Dynamic System Updates

Dynamic System Updates (DSU) allows you to make an Android system image that users can download from the internet and try out without the risk of corrupting the current system image. This document describes how to support DSU.

Kernel requirements

See Implementing Dynamic Partitions for kernel requirements.

In addition, DSU relies on the device-mapper-verity (dm-verity) kernel feature to verify the Android system image. So you must enable the following kernel configs:


Partition requirements

The metadata partition (16 MB or larger) is required for storing data related to the installed images. It must be mounted during first stage mount.

The userdata partition must use f2fs or ext4 file system. When using f2fs, include all f2fs related patches available in the Android common kernel.

DSU was developed and tested with kernel/common 4.9. It's recommended to use kernel 4.9 and higher for this feature.

Vendor HAL behavior

Weaver HAL

The weaver HAL provides a fixed number of slots for storing user keys. The DSU consumes two extra key slots. If an OEM has a weaver HAL, it needs to have enough slots for a generic system image (GSI) and a host image.

Gatekeeper HAL

The gatekeeper HAL needs to support large USER_ID values, because the GSI offsets UIDs to the HAL by +1000000.

Verify boot

If you want to support booting Developer GSI Images in LOCKED state without disabling verified boot, include Developer GSI keys by adding the following line to the file device/<device_name>/device.mk:

$(call inherit-product, $(SRC_TARGET_DIR)/product/developer_gsi_keys.mk)

Rollback protection

When using DSU, the downloaded Android system image must be newer than the current system image on the device. This is done by comparing the security patch levels in the Android Verified Boot (AVB) AVB property descriptor of both system images: Prop: com.android.build.system.security_patch -> '2019-04-05'.

For devices not using AVB, put the security patch level of the current system image into the bootloader kernel cmdline: androidboot.system.security_patch=2019-04-05.

Hardware requirements

When you launch a DSU instance, two temporary files are allocated:

  • A logical partition to store GSI.img (1~1.5 G)
  • An 8 GB empty /data partition as the sandbox for running the GSI

We recommend reserving at least 10 GB of free space before launching a DSU instance. DSU also supports allocation from an SD card. When an SD card is present, it has the highest priority for the allocation. SD card support is critical for lower-powered devices that might not have enough internal storage. When an SD card is present, make sure it's not adopted. DSU doesn't support adopted SD cards.

Available frontends

You can launch DSU using adb or using an app.

Launching DSU using adb

To launch DSU using adb, enter these commands:

$>simg2img out/target/product/.../system.img system.raw
$>gzip -c system.raw > system.raw.gz
$>adb push system.raw.gz /storage/emulated/0/Download
$>adb shell am start-activity \
-n com.android.dynsystem/com.android.dynsystem.VerificationActivity  \
-a android.os.image.action.START_INSTALL    \
-d file:///storage/emulated/0/Download/system.raw.gz  \
--el KEY_SYSTEM_SIZE $(du -b system.raw|cut -f1)  \
--el KEY_USERDATA_SIZE 8589934592

Launching DSU using an app

The main entry point to DSU is the android.os.image.DynamicSystemClient.java API:

public class DynamicSystemClient {


     * Start installing DynamicSystem from URL with default userdata size.
     * @param systemUrl A network URL or a file URL to system image.
     * @param systemSize size of system image.
    public void start(String systemUrl, long systemSize) {
        start(systemUrl, systemSize, DEFAULT_USERDATA_SIZE);

You must bundle/pre-install this app on the device. Because DynamicSystemClient is a System API, you can't build the app with the regular SDK API and you can't publish it on the Play Store. The purpose of this app is:

  1. Fetch an image list and the corresponding URL with a vendor-defined scheme.
  2. Match the images in the list against the device and show compatible images for the user to select.
  3. Invoke DynamicSystemClient.start like this:

    DynamicSystemClient aot = new DynamicSystemClient(...)
            ...URL of the selected image...,
            ...uncompressed size of the selected image...);

The URL points to a gzipped, non-sparse, system image file, which you can make with the following commands:

$> simg2img ${OUT}/system.img ${OUT}/system.raw
$> gzip ${OUT}/system.raw
$> ls ${OUT}/system.raw.gz

The filename should follow this format:

<android version>.<lunch name>.<user defined title>.raw.gz


  • o.aosp_taimen-userdebug.2018dev.raw.gz
  • p.aosp_taimen-userdebug.2018dev.raw.gz

Feature flag

The DSU feature is under the settings_dynamic_android feature flag. Before using DSU, make sure the corresponding feature flag is enabled.

Enabling the feature flag.

Figure 1. Enabling the feature flag

The feature flag UI might be unavailable on a device running a user build. In this case, use the adb command instead:

adb shell setprop persist.sys.fflag.override.settings_dynamic_system 1

Vendor host system images on GCE (optional)

One of the possible storage locations for the system images is the Google Compute Engine (GCE) bucket. The release administrator uses the GCP storage console to add/delete/change the released system image.

The images must be public access, as shown here:

Public access in GCE

Figure 2. Public access in GCE

The procedure to make an item public is available here.