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  1. 57033b7 Initial commit of installer broken out of magenta by Justin Mattson ยท 12 days ago master

Fuchsia Installer


The goal of the Fuchsia installer is to provide a stop-gap solution to get as much of the system operating from internal storage of a device as possible. The installer will eventually be superseded by a robust update/refresh mechanism. Running Fuchsia from internal storage will make booting faster and reduce memory pressure because the secondary bootfs will no longer be stored in RAM. This also allows you to experience more of the real performance of the system and exercise the storage stack.

To accomplish this the installer will put an EFI system partition, a Fuchsia system partition, and a Fuchsia data partition on the same drive. Ideally this will be an internal disk on whatever device you are using to run Fuchsia, but the installer will happily install Fuchsia on removable media or in fact anything that looks like an appealing block device.


The installer is substantially limited in flexibility as it is considered a bridge solution until a more robust, shipping solution for install and refresh can be developed. There will be improvements made to the installer before it is retired, but the investment budget for this component is limited.

The development host parts of this process have only been tried on Linux. In theory the only thing that actually requires Linux is the script that creates the bootable gigaboot USB drive.

Installed partitions and target device requirements

The installer requires at least 5GiB of free space. This is a fairly arbitrary amount and is based on best guess estimates of the minimum size we needed to make various partitions comfortable for the near future. It is also simple to tune the space requirements.

The installer adds an EFI system partition (“ESP”). The ESP will contain the Magenta kernel and the gigaboot bootloader. The partition size is set at 1GiB, which is far more than the components need, but this size is chosen to accomodate any files for booting other operating systems off the same ESP. This partition is FAT32 formatted.

The next partition the installer is concerned with is the Fuchsia system partition which contains what we would think of as Fuchsia. This partition size is set at 4GiB. Again, this is several times larger than is actually needed, but is selected to account for substantial growth while balancing against time needed to write it. This partition is formatted with MinFS.

The installer tries to add a data partition meant for arbitrary data storage by applications. The installer will attempt to make this partition 8GB, but will settle for making it as small as 200MiB. If it can not find at least 200MiB it will not add a data partition. If added, this partition is formatted with MinFS.

Preparing device and media for install

The installer is not very intelligent about where it installs things. It simply looks for the first suitable place it can find and plunks down the blocks. It does not know or care if the thing it finds is internal storage or removable media. For this reason it is important to understand the primitive way the installer decides where to write data and we describe below. This will allow you to configure your storage device(s) in such a way that Fuchsia installs where you want.

The installer uses the following procedure after which it writes data to the partitions it identified as the targets.

  1. Does disk contain a 4GiB partition with the Fuchsia system partition GUID and a 1GiB ESP that is not the first disk partition?
  2. Does the disk contain 5GiB of free space? If yes, go to (4)
  3. Ask the user for a partition to delete, go to step 2
  4. Create ESP and Fuchsia system partitions

The installer avoids updating the first disk partition if it is an ESP partition because this will tend to be where ESP data from a commercial device might reside and this data might not be restorable.

If you're installing with media like a USB drive inserted, an easy way to make the USB drive unattractive to Fushia is not to have a Fuchsia system partition on the USB drive and to have all the space on the USB drive allocated to one or more partitions.

Preparing the install files

Get a copy of liblz4-tool and mtools, probably these are available via a package system like apt, brew, or similar.

> sudo apt-get install liblz4-tool mtools

Build Fuchsia as you normally would, describing this procedure is outside the scope of this document. Then run the command to build the installer files

> scripts/installer/

By default this script assumes you‘re doing a debug build for x86-64. Use the ‘-h’ option to get help customizing the parameters for other architectures, if you’re doing a release build, or if your source and output directory structure is unique. This script creates a ‘installer.bootfs’ which is the secondary bootfs the installer needs. We'll replace our original ‘user.bootfs’ with the one for the installer.

> mv out/<ARCH>/installer.bootfs out/<ARCH>/user.bootfs

If you will boot from a USB drive, use the ‘’ script to configure a USB drive

> scripts/
> sync

Running the installer

Boot your device with netboot or with the USB drive you created above. The installer's first preference is to update existing ESP and Fuchsia system partitions as described in the previous section. Failing this it will look for available space where it can create those partitions. If neither of these is possible the installer will ask the user to delete disk partitions to make space available. Unfortunately the installer can not resize partitions in a way that will preserve the data on them, if you need this, please repartition the disk with some other tool.

Start the installer

> install-fuchsia

If eligible partitions are found or can be created, the installer will display how much data has been written. Note that the installer takes an all-or-nothing approach to detection and installation. If it finds a system partition, but no ESP, it will try to add a second system partition and an ESP. As such, if you remove one, remove both.

If the installer needs space it will print out the current disk and partition configuration. If you had two disks attached it might look something like

Disk 0 (/dev/class/block/000) 6.0GB
       Partition 0              EFI 1.0GB at block 8388642
Disk 1 (/dev/class/block/001) 24.0GB
       Partition 0              6th 3.9GB at block 41943074
       Partition 1           system 4.0GB at block 25166458
       Partition 2              EFI 1.0GB at block 33555066
       Partition 3             data 8.0GB at block 34

The installer will then ask you what it can delete.

Delete a partition on which disk (0-1 blank to cancel)?

If I had selected disk 1 it would then ask which partition

Which partition would you like to remove? (0-3)

If deleting that partition makes enough space available, the installer will then proceed. If more space is needed, it will ask the same questions again.

If at least 200MiB of disk space is available and a Fuchsia data partition is not already on the disk, one will be created. If a Fuchsia data partition does already exist, nothing will be done.

Installation should now be complete and you can power off your device, remove any storage or networking cables you no longer desire and power back on.

> dm poweroff

Additional notes


If you want to run Fuchsia on a dual-boot device, additional effort may be required. The ESP we use is configured such that it will always take precendence over other ESPs you may have on the device. To deal with this, you may use the ‘gpt’ tool to hide our ESP from the UEFI bootloader. All you need to hide the ESP is a bootable magenta. To unhide the ESP you'll need a different way to boot magenta, such as a USB drive, or another tool that can manipulate the GPT.

First use ‘lsblk’ to examine the block devices you have

> lsblk
ID  DEV      DRV      SIZE TYPE           LABEL
000 sata0    ahci       6G
001 sata1    ahci      24G
002 sata0p0  gpt        4G unknown        minfs1
003 sata0p1  gpt        1G unknown        extra
004 sata1p0  gpt        3G unknown        6th
005 sata1p1  gpt        4G unknown        system
006 sata1p2  gpt        1G efi system     EFI
007 sata1p3  gpt        8G unknown        data

The two ‘ahci’-driven entries here are actually disks, the rest are partitions. Let's look at device 001.

> gpt dump /dev/class/block/001
blocksize=512 blocks=50331648
Partition table is valid
0: 6th 0x2800022 0x2ffffdd (7fffbc blocks)
    id:   28172C34-6660-E3E6-70E8-7BFB6D3B4100
1: system 0x180027a 0x2000279 (800000 blocks)
    id:   FD7021F4-B61C-7B7F-2DAB-A41F6E40C926
    type: 506B000B-B7C7-4653-A7D5-B737332C889D
2: EFI 0x200027a 0x2200279 (200000 blocks)
    id:   A14D8A47-2F6E-FFAC-DFB6-E9E6D06786B2
    type: C12A7328-F81F-11D2-BA4B-00A0C93EC93B
3: data 0x22 0x1000021 (1000000 blocks)
    id:   B1E4A0A2-0AED-B7FC-2304-F052CE7AD781
    type: 08185F0C-892D-428A-A789-DBEEC8F55E6A
Total: 4 partitions

Based on the type of partition 2 I can see this really seems like an ESP. If I want the UEFI bootloader to ignore it, I can hide it. Using the ‘gpt visible’ command, which takes a partition index, and a device path in addition to whether or not the partition should be hidden or visible.

> gpt visible 2 false /dev/class/block/001
WARNING: You are about to permanently alter /dev/class/block/001

Type 'y' to continue, any other key to cancel
blocksize=512 blocks=50331648
GPT changes complete.

To make the partition visible again, you'll need to boot magenta from an external drive or use another tool that can manipulate the GPT of the device. If you can boot magenta, just change the above ‘false’ to ‘true’.