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Update Firmware with Loader Mode

Getting the Latest Firmware

This manual will assist you in setting up your software development environment and updating your firmware/system for your development.

Download full system image file

If you want to update Debian 11 to Blade 3, click here image-release-blade3-debian11-20230505.img to download the full system image. Please unzip this file first before using it for update.

Downloading to Mixtile Blade 3

Blade 3 comes with Debian 11 pre-installed, and it can be updated with any custom built firmware. The system firmware may be updated via either an USB cable or a MicroSD card. Under normal circumstances, the USB cable method is preferable for the users. Users with specific requirements who need to burn the system with USB cable or MicroSD cards should back up their data in their own method.

What you need

  1. A downloaded firmware

2. Firmware update tool

a. Update Tool in Windows OS (RKDevTool)

b. Update Tool in MacOS (upgrade_tool_v2.3_mac)

c. Update Tool in Linux OS(Linux_Upgrade_Tool_v2.1)

Below will provide the download link of there tools.

3. Blade 3 device

4. Type-C to Type-C/Type-A USB Cable

5. Power Adapter which supports Power Delivery 2.0/3.0

Update Methods of Full System Image

Two distinct methods for updating system firmware are demonstrated step by step. To upgrade your Blade 3 system with the latest firmware, follow the procedures below.

Connect the Blade 3 to a PC via USB Type-C cable; the firmware update tool takes around 1 minute to burn the firmware. Please connect the USB-0/ADB Port of Blade 3 board for updating firmware, and connect the power input to USB-1/PD port.

Debug Port of Blade 3

Option 2: MicroSD card update

Use the upgrade card making tool to make the MicroSD card into an upgrade card. Then insert the upgrade card into the motherboard, turn it on, and the system will upgrade automatically in about 5 minutes.

Note: MicroSD card update will cause issue correctly, refer to known issues.


These update methods will delete all user data. Please back up the data before performing the update.

Update Full System Image with USB Cable

Boot modes

Blade 3 has three start modes: Normal, Loader and MaskROM modes. Loder and MaskROM modes are for firmware update.

  1. Normal mode

Normal mode is the normal startup process. Each component is loaded in turn and enters the system normally.

  1. Loader mode

There are two ways to enter the Loader mode:

After the system is running, input adb reboot loader through the serial terminal or ADB terminal.

Or you could use RKDevTool in Windows OS for switching Blade 3 board to loader mode.

  1. Maskrom mode

Maskrom mode can be used for updates when the bootloader or uboot is broken. Please refer to instruction Update Firmware in MaskROM Mode.

Updating Steps in Windows System

Step 1: Download update tool on PC

Step 2: Install RK-USB driver


Note: To use the latest driver version, uninstall the current driver before installing the latest driver.

Step 3: Connect devices

  • Connect Blade 3 USB0/ADB Type-C port (the one that near the HDMI port) to PC with USB cable.

Note: Blade 3 would be recognized as Rockusb Device by Windows in Maskrom mode.

Step 4: Enter Loader mode

It is recommended to use RKDevTool in Windows system for switching Blade 3 board to loader mode. Open RKDevTool with administrator access, Choose “Upgrade Firmare” tab of RKDevTool, click “Switch” Button as below, then Blade 3 will be switched to Loader mode.


Or you could input adb reboot loader through the serial terminal or ADB terminal after Blade 3 board is running.

Step 5: Update firmware

  1. Choose “Upgrade Firmare” tab of RKDevTool
  2. Click “Firmware” to select firmware location
  3. Click Upgrade to update firmware to Blade 3

Updating Steps in MacOS System

Step 1: Download upgrade tool

Step 2: Change the permission of upgarde_tool

  • Go the the folder upgrade_tool_v2.3_mac after unzipping, change the permission of upgrade_tool by using this command chmod u+x upgrade_tool. After that, you have to go to “System Preferences” –> “Security & Privacy” and allow this file to run in your computer.

Step 3: Enter Loader mode

  • After the system is running, input adb reboot loader through the serial terminal or ADB terminal.

Go to the folder “upgrade_tool_v2.3_mac”, you could check if the device already go to loader mode by using ./update_tool, after that please type “q” to exit.


Step 4: Upgrade firmware to Blade 3

  • Use ./upgrade_tool uf /(your path)/image-release-blade3-debian11-20230214.img to upgrade the firmware for Blade 3 board.

Updating Steps in Ubuntu System

Two upgrade tools can be used in Ubuntu, and both tools require a USB cable.

Step 1: Download upgrade tool

Step 2: Enter Loader mode

  • After the system is running, input adb reboot loader through the serial terminal or ADB terminal.

Step 3: Use upgrade tool to upgrade firmware (recommended)

  • Setup Upgrade_Tool:
unzip Linux_Upgrade_Tool_xxxx.zip
cd Linux_UpgradeTool_xxxx
sudo mv upgrade_tool /usr/local/bin
sudo chown root:root /usr/local/bin/upgrade_tool
sudo chmod a+x /usr/local/bin/upgrade_tool

Upgrade firmware:

Unified firmware upgrade:
sudo upgrade_tool uf update.img

Mirrored partition upgrade:
sudo upgrade_tool di -b /path/to/boot.img
sudo upgrade_tool di -r /path/to/recovery.img
sudo upgrade_tool di -m /path/to/misc.img
sudo upgrade_tool di -u /path/to/uboot.img
sudo upgrade_tool di -dtbo /path/to/dtbo.img
sudo upgrade_tool di -p paramater
sudo upgrade_tool ul bootloader.bin

If the upgrade is abnormal or fails, you can low-level format, then upgrade.
sudo upgrade_tool lf update.img # low-level format
sudo upgrade_tool ef update.img # Erase
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