Project maintainers


Name: spi_boot
Created: Feb 8, 2005
Updated: Aug 19, 2009
SVN Updated: Apr 1, 2009
SVN: Browse
Latest version: download (might take a bit to start...)
Statistics: View
Bugs: 3 reported / 3 solved
Star2you like it: star it!

Other project properties

Category:Communication controller
Development status:Stable
Additional info:Design done, FPGA proven
WishBone compliant: No
WishBone version: n/a
License: GPL


The SD/MMC Bootloader is a CPLD design that manages configuration and bootstrapping of FPGAs. It is able to retrieve the required data from SecureDigital (SD) cards or MultiMediaCards (MMC) and manages the FPGA configuration process. SD cards as well as MMCs are operated in SPI mode which is part of both standards thus eliminating the need for dedicated implementations. The SD/MMC Bootloader fits both. Beyond configuration, this core supports a bootstrapping strategy where multiple images are stored on one single memory card.

For example consider a system completely based on SRAM. The bootloader provides the initial configuration data from the first image to the FPGA. This image contains a design which pulls the next image from the memory card and transfers this data to SRAM. In the third step the final FPGA design is loaded from the third image.

These images are clustered in sets which can be selected by external switches for example. Several configuration sets can be stored on one memory card allowing you to provide a number of applications which are downloaded quickly to the FPGA.

The schematic rev. C shows how the core can be used with an FPGA board. I use it to configure/boot the Xilinx Spartan IIe on BurchED's B5-X300 board. SV2 fits the "SERIAL MODE" connector on this board but you will have to add a separate wire from R6 to attach INIT. Please check the proper use of the pull-up resistors for your specific board.


  • Configuration mode: configures SRAM based FPGAs via slave serial mode (Xilinx and Altera)
  • Data mode: provides stored data over a simple synchronous serial interface
  • Broad compatability using SPI mode
  • SecureDigital cards using dedicated initialization command
  • MultiMediaCards (see below)
  • Operation triggerd by power-up or card insertion
  • Multiple configuration sets stored on single memory card


The SD/MMC Bootloader has been successfully implemented in an Altera MAX3064 device. Configuration target in a three stage process was a Xilinx Spartan-IIE XC2S300E. The CPLD design requires 50 out of 64 macro cells.


The following tools are integrated and are required for this project:

  • The GHDL simulator

Downloading the configuration data to the card is a straight forward process. The images have to be written starting at dedicated locations. For the provided toplevel designs, these locations are multiples of 256 K. I.e. 0, 0x40000, 0x80000 and so forth.

dd (part of the GNU coreutils) serves this purpose:

  $ dd if=ram_loader.bin of=/dev/sdX bs=512
  $ dd if=pongrom_6.bin of=/dev/sdX bs=512 seek=512
  $ dd if=pacman.bin of=/dev/sdX bs=512 seek=1024

The name of the device node depends on how the card reader is attached to the kernel. For Linux systems this is most often something like /dev/sdX with X ranging from a-z. Please note that it is essential to use the device without any trailing numbers as they refer to partitions leading to wrong offsets for data written to the card.

All this works perfectly for my Spartan IIe device as this FPGA expects the configuration data as it is delivered from the card: Consecutive bytes each with its most significant bit first. Altera devices like the FLEX family are different here. They expect the bytes with least significant bit first. Therefore, the configuration data has to be swapped bitwise before it is written to the card.


The latest release of the SD/MMC Bootloader project is version 3.2, rev. C.

Get this and all previous versions of the design files from SVN: Download repository.

Please keep in mind that trunk/ is work in progress and might contain smaller or bigger problems.

You should also check the Tracker for known bugs and see if they affect your work.



These cards have been tested with the SD/MMC Bootloader:

  • Hama 64 MB SD
  • SanDisk 128 MB SD
  • SanDisk 64 MB MMC
  • Panasonic 32 MB SD

Some MMC might fail with this core as not all cards support CMD18 (READ_MULTIPLE_BLOCK). Please consult the data sheet of your specific model. In case your MMC does not implement CMD18 you might want to have a look at the FPGA MMC-Card Config project.