Tinker Board SSD / USB Booting Guide

Tinker Board SSD Booting Guide
Tinker Board SSD Booting Guide

I recently wrote a getting started guide for the Tinker Board as even though the newer models tend to be quite expensive the older models can often be found for a lot cheaper. In this guide we are going to do something more advanced and are going to actually move our root filesystem to a SSD!

I have the original variant (the Tinker Board 1 S) and that is what I will be using for this guide but this should work on all Tinker Boards (including models without the eMMC). The Tinker Board 2 will have faster performance as the USB ports are USB 3.0 vs. USB 2.0 on the original Tinker Board. If you don’t have the S model with the eMMC this method will require a sacrificial SD card to serve as the bootloader.

This is an old method that I first covered for the Raspberry Pi before it supported native USB booting. I’ve also covered it here for the Orange Pi Zero 2. The SD card/eMMC serves as the bootloader but our root filesystem will be on the SSD. This is a fantastic method for any board that doesn’t natively support booting the OS from a USB storage device.

Let’s begin!

Hardware Used

ASUS Tinker Board
ASUS Tinker Board

This is the original version of the Tinker Board. It contains a 1.8GHz Quad Core CPU, a 600MHz Mali-T764 GPU and 2GB DDR3 RAM. Less than half the cost of the new version (on Amazon) and still quite capable.

Links: Amazon.com*, AliExpress.com* (S version)

ASUS Tinker Board 2S
ASUS Tinker Board 2S

This is the fully loaded and newest version version of the board containing a 16GB eMMC as well as 4 GB of RAM. It’s a 6-Core 2.0 GHz Rockchip RK3399 single board computer. Also has Bluetooth 5.0 capabilities.

Links: Amazon.com*, AliExpress.com*

StarTech 2.5" SATA to USB 3.0/3.1 Adapter
StarTech 2.5″ SATA to USB 3.1 Adapter

The StarTech USB 3.1 to 2.5″ SATA adapter is one I have recommended for many years for use with all kinds of devices including the Raspberry Pi, Orange Pi and Tinker Board. It’s widely compatible and works with gaming consoles as well.

Links: Amazon.com*, Amazon.ca*, Amazon.com.au*, Amazon.co.jp*, Amazon.co.uk*, Amazon.de*, Amazon.es*, Amazon.fr*, Amazon.it*, Amazon.nl*, Amazon.pl*, Amazon.se*, Amazon.sg*

Sabrent Powered USB Hub
Sabrent Powered USB 3.0 Hub

The Sabrent powered USB hub delivers a whopping 2.5A of dedicated power for your USB attached devices. It will easily power the most thirsty of setups such as NVMe enclosures.

Links: Amazon.com*, Amazon.ca*, Amazon.com.au*, Amazon.co.uk*, Amazon.es*, Amazon.it*, Amazon.nl*, Amazon.pl*, Amazon.se*

Note: Make sure Amazon doesn’t try to take you to the non-powered version and that it’s the one with the AC adapter that plugs in to provide extra power

Preparing OS Image

I highly recommend using Armbian as the default images from ASUS are pretty outdated and using very old kernels.

We will start with a fully working installation on either your eMMC or your SD card. We will then clone this working installation to your SSD. Once we make a couple of configuration changes it will use eMMC/SD as the bootloader but your root filesystem will be on the SSD.

Install your chosen OS and then log into it using the Tinker Board and fully update it with:

sudo apt update && sudo apt full-upgrade

Reboot to apply updates and then you’re ready to proceed.

Preparing SSD

Now we are going to connect your SSD to the Tinker Board. First we are going to completely remove all partitions from the drive so it’s completely blank. If you only have one drive plugged into the Tinker Board (and nothing else) this should be /dev/sda.

sudo fdisk /dev/sda

Now remove all partitions from the device. If you press “p” it will print out the partitions. Here’s an example on mine:

root@linaro-alip:/dev# sudo fdisk /dev/sda

Welcome to fdisk (util-linux 2.33.1).
Changes will remain in memory only, until you decide to write them.
Be careful before using the write command.


Command (m for help): p
Disk /dev/sda: 232.9 GiB, 250059350016 bytes, 488397168 sectors
Disk model: CT250MX200SSD1  
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 4096 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 4096 bytes / 4096 bytes
Disklabel type: dos
Disk identifier: 0xe8ce0794

Device     Boot Start       End   Sectors   Size Id Type
/dev/sda1        8192 483491839 483483648 230.6G 83 Linux

Command (m for help): d
Selected partition 1
Partition 1 has been deleted.

Command (m for help): w
The partition table has been altered.
Failed to remove partition 1 from system: Device or resource busy

The kernel still uses the old partitions. The new table will be used at the next reboot. 
Syncing disks.

Even though I got the device was busy error after unplugging and replugging the SSD the partition table was clear.

Once the drive is all cleared off you’re ready for the next step.

Cloning Installation to SSD

We’re now ready to clone your installation to the SSD. Whether you are using the SD card or eMMC the root filesystem should currently be /dev/mmcblk0.

We can now copy your drive to the SSD with the following command:

cat /dev/mmcblk0 > /dev/sda

Wait for the operation to complete (there won’t be any output but you will have a cursor again and be able to type new commands).

If you are having any trouble with permissions try becoming “root” first with:

sudo su

Now try running the command again and as the superuser you should not encounter any permission errors.

Change SD card’s UUID

Now unplug the SSD and plug it back in. We need to change our eMMC/SD card’s UUID so that it doesn’t try to boot from that partition. We can set it to a random one with the following command:

sudo tune2fs -O metadata_csum_seed -U random /dev/mmcblk0p1

We can verify that it has changed with blkid like this:

root@tinkerboard:/boot# sudo blkid
/dev/mmcblk0p1: LABEL="armbi_root" UUID="5df8ce50-c757-4c6d-9d08-b1fe646ada7f" BLOCK_SIZE="4096" TYPE="ext4" PARTUUID="a48b971e-01"
/dev/zram0: UUID="6f2bb524-e165-4610-a944-9af0ed295bdb" TYPE="swap"
/dev/zram1: LABEL="log2ram" UUID="40c10aef-ce36-4dd2-89cf-43d49a77a104" BLOCK_SIZE="4096" TYPE="ext4"
/dev/sda1: LABEL="armbi_root" UUID="d4f3fb44-5aa5-49f2-83c4-159fd7f2c2aa" BLOCK_SIZE="4096" TYPE="ext4" PARTUUID="a48b971e-01"

Notice that /dev/sda1 and /dev/mmcblk0p1 no longer have matching UUIDs. This is exactly what we want.

Run fsck

Before we reboot run e2fsck on the drive like this:

sudo e2fsck -yf /dev/sda1

This will prevent you from having to run fsck on the CLI the first time you try to boot.

Reboot and Verify

Now reboot the Tinker Board with:

sudo reboot

With any luck you should be booted using your SSD! We can verify this with the mount command like this:

root@tinkerboard:~# mount
/dev/sda1 on / type ext4 (rw,noatime,errors=remount-ro,commit=600)
/dev/sda1 on /var/log.hdd type ext4 (rw,noatime,errors=remount-ro,commit=600)
/dev/zram1 on /var/log type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard)

Here we can see that our root partition (/) is indeed on /dev/sda and not /dev/mmcblk0. Success!

Testing Performance

You can verify the performance of your SSD on Pi Benchmarks using the following command:

sudo curl https://raw.githubusercontent.com/TheRemote/PiBenchmarks/master/Storage.sh | sudo bash

I ran the benchmark with full knowledge that we were using USB 2.0 and were going to be limited in our score. If you have the Tinker Board 2 then you will likely score significantly higher than me:

Here are the results:

     Category                  Test                      Result     
HDParm                    Disk Read                 34.14 MB/s               
HDParm                    Cached Disk Read          34.33 MB/s               
DD                        Disk Write                32.2 MB/s                
FIO                       4k random read            2658 IOPS (10633 KB/s)   
FIO                       4k random write           2661 IOPS (10647 KB/s)   
IOZone                    4k read                   10661 KB/s               
IOZone                    4k write                  10659 KB/s               
IOZone                    4k random read            10611 KB/s               
IOZone                    4k random write           10663 KB/s               

                          Score: 2,406                                       

You may view the full benchmark for the Tinker Board on Pi Benchmarks here.

To give some context here the maximum score you can achieve over USB 2.0 is something around 2500-2600 points. This is true on Raspberry Pi Model 3s and older which only have USB 2.0 ports. They also max out around the same score.

This is about twice as fast as even the most expensive/fast application class SD cards. That means it is absolutely worth it to use a SSD with the Tinker Board and even more so with the Tinker Board 2!

Conclusion

This will give your Tinker Board a pretty big I/O speed boost and access to much higher performance/capacity storage than the eMMC or SD cards will allow.

You can use either the eMMC or the SD card as the bootloader for this method and your rootfs will be stored on the SSD!

Other Resources

Don’t miss my Tinker Board Getting Started Guide if you haven’t already seen it

The Orange Pi Zero 2 is a great a relatively inexpensive SBC if you are looking for Raspberry Pi alternatives

If you are after screaming fast I/O speeds the ODROID M1 actually has a real M.2 NVMe slot!

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Francois du Toit
Francois du Toit
10 days ago

Hi James,

So yes – you were right – it is a boot partition issue…..
The device uses the PARTUUID (see below) – So I assume if I change the PARTUUID of the original root partition it should use my SSD as the PARTUUID of my SSD will be the original one….
Does seem a bit harder to change the PARTUUID – but will give it a go. Will let you know if this works.

fdt_addr=0x43000000
image=Image
script=boot.scr
mmc_root="PARTUUID=70672ec3-5eee-49ff-b3b1-eb1fbd406bf5"
sd_root="/dev/mmcblk1p2"

# Check boot device to decide which root partition to use
if test ${bootdev} = 1; then
setenv root ${sd_root}
else
setenv root ${mmc_root}
fi

Francois du Toit
Francois du Toit
12 days ago

Hi James,

Thanks for this article – just what I need… although it does not seem to be working for me

I am using a Tinker Board T
I have verified that the files have copied over and followed all instructions as above – without any errors
However – I tested by writing a text file to /media and the file is writing to my eMMC Driver
Below is my outputs from blkid , mount

Any reason why it won’t work?

Thanks!

mendel@undefined-finch:~$ sudo blkid
/dev/mmcblk0: PTUUID="85b83f23-51c4-4403-8bac-906ff5800f4e" PTTYPE="gpt"
/dev/mmcblk0p1: UUID="989c59ff-512c-4909-a842-2c44c3f1cd7f" TYPE="ext2" PARTLABEL="boot" PARTUUID="595059e1-7b18-4e71-98f8-86b0ef75fe34"
/dev/mmcblk0p2: PARTLABEL="misc" PARTUUID="b876a2d0-50f1-4fbb-898f-c992e2c91775"
/dev/mmcblk0p3: UUID="d1293316-0447-40a0-a3b0-95d56f9c6c20" TYPE="ext4" PARTLABEL="home" PARTUUID="90461b8e-a5c1-42fd-8766-496c7e8678c9"
/dev/mmcblk0p4: UUID="930cd279-99a0-4f80-a8d0-e9f3d8eb7db3" TYPE="ext4" PARTLABEL="rootfs" PARTUUID="70672ec3-5eee-49ff-b3b1-eb1fbd406bf5"
/dev/sda1: UUID="c98cfd5d-d5f6-4161-8335-7f49e29ad3a4" TYPE="ext2" PARTLABEL="boot" PARTUUID="595059e1-7b18-4e71-98f8-86b0ef75fe34"
/dev/sda2: PARTLABEL="misc" PARTUUID="b876a2d0-50f1-4fbb-898f-c992e2c91775"
/dev/sda3: UUID="d1293316-0447-40a0-a3b0-95d56f9c6c20" TYPE="ext4" PARTLABEL="home" PARTUUID="90461b8e-a5c1-42fd-8766-496c7e8678c9"
/dev/sda4: UUID="930cd279-99a0-4f80-a8d0-e9f3d8eb7db3" TYPE="ext4" PARTLABEL="rootfs" PARTUUID="70672ec3-5eee-49ff-b3b1-eb1fbd406bf5"

mendel@undefined-finch:~$ mount
/dev/mmcblk0p4 on / type ext4 (rw,noatime,data=ordered)
devtmpfs on /dev type devtmpfs (rw,relatime,size=340164k,nr_inodes=85041,mode=755)
sysfs on /sys type sysfs (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime)
proc on /proc type proc (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime)
tmpfs on /dev/shm type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,nodev)
devpts on /dev/pts type devpts (rw,nosuid,noexec,relatime,gid=5,mode=620,ptmxmode=000)
tmpfs on /run type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,nodev,mode=755)
tmpfs on /run/lock type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,size=5120k)
tmpfs on /sys/fs/cgroup type tmpfs (ro,nosuid,nodev,noexec,mode=755)
cgroup2 on /sys/fs/cgroup/unified type cgroup2 (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,nsdelegate)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/systemd type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,xattr,name=systemd)
pstore on /sys/fs/pstore type pstore (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/blkio type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,blkio)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/cpu,cpuacct type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,cpu,cpuacct)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/perf_event type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,perf_event)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/devices type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,devices)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/cpuset type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,cpuset)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/freezer type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,freezer)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/pids type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,pids)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/memory type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,memory)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/net_prio type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,net_prio)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/hugetlb type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,hugetlb)
mqueue on /dev/mqueue type mqueue (rw,relatime)
hugetlbfs on /dev/hugepages type hugetlbfs (rw,relatime,pagesize=2M)
debugfs on /sys/kernel/debug type debugfs (rw,relatime)
configfs on /sys/kernel/config type configfs (rw,relatime)
/dev/mmcblk0p1 on /boot type ext2 (rw,noatime,errors=continue)
/dev/mmcblk0p3 on /home type ext4 (rw,nosuid,nodev,noatime,data=ordered)
tmpfs on /run/user/1000 type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,nodev,relatime,size=100928k,mode=700,uid=1000,gid=1000)
mendel@undefined-finch:~$

Francois du Toit
Francois du Toit
12 days ago

Hi James, thanks so much for taking the time with such an good explanation 🙂 Makes sense
I am however getting the below error when trying to change the UID of my root partition….

root@undefined-finch:/home/mendel# sudo tune2fs -U random /dev/mmcblk0p4
tune2fs 1.44.5 (15-Dec-2018)
Setting the UUID on this filesystem could take some time.
Proceed anyway (or wait 5 seconds to proceed) ? (y,N) y
The UUID may only be changed when the filesystem is unmounted.
If you only use kernels newer than v4.4, run ‘tune2fs -O metadata_csum_seed’ and re-run this command.
root@undefined-finch:/home/mendel#

Francois du Toit
Francois du Toit
12 days ago

Not sure if its safe to unmount the root partition….?

Francois du Toit
Francois du Toit
12 days ago

Hi James…making progress thanks…but not there yet 🙂

The Id’s are now different – as you can see below – but it is still mounting the wrong root

mendel@undefined-finch:/media$ sudo blkid
/dev/mmcblk0: PTUUID="85b83f23-51c4-4403-8bac-906ff5800f4e" PTTYPE="gpt"
/dev/mmcblk0p1: UUID="af901b57-1dc5-43c2-a68b-a0e72ef934ca" TYPE="ext2" PARTLABEL="boot" PARTUUID="595059e1-7b18-4e71-98f8-86b0ef75fe34"
/dev/mmcblk0p2: PARTLABEL="misc" PARTUUID="b876a2d0-50f1-4fbb-898f-c992e2c91775"
/dev/mmcblk0p3: UUID="d1293316-0447-40a0-a3b0-95d56f9c6c20" TYPE="ext4" PARTLABEL="home" PARTUUID="90461b8e-a5c1-42fd-8766-496c7e8678c9"
/dev/mmcblk0p4: UUID="19dc84cc-4a29-45a4-97b3-f0f1bb5ba7cd" TYPE="ext4" PARTLABEL="rootfs" PARTUUID="70672ec3-5eee-49ff-b3b1-eb1fbd406bf5"
/dev/sda1: UUID="af901b57-1dc5-43c2-a68b-a0e72ef934ca" TYPE="ext2" PARTLABEL="boot" PARTUUID="595059e1-7b18-4e71-98f8-86b0ef75fe34"
/dev/sda2: PARTLABEL="misc" PARTUUID="b876a2d0-50f1-4fbb-898f-c992e2c91775"
/dev/sda3: UUID="d1293316-0447-40a0-a3b0-95d56f9c6c20" TYPE="ext4" PARTLABEL="home" PARTUUID="90461b8e-a5c1-42fd-8766-496c7e8678c9"
/dev/sda4: UUID="af40b917-05b7-4892-a792-f3420ba5053e" TYPE="ext4" PARTLABEL="rootfs" PARTUUID="70672ec3-5eee-49ff-b3b1-eb1fbd406bf5"
mendel@undefined-finch:/media$

I had a look and there were some entries in fstab…

/dev/mmcblk0p4 / ext4 noatime,defaults 0 1
/dev/mmcblk0p1 /boot ext2 noatime,defaults 0 2
/dev/mmcblk0p3 /home ext4 noatime,nosuid,nodev,defaults 0 3

I updated fstab trying both of the below….but still having the same result of the original rootfs mounting

/dev/sda4 /root ext4 noatime,defaults 0 1
/dev/mmcblk0p1 /boot ext2 noatime,defaults 0 2
/dev/mmcblk0p3 /home ext4 noatime,nosuid,nodev,defaults 0 3

UUID=af40b917-05b7-4892-a792-f3420ba5053e /root ext4 defaults 0 1
/dev/mmcblk0p1 /boot ext2 noatime,defaults 0 2
/dev/mmcblk0p3 /home ext4 noatime,nosuid,nodev,defaults 0 3

Francois du Toit
Francois du Toit
11 days ago

This is Mendel Linux by Google It is the OS that is recommended and downloadable from the Tinker website

…well at least for the Tinker Edge T

Francois du Toit
Francois du Toit
10 days ago

Thanks – Only saw this comment now – so posted one before I read this…

Francois du Toit
Francois du Toit
5 days ago

Hi James – So I got the rootfs mounted on the SSD and all is working – the only issue I’m having now is that the copied partition on the 240 GB SSD is showing up as a 5.3 GB Drive and almost full ( That was obviously the original partition size ). When I look at the drive properties is shows as a 5.3GB Drive – but when I open it under disks it shows a single volume with 240GB…. any idea to resolve this?

Francois du Toit
Francois du Toit
5 days ago

…thanks..any idea how I would do this on mendel?

Francois du Toit
Francois du Toit
5 days ago

mmm…so I opened fdisk to check the partition… and got this message….

The old ext4 signature will be removed by a write command.

Device does not contain a recognized partition table.
Created a new DOS disklabel with disk identifier 0x92fe07bd.

Now it wont boot… Honeslty – I would just install Armbian – but have not had luck getting it to run on the Tinker Edge T….

Francois du Toit
Francois du Toit
5 days ago

Yeah – will have to start over….again…lol. Ok – so let me get everything working again and will try with gparted as you suggested. Will keep you posted 🙂

Francois du Toit
Francois du Toit
4 days ago

Success!!! That worked 🙂 All looks good and all partitions sizes are correct. I’ll do some testing to make sure nothing blows up. But so far so good. Thanks allot for all your help – really appreciate it.

Francois du Toit
Francois du Toit
4 days ago

PS: I did not have to run resize2fs – below is my output from df -h and lsblk after reboot

Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/root 237G 2.1G 223G 1% /
devtmpfs 349M 0 349M 0% /dev
tmpfs 517M 0 517M 0% /dev/shm
tmpfs 517M 20M 497M 4% /run
tmpfs 5.3M 4.1k 5.3M 1% /run/lock
tmpfs 517M 0 517M 0% /sys/fs/cgroup
/dev/mmcblk0p3 2.1G 6.4M 2.0G 1% /home
/dev/mmcblk0p1 130M 33M 91M 27% /boot
tmpfs 104M 4.9M 99M 5% /run/user/1000

NAME MAJ:MIN RM SIZE RO TYPE MOUNTPOINT
sda 8:0 0 223.6G 0 disk /
mmcblk0 179:0 0 7.3G 0 disk
├─mmcblk0p1 179:1 0 128M 0 part /boot
├─mmcblk0p2 179:2 0 1M 0 part
├─mmcblk0p3 179:3 0 2G 0 part /home
└─mmcblk0p4 179:4 0 5.1G 0 part
mmcblk0boot0 179:32 0 4M 1 disk
mmcblk0boot1 179:64 0 4M 1 disk
mmcblk0rpmb 179:96 0 512K 0 disk