Latest Debian image for ROCK PI 4 - a complete, stable and thought through solution!

By Celina Xu 4 comments

On the 31st of July the latest Debian Strech arm64 image from RADXA was released.

It is not only rock solid, but has already included and activated all outstanding Rock Pi 4 features - and more.

It provides people with less experience a much faster way to "get started" with ROCK PI 4´s advance features.

Since version 1.4 the Rock Pi 4 is natively equipped with SPI flash which, when activated and flashed, enables the board to boot without SD card, or eMMC directly via the NVMe SSD connected to the PCIe M.2 interface.

Next to the outstanding performance, NVMe SSDs also convince with much better performance (pcie gen2, 4lanes) and of course much longer lifetime.

 If you are a owner of the Rock Pi 4 v1.3 version we have a cool solution for you, to now also be able to use the SPI flash feature.

We provide the SPI flash in our store, the only thing you need to do is solder it on the prearranged solder pads on the bottom side of your Rock Pi 4. If you worry about soldering it yourself, on you can always consult a mobile phone repair shop in your area and ask them to do it for you. (they are usually pretty skilled)

 Once you got this done you are ready to roll!

Please follow the instructions below: (thanks to "jack" @RADXA - we are only quoting here)


1. Boot with uSD card or eMMC module

Download the image from: 14

Write it to uSD card or eMMC module with dd or etcher, attach your NVMe disk to ROCK Pi 4, and boot from uSD card or eMMC module.

2. Write the SPI flash

After boot from eMMC or uSD card, you should have /dev/mtd0 device if your ROCK Pi 4 has SPI flash soldered, run the script to write the bootloader to SPI flash.

    sudo /usr/local/sbin/


 You are currently running on board:
 There will be two steps that you have to confirm. One is upgrading bootloader on SPI Flash.
 The other is upgrading bootloader on eMMC or uSD card.
 Step one: upgrade bootloader on SPI Flash
 One boot device, SPI Flash, is found, would you like to upgrade bootloader on it?
 The installation would cost several minutes.
 If yes, type Y/y. If no, type N/n.

Type Y to confirm. It takes several minutes to erase and write the SPI flash. Have some tea and wait.

3. Write the NVMe disk

Copy the same image you downloaded on your ROCK Pi 4 and dd it to NVMe.

sudo apt-get install pigz
unpigz -p 6 -c /path/to/rockpi4-debian-stretch-desktop-arm64-20190730_2022-gpt.img.gz | sudo dd of=/dev/nvme0n1 bs=4M conv=fsync status=progress 

It should be pretty quick.

4. Boot from SPI + NVMe

Now power off the ROCK Pi 4, remove the eMMC module or uSD card. With NVMe attached and boot.
You should see the green led on first, then red/blue led on, then red/blue led start blink. When blinking, it means it boots the kernel in NVMe.

Tested NVMe SSD

For some reason, some NVMe SSD can be recognized under Linux but failed on bootloader. Here are some models we tested.

Known booting:

  • MaxMemory 128G: boots fine
  • HP EX900: boots fine
  • Kingbank 240G: boots fine
  • Lenovo SL700: boots fine

Known not booting:

  • Samsung EVO 960: it can detect gpt partition in NVMe but failed to load the kernel, no problem formatting or making fs under Linux. Maybe this SSD in our office is somehow defective.


And that is only some of the new things!

When having a look into the also updated " hw_intfc.conf " quite some new and exciting options can be found.

Let us have a closer look into some of the available dtbo´s:

# spi flash on SPI1. Need set: intfc:uart4=off intfc:spi1=on

This setting is needed if you have a soldered SPI flash and plan to boot via NVMe SSD

# PCIE running on GEN2 mode

By default, the PCIe setting is set to GEN1 (because of compatibility issues) which does only utilize 2 PCIe lanes. Changing to GEN2 will use all 4 PCIe lanes available and will get the most out of the available data transmission speed of your SSD.

# hifiberry-dac

Rock Pi 4 does now generically support the hifiberry DAC. For music enthusiasts a long awaited feature..

# setting cpu frequency over-2GHz

We have been contacted a lot by developers who want to get the most out of the RK3399 which now is possible. Activating this feature will raise the clock rate of the CPU to above 2GHz

# ALLNET 4duino B10/B11 two-color-led module on 40-pin Header Pin#35 and Pin#36

The Allnet 40 in 1 sensor kit contains a lot of documentation to the sensors provided. Originally only planned for Arduino these sensors do now also work with Rock Pi

There is more to be found in the configuration file but please note the following:

Once the SPI flash is mounted on the Rock Pi 4, SPI1 is not available for additional accessories anymore. (e.g. there is a 3.5" display which makes use of the SPI1 interface which will not work with the board anymore) 

We hope this information is helpful for you and are looking forward to your feedback - !


  • Soenke M.

    I have an HP EX900 that has been in use for a short time. How should I format and partition the NVMe beforehand?

  • Dave Simmons

    Are their pictures available that show the spi flash chip installed on the board?


  • Norbert

    Yes, this procedure is still needed. It includes the steps of flashing the u-boot on to the onboard SPI chip. Without that, Rock Pi 4 v1.4 will not boot from a connected NVMe SSD with e.g. a Debian image.

  • Fabian L. Serrano

    Since version 1.4 the Rock Pi 4 is natively equipped with SPI flash which, when activated and flashed, enables the board to boot without SD card, or eMMC directly via the NVMe SSD connected to the PCIe M.2 interface.
    If I buy the v1.4 rockpi 4, do I still need the above procedure in order to boot directly with nvme?

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