A Dream Come True: Running Coreboot On A Modern, Retail Desktop Motherboard
Over the many years of covering Coreboot (going back to when it was called LinuxBIOS!) on Phoronix the selection of supported motherboards has been rather unfortunate especially over the last decade. If wanting to run Coreboot on a system today it basically means running a Google Chromebook, using an outdated server motherboard or old Lenovo ThinkPad that has seen a Coreboot port, or out of reach to most individuals are various server motherboards that are reference platforms or board designs from hyperscalers. But over the past several months the folks at the 3mdeb consulting firm have carried out a terrific feat: porting their "Dasharo" downstream of Coreboot to a modern and readily available Intel desktop motherboard. I've been trying this out and it has worked out surprisingly well. Here are my experiences and benchmarks of Coreboot/Dasharo on this Intel Alder Lake motherboard.
For the past number of months 3mdeb has been working on an open-source Coreboot port to the MSI PRO Z690-A WiFi DDR4 motherboard. They made remarkable progress and this month christened their 1.0 release for this Coreboot port under the Dasharo flag. Dasharo is 3mdeb's set of modules built around open-source BIOS/UEFI/firmware solutions.
The MSI PRO Z690-A WiFi DDR4 is an Intel Alder Lake motherboard that is readily available and retails for around $220 USD. This LGA-1700 motherboard has all the usual features you would expect out of a modern desktop motherboard and of Alder Lake class. It's important to note though this Coreboot port is only for the DDR4 motherboard version and not the DDR5 alternative (similarly, 3mdeb has only tested with the DDR4 WiFi version and not the non-WiFi version, but it's believed that the non-WiFi board should also owrk). The MSI PRO Z690-A WiFi DDR4 is readily available from major Internet retailers and when deciding to order this motherboard some weeks ago given this ongoing Dasharo effort, I had no issues finding it for $219 USD... Far better deal than some of the outdated AMD Opteron motherboards or other old platforms selling with Coreboot pre-loaded for hundreds more!
Obviously though flashing your motherboard to an unofficial system firmware can potentially brick your system, so be aware of the risks involved before investing in such a system. But there is a recovery procedure if you brick your motherboard during flashing but if following the Dasharo documentation it's believed to be fairly safe and "highly unlikely" of destroying the hardware. Or if looking for less risk, 3mdeb is expected soon to begin selling hardware with pre-flashed Dasharo and paid support options.
It's also worth pointing out that like other modern Intel platforms running Coreboot, this port does still require the Intel FSP (Firmware Support Package) binary so it's not 100% open-source. The process of flashing their Dasharo binary onto the MSI PRO Z690-A WiFi DDR4 is very easy. Per the instructions there is an official binary build available and so all that is required is building Flashrom for flashing the motherboard itself. Flashrom is also capable of dumping your existing BIOS ROM for safe-keeping and wishing to flash back to the proprietary BIOS at a later date.