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TFTP Recovery Procedure - How To Set up a TFTP Server

What is TFTP Recovery over Ethernet?

On most devices, the vendor provided boot loader is a partition separated from the actual firmware. In case of a failed flash process or in case of a misconfiguration, the device's boot loader usually is still untouched and fully working. It the boot loader has a built-in “TFTP recovery mode”, it enables to regain control of a device with a broken firmware partition, by allowing a recovery flash process (which will also reset your configuration to the device defaults).

The recovery works by starting a TFTP server on your computer, which will push the firmware file over TFTP network protocol to the OpenWrt device with the broken firmware. For this, the device has to be started up in TFTP recovery mode. It will then pull the network-provided firmware and hopefully recover with a successful emergency flash process.

Is TFTP Recovery over Ethernet Supported by my Device?

TFTP Recovery over Ethernet is not supported by every router model. TFTP Recovery is based on a device- and vendor-specific boot loader that may or may not be present on your device. Check the OpenWrt device page for your precise model to find out, if your device has a boot loader supporting TFTP recovery. If your device supports it, then this recovery function will still be present in your device boot loader, after OpenWrt firmware has been flashed onto the device.


  • Your device boot loader could alternatively have implemented TFTP recovery over serial cable, which is not covered on this page.
  • Your device could also have other means of recovery.


The following procedure only describes how to set up a TFTP server over Ethernet for the TFTP recovery process, it does not describe the device-specific flash recovery process. For the actual flash process you have to consult the vendor provided documentation, the Internet, the OpenWrt/LEDE Forum or the OpenWrt device pages.

  1. Download the desired OpenWrt (or stock) firmware image to the designated TFTP directory on your computer
  2. Set the IP address of your computer's Ethernet interface as described in the Device Page for your model.
  3. Start the TFTP server on your computer.
  4. Power up the router and press a device-specific button.

TFTP Server on Mac OSX

macOS provides a native tftpd server that runs the command line. There are also GUI applications that are available for those that prefer them.

Command-Line Native tftpd

For recent versions of macOS, the system-supplied tftpd is managed with launchctl. Users should be comfortable with command-line usage and sudo to take this approach. As confirmed on macOS Sierra 10.12.6, the general steps involved are

  • Configure your network interface for the proper server address for your device. Using System Preferences > Network is perhaps the easiest.
  • Connect your device to the network interface
  • Start tftpd
$ sudo cp path/to/file/to/serve.bin /private/tftpboot/the_name_the_device_is_looking_for.bin
$ sudo launchctl load -F /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/tftp.plist
  • Confirm tfptd is running by looking for the UDP listener on port 69
$ netstat -an | fgrep \*.69    
udp4       0      0  *.69                   *.*                               
  • Activate your device's recovery/TFTP mode
  • When done with tftpd, shut it down with
$ sudo launchctl unload -F /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/tftp.plist

As an example of a GUI-driven tftp server, from provides a pleasant GUI wrapper around the native command that makes the process less error prone. This procedure was tested with v 3.4.1 on OSX 10.10.5 in December 2016.

  1. Download and install from the URL above.
  2. Move the application to a convenient directory.
  3. In the same directory, create another folder named 'tftpfiles'. This is the 'designated TFTP directory'. and tftpfiles will be in the same directory.
  4. Set the OSX IP address as specified in the Device Page's TFTP Recovery section.
  5. Launch The window is shown here. You should confirm that you see the desired file named in the window.
  6. Click “Start TFTP” (upper left). You should see the “Server Status:” change to “Running”.
  7. Start your router and press the button. The file will transfer.
  8. Note: may give warnings about file permissions. Use the “Fix” buttons at the bottom of the window to set the permissions properly.
  9. Click “Stop TFTP” or quit the application to stop the TFTP server.

TFTP Server on Windows

While there is a command line TFTP server/client feature in windows, it's easier to use a third party one that has a proper graphical interface.

A simple and free TFTP application is Tftpd32, available here (Tftpd64 is the 64-bit version and will be used in this example).

Download the portable version, and unzip it in a folder. You should see the manual, a license in a PDF file, a configuration file, and the application executable itself.

Place the file you want to send (the firmware file usually) in the same folder where you find the Tftpd64 program file. The folder exposed through TFTP can be changed by clicking on Browse button, but in most situations you don't need to do that.

Configure your ethernet port according to your device's own recovery method as detailed in Rescue from failed firmware upgrade, note that in most cases you can't use that port to connect to the internet until you reconfigure it back like it was before.

Double-click on the Tftpd64 program file and you should get a Windows Firewall popup asking you to grant access. Check both options, to allow Tftpd64 to communicate over both home/work and public networks. This is very important, if the Windows Firewall blocks your TFTP server you won't be able to access it from the device you want to recover.

Click on the drop-down menu called Server Interfaces and select your PC's ethernet port.

Now the tftp server is online and ready, and the file(s) in it can be accessed as normal.

TFTP Server on Linux

Install atftpd from repository on Debian/Ubuntu/Mint

$ apt install atftpd

Install atftpd from repository on RedHat/Fedora/Centos

$ yum install atftpd

Create directory where you want to put the image file

$ mkdir /srv/tftp

Put an image file into your directory

$ cp ~/tp_recovery.bin /srv/tftp

Change the ownership of the folder and the file in it

$ chown nobody:nogroup -R /srv/tftp

Run TFTP server

$ atftpd --daemon /srv/tftp

Check if your server is listening

$ netstat -lunp|grep 69

Check that you can in fact pull the file from your tftp server

$ tftp
tftp> get tp_recovery.bin
Received 8152633 bytes in 0.8 seconds
tftp> quit

If you have received the file, congratulations, it's ready.

docs/guide-user/troubleshooting/tftpserver.txt · Last modified: 2018/06/23 16:34 by alx