Dec 07, 2015

Resizing first FAT32 partition to microSD card size on boot from Raspberry Pi

One other thing I've needed to do recently is to have Raspberry Pi OS resize its /boot FAT32 partition to full card size (i.e. "make it as large as possible") from right underneath itself.

RPis usually have first FAT (fat16 / fat32 / vfat) partition needed by firmware to load config.txt and uboot stuff off, and that is the only partition one can see in Windows OS when plugging microSD card into card-reader (which is a kinda arbitrary OS limitation).

Map of the usual /dev/mmcblk0 on RPi (as seen in parted):

Number  Start   End     Size    Type     File system  Flags
        32.3kB  1049kB  1016kB           Free Space
 1      1049kB  106MB   105MB   primary  fat16        lba
 2      106MB   1887MB  1782MB  primary  ext4

Resizing that first partition is naturally difficult, as it is followed by ext4 one with RPi's OS, but when you want to have small (e.g. <2G) and easy-to-write "rpi.img" file for any microSD card, there doesn't seem to be a way around that - img have to have as small initial partitions as possible to fit on any card.

Things get even more complicated by the fact that there don't seem to be any tools around for resizing FAT fs'es, so it has to be re-created from scratch.

There is quite an easy way around all these issues however, which can be summed-up as a sequence of the following steps:

  • Start while rootfs is mounted read-only or when it can be remounted as such, i.e. on early boot.

    Before=systemd-remount-fs.service local-fs-pre.target in systemd terms.

  • Grab sfdisk/parted map of the microSD and check if there's "Free Space" chunk left after last (ext4/os) partition.

    If there is, there's likely a lot of it, as SD cards increase in 2x size factors, so 4G image written on larger card will have 4+ gigs there, in fact a lot more for 16G or 32G cards.

    Or there can be only a few megs there, in case of matching card size, where it's usually a good idea to make slightly smaller images, as actual cards do vary in size a bit.

  • "dd" whole rootfs to the end of the microSD card.

    This is safe with read-only rootfs, and dumb "dd" approach to copying it (as opposed to dmsetup + mkfs + cp) seem to be simpliest and least error-prone.

  • Update partition table to have rootfs in the new location (at the very end of the card) and boot partition covering rest of the space.

  • Initiate reboot, so that OS will load from the new rootfs location.

  • Starting on early-boot again, remount rootfs rw if necessary, temporary copy all contents of boot partition (which should still be small) to rootfs.

  • Run mkfs.vfat on the new large boot partition and copy stuff back to it from rootfs.

  • Reboot once again, in case whatever boot timeouts got triggered.

  • Avoid running same thing on all subsequent boots.

    E.g. touch /etc/boot-resize-done and have ConditionPathExists=!/etc/boot-resize-done in the systemd unit file.

That should do it \o/

resize-rpi-fat32-for-card (in fgtk repo) is a script I wrote to do all of this stuff, exactly as described.

systemd unit file for the thing (can also be printed by running script with "--print-systemd-unit" option):

[Unit]
DefaultDependencies=no
After=systemd-fsck-root.service
Before=systemd-remount-fs.service -.mount local-fs-pre.target local-fs.target
ConditionPathExists=!/etc/boot-resize-done

[Service]
Type=oneshot
RemainAfterExit=yes
ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/resize-rpi-fat32-for-card

[Install]
WantedBy=local-fs.target

It does use lsblk -Jnb JSON output to get rootfs device and partition, and get whether it's mounted read-only, then parted -ms /dev/... unit B print free to grab machine-readable map of the device.

sfdisk -J (also JSON output) could've been better option than parted (extra dep, which is only used to get that one map), except it doesn't conveniently list "free space" blocks and device size, pity.

If partition table doesn't have extra free space at the end, "fsstat" tool from sleuthkit is used to check whether FAT filesystem covers whole partition and needs to be resized.

After that, and only if needed, either "dd + sfdisk" or "cp + mkfs.vfat + cp back" sequence gets executed, followed by a reboot command.

Extra options for the thing:

  • "--skip-ro-check" - don't bother checkin/forcing read-only rootfs before "dd" step, which should be fine, if there's no activity there (e.g. early boot).

  • "--done-touch-file" - allows to specify location of file to create (if missing) when "no resize needed" state gets reached.

    Script doesn't check whether this file exists and always does proper checks of partition table and "fsstat" when deciding whether something has to be done, only creates the file at the end (if it doesn't exist already).

  • "--overlay-image" uses splash.go tool that I've mentioned earlier (be sure to compile it first, ofc) to set some "don't panic, fs resize in progress" image (resized/centered and/or with text and background) during the whole process, using RPi's OpenVG GPU API, covering whatever console output.

  • Misc other stuff for setup/debug - "--print-systemd-unit", "--debug", "--reboot-delay".

    Easy way to debug the thing with these might be to add StandardOutput=tty to systemd unit's Service section and ... --debug --reboot-delay 60 options there, or possibly adding extra ExecStart=/bin/sleep 60 after the script (and changing its ExecStart= to ExecStart=-, so delay will still happen on errors).

    This should provide all the info on what's happening in the script (has plenty of debug output) to the console (one on display or UART).

One more link to the script: resize-rpi-fat32-for-card

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