Installing Fedora 32 Server onto a Raspberry Pi 4

Installing Fedora 32 Server onto a Raspberry Pi 4

A guide to the manual installataion of Fedora 32 Server onto a Raspberry Pi 4 with UEFI booting from a USB mass storage device.

This guide aims to install Fedora Server without any modification to packages, custom builds of kernels, or other changes to the default install of Fedora. In order to accomplish this, a build of UEFI that is specific to the Raspberry Pi 4 will be used.

Note that the instructions in this guide may be adjusted for usage of other Anaconda-based installer images, such as Fedora Silverblue. For installation of Fedora 32 variants that are provided as a raw image, refer to my next guide: Installing Fedora 32 Workstation onto a Raspberry Pi 4.

For a more automated installation that transplants the Raspbian kernel – and later uses custom kernel builds instead of UEFI – refer to Miki Shapiro’s guide to installing Fedora using Ansible.

  1. Required Materials
  2. Prepare the Raspberry Pi
  3. Prepare Target Drive
    1. Partition target drive
    2. Format partition for UEFI
    3. Unpack UEFI onto the drive
  4. Prepare Installer Drive
  5. Perform Installation
    1. A note about UEFI’s RAM limiter
    2. Boot Fedora installer and perform installation
    3. First login
    4. Install updated kernel
    5. Configure UEFI to disable the RAM limiter
  6. Recommended Next Steps
    1. Set hostname
    2. Update packages

Required Materials

This guide will use the following items:

  1. Raspberry Pi 41 and required peripherals
    • USB-C power adapter/cord
    • Display
    • Keyboard
    • Mouse (optional, for use in the Anaconda installer GUI)
  2. Target USB drive1 with total capacity of at least 4 GiB
  3. Installer USB drive with total capacity of at least 2 GiB
  4. Another host computer with the following programs installed. These come standard in most Linux and Unix-like distributions:
    • sudo (or other means of acquiring permissions for direct read-write access of storage devices)
    • fdisk
    • mkfs.vfat
    • dd
    • unzip
  5. The following files downloaded:

Prepare the Raspberry Pi

In preparation for installation, set the Raspberry Pi up with appropriate display and peripherals. Remove any existing SD card, and ensure keyboard and mouse are plugged into the black USB 2.0 ports. (This will reserve the blue USB 3.0 ports for the data drives.)

Leave the Pi unpowered for now. It will be powered up once the USB drives have been prepared and inserted into the USB 3.0 ports.

Prepare Target Drive

Prior to installing Fedora Server onto the Raspberry Pi 4, the target drive needs to be set up with a new partition table. The only thing that will be installed by the host system onto the drive will be UEFI; installation of Fedora will happen once the drive is running with the Raspberry Pi 4.

Partition target drive

Start by inserting the target drive into the host computer, ensuring any existing partitions are unmounted, and creating a new partition table.

In this example, the device /dev/sdb is used. The device may differ on your own system; be absolutely sure that it is correct before writing partition table modifications.

[robert@host ~]$ sudo fdisk /dev/sdb
[sudo] password for robert:

Welcome to fdisk (util-linux 2.35.2).
Changes will remain in memory only, until you decide to write them.
Be careful before using the write command.


Command (m for help): o
Created a new DOS disklabel with disk identifier 0x3b6d0995.

Creating a new partition table on /dev/sdb

After creating the new partition table, create the first and only new partition. This partition will hold the UEFI system on a FAT32 filesystem. This partition can be pretty small; in the example, I am giving it 2 GiB so that I’ll have plenty of space for storing screenshots from UEFI.

The minimum size will be close to 128 MiB. It needs to be large enough to hold the updated kernel packages in addition to the UEFI system.

Command (m for help): n
Partition type
   p   primary (0 primary, 0 extended, 4 free)
   e   extended (container for logical partitions)
Select (default p):

Using default response p.
Partition number (1-4, default 1):
First sector (2048-120176639, default 2048):
Last sector, +/-sectors or +/-size{K,M,G,T,P} (2048-120176639, default 120176639): +2G

Created a new partition 1 of type 'Linux' and of size 2 GiB.

Command (m for help): t
Selected partition 1
Hex code (type L to list all codes): c
Changed type of partition 'Linux' to 'W95 FAT32 (LBA)'.

Creating a partition for FAT32 data

When happy with the new partition structure, write the new partition table to the target drive.

Again, be absolutely sure that the correct device has been specified when entering fdisk; otherwise, data loss on your host system may occur.

Command (m for help): w
The partition table has been altered.
Calling ioctl() to re-read partition table.
Syncing disks.

Writing the new partition table to the disk

Format partition for UEFI

Once the new partition table has been created, create a new FAT32 filesystem on the new partition.

The example here displays /dev/sdb1. As above, this device may differ on your own system. Be sure that this device is correct before running this command; otherwise, data loss may occur on your host system.

[robert@host ~]$ sudo mkfs.vfat -v -F 32 -n UEFI /dev/sdb1
mkfs.fat 4.1 (2017-01-24)
/dev/sdb1 has 64 heads and 32 sectors per track,
hidden sectors 0x0800;
logical sector size is 512,
using 0xf8 media descriptor, with 4194304 sectors;
drive number 0x80;
filesystem has 2 32-bit FATs and 8 sectors per cluster.
FAT size is 4088 sectors, and provides 523262 clusters.
There are 32 reserved sectors.
Volume ID is c11a68c3, volume label UEFI       .

Creating a new FAT32 filesystem

Unpack UEFI onto the drive

Before UEFI can be unpacked onto the new filesystem, the filesystem must be mounted.

The mount point is arbitrary; feel free to adjust to one of your own liking

As before, the example uses a device of /dev/sdb1. Make sure the command you use matches the device on your own system.

[robert@host ~]$ sudo mkdir /mnt/rpi-uefi
[robert@host ~]$ sudo mount /dev/sdb1 /mnt/rpi-uefi
[robert@host ~]$ cd /mnt/rpi-uefi

Mounting and changing directory into the new FAT32 filesystem

Now that the new filesystem is mounted, unpack Raspberry Pi 4 UEFI into it:

[robert@host rpi-uefi]$ sudo unzip ~/Downloads/RPi4_UEFI_Firmware_v1.19.zip
Archive:  /var/home/robert/Downloads/RPi4_UEFI_Firmware_v1.19.zip
  inflating: RPI_EFI.fd
  inflating: Readme.md
  inflating: bcm2711-rpi-4-b.dtb
  inflating: config.txt
  inflating: fixup4.dat
  inflating: overlays/miniuart-bt.dtbo
  inflating: start4.elf

Unpacking UEFI into the new filesystem

As a personal preference, I disable the rainbow splash screen that is displayed by the Raspberry Pi’s bootloader. With the latest Pi bootloader, some boot information is displayed first, followed by the UEFI splash screen. Inserting a rainbow square between those two screens seems redundant.

This command is optional:

[robert@host rpi-uefi]$ echo "disable_splash=1" | sudo tee -a config.txt
disable_splash=1

Disabling the Raspberry Pi’s rainbow splash screen

In addition to UEFI, also copy the updated kernel packages to the UEFI partition. This will assist in updating the kernel later, as the kernel that gets installed with Fedora 32 does not support the Raspberry Pi ethernet interface. Updates to the kernel do support the Raspberry Pi hardware.

robert@host rpi-uefi]$ sudo cp -v ~/Downloads/kernel-*.fc32.aarch64.rpm .
'/var/home/robert/Downloads/kernel-5.8.4-200.fc32.aarch64.rpm' -> './kernel-5.8.4-200.fc32.aarch64.rpm'
'/var/home/robert/Downloads/kernel-core-5.8.4-200.fc32.aarch64.rpm' -> './kernel-core-5.8.4-200.fc32.aarch64.rpm'
'/var/home/robert/Downloads/kernel-modules-5.8.4-200.fc32.aarch64.rpm' -> './kernel-modules-5.8.4-200.fc32.aarch64.rpm'

Copying updated kernel packages to the target USB drive

Now that UEFI is installed, unmount the target drive and clean up the directory that it was mounted on:

[robert@host rpi-uefi]$ cd -
/var/home/robert
[robert@host ~]$ sudo umount /mnt/rpi-uefi/
[robert@host ~]$ sudo rmdir /mnt/rpi-uefi/

Unmount of target USB drive and clean up of host mount directory

The target drive is now ready. Remove it from the host computer and plug it into one of the unpowered Pi’s blue USB 3.0 ports.

Prepare Installer Drive

Now plug the installer drive into the host computer. As with the target drive, ensure that any existing partitions are unmounted before continuing.

To set up the installer, do a direct write from ISO to drive.

As with partitioning the target drive, this example command will copy directly to /dev/sdb. This command must be updated to reflect your system layout and to point to the correct drive; otherwise, data loss may occur on the host computer.

[robert@host ~]$ sudo dd of=/dev/sdb if=~/Downloads/Fedora-Server-dvd-aarch64-32-1.6.iso bs=4M conv=nocreat,notrunc status=progress
1962934272 bytes (2.0 GB, 1.8 GiB) copied, 15 s, 131 MB/s
472+1 records in
472+1 records out
1981200384 bytes (2.0 GB, 1.8 GiB) copied, 52.3175 s, 37.9 MB/s

Copying Fedora 32 Server installer to installer USB drive

Once the write has completed, remove the drive from the host computer and plug it into the second blue USB 3.0 port of the unpowered Raspberry Pi 4.

Perform Installation

The Raspberry Pi 4 is now ready to be powered on and Fedora installed.

A note about UEFI’s RAM limiter

For Raspberry Pi 4s with 4gb or 8gb of RAM, UEFI is configured by default to limit the RAM reported to the operating system to 3gb. This is due to a hardware limitation of the Raspberry Pi 4 combined with a kernel bug that only recognizes DMA address limitations for PCI devices. The bug was resolved in Linux kernel 5.8.

To work around this issue with the Fedora 32 installer (which is based upon kernel 5.6), the RAM limit should be left enabled. If it is disabled, xHCI USB will fail and USB will be unusable. This setting can be disabled after installation is complete and the updated kernel is installed.

Boot Fedora installer and perform installation

With display cord, keyboard, mouse, target USB, and installer USB all plugged into the Raspberry Pi, it is ready to power up. Connect power and the Pi will perform a few stages of booting: first the Pi bootloader, followed by UEFI, and then GRUB.

At the GRUB selection screen, choose Install Fedora 32 (as of this writing, the option to Test this media & install Fedora 32 would give errors and fail):

GRUB menu for Fedora 32 Installer

Install Fedora 32 selected from GRUB menu running from the Fedora Installer USB drive

Once the system boots, go through the standard flow to install Fedora 32 Server. Details for installing Fedora 32 can be found at the official Fedora 32 Install Guide.

Please note the following items:

Installation Destination will only list the target USB drive. The installer USB will not be listed or available to select.

Networking will not be available at this point in the installation. The updated kernel will be installed after base Fedora 32 Server installation has completed, and networking will become available with the updated kernel.

First login

Once installation has completed, remove the installer USB drive and reboot the Raspberry Pi 4. The installer drive will not be used in this guide again. After a short while, the Raspberry Pi will boot into a textual login prompt. Log in at this prompt to prepare for updating the kernel.

Fedora 32 (Server Edition)
Kernel 5.6.6-300.fc32.aarch64 on an aarch64 (tty1)

Web console: https://localhost:9090/

localhost login: robert
Password:

Logging into the freshly installed Fedora 32 Server

This login must be performed locally because the kernel on a fresh Fedora 32 installation does not have working drivers for the network interface.

Install updated kernel

Mount the UEFI partition to get access to the kernel, kernel-core, and kernel-modules RPMs that were saved into it from the host computer.

[robert@localhost ~]$ sudo mount /dev/sda1 /mnt

We trust you have received the usual lecture from the local System
Administrator. It usually boils down to these three things:

    #1) Respect the privacy of others.
    #2) Think before you type.
    #3) With great power comes great responsibility.

[sudo] password for robert:

Mounting the UEFI firmware partition

Now that the partition is accessible, install the updated kernel RPMs.

The rpm -U flag is NOT to be used, as the updated kernel should be installed alongside the original kernel.

[robert@localhost ~]$ sudo rpm -v -i /mnt/kernel-*.aarch64.rpm
Verifying packages...
Preparing packages...
kernel-core-5.8.4-200.fc32.aarch64
kernel-modules-5.8.4-200.fc32.aarch64
kernel-5.8.4-200.fc32.aarch64

Installing the updated kernel

Once the packages have been installed, it is no longer necessary to retain them on the UEFI partition. They can be removed:

[robert@localhost ~]$ sudo rm /mnt/kernel-*.aarch64.rpm

Removing package files from UEFI partition

After the updated kernel has been installed, reboot the system.

[robert@localhost ~]$ systemctl reboot

Rebooting Fedora

Configure UEFI to disable the RAM limiter

This step is optional and will only impact Raspberry Pi models with more than 3gb of RAM.

When the Raspberry Pi UEFI splash screen shows during boot, press ESC to enter the UEFI main menu.

From the main menu, select Device Manager:

Raspberry Pi UEFI Main Menu

Device Manager selected on the Raspberry Pi UEFI Main Menu

Then select Raspberry Pi Configuration for settings specific to the Raspberry Pi:

Raspberry Pi UEFI Device Manager

Raspberry Pi Configuration selected on the Raspberry Pi UEFI Device Manager Menu

From the Raspberry Pi-specific configuration menu select Advanced Configuration:

Raspberry Pi UEFI Raspberry Pi Configuration

Selecting Advanced Configuration from the Raspberry Pi-specific UEFI Menu

Finally, change the RAM limit option menu for options specific to the Raspberry Pi:

Raspberry Pi UEFI Advanced Configuration

Changing the Limit RAM to 3 GB option in the Advanced Configuration UEFI menu

Once completed, press F10 and then Y to save the changes. Then return back to the main menu through a series of ESC and select the Reset option.

When the Raspberry Pi boots up again, the UEFI-imposed RAM limit will be disabled and Fedora will have full access to the RAM.

Congratulations! Your new installation of Fedora 32 Server has been installed and is ready for use.

The following are recommended but optional steps for the new installation.

Set hostname

To set a static hostname on the fresh install, perform the following command.

Change rpi4.localdomain to the desired hostname for the new installation.

[robert@localhost ~]$ sudo hostnamectl set-hostname --static rpi4.localdomain

Setting the hostname to rpi4.localdomain

Update packages

By the completion of the install, only the kernel has been updated. It is highly recommended to update the rest of the system now that the Raspberry Pi has a working network interface:

[robert@localhost ~]$ sudo dnf update -y

Updating Fedora 32 on the new installation

The update process will take several minutes depending upon the speed of internet available. Go order and enjoy a pizza while you wait.

  1. In order to use a USB drive as the boot device for a Raspberry Pi 4, the Pi must have a recent-enough bootloader to boot from Mass Storage Devices. More information – including instructions for updating the bootloader – can be found in the official Raspberry Pi bootloader documentation.

     

    As an alternative, UEFI can be installed onto an SD card; however, as of writing, the Raspberry Pi 4 UEFI project does not support accessing the SD card once it has started. In other words, the UEFI partition will not be accessible for updating UEFI or for UEFI’s feature to store screenshots. Because of these limitations, this guide only covers booting completely from USB. ↩︎ ↩︎2

  2. This guide uses Fedora 32 Server as the operating system to be installed. Any variant of Fedora 32 should work as long as the architecture is aarch64, the image performs an installation via Anaconda or similar tool, and the installer does not require network access.

     

    Network installs do not work because the kernel used in the Fedora 32 installer is too old to recognize the Raspberry Pi 4’s network interface. As such, netinst will not be able to get network access to complete installation.

     

    An example of one alternate operating system that matches the criteria is Fedora 32 Silverblue (homepage). Note that Silverblue should use rpm-ostree install instead of rpm -i when installing the updated kernel in this guide. ↩︎

  3. Recent kernel RPMs can be searched on the Fedora Updates System. Stable builds are recommended; for example: kernel-5.8.4-200.fc32 ↩︎