Pxe Network Booting The Raspberry Pi

While developing using Yoctohttps://www.yoctoproject.org/ logo and using a Raspberry Pihttps://www.raspberrypi.org logo 3B+ I was finding it very inefficient to flash an sd card over again. I knew I could leverage the bootloader to network boot but I gladly found out that by using PXE you can network boot without an sd card. For this you will need:

  • A device running Linuxhttps://www.kernel.org/ logo that supports dnsmasq and nfs
  • A compatible Raspberry Pihttps://www.raspberrypi.org logo (see following table)
  • An ethernet connection between the server and the Pi

You can boot multiple Raspberries albeit with some limitations. For the server I will be using my laptop powered by Arch Linuxhttps://www.archlinux.org logo .

Raspberry Pi (client) Setup

The following table summarises the support of your device depending on its model.

Raspberry Pihttps://www.raspberrypi.org logo ModelPXE Support/Configuration
Raspberry Pi 1here
Raspberry Pi 2here
Raspberry Pi 3Bhere
Raspberry Pi 3B+Working out of the box
Raspberry Pi 4here

Server configuration

Install and configure dnsmasq (for DHCP and TFTP) and nfs:

Create the TFTP and NFS root directories and copy over your previously built rootfs and boot files.

Edit cmdline.txt and replace the rootfs parameters with:

Configure nfs-server

Example /etc/exports configuration

Edit /etc/nfs.conf and enable udp, nfsv2 (if needed) and nfsv3 as exemplified:

Configure dnsmasq

PXE, TFTP and DHCP are handed by dnsmasq. Be sure you have control over the network and aren't colliding with existing services. In my case I am using a usb to ethernet converter hooked up to a switch to which I connect the raspberries.

Example /etc/dnsmasq.conf configuration:

Network configuration

Set up your NIC with a static address. If you are using NetworkManager you have a number of front-ends including the cli tools nmcli and nmtui, as an example my network configuration file /etc/NetworkManager/system-connections/usb0.nmconnection looks like:

Final Steps

Restart the services, check their status to make sure there was no configuration error and if it doesn't work you can always fire up wireshark and debug it. If that doesn't help feel free to leave a comment below.


This scheme isn't safe to use with multiple devices without built-in measures to the rootfs. I am curious if this can be dealt with server side, let me know in the comments if you have any idea.