PinePhone Installation Instructions

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Revision as of 10:55, 24 May 2022 by Fxc (talk | contribs) (→‎Installation to the microSD: removed confusing cross-reference, swapped image to newer version)
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This section has generic installation instructions.

For specific installation instructions for each distribution please see the software releases pages:

Boot priority

PinePhone Pro

For details regarding the boot priority on the PinePhone Pro see PinePhone Pro#Boot order.


The PinePhone always boots from the microSD card first. It is therefore recommended to have a microSD card handy. It is not possible to lock themself out of the phone when the installation on the internal storage (the eMMC) fails, as a correctly flashed microSD card will always boot. Note: Booting from USB is not supported by the hardware, a live USB stick will not boot.

The phone will also try to boot from microSD cards, which were previously flashed with an OS and formatted later, causing the phone to fail to boot. See reuse SD card on how to format the microSD card properly, including wiping the residues of u-boot.

Installation to the microSD

To install an image to the microSD card:

  1. Download your chosen image from PinePhone Software Releases for the regular PinePhone and PinePhone Pro Software Releases for the PinePhone Pro
  2. Extract the compressed file
  3. Write the image to your microSD card, see below
  4. Plug microSD card into phone (make sure to use the top slot, not the bottom slot)
  5. On the PinePhone Pro: The eMMC might have to be disconnected to boot from the microSD card, see PinePhone Pro#Boot order
  6. Boot phone
The microSD belongs in the upper slot, the micro-SIM in the lower slot.

Flashing the microSD

Using dd

Make sure to select the correct device using lsblk. Then run dd with the selected device:

sudo dd if=IMAGE.img of=/dev/[DEVICE] bs=1M status=progress conv=fsync
Note: The image needs to be written to the whole device, not to partition 1. Make sure you're NOT selecting /dev/sda1 or /dev/mmcblk0p1 as target.

Using bmaptool

Make sure to select the correct device using lsblk. Then run bmaptool with the correct device:

Download the IMAGE.xz and the IMAGE.bmap files, then run bmaptool copy --bmap IMAGE.bmap IMAGE.xz /dev/[DEVICE]. This takes around 2.5 minutes to flash a 4 Gb file.

Using graphical tools

GUI applications such as Etcher and GNOME Disks can be used to flash the microSD too.

Installation to the eMMC

Using Tow-Boot

The eMMC can be flashed by holding vol+ on startup to boot into USB Mass Storage mode.

The process of flashing an OS to the eMMC is identical to that of any other storage medium - e.g. a microSD card. You can use the dd command or a utility such as Etcher or Gnome Disks, etc.

Using JumpDrive

Note: This only applies to the regular PinePhone, not the PinePhone Pro.
Jumpdrive running on the PinePhone

The internal eMMC flash storage can be flashed using the Jumpdrive utility by Danct12 and Martijn from postmarketOS. This utility boots from micro SD and exposes the internal eMMC flash storage when the PinePhone is connected to a computer. The process of flashing an OS to the exposed and mounted eMMC is identical to that of any other storage medium - e.g. a microSD card. You can use the dd command or a utility such as Etcher or Gnome Disks, etc.

Latest Jumpdrive can be found here.

  1. Download and extract the Jumpdrive image
  2. Flash the Jumpdrive image to a microSD card
  3. Boot the PinePhone from the Jumpdrive microSD card
  4. Connect the PinePhone to your computer using USB-A -> USB-C cable
  5. Flash the exposed PinePhone drive (e.g. /dev/mm..., check for the right device in dmesg, GNOME disks, or similar, and make sure it's unmounted) with your chosen OS image
  6. Once the flashing process is complete, disconnect the PinePhone from your PC, power it down and remove the Jumpdrive microSD card
  7. The process is now finished, and you can boot from eMMC

The Jumpdrive image is smaller than 50MB. You can keep an microSD card specifically for using Jumpdrive, and there are 64MB microSD cards sold cheaply that will suffice. Jumpdrive also acts as a rescue image in case if you messed up your installation. To do so, you can telnet to, mount rootfs and fix it!

From the booted microSD OS

  1. Flash an OS to the microSD card (and optionally resize the partition, see below)
  2. Insert microSD card and boot the phone
  3. Download the desired OS' image on the booted OS or transfer it to the microSD card
  4. Extract the image file if it is archived
  5. Flash the image file to eMMC using dd if=IMAGE.img of=/dev/mmcblkX bs=1M status=progress conv=fsync where X is the number label of the eMMC (of the disk, not the partition!). Use the command lsblk to check your devices: typically with the current kernel the microSD card is /dev/mmcblk0 and the eMMC is /dev/mmcblk2 but as always with dd be extremely cautious to get the devices correct.
  6. Turn off phone, remove microSD card and then turn on the phone.

SD to eMMC via installer

postmarketOS and Mobian installer images booted from microSD card will simply ask the user, if they want to install to eMMC. The feature lives in the distribution-agnostic calamares-extensions repository (see calamares-extensions#7), so other distributions might adopt this in the future.

Resize partition to fit disk space

Note: Many OSes already include a script, which is resizing the partition on first boot, where this step is not required.

Once you've flashed the OS to your microSD card or eMMC storage, you may also need to expand the partition to fill all the available space.

Resize SD card's partition using computer

For microSD cards, insert the microSD card and resize the partitions through the computer. For eMMC, insert the phone cable and use Jumpdrive to access the eMMC directly, and resize the partition after flashing the image. To do the flashing you have two options:

Using Growpart

Install growpart and run:

growpart /dev/mmcblkX Y
resize2fs /dev/mmcblkXpY

where X is the storage device and Y is the partition number (viewable from lsblk).

If you get any errors about missing or unknown commands, use apt-cache search to find and install the needed software. Also don't forget to use sudo.

Using Parted

Parted's interactive mode and resize work well together. Do this before you put your microSD card into the PinePhone for the first time for best results.

sudo parted /dev/<your_sd_card_device>
(parted) resizepart 2 100%
(parted) quit
sudo resize2fs /dev/<the_second_sd_card_PARTITION>

Resize from within the PinePhone

eMMC: you would need to resize the partition on eMMC (flashed with the operating system) by booting another image from the microSD card: that way, the eMMC will be unmounted. It is not recommended to resize eMMC while booted from eMMC! Resizing a currently mounted partition can have weird results. If you booted from the microSD card, you can follow the above guidelines on how to resize from a computer.

MicroSD card: It is generally not possible to boot from eMMC to partition the unmounted microSD card, because of the boot order - you would have to write the image to the empty microSD card first, then resize partition, all without rebooting. It is also not recommended to resize the microSD card while booted from microSD card! Resizing a currently mounted partition can have weird results.

Reuse SD card for data storage on system booting from eMMC

Once you have installed your release of choice to eMMC, you may wish to use an microSD card for data storage. If you choose to re-use a card you have previously used to boot from, you will find your phone will not boot if you just reformat the card and insert it. This is because the Allwinner firmware in the PinePhone uses some (normally) unused space at the front of the microSD card to store boot software, which you need to clear.

This can be done as follows on any Linux system:


to check the device of your microSD card – as an example lets assume it is /dev/mmcblk0 then

sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/[DEVICE] bs=8k seek=1 count=4

will clear the relevant sectors of your card.

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