Create your own image for jetson nano board

Last update: 30 January 2021


This article will guide you step by step to create a minimalist Ubuntu based image for your NVIDIA Jetson nano board that best suits your project.

Why would you build an image from scratch instead of using the official one ?

First, for fun. It's always interesting to build stuff from scratch as you always learn something in the process. Second, the official image is large in size (over 5GB 😱 ) and it's filled with lot of unnecessary preinstalled packages (ubuntu-desktop, browser ...) that takes lot of disk space and memory. So, let's create a clean and minimalist image.

Download the scripts

Before starting, let's first clone the repository where I put all the needed scripts.

$ git clone
$ cd jetson-nano-image

Create a rootfs

We're gonna use the script to create a basic rootfs. First, we define the location where we want to build it. This is done by defining the environment variable $JETSON_ROOTFS_DIR. The path will be created if it does not exit.

$ export JETSON_ROOTFS_DIR=/path/to/rootfs

Then we build the rootfs by running the following command

$ sudo -E ./
ROOTFS_DIR: ~/jetson-rootfs
Installing the dependencies...  [OK]
Creating rootfs directory...    [OK]
Downloading the base image...   [OK]
Run debootstrap first stage...  [OK]
Run debootstrap second stage... [OK]

-E option for sudo preserve the environment variables


Now that we have a basic rootfs, we're gonna customize it using one of my favorite tool ever: Ansible. For this step you need to have Ansible installed in your workstation. if it's not the case, just run this command and you're ready to go

$ pip install --user ansible

This Ansible role is going to do 3 things: * Install some basic tools (ssh, systemd, sudo ...) * Setup basic configurations (locales, network ...) * Add new user: pythops

You can run the playbook as follows

$ cd ansible
$ sudo -E $(which ansible-playbook) jetson.yaml

Feel free to adapt this role to your needs.

Create the image

Now that we customized the rootfs, we're gonna use the script to create our final image. We need to define a build directory using the environment variable $JETSON_BUILD_DIR. This path will be created if it does not exist.

$ export JETSON_BUILD_DIR=/path/to/build_dir

Then we build the image as follows

$ sudo -E ./

If all goes well, you'll get this message at the end

Image created successfully
Image location: /path/to/jetson.img

Flash on the sdcard

Finally we're gonna flash the image on the sdcard using the script

Insert your sdcard and run this command

$ sudo ./ /path/to/jetson.img /dev/mmcblk0
Success !
Your sdcard is ready !

the sdcard path /dev/mmcblk0 may be different in your system.

This script will automatically resize the root partition to occupy all the available space in the sdcard.

Congratulations 🎉 Now you can boot your board with the new image !

Nvidia Libraries

You can install Nvidia libraries using apt

$ sudo apt install -y cuda-toolkit-10-2 libcudnn8 libcudnn8-dev


With the new image only 200MB of RAM is used, which leaves you with 3.8 GB for your projects !