I asked this question on StackOverflow before but got told here is the right spot to ask.

Since im new to Yocto I ran into some problems trying to boot my intel-corei7-64 core-image-minimal from HDD. I used dd to put it on the hard drive but while booting it stops with a Kernel panic:

Kernel panic - not syncing: VFS: Unable to mount root fs on unknown block (0,0)

I tried a lot and searched for a solution. First of all I had to do a grub-install and configured the grub.cfg file in the boot partition to list the Image in GRUB but I am not getting any further than that point. In some forums they said its meaning that the initramfs is missing. I dont think that the image itself is broken because it works on a usb flash drive.

My grub.cfg looks like this:

set default="0"
set timeout="30"

menuentry 'Yocto' {
        insmod part_msdos
        insmod part_gpt
        insmod ext2
        insmod all_video
        set root='(hd0,gpt2)'
        linux /boot/bzImage-4.19.40-intel-pk-standard root=/dev/sda2

Would be great if you guys could help me fixing the boot error. I am pretty much helpless at this point.

Best regards


bzImage-4.19.40-intel-pk-standard root=/dev/sda2

This would be the way to start from Uefi shell directly. But really, the initrd= is missing! I had exactly the same problem: The SATA/SCSI modules are not in the kernels, they are modules in the initramfs (mostly). Copy the initrd/initramfs beside your kernel and add the initrd=initram-cpio.gz (adapt "image" name!) option to the command line.

The VFS error says: the root (/dev/sda2) you give me is on a block device I cannot read.

After looking up "yocto" I want to add: you should configure the needed modules as builtin ("y") and not as modules ("m"). That way you don't need a initrd, and that seems to be the idea behind this "embedded" project.

added after looking up yocto some more...

This yocto (and your Q) did not leave me alone. I found this from a 2016 conference/article (on lwn.net):

At the basic level [...] Yocto and Buildroot can both give you the same end product: a root filesystem image for your embedded device, a kernel, a bootloader, and a compatible toolchain.

As I see it, you rather want to use "make" to compile a kernel, plus modules, plus initrd if you like.

Can you tell me why you wrote this:

I used dd to put [the kernel image] on the hard drive

Now this is very confusing to me. As if you had done dd ... of=/dev/sda. I would say: I copied the kernel image into a directory on partition x.

So you went all through this Yocto build stuff, bitbaked a kernel and initrd, and now you do not know how to boot a linux kernel?!?

I started out with a new mini-pc kit, so the disk was empty. I had decided to use GPT and Uefi. My last expereince had been MBR long time ago. First I booted a slackware installer from USB flash.

With fdisk I made a few partitions, including a "EFI" or "ESP" type. I wisely made it 2GB. Some recommend only 100MB. The ESP needs vfat formatting, because it is read also by BIOS.

The only (compiled) Linux kernel I found were the ones inside the ISO images of the installers and live systems. From a opensuse live usb system I could mount any ISO, then mount the squashs rootfs with the two files: kernel and initrd.

These two files (kernel and initial ram disk) I copied to my 2GB ESP. A kernel is 3 to 8 MB, a initrd 10 to 30 MB.

I made my BIOS boot into Uefi shell, where I can start a kernel by typing it's name like a uefi shell command.

This all took me some time to figure out, so when I got a kernel panic this was a big success.

fs0: vmlinuz

This is how I start the kernel with filename "vmlinuz" from uefi prompt, from the ESP which is "fs0".

Because root= is missing, this should also give a panic. I soon tried:

fs0: vmlinuz root=/dev/sda2

And this gave me the kernel panic you originally described:

VFS: unable to mount rootfs...

From here on you can take two paths: use the initrd that "comes with" the kernel by adding initrd=...cpio.gz as KCL option (kernel command line). Or use the Fedora 29 kernel --- it was the only one that could mount my sda device. The reason is: it has a few Kconfig options built-in, while all the other distros put them as modules in the initrd (sata, scsi, sd-mod).

While I am quite happy with a quick archlinux install, I really think I "have to" compile a kernel myself so I can boot without a initrd. A kernel should be able to mount the root fs by itself.

You see: without compiling or yocto, without grub, just by going into the ISO from the distros, I was able to do a lot of experiments. These are the boot options that matter:


The original kernel doc from 1996-2000 is misleading in some places. But Almesberger clearly defines: his initrd "allows" the bootup to happen in two stages. And: the rdinit= script inside the ramdisk can mount the 'real' root and switch_root to it. There are situations where this two-step-bootup is necessary.

I followed the "VFS:" kernel panic in the kernel source. A function "prepare_namespace" is central. This part where the kernel mounts root= is skipped when a initrd= is given; there is a comment in the sources "if there is a initrd, let it to all the work".


without a initrd=, this tells the kernel directly into which (block) device it should "boot". With a initrd, it can be used to switch_root to. A root=/dev/ram0 has special meaning: it makes the initial ram disk the real root from the start. This is useful for a lot of embedded systems, I guess: the rootfs lives in a cpio file and not on a partition.


This is the last thing the kernel does at bootup: call the first process. As with root=, if you give a initrd=, it is up to the ramdisk to parse that argument. Note that the kernel only can make sense of "/" after a root= is mounted.

Once your BIOS is switched to "Uefi shell" and your disk is GPT formatted (or hybrid/protective MBR) and you have added a small (but not too small) ESP vfat partition, you are ready to start a kernel plus initrd.

My plan now is simply to compile a kernel that can mount my standard SSD partitions, so I don't need a initrd. I do not need yocto or grub to do some softcore "embedding". Unless I want to compile the newest kernel source twice a month...but hey, I want to compile a kernel, not create my own distro!

I stop here and hope one can get some linux bootup ideas from my kernel command line adventures.

  • First of all thank you for your quick answer! Can you maybe tell me where to put the initram-cpio.gz file? i tried to copy it to the boot partition but this one is full already. So i copied it to the root partition and now it tells me root '/dev/sda2' doesn't exist or does not conatin a /dev I'll now try to configere the grub.cfg and see what happens if i delete the ´´´root=/dev/sda2´´´ entry – Alex Jul 8 at 13:07
  • Boot partition is full? grub as boot loader can load kernel and initrd from any partition. You are using /boot for the kernel image. Is your ESP (EFI Syst. Partition) mounted on /boot? Grub and GPT is a bit confusing. Grub (the .EFI "application", ~1 MB) has to be on ESP; kernel and initrd will be read by grub. This is what (hd0,gpt2) is for. IF you have a initrd...is there no space left (20MB or so) in the /boot dierectory? – user359065 Jul 8 at 13:34
  • Confusing is the right word for it :P /dev/sda1 is my EFI partition where I do the changes to the grub.cfg. /dev/sda2 is my root partition where the kernel and the initrd are. There is some space left in the /boot directory and I copied two files into it. One is a initramfs-intel-corei7-64.rootfs.cpio.gz and the other one is microcode.cpio. I tired both with your setting and with the initramfs-intel-corei7-64.rootfs.cpio.gz it boots until it says cannot find rootfs.img file in /run/media/sda, dropping to a shell does that mean i still have the wrong configuration in the grub.cfg? – Alex Jul 8 at 15:14
  • Now that last message I don't understand. Looks like something is not working inside the initrd, so you get "dropped" instead of "elevated" to sda2 and it's init. You would have to put the new situation into a new question, I say. Could be yocto specific, this "run/media/sda". You wrote down that "VFS: unable to mount root..." so clearly...and it is always swamped by other lines in a kernel panic... – user359065 Jul 8 at 16:32
  • I'm sorry if my question does bother you so much. To answer your last edit: Yes, I put days into that yocto-bitbake stuff and now the Image won't boot from HDD. As I sad in my first post, the Image boots from a USB device. To be honest, I just work with Linux for 7 months now and learn everything by simply doing it. This went out pretty bad for this specific case. For that dd question: Yes, I used dd to copy the .wic Image on /dev/sda and it created 3 partitions. Good news are that i rebuilt an Image and now got to a point while booting where it tells me waiting for root device PARTUUID=** – Alex Jul 9 at 8:46

I have finally managed to let my Yocto Image boot!

If anyone has the same trouble booting it, this is how I did it.

At first I did the grub-install as usual and added a grub.cfg in /boot/grub/ in the EFI partition (for me its /dev/sda1). After that I added search --set=root --file /vmlinuz instead of set root=(blabla) to the grub.cfg file. Then I copied a vmlinuz from Fedora 30 to my root partition (/dev/sda2) as sam68 suggested an added linux /vmlinuz /dev/sda2 to my grub.cfg. It took me days to get to that point so I hope it can help anyone!

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