Steps to install debian:

a. Download the latest image onto the host computer (

b. Unpack the file.  

  • On macOS, you can use “The Unarchiver” from the app store.
  • Alternatively, on macOS, you can unpack the xz file from the command line (terminal) by typing gunzip “image name”.

c. Copy the img file to a micro-sd drive using a low level write command.

A micro-sd card consists of two pieces, the micro-SD card itself (a tiny SD card) and the standard SD card holder. The standard SD card holder can be inserted into a computer that has a SD card reader (like an older mac-mini). You may need to get a usb SD card reader. Once data has been written, the standard SD card holder (containing the micro-SD card) is removed from the computer, the micro-SD card is removed from the standard SD card holder and inserted into the micro-SD card socket in the Beaglebone Black.

  • The first task is to locate where the SD card is mapped into the filesystem.
  • Open a terminal on the macOS machine, and look for the disk devices on the machine.  Type ls /dev/disk*
  • Plug in the SD card, wait a bit, and then repeat the above command.  The new disk is your SD disk.
  • In my case, it was located at /dev/disk3 with a partition /dev/disk3s1.
  • The next command is a very, very dangerous command to run.  If you pick an incorrect disk (e.g., your hard drive), you will wipe the contents.  Make sure you back up your data before running the command.  Make absolutely sure you have the right disk.  Make sure you enter the command correctly before hitting enter.
  • In order to get the dd command to work, you will first have to unmount the file system partition (not eject which will remove the /dev entry).
  • diskutil unmount /dev/diskNsM
  • where N = your disk number (3 in my case) and M is the partition number (1 in my case).
  • The command to write the img to your disk is:
  • sudo dd if=<path to your img > of = /dev/diskN bs=1000
  •  where <path to your img> is the location of your image file. The parameter bs is the block-size. This can be a lot of different numbers (e.g. 1, 1000, 1M).  This will affect the time of the write.
  • This command takes a while to complete.  Go get a cup of coffee and respond to some email.

d. Insert the micro-sd into a beaglebone and start it up.  

  • You have to hold down the “user boot” button to get the BBK to boot from the sd card.
  • You can get to a shell by typing ctrl-alt-F5.

e.  Login to the shell using debian:temppwd.  

  • Connect the Beaglebone to a monitor (through the HDMI cable) and keyboard/mouse.
  • Alternatively, on macOS, connect the Beaglebone to a USB port on your computer using the supplied mini-USB to USB cable. The network driver to access the BeagleBone through ssh has not worked in a long time. However, you can open a terminal on the macOS system and look for the Beaglebone in the /dev directory. Type “ls /dev | grep BBB” and you should see a file such as /dev/cu.usbmodemxxxxBBBKyyyyy, where xxxx and yyyyy are strings of numbers. You can access the Beaglebone using the command from the terminal “screen /dev/cu.usbmodemxxxxBBBKyyyyy” which will give you a login prompt on the Beaglebone.
  • Edit the file ‘/boot/uEnv.txt’ (sudo nano /boot/uEnv.txt) and uncomment the line ‘cmdline=init=/opt/scripts/tools/eMMC/’ at the bottom of the file.

f. Reboot the Beaglebone off the micro-sd card as before.  Now, after a little bit, the LEDs will start to flash in a sequence which has been described as similar to a cylon’s eye.  Wait some time (30 minutes?) until the Beaglebone shuts back down.

g. Remove the micro-sd drive and reboot normally.  You will now be live with the latest debian.

  • Any data and config files you had on the Beaglebone before this upgrade will be wiped clean.  Back up before you start this process.  Either manually replace the key files or set up a script to replace things after the update has completed.