Memory Technology Device Drivers

MTD stands for “Memory Technology Devices”. This directory contains drivers that operate on various memory technology devices and provide an MTD interface. That MTD interface may then be used by higher level logic to control access to the memory device.

See include/nuttx/mtd/mtd.h for additional information.

  • include/nuttx/mtd/mtd.h. All structures and APIs needed to work with MTD drivers are provided in this header file.

  • struct mtd_dev_s. Each MTD device driver must implement an instance of struct mtd_dev_s. That structure defines a call table with the following methods:

    Erase the specified erase blocks (units are erase blocks):

    Read/write from the specified read/write blocks:

    Some devices may support byte oriented reads (optional). Most MTD devices are inherently block oriented so byte-oriented accesses are not supported. It is recommended that low-level drivers not support read() if it requires buffering.

    Some devices may also support byte oriented writes (optional). Most MTD devices are inherently block oriented so byte-oriented accesses are not supported. It is recommended that low-level drivers not support read() if it requires buffering. This interface is only available if CONFIG_MTD_BYTE_WRITE is defined.

    Support other, less frequently used commands:

    • MTDIOC_GEOMETRY: Get MTD geometry

    • MTDIOC_BULKERASE: Erase the entire device

    is provided via a single ioctl method (see include/nuttx/fs/ioctl.h):

  • Binding MTD Drivers. MTD drivers are not normally directly accessed by user code, but are usually bound to another, higher level device driver. In general, the binding sequence is:

    1. Get an instance of struct mtd_dev_s from the hardware-specific MTD device driver, and

    2. Provide that instance to the initialization method of the higher level device driver.

  • Examples: drivers/mtd/m25px.c and drivers/mtd/ftl.c


EEPROMs are a form of Memory Technology Device (MTD). EEPROMs are non- volatile memory like FLASH, but differ in underlying memory technology and differ in usage in many respects: They may not be organized into blocks (at least from the standpoint of the user) and it is not necessary to erase the EEPROM memory before re-writing it. In addition, EEPROMs tend to be much smaller than FLASH parts, usually only a few kilobytes vs megabytes for FLASH. EEPROM tends to be used to retain a small amount of device configuration information; FLASH tends to be used for program or massive data storage. For these reasons, it may not be convenient to use the more complex MTD interface but instead use the simple character interface provided by the EEPROM drivers. See drivers/eeprom.



This directory also includes drivers for NAND memory. These include:

mtd_nand.c: The "upper half" NAND MTD driver
mtd_nandecc.c, mtd_nandscheme.c, and hamming.c: Implement NAND software
mtd_onfi.c, mtd_nandmodel.c, and mtd_modeltab.c: Implement NAND FLASH
  identification logic.

File Systems

NAND support is only partial in that there is no file system that works with it properly. It should be considered a work in progress. You will not want to use NAND unless you are interested in investing a little effort. See the STATUS section below.


The NuttX FLASH File System (NXFFS) works well with NOR-like FLASH but does not work well with NAND. Some simple usability issues include:

  • NXFFS can be very slow. The first time that you start the system, be prepared for a wait; NXFFS will need to format the NAND volume. I have lots of debug on so I don’t yet know what the optimized wait will be. But with debug ON, software ECC, and no DMA the wait is in many tens of minutes (and substantially longer if many debug options are enabled.

  • On subsequent boots, after the NXFFS file system has been created the delay will be less. When the new file system is empty, it will be very fast. But the NAND-related boot time can become substantial whenthere has been a lot of usage of the NAND. This is because NXFFS needs to scan the NAND device and build the in-memory dataset needed to access NAND and there is more that must be scanned after the device has been used. You may want tocreate a separate thread at boot time to bring up NXFFS so that you don’t delay the boot-to-prompt time excessively in these longer delay cases.

  • There is another NXFFS related performance issue: When the FLASH is fully used, NXFFS will restructure the entire FLASH, the delay to restructure the entire FLASH will probably be even larger. This solution in this case is to implement an NXFSS clean-up daemon that does the job a little-at-a-time so that there is no massive clean-up when the FLASH becomes full.

But there is a more serious, showstopping problem with NXFFS and NAND:

  • Bad NXFFS behavior with NAND: If you restart NuttX, the files that you wrote to NAND will be gone. Why? Because the multiple writes have corrupted the NAND ECC bits. See STATUS below. NXFFS would require a major overhaul to be usable with NAND.

There are a few reasons whay NXFFS does not work with NAND. NXFFS was designed to work with NOR-like FLASH and NAND differs from other that FLASH model in several ways. For one thing, NAND requires error correction (ECC) bytes that must be set in order to work around bit failures. This affects NXFFS in two ways:

  • First, write failures are not fatal. Rather, they should be tried by bad blocks and simply ignored. This is because unrecoverable bit failures will cause read failures when reading from NAND. Setting the CONFIG_EXPERIMENTAL+CONFIG_NXFFS_NAND option will enable this behavior.

[CONFIG_NXFFS_NAND is only available is CONFIG_EXPERIMENTAL is also selected.]

  • Secondly, NXFFS will write a block many times. It tries to keep bits in the erased state and assumes that it can overwrite those bits to change them from the erased to the non-erased state. This works will with NOR-like FLASH. NAND behaves this way too. But the problem with NAND is that the ECC bits cannot be re-written in this way. So once a block has been written, it cannot be modified. This behavior has NOT been fixed in NXFFS. Currently, NXFFS will attempt to re-write the ECC bits causing the ECC to become corrupted because the ECC bits cannot be overwritten without erasing the entire block.

This may prohibit NXFFS from ever being used with NAND.


Another option is FAT. FAT can be used if the Flast Translation Layer (FTL) is enabled. FTL converts the NAND MTD interface to a block driver that can then be used with FAT.

FAT, however, will not handle bad blocks and does not perform any wear leveling. So you can bring up a NAND file system with FAT and a new, clean NAND FLASH but you need to know that eventually, there will be NAND bit failures and FAT will stop working: If you hit a bad block, then FAT is finished. There is no mechanism in place in FAT not to mark and skip over bad blocks.

FTL writes are also particularly inefficient with NAND. In order to write a sector, FTL will read the entire erase block into memory, erase the block on FLASH, modify the sector and re-write the erase block back to FLASH. For large NANDs this can be very inefficient. For example, I am currently using nand with a 128KB erase block size and 2K page size so each write can cause a 256KB data transfer!

NOTE that there is some caching logic within FAT and FTL so that this cached erase block can be re-used if possible and writes will be deferred as long as possible.


I have not yet tried SmartFS. It does support some wear-leveling similar to NXFFS, but like FAT, cannot handle bad blocks and like NXFFS, it will try to re-write erased bits. So SmartFS is not really an option either.

What is Needed

What is needed to work with FAT properly would be another MTD layer between the FTL layer and the NAND FLASH layer. That layer would perform bad block detection and sparing so that FAT works transparently on top of the NAND.

Another, less general, option would be support bad blocks within FAT. Such a solution migh be possible for SLC NAND, but would not be sufficiently general for all NAND types.