The Zerocat Chipflasher

zerocat-chipflasher von Kai Mertens under CC BY-SA 4.0
zerocat-chipflasher von Kai Mertens under CC BY-SA 4.0

Let’s create trustworthy hardware on our own! The propeller microchip empowers us to do so. For example, we build up a clean toolchain for reflashing other devices. We delete proprietary firmware of laptops and write libreboot software into their BIOS-chips. Currently, we are liberating the ThinkPad X200/X200s and X60/X60s Laptops using our zerocat chipflasher, thus avoiding the commonly used Beagle Bone Black and Raspberry Pie.

Fully documented, freely licensed

You may browse the sources in advance, for we have generated our documentation for you with doxygen. The chipflasher’s git repository is available as well. We invite you to clone it to your local drive like so:

$ git clone

In general, code is licensed with the GPLv3, documentation and graphics are licensed with CC BY-SA 4.0. If you need another free license, please ask!

Easy to build

The chipflasher’s circuit intends to be as simple as possible and it should be easy to set it up. However, some practice in soldering may be necessary. Don’t forget to use a socket for the P8X32A, you may want to use it for your homebrew projects as well.
chipflascher schematics

Easy to use

The zerocat chipflasher is meant as a Do-It-Yourself project (DIY). It is easy to use and easy to build. Some practice in soldering may be necessary, especially if you want to access a WSON packed BIOS chip. For SMD packed chips, you may use a test clip.
chipflasher prototype in action
Boards that have their BIOS-Chip packed in a WSON package need careful soldering with a thin tipped iron.
access to a WSON package

Typical Setup

For now, the chipflasher board doesn’t provide its USB port for data, it is used for power only. So, the typical setup is with a host that has an RS232 serial port available for data. We recommend a ThinkPad X60 with Libreboot-BIOS and docking station for that.

+-----------+                +-------------+
| Host      |                | Zerocat     |
|           |---USB power--->| Chipflasher |
|           |<--RS232 data-->|             |
| software: |                | firmware:   |
| 'connect' |                |  'kick'     |
+-----------+                +-------------+
                                |   ^   ^
                                |   |   |
                               +3V GND SPI
                                |   |   |
                                v   |   v
                           :  | SPI Chip  |  :
                           :  |  Target   |  :
                           :  +-----------+  :
                           :   Laptop's      :
                           :     System      :
                           :       Board     :