Raspberry PI firmware update

Raspberry Pi Firmware update procedure and preparing Raspberry Pis for booting from USB

About USB Booting support (Raspberry Pi 4 and Ubuntu)

Raspberry Pi’s bootloader has a 2020/09/03 version that just started supporting booting from USB. Ubuntu 20.04.02 LTS (Long Time Support) does not support “out-of-the-box” booting from USB and it is needed to make changes into boot folder kernel files. It can be done following this guide.

Ubuntu 20.10 and 21.04 (not LTS) already support booting from USB “out-of-the-box”. Since 20.10 and 21.04 are development releases and not LTS releases, are less stable and to avoid issues Ubuntu 20.04 will be used within the cluster.

First step is to prepare Raspberry Pis to update its Firmware and enable boot from USB stick. Firmware update and bootloader configuration is fully supported only using Raspberry Pi OS.

Configure headless Raspberry OS

Prepare Raspberry PI OS for a headless start-up (without keyboard and monitor) enabling remote ssh connection and wifi access to home network.

  • Step 1. Download Raspberry Pi OS lite These instructions are for a Raspberry Pi OS Lite, image that can be downloaded from here:


    I’m using the lite image (no desktop) kernel version 5.10 from May 7th, 2021.

  • Step 2. Burn the Raspberry Pi OS image to the SD card

    Burn the latest Raspberry Pi OS image to SD-Card using Etcher

    Browse to https://www.balena.io/etcher/ Download the version for your operating system Run the installer To run Etcher is pretty straight forward.

    Put a blank mini SD card and adapter into your machine. No need to format it. You can use a new SD card right out of the package.

    1 - Click Flash from file - browse to the zip file you downloaded for Raspberry Pi OS.
    2 - Click Select target - it may find the SDHC Card automatically, if not select it.
    3 - Click Flash! - you may be prompted for your password

    After you flash (burn) the image, File Explorer (Windows) may have trouble seeing it. A simple fix is to pull the SD card out then plug it back in. On Windows it should appear in File Explorer with the name boot followed by a drive letter.

  • Step 3. Enable ssh to allow remote login

    For security reasons, ssh is no longer enabled by default. To enable it you need to place an empty file named ssh (no extension) in the root of the boot disk.Enable ssh to do remote login:
    Create a empty file named ssh within boot directory

  • Step 4. Enable wifi connection

    Create a file boot/wpa_supplicant.conf with the following content, including wifi SSID name and password:

    ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev
  • Step 5. Eject the micro SD card

    Right-click on boot (on your desktop or File Explorer) and select the Eject option

  • Step 6. Boot the Raspberry Pi from the micro SD card

    Remove the mini-SD card from the adapter and plug it into the Raspberry Pi. Plug a USB-C power supply cable into the power port

  • Step 7. Connect through SSH to the Raspberry Pi

    Connect through SSH to the Raspberry PI using default user and password (pi/raspberry)

Get latest updates of the OS and the firmware

First make sure that you have the absolute latest updates and firmware for the Pi. To upgrade all your packages and firmware to the latest version use the following command:

sudo apt update && sudo apt full-upgrade -y

Once the update has completed restart your Pi with a sudo reboot command to apply the latest firmware / kernel updates.

Verify EEPROM Bootloader is up to date

We can check if your Pi’s bootloader firmware is up to date with the following command:

sudo rpi-eeprom-update

If your Raspbian is very out of date you may not have this utility and can install it using:

sudo apt install rpi-eeprom

The output from rpi-eeprom-update will look like this if you are not up to date:

BOOTLOADER: update available
   CURRENT: Tue 16 Feb 13:23:36 UTC 2021 (1613481816)
    LATEST: Thu 29 Apr 16:11:25 UTC 2021 (1619712685)
   RELEASE: default (/lib/firmware/raspberrypi/bootloader/default)
            Use raspi-config to change the release.

  VL805_FW: Using bootloader EEPROM
     VL805: up to date
   CURRENT: 000138a1
    LATEST: 000138a1

The ouput from rpi-eeprom-update will look like this if the firmware is up to date:

BOOTLOADER: up to date
   CURRENT: Thu 29 Apr 16:11:25 UTC 2021 (1619712685)
    LATEST: Thu 29 Apr 16:11:25 UTC 2021 (1619712685)
   RELEASE: default (/lib/firmware/raspberrypi/bootloader/default)
            Use raspi-config to change the release.

  VL805_FW: Dedicated VL805 EEPROM
     VL805: up to date
   CURRENT: 000138a1
    LATEST: 000138a1

If it says any updates are available they be installed manually by adding ‘-a’ to the end of our previous command like this:

sudo rpi-eeprom-update -a

A reboot is required to apply the changes

Modify Boot Order if needed

Check current boot order configuration with command


The ouput should show as part of the configuration


Which means “Try USB first, followed by SD then repeat”.

Check documentation for details about bootloader configuration.

If the BOOT_ORDER is not set, change it using raspi-config tool executing:

sudo raspi-config
  • Step 1 Select 6. Advanced Options


  • Step 2. Select A6. Boot Order


  • Step 3. Select B2 USB Boot


  • Step 4. Select OK and Finish

  • Step 5. Reboot Raspberry Pi

Headless configuration for Desktop Version: Enable VNC Remote Connect

In case Raspberry PI desktop version is used (i.e. gparted application configuration), VNC remote connection can be enabled.

Using raspi-config tool.

sudo raspi-config
  • Step 1. Enable VNC

    Select Interfacing Options Select VNC For the prompt to enable VNC, select Yes (Y) For the confirmation, select Ok

  • Step 2. Change Change the default screen resolution

    There is a weird quirk where you must change the screen resolution or VNC will report “Cannot currently show the desktop.”

    Still from within raspi-config:

    Select Display on older versions this was under Advanced Options Select Resolution Select anything but the default (example: 1024x768) Select Ok Once you’ve established that it works, you can go back and try other screen resolutions.

  • Step 3. Save raspi-config changes and reboot

    Select Finish For the reboot prompt, select Yes

  • Step 4. Install the RealVNC viewer on your computer, smartphone or tablet Download the RealVNC viewer for your operating system.

    Browse to:

    https://www.realvnc.com/en/connect/download/viewer/ For some operating systems the downloaded file may be an installer that needs to run. If that’s the case, run the installer.

  • Step 5. Connect over VNC Launch the VNC viewer on your computer and type the IP of the Raspberry Pi server into the Connect address bar.

Last Update: Feb 25, 2022