Xen x86 PV Bootloader Protocol


One method for booting an x86 Xen PV guest is to use a PV bootloader, that is, a bootloader which is itself a PV kernel but which behaves as a bootloader (examples include the pvgrub-legacy and grub2 targeting Xen).

In many cases the user wishes to manage this PV bootloader from within the guest, and therefore wishes to chainload something from the guest filesystem, most likely via a stage 1 PV bootloader provided by dom0.

The purpose of this document is to define the paths within the guest filesystem where a stage 1 bootloader should look for the in-guest PV bootloader to load and the protocol/format expected from the to-be-chainloaded bootloader.


The bootloader binary should be an ELF file of the appropriate type (32- or 64-bit). It should contain the standard Xen ELF notes allowing it to be loaded by the Xen toolstack domain builder (TBD: Reference).


The second stage bootloader should be installed into the guest filesystem as:

Where <ARCH> is the first element of the GNU triplet e.g. one of:

It is allowable for /boot to be a separate filesystem from / and therefore stage 1 bootloaders should search /boot/xen/pvboot-<ARCH>.elf and /xen/pvboot-<ARCH>.elf (in that order). The xen directory should be on the same filesystem as /boot and therefore it is not necessary to search for /pvboot-.elf.

It is not in general possible under Xen for a bootloader to boot a kernel of a different width from itself, and this extends to chainloading from a stage one. Therefore it is permissible to have both /boot/xen/pvboot-i386.elf and /boot/xen/pvboot-x86\_64.elf present in a guest to be used by the appropriate stage 1 (e.g. for systems with 32-bit userspace and an optional 64-bit kernel).