Geli prompts on gptzfsboot (Was:: Serious ZFS Bootcode Problem (GPT NON-UEFI -- RESOLVED)

Karl Denninger karl at
Sun Feb 10 18:36:28 UTC 2019

On 2/10/2019 12:01, Ian Lepore wrote:
> On Sun, 2019-02-10 at 11:54 -0600, Karl Denninger wrote:
>> On 2/10/2019 11:50, Ian Lepore wrote:
>>> On Sun, 2019-02-10 at 11:37 -0600, Karl Denninger wrote:
>>>> [...]
>>>> BTW am I correct that gptzfsboot did *not* get the ability to
>>>> read
>>>> geli-encrypted pools in 12.0?  The UEFI loader does know how
>>>> (which I'm
>>>> using on my laptop) but I was under the impression that for non-
>>>> UEFI
>>>> systems you still needed the unencrypted boot partition from
>>>> which to
>>>> load the kernel.
>>> Nope, that's not correct. GELI support was added to the boot and
>>> loader
>>> programs for both ufs and zfs in freebsd 12. You must set the geli
>>> '-g' 
>>> option to be prompted for the passphrase while booting (this is
>>> separate from the '-b' flag that enables mounting the encrypted
>>> partition as the rootfs). You can use "geli configure -g" to turn
>>> on
>>> the flag on any existing geli partition.
>>> -- Ian
>> Excellent - this will eliminate the need for me to run down the
>> foot-shooting that occurred in my update script since the unencrypted
>> kernel partition is no longer needed at all.  That also significantly
>> reduces the attack surface on such a machine (although you could
>> still
>> tamper with the contents of freebsd-boot of course.)
>> The "-g" flag I knew about from experience in putting 12 on my X1
>> Carbon
>> (which works really well incidentally; the only issue I'm aware of is
>> that there's no 5Ghz WiFi support.)
> One thing that is rather unfortunate... if you have multiple geli
> encrypted partitions that all have the same passphrase, you will be
> required to enter that passphrase twice while booting -- once in
> gpt[zfs]boot, then again during kernel startup when the rest of the
> drives/partitions get tasted by geom. This is because APIs within the
> boot process got changed to pass keys instead of the passphrase itself
> from one stage of booting to the next, and the fallout of that is the
> key for the rootfs is available to the kernel for mountroot, but the
> passphrase is not available to the system when geom is probing all the
> devices, so you get prompted for it again.
> -- Ian

Let me see if I understand this before I do it then... :-)

I have the following layout:

1. Two SSDs that contain the OS as a two-provider ZFS pool, which has
"-b" set on both members; I get the "GELI Passphrase:" prompt from the
loader and those two providers (along with encrypted swap) attach early
in the boot process.  The same SSDs contain a mirrored non-encrypted
pool that has /boot (and only /boot) on it because previously you
couldn't boot from an EFI-encrypted pool at all.


[\u at NewFS /root]# gpart show da1
=>       34  468862061  da1  GPT  (224G)
         34       2014       - free -  (1.0M)
       2048       1024    1  freebsd-boot  (512K)
       3072       1024       - free -  (512K)
       4096   20971520    2  freebsd-zfs  [bootme]  (10G)
   20975616  134217728    3  freebsd-swap  (64G)
  155193344  313667584    4  freebsd-zfs  (150G)
  468860928       1167       - free -  (584K)

There is of course a "da2" that is identical.  The actual encrypted root
pool is on partition 4 with "-b" set at present.  I get prompted from
loader as a result after the unencrypted partition (#2) boots.

2. Multiple additional "user space" pools on a bunch of other disks.

Right now #2 is using geli groups.  Prior to 12.0 they were handled
using a custom /etc/rc.d script I wrote that did basically the same
thing that geli groups does because all use the same passphrase and
entering the same thing over and over on a boot was a pain in the butt. 
It prompted cleanly with no echo, took a password and then iterated over
a list of devices attaching them one at a time.  That requirement is now
gone with geli groups, which is nice since mergemaster always complained
about it being a "non-standard" thing; it *had* to go in /etc/rc.d and
not in /usr/etc/rc.d else I couldn't get it to run early enough --

So if I remove the non-encrypted freebsd-zfs mirror that the system
boots from in favor of setting "-g" on the root pool (both providers)
gptzfsboot will find and prompt for the password to boot before loader
gets invoked at all, much like the EFI loader does.  That's good.  (My
assumption is that the "-g" is sufficient; I don't need (or want)
"bootme" set -- correct?)

/However, /once the kernel boots somewhere in the mishmash of boot-time
messages, and probably not where it's instantly obvious nor where it
will halt the cascade display on the console, I'm going to get asked for
that passphrase again?  I assume I want to remove
'geom_eli_passphrase_prompt="YES"' from loader.conf as well -- or would
leaving it in there save me from the prompt that's hard to find in the

Or, even better, would that situation of a double-prompt only apply if I
had "-b" set on something /other than /the boot device pool vdevs (I
don't -- those are handled by #2 for this exact reason.)

Karl Denninger
karl at <mailto:karl at>
/The Market Ticker/
/[S/MIME encrypted email preferred]/
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