demo"

For actual usage, setting up a real PKI (with a CA separate from the signing keys and a revocation infrastructure) is strongly recommended. OpenVPN's easy-rsa is a good first step. See :ref:`sec-security` for more details.

RAUC Configuration

We need a RAUC system configuration file to describe the slots which can be updated





In this case, we need to place the signing certificate into /etc/rauc/demo.cert.pem, so that it is used by RAUC for verification.

GRUB Configuration

GRUB itself is stored on /dev/sda1, separate from the root file system. To access GRUB's environment file, this partition should be mounted to /boot (which means that the environment file is found at /boot/grub/grubenv).

GRUB does not provide the boot target selection logic as needed by RAUC out of the box. Instead we use a script to implement it


set ORDER="A B"
set A_OK=0
set B_OK=0
set A_TRY=0
set B_TRY=0

# select bootable slot
for SLOT in $ORDER; do
    if [ "$SLOT" == "A" ]; then
    if [ "$SLOT" == "B" ]; then
    if [ "$OK" -eq 1 -a "$TRY" -eq 0 ]; then

# reset booted flags
if [ "$default" -eq 0 ]; then
    if [ "$A_OK" -eq 1 -a "$A_TRY" -eq 1 ]; then
    if [ "$B_OK" -eq 1 -a "$B_TRY" -eq 1 ]; then

save_env A_TRY B_TRY

CMDLINE="panic=60 quiet"

menuentry "Slot A (OK=$A_OK TRY=$A_TRY)" {
    linux (hd0,2)/kernel root=/dev/sda2 $CMDLINE rauc.slot=A

menuentry "Slot B (OK=$B_OK TRY=$B_TRY)" {
    linux (hd0,3)/kernel root=/dev/sda3 $CMDLINE rauc.slot=B

GRUB since 2.02-beta1 supports the eval command, which can be used to express the logic above more concisely.

The grubenv file can be modified using grub-editenv, which is shipped by GRUB. It can also be used to inspect the current contents:

> grub-editenv /boot/grub/grubenv list

The initial installation of the bootloader and rootfs on the system is out of scope for RAUC. A common approach is to generate a complete disk image (including the partition table) using a build system such as OpenEmbedded/Yocto, PTXdist or buildroot.

Bundle Generation

To create a bundle, we need to collect the components which should become part of the update in a directory (in this case only the root file system image):

> mkdir temp-dir/
> cp …/rootfs.ext4.img temp-dir/

Next, to describe the bundle contents to RAUC, we create a manifest file. This must be named manifest.raucm:

> cat >> temp-dir/manifest.raucm << EOF


Note that we can omit the sha256 and size parameters for the image here, as RAUC will fill them out automatically when creating the bundle.

Finally, we run RAUC to create the bundle:

> rauc --cert demo.cert.pem --key demo.key.pem bundle temp-dir/ update-2015.04-1.raucb
> rm -r temp-dir

We now have the update-2015.04-1.raucb bundle file, which can be copied onto the target system, in this case using a USB memory stick.

Update Installation

Having copied update-2015.04-1.raucb onto the target, we only need to run RAUC:

> rauc install /mnt/usb/update-2015.04-1.raucb

After cyptographically verifying the bundle, RAUC will now determine the active slots by looking at the rauc.slot variable. Then, it can select the target slot for the update image from the inactive slots.

When the update is installed completely, we just need to restart the system. GRUB will then try to boot the newly installed rootfs. Finally, if the boot was successful, we need to inform the bootloader:

> rauc status mark-good

If systemd is available, it is useful to run this command late in the boot process and declare dependencies on the main application(s).

If the boot is not marked as successful, GRUB will try the other installation on the next boot. By configuring the kernel and systemd to reboot on critical errors and by using a (software) watchdog, hangs in a non-working installation can be avoided.

Write Slots Without Update Mechanics

Assuming an image has been copied to or exists on the target, a manual slot write can be performed by:

> rauc write-slot rootfs.0 rootfs.ext4

This will write the rootfs image rootfs.ext4 to the slot rootfs.0. Note that this bypasses all update mechanics like hooks, slot status etc.

Example Slot Configurations

This provides some common examples on how to configure slots in your system.conf for different scenarios.

Symmetric A/B Setup

This is the default case when having a fully-redundant root file system

Asymmetric A/Recovery Setup

In case storage is too restricted for a full A/B redundancy setup, an asymmetric setup with a dedicated update/recovery slot can be used. The recovery slot can be way smaller than the rootfs one as it needs to contain only the tools for updating the rootfs slot. Because the recovery slot is not meant to be updated in most cases, we can manifest this for RAUC by setting the readonly=true option.

Separate Application Partition

RAUC allows to have a separate redundant set of slots for the application (or other purpose) that have a fixed relation to their corresponding rootfs slots. RAUC assures that an update of the entire slot group (rootfs + appfs) is atomic.

When defining appfs slots, be sure to set the correct parent relation to the associated bootable slot.

Atomic Bootloader Updates (eMMC)

Updating the Bootloader is also possible with RAUC, despite this is a bit more critical than updating the rootfs, as there is no fallback mechanism.

However, depending on the ROM loader it can at least be possible to perform the bootloader update atomically. The most common example for this is using the two boot partitions of an eMMC for atomic bootloader updates which RAUC supports out-of-the-box (refer :ref:`sec-emmc-boot`).

Symmetric A/B Setup + Recovery

Booting into the recovery slot should normally be handled by the bootloader if it fails to load the symmetric slots.

Thus from the RAUC perspective this setup is identical to the default A/B setup.

Anyway, you can still define it as a slot if you need to be able to provide an update for this, too.

Example BSPs

  • Yocto
  • PTXdist