7.26. Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 (MSM8916/APQ8016)

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 is Qualcomm’s first 64-bit SoC, released in 2014 with four ARM Cortex-A53 cores. There are differents variants (MSM8916, APQ8016(E), …) that are all very similar. A popular device based on APQ8016E is the DragonBoard 410c single-board computer, but the SoC is also used in various mid-range smartphones/tablets.

The TF-A/BL31 port for MSM8916 provides a minimal, community-maintained EL3 firmware. It is primarily based on information from the public Snapdragon 410E Technical Reference Manual combined with a lot of trial and error to actually make it work.


Unlike the QTI SC7180/SC7280 ports, this port does not make use of a proprietary binary components (QTISECLIB). It is fully open-source but therefore limited to publicly documented hardware components.

7.26.1. Functionality

The BL31 port is much more minimal compared to the original firmware and therefore expects the non-secure world (e.g. Linux) to manage more hardware, such as the SMMUs and all remote processors (RPM, WCNSS, Venus, Modem). Everything except modem is currently functional with a slightly modified version of mainline Linux.


This port is not secure. There is no special secure memory and the used DRAM is available from both the non-secure and secure worlds. Unfortunately, the hardware used for memory protection is not described in the APQ8016E documentation.

The port is primarily intended as a minimal PSCI implementation (without a separate secure world) where this limitation is not a big problem. Booting secondary CPU cores (PSCI CPU_ON) is supported. Basic CPU core power management (CPU_SUSPEND) is functional but still work-in-progress and will be added later once ready.

7.26.2. Boot Flow

BL31 replaces the original tz firmware in the boot flow:

Boot ROM (PBL) -> SBL -> BL31 (EL3) -> U-Boot (EL2) -> Linux (EL2)

By default, BL31 enters the non-secure world in EL2 AArch64 state at address 0x8f600000. The original hypervisor firmware (hyp) is not used, you can use KVM or another hypervisor. The entry address is fixed in the BL31 binary but can be changed using the PRELOADED_BL33_BASE make file parameter.

Using an AArch64 bootloader (such as U-Boot for DragonBoard 410c) is recommended. AArch32 bootloaders (such as the original Little Kernel bootloader from Qualcomm) are not directly supported, although it is possible to use an EL2 shim loader to temporarily switch to AArch32 state.

7.26.3. Installation

First, setup the cross compiler for AArch64 and build TF-A for msm8916:

$ make CROSS_COMPILE=aarch64-linux-gnu- PLAT=msm8916

The BL31 ELF image is generated in build/msm8916/release/bl31/bl31.elf. This image must be “signed” before flashing it, even if the board has secure boot disabled. In this case the signature does not provide any security, but it provides the firmware with required metadata.

The DragonBoard 410c does not have secure boot enabled by default. In this case you can simply sign the ELF image using a randomly generated key. You can use e.g. qtestsign:

$ ./qtestsign.py tz build/msm8916/release/bl31/bl31.elf

Then install the resulting build/msm8916/release/bl31/bl31-test-signed.mbn to the tz partition on the device. BL31 should be running after a reboot.


Do not flash incorrectly signed firmware on devices that have secure boot enabled! Make sure that you have a way to recover the board in case of problems (e.g. using EDL).

7.26.4. Boot Trace

BL31 prints some lines on the debug console UART2, which will usually look like this (with DEBUG=1, otherwise only the NOTICE lines are shown):

S - DDR Frequency, 400 MHz
NOTICE:  BL31: v2.6(debug):v2.6
NOTICE:  BL31: Built : 20:00:00, Dec 01 2021
INFO:    BL31: Platform setup start
INFO:    ARM GICv2 driver initialized
INFO:    BL31: Platform setup done
INFO:    BL31: Initializing runtime services
INFO:    BL31: cortex_a53: CPU workaround for 819472 was applied
INFO:    BL31: cortex_a53: CPU workaround for 824069 was applied
INFO:    BL31: cortex_a53: CPU workaround for 826319 was applied
INFO:    BL31: cortex_a53: CPU workaround for 827319 was applied
INFO:    BL31: cortex_a53: CPU workaround for 835769 was applied
INFO:    BL31: cortex_a53: CPU workaround for disable_non_temporal_hint was applied
INFO:    BL31: cortex_a53: CPU workaround for 843419 was applied
INFO:    BL31: cortex_a53: CPU workaround for 1530924 was applied
INFO:    BL31: Preparing for EL3 exit to normal world
INFO:    Entry point address = 0x8f600000
INFO:    SPSR = 0x3c9

U-Boot 2021.10 (Dec 01 2021 - 20:00:00 +0000)
Qualcomm-DragonBoard 410C