Flash ROMs with a Raspberry Pi

Wire Everything Up

To wire everything up, I opened up my X200 (unplugged and with the battery removed, of course), found the BIOS chip (it is right under the front wrist rest) and attached the clip. If you attach the clip while the Raspberry Pi is still on, note that it will reboot. It's better to make all of the connections while everything is turned off. Once I was done, it looked like what you see in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Laptop Surgery

Then I booted the Raspberry Pi, loaded the two SPI modules and was able to use flashrom to read off a copy of my existing BIOS:

sudo ./flashrom -p linux_spi:dev=/dev/spidev0.0
 ↪-r factory1.rom

Now, the thing about using these clips to flash hardware is that sometimes the connections aren't perfect, and I've found that in some instances, I had to perform a flash many times before it succeeded. In the above case, I'd recommend that once it succeeds, you perform it a few more times and save a couple different copies of your existing BIOS (at least three), and then use a tool like sha256sum to compare them all. You may find that one or more of your copies don't match the rest. Once you get a few consistent copies that agree, you can be assured that you got a good copy.

After you have a good backup copy of your existing BIOS, you can attempt a flash. It turns out that quite a bit has changed with the Libreboot-flashing process since the last time I wrote about it, so in a future column, I will revisit the topic with the more up-to-date method to flash Libreboot.


Hardware Flashing with Raspberry Pi: https://github.com/bibanon/Coreboot-ThinkPads/wiki/Hardware-Flashing-with-Raspberry-Pi


Kyle Rankin is Chief Security Officer at Purism, a company focused on computers that respect your privacy, security, and freedom. He is the author of many books including Linux Hardening in Hostile Networks, DevOps Troubleshooting and The Official Ubuntu