FDT(4) FreeBSD Kernel Interfaces Manual FDT(4)


fdtFlattened Device Tree support


options FDT
makeoptions FDT_DTS_FILE=<board name>.dts


Flattened Device Tree is a mechanism for describing computer hardware resources, which cannot be probed or self enumerated, in a uniform and portable way. The primary consumers of this technology are embedded systems, where a lot of designs are based on similar chips, but have different assignment of pins, memory layout, addresses bindings, interrupts routing and other resources.

Configuration data, which cannot be self discovered in run-time, has to be supplied from external source. The concept of a flattened device tree is a platform and architecture independent approach for resolving such problems. The idea is inherited from Open Firmware IEEE 1275 device-tree notion, and has been successfully adopted by the embedded industry. The scheme works in the following way:

  • Hardware platform resources are manually described in a human readable text source format, where all non self-enumerating information is gathered.
  • This source description is converted (compiled) into a binary object i.e. a flattened device tree blob which is passed to the kernel at boot time.
  • The kernel (driver) learns about hardware resources details and dependencies from this [externally supplied] blob, which eliminates the need for embedding any information about the underlying platform hardware resources in the kernel.
  • The flattened device tree mechanism in principle does not depend on any particular first-stage bootloader or firmware features. The only overall requirement for the environment is to provide a complete device tree description to the kernel.

The fdt layer allows any platform code in the kernel to retrieve information about hardware resources from a unified origin, which brings advantages to the embedded applications (eliminates hard-coded configuration approach, enforces code to be data driven and extensible) leading to easier porting and maintenance.


Device tree source (DTS)
The device tree source is a text file which describes hardware resources of a computer system in a human-readable form, with certain hierarchical structure (a tree). The default location for DTS files in the FreeBSD source repository is sys/boot/fdt/dts directory.
Device tree blob (DTB)
The textual device tree description (DTS file) is first converted (compiled) into a binary object (the device tree blob) i.e. the DTB, which is handed over to the final consumer (typically kernel) for parsing and processing of its contents.
Device tree compiler (DTC)
A utility program executed on the host, which transforms (compiles) a textual description of a device tree (DTS) into a binary object (DTB).
Device tree bindings
While the device tree textual description and the binary object are media to convey the hardware configuration information, an actual meaning and interpretation of the contents are defined by the device tree bindings. They are certain conventions describing definitions (encoding) of particular nodes in a device tree and their properties, allowed values, ranges and so on. Such reference conventions were provided by the legacy Open Firmware bindings, further supplemented by the ePAPR specification.


In order for the system to support fdt it is required that FreeBSD world be built with the WITH_FDT build knob supplied either via src.conf(5) or command line defined with -D.

This creates the user space dtc compiler and enables fdt support in loader(8).


There is a couple of options for managing fdt support at the FreeBSD kernel level.
options FDT
The primary option for enabling fdt support in the kernel. It covers all low-level and infrastructure parts of fdt kernel support, which primarily are the fdtbus(4) and simplebus(4) drivers, as well as helper routines and libraries.
makeoptions FDT_DTS_FILE=<board name>.dts
Specifies a preferred (default) device tree source (DTS) file for a given kernel. The indicated DTS file will be converted (compiled) into a binary form along with building the kernel itself. The DTS file name is relative to the default location of DTS sources i.e. sys/boot/fdt/dts. This makeoption is not mandatory unless FDT_DTB_STATIC is also defined (see below).
Typically, the device tree blob (DTB) is a stand-alone file, physically separate from the kernel, but this option lets statically embed a DTB file into a kernel image. Note that when this is specified the FDT_DTS_FILE makeoption becomes mandatory (as there needs to be a DTS file specified in order to embed it into the kernel image).


IEEE Std 1275: IEEE Standard for Boot (Initialization Configuration) Firmware: Core Requirements and Practices ( Open Firmware).

Power.org Standard for Embedded Power Architecture Platform Requirements ( ePAPR).


The fdt support first appeared in FreeBSD 9.0.


The fdt support was developed by Semihalf under sponsorship from the FreeBSD Foundation. This manual page was written by Rafal Jaworowski.
July 12, 2010 FreeBSD