EFI system partition

From ArchWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The EFI system partition (also called ESP) is an OS independent partition that acts as the storage place for the EFI bootloaders, applications and drivers to be launched by the UEFI firmware. It is mandatory for UEFI boot.

Tango-go-next.pngThis article or section is a candidate for moving to Unified Extensible Firmware Interface#UEFI drivers.Tango-go-next.png

Notes: Drivers for non-FAT file systems are out of scope of this article. (Discuss in Talk:EFI system partition)

The UEFI specification mandates support for the FAT12, FAT16, and FAT32 file systems (see UEFI specification version 2.8, section, but any conformant vendor can optionally add support for additional file systems; for example, the firmware in Apple Macs supports the HFS+ file system.

Check for an existing partition

If you are installing Arch Linux on an UEFI-capable computer with an installed operating system, like Windows 10 for example, it is very likely that you already have an EFI system partition.

To find out the disk partition scheme and the system partition, use fdisk as root on the disk you want to boot from:

# fdisk -l /dev/sdx

The command returns:

  • The disk's partition table: it indicates Disklabel type: gpt if the partition table is GPT or Disklabel type: dos if it is MBR.
  • The list of partitions on the disk: Look for the EFI system partition in the list, it is usually at least 100 MiB in size and has the type EFI System or EFI (FAT-12/16/32). To confirm this is the ESP, mount it and check whether it contains a directory named EFI, if it does this is definitely the ESP.
Tip: To find out whether it is a FAT12, FAT16 or FAT32 file system, follow FAT#Detecting FAT type.
Warning: When dual-booting, avoid reformatting the ESP, as it may contain files required to boot other operating systems.

If you found an existing EFI system partition, simply proceed to #Mount the partition. If you did not find one, you will need to create it, proceed to #Create the partition.

Create the partition

The following two sections show how to create an EFI system partition (ESP).

Warning: The EFI system partition must be a physical partition in the main partition table of the disk, not under LVM or software RAID etc.
Note: It is recommended to use GPT since some firmwares might not support UEFI/MBR booting due to it not being supported by Windows Setup. See also Partitioning#Choosing between GPT and MBR for the advantages of GPT in general.

To provide adequate space for storing boot loaders and other files required for booting, and to prevent interoperability issues with other operating systems[1][2] the partition should be at least 260 MiB. For early and/or buggy UEFI implementations the size of at least 512 MiB might be needed.[3]

GPT partitioned disks

EFI system partition on a GUID Partition Table is identified by the partition type GUID C12A7328-F81F-11D2-BA4B-00A0C93EC93B.

Choose one of the following methods to create an ESP for a GPT partitioned disk:

  • fdisk: Create a partition with partition type EFI System.
  • gdisk: Create a partition with partition type EF00.
  • GNU Parted: Create a partition with fat32 as the file system type and set the esp flag on it.

Proceed to #Format the partition section below.

MBR partitioned disks

EFI system partition on a Master Boot Record partition table is identified by the partition type ID EF.

Choose one of the following methods to create an ESP for a MBR partitioned disk:

  • fdisk: Create a primary partition with partition type EFI (FAT-12/16/32).
  • GNU Parted: Create a primary partition with fat32 as the file system type and set the esp flag on it.

Proceed to #Format the partition section below.

Format the partition

The UEFI specification mandates support for the FAT12, FAT16, and FAT32 file systems[4]. To prevent potential issues with other operating systems and also since the UEFI specification only mandates supporting FAT16 and FAT12 on removable media[5], it is recommended to use FAT32.

After creating the partition, format it as FAT32. To use the mkfs.fat utility, install dosfstools.

# mkfs.fat -F32 /dev/sdxY

If you get the message WARNING: Not enough clusters for a 32 bit FAT!, reduce cluster size with mkfs.fat -s2 -F32 ... or -s1; otherwise the partition may be unreadable by UEFI. See mkfs.fat(8) for supported cluster sizes.

Mount the partition

The kernels, initramfs files, and, in most cases, the processor's microcode, need to be accessible by the boot loader or UEFI itself to successfully boot the system. Thus if you want to keep the setup simple, your boot loader choice limits the available mount points for EFI system partition.

Typical mount points

The simplest scenarios for mounting EFI system partition are:

  • mount ESP to /efi and use a boot loader which is capable of accessing the kernel(s) and initramfs image(s) that are stored elsewhere (typically /boot). See Arch boot process#Boot loader for more information on boot loader requirements and capabilities.
  • mount ESP to /boot. This is the preferred method when directly booting an EFISTUB kernel from UEFI or booting it via a boot manager like systemd-boot.
  • mount ESP to /efi and additionally mount an "Extended Boot Loader Partition" (XBOOTLDR) to /boot. This can be useful when a previously created ESP is too small to hold multiple boot loaders and/or kernels but the ESP cannot be easily resized (such as when installing Linux after Windows to dual boot). This method is supported by at least systemd-boot.
  • /efi is a replacement[6] for the previously popular (and possibly still used by other Linux distributions) ESP mountpoint /boot/efi.
  • The /efi directory is not available by default, you will need to first create it with mkdir(1) before mounting the ESP to it.

Alternative mount points

If you do not use one of the simple methods from #Typical mount points, you will need to copy your boot files to ESP (referred to hereafter as esp).

# mkdir -p esp/EFI/arch
# cp -a /boot/vmlinuz-linux esp/EFI/arch/
# cp -a /boot/initramfs-linux.img esp/EFI/arch/
# cp -a /boot/initramfs-linux-fallback.img esp/EFI/arch/
Note: You may also need to copy the Microcode to the boot-entry location.

Furthermore, you will need to keep the files on the ESP up-to-date with later kernel updates. Failure to do so could result in an unbootable system. The following sections discuss several mechanisms for automating it.

Note: If ESP is not mounted to /boot, make sure to not rely on the systemd automount mechanism (including that of systemd-gpt-auto-generator(8)). Always have it mounted manually prior to any system or kernel update, otherwise you may not be able to mount it after the update, locking you in the currently running kernel with no ability to update the copy of kernel on ESP.

Alternatively preload the required kernel modules on boot, e.g.:


Using bind mount

Instead of mounting the ESP itself to /boot, you can mount a directory of the ESP to /boot using a bind mount (see mount(8)). This allows pacman to update the kernel directly while keeping the ESP organized to your liking.

Note: This requires a kernel and bootloader compatible with FAT32. This is not an issue for a regular Arch install, but could be problematic for other distributions (namely those that require symlinks in /boot/). See the forum post [7].

Just like in #Alternative mount points, copy all boot files to a directory on your ESP, but mount the ESP outside /boot. Then bind mount the directory:

# mount --bind esp/EFI/arch /boot

After verifying success, edit your Fstab to make the changes persistent:

esp/EFI/arch /boot none defaults,bind 0 0

Using systemd

Systemd features event triggered tasks. In this particular case, the ability to detect a change in path is used to sync the EFISTUB kernel and initramfs files when they are updated in /boot/. The file watched for changes is initramfs-linux-fallback.img since this is the last file built by mkinitcpio, to make sure all files have been built before starting the copy. The systemd path and service files to be created are:

Description=Copy EFISTUB Kernel to EFI system partition


Description=Copy EFISTUB Kernel to EFI system partition

ExecStart=/usr/bin/cp -af /boot/vmlinuz-linux esp/EFI/arch/
ExecStart=/usr/bin/cp -af /boot/initramfs-linux.img esp/EFI/arch/
ExecStart=/usr/bin/cp -af /boot/initramfs-linux-fallback.img esp/EFI/arch/

Then enable and start efistub-update.path.

Tip: For Secure Boot with your own keys, you can set up the service to also sign the image using sbsigntools:
ExecStart=/usr/bin/sbsign --key /path/to/db.key --cert /path/to/db.crt --output esp/EFI/arch/vmlinuz-linux /boot/vmlinuz-linux

Using filesystem events

Filesystem events can be used to run a script syncing the EFISTUB Kernel after kernel updates. An example with incron follows.

cp -af /boot/vmlinuz-linux esp/EFI/arch/
cp -af /boot/initramfs-linux.img esp/EFI/arch/
cp -af /boot/initramfs-linux-fallback.img esp/EFI/arch/
Note: The first parameter /boot/initramfs-linux-fallback.img is the file to watch. The second parameter IN_CLOSE_WRITE is the action to watch for. The third parameter /usr/local/bin/efistub-update is the script to execute.
/boot/initramfs-linux-fallback.img IN_CLOSE_WRITE /usr/local/bin/efistub-update

In order to use this method, enable the incrond.service.

Using mkinitcpio hook

Mkinitcpio can generate a hook that does not need a system level daemon to function. It spawns a background process which waits for the generation of vmlinuz, initramfs-linux.img, and initramfs-linux-fallback.img before copying the files.

Add efistub-update to the list of hooks in /etc/mkinitcpio.conf.

#!/usr/bin/env bash
build() {
	/usr/local/bin/efistub-copy $$ &

help() {
	cat <<HELPEOF
This hook waits for mkinitcpio to finish and copies the finished ramdisk and kernel to the ESP
#!/usr/bin/env bash

if [[ $1 -gt 0 ]]
	while [ -e /proc/$1 ]
		sleep .5

rsync -a /boot/ esp/

echo "Synced /boot with ESP"

Using mkinitcpio preset

As the presets in /etc/mkinitcpio.d/ support shell scripting, the kernel and initramfs can be copied by just editing the presets.

Replacing the above mkinitcpio hook

Edit the file /etc/mkinitcpio.d/linux.preset:

# mkinitcpio preset file for the 'linux' package

# Directory to copy the kernel, the initramfs...

cp -af /boot/vmlinuz-linux "${ESP_DIR}/"
[[ -e /boot/intel-ucode.img ]] && cp -af /boot/intel-ucode.img "${ESP_DIR}/"
[[ -e /boot/amd-ucode.img ]] && cp -af /boot/amd-ucode.img "${ESP_DIR}/"

PRESETS=('default' 'fallback')


fallback_options="-S autodetect"

To test that, just run:

# rm /boot/initramfs-linux-fallback.img /boot/initramfs-linux.img
# mkinitcpio -p linux
Another example
cp -f "/boot/vmlinuz-linux$suffix" "$ESP_DIR/"
source /etc/mkinitcpio.d/linux.preset

Using pacman hook

A last option relies on the pacman hooks that are run at the end of the transaction.

The first file is a hook that monitors the relevant files, and it is run if they were modified in the former transaction.

Type = Path
Operation = Install
Operation = Upgrade
Target = usr/lib/modules/*/vmlinuz
Target = usr/lib/initcpio/*
Target = boot/*-ucode.img

Description = Copying linux and initramfs to EFI directory...
When = PostTransaction
Exec = /usr/local/bin/kernel-efi-copy.sh

The second file is the script itself. Create the file and make it executable:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
# Copy kernel and initramfs images to EFI directory


for file in /boot/vmlinuz*
        cp -af "$file" "$ESP_DIR/$(basename "$file").efi"
        [[ $? -ne 0 ]] && exit 1

for file in /boot/initramfs*
        cp -af "$file" "$ESP_DIR/"
        [[ $? -ne 0 ]] && exit 1

[[ -e /boot/intel-ucode.img ]] && cp -af /boot/intel-ucode.img "$ESP_DIR/"
[[ -e /boot/amd-ucode.img ]] && cp -af /boot/amd-ucode.img "$ESP_DIR/"

exit 0


ESP on software RAID1

It is possible to make the ESP part of a RAID1 array, but doing so brings the risk of data corruption, and further considerations need to be taken when creating the ESP. See [8] and [9] for details and UEFI booting and RAID1 for an in-depth guide with a solution.

The key part is to use --metadata 1.0 in order to keep the RAID metadata at the end of the partition, otherwise the firmware will not be able to access it:

# mdadm --create --verbose --level=1 --metadata=1.0 --raid-devices=2 /dev/md/ESP /dev/sdaX /dev/sdbY

Firmware does not see the EFI directory

If you give the FAT file system a volume name (i.e. file system label), be sure to name it something other than EFI. That can trigger a bug in some firmwares (due to the volume name matching the EFI directory name) that will cause the firmware to act like the EFI directory does not exist.

See also