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How to develop for nRF51822 on the Linux command line using GCC (nRF51 series)

Note: This article is perhaps a bit outdated. See Ole Morten's comment on the bottom of this page

This tutorial tells you how to compile programs and program the flash of the nRF51822 on the evaluation kit board by Nordic Semiconductor in a Linux environment. It is assumed that you have purchased the "nRF51822 Evaluation Kit" ( You basically need to download three things: The debugger driver, a GCC compiler with ARM Cortex support and the nRF518 SDK. There are 4 steps in this tutorial and it should be pretty straightforward.

Note: This article is perhaps a bit outdated. See Ole Morten's comment on the bottom of this page

If you are using Ubuntu or Debian, you may consider looking at this page.

  1. Download the J-link software from Segger: This is a .tgz file that it should be easy to decompress with "tar". The evaluation kit uses a debugger from Segger and this is why you need to download this. You will have to enter the serial number of the Segger chip (on the evaluation kit) in order to download this file. After installing, run these commands from the directory where you have saved the file (assuming you download version 462a. Newer versions may work as well):
    tar -xvf JLink_Linux_V462a.tgz
    cd JLink_Linux_V462a
    sudo cp 45-jlink.rules /etc/udev/rules.d/
    cd ..
    sudo mv JLink_Linux_V462a /opt/
    After running these commands you should unplug and plug in the evaluation kit. The "45-jlink.rules" file ensures that you can program the nRF51822 as a non-root user also (as long as the user is a member of the group "plugdev").

  2. Download the Sourcery Codebench Lite Edition by Mentor: Make sure you choose the "EABI Release" and not the "GNU/Linux Release" (the link should guide you to the correct one). You will have to register your email address to download this file. Choose the "IA32 GNU/Linux TAR"-package after you have followed the link that is sent to you by email. This is a compiled version of GCC that works with the ARM Cortex processors. It is distributed as a .tar.bz2 file that you can easily decompress with tar (you might also use a newer version than the one assumed by the commands below):
    tar -xvf arm-2012.09-63-arm-none-eabi-i686-pc-linux-gnu.tar.bz2
    sudo mv arm-2012.09 /opt/
    The GCC version installed by default in for instance Ubuntu does not support ARM Cortex. It is possible to compile GCC yourself so that it supports ARM Cortex, but the easiest is by far to download the version from Mentor as explained above.

    You should use this version of GCC instead now:

  3. Download the nRF518 SDK: Go to Register a new user. Register a new product and enter the serial number of the evaluation kit. Follow this link: Click the "Downloads"-tab and download the nRF518-SDK. This is an .msi file which is intended to be used on Windows. However, if you have WINE, it is pretty straightforward to install it on Linux also:
    wine msiexec /i nrf51_sdk_v4_0_1.22983.msi
    IMPORTANT!: Make sure that you select that you want to install "nrf51822 examples" (Install feature locally) when you are in the "Custom Setup" menu:

    Just click cancel when it asks to install the JLink OB CDC Driver Package. After the installation, you will end up with the directory: "/home/$(your user)/.wine/drive_c/Nordic Semiconductor/nRF51 SDK_v4.0.1.22983". To make everything a bit easier, this one should be moved to another place. (It is also an advantage if you get rid of the filename spaces!!):
    sudo mv "/home/$(your user)/.wine/drive_c/Nordic Semiconductor/nRF51 SDK_v4.0.1.22983"  /opt/nrf51sdk
    You should be able to find a zip-file instead now on the web site called something like nRF518-SDK-ZIP. This one should be extracted somewhere convenient like /opt/nrf51sdk.

  4. Now you have downloaded all the files you need and are ready to start developing! In order to compile a simple program to be downloaded to the nRF51822, you need a couple of things from the SDK:

    • The assembly startup file:
    • The linker script:
    • The system_nrf51.c-file:
    • Some header files: (/opt/nrf51sdk/Nordic/nrf51822/Include/)
      • nrf.h
      • nrf51.h
      • nrf51_bitfields.h
      • nrf51_deprecated.h
      • nrf_gpio.h
      • gcc/core_cm0.h
      • gcc/core_cmFunc.h
      • gcc/core_cmInstr.h
      • system_nrf51.h
      • compiler_abstraction.h
      • boards.h
      • boards/pca10001.h

    • One "Makefile"

    You do not need to copy these files from where they are. It will suffice to create a Makefile that points to the correct location. Below is a basic Makefile that contains only the necessary things in order to compile the .bin or .hex file needed to program the flash. You can also find an example Makefile under /opt/nrf51sdk/Nordic/nrf51822/Source/templates/gcc which is more generic but perhaps a bit harder to understand.
    CC          := /opt/arm-2012.09/bin/arm-none-eabi-gcc
    OBJCOPY     := /opt/arm-2012.09/bin/arm-none-eabi-objcopy
    NRF51_SDK   := /opt/nrf51sdk
    default: main.bin main.hex
    main.o: main.c
    	$(CC) -mcpu=cortex-m0 -mthumb -DBOARD_PCA10001 -DNRF51 -I$(NRF51_SDK)/Nordic/nrf51822/Include -I$(NRF51_SDK)/Nordic/nrf51822/Include/gcc -c $<
    system_nrf51.o: $(NRF51_SDK)/Nordic/nrf51822/Source/templates/system_nrf51.c 
    	$(CC) -mcpu=cortex-m0 -mthumb -DBOARD_PCA10001 -DNRF51 -I$(NRF51_SDK)/Nordic/nrf51822/Include -I$(NRF51_SDK)/Nordic/nrf51822/Include/gcc -c $< 
    nrf_delay.o: $(NRF51_SDK)/Nordic/nrf51822/Source/nrf_delay/nrf_delay.c
    	$(CC) -mcpu=cortex-m0 -mthumb -DBOARD_PCA10001 -DNRF51 -I$(NRF51_SDK)/Nordic/nrf51822/Include -I$(NRF51_SDK)/Nordic/nrf51822/Include/gcc -c $< 
    gcc_startup_nrf51.o: $(NRF51_SDK)/Nordic/nrf51822/Source/templates/gcc/gcc_startup_nrf51.s 
    	$(CC) -mcpu=cortex-m0 -mthumb -DBOARD_PCA10001 -DNRF51 -I$(NRF51_SDK)/Nordic/nrf51822/Include -I$(NRF51_SDK)/Nordic/nrf51822/Include/gcc -c $< 
    main.out: main.o system_nrf51.o nrf_delay.o gcc_startup_nrf51.o
    	$(CC) -L"/opt/arm-2012.09/arm-none-eabi/lib/armv6-m" -L"/opt/arm-2012.09/lib/gcc/arm-none-eabi/4.7.2/armv6-m" -Xlinker -mcpu=cortex-m0 -mthumb -mabi=aapcs -T$(NRF51_SDK)/Nordic/nrf51822/Source/templates/gcc/gcc_linker_script_nrf51.ld main.o system_nrf51.o nrf_delay.o gcc_startup_nrf51.o -o main.out
    main.bin: main.out
    	$(OBJCOPY) -O binary main.out main.bin
    main.hex: main.out
    	$(OBJCOPY) -O ihex main.out main.hex
    install: main.bin
    	sed  's#\[\[--filename--\]\]#$(PWD)/main.bin#' segger/burn-template.seg > burn.seg
    	./segger/ $(PWD)/burn.seg
    	rm *.o *.out *.hex *.seg

    This is a simple main.c which will make the two LEDs flash:
    #include "nrf_delay.h"
    #include "nrf_gpio.h"
    int main(void){

    Download a simple .tar.gz project here: simple-nrf51822-linux.tar.gz. This contains the main.c file above, the Makefile and the Segger-scripts for programming the flash. In addition to the files mentioned above, this project uses the functions from nrf_delay.c and you can see in the Makefile above that "nrf_delay.c" is also compiled.
    File content:
    ├── main.c
    ├── Makefile
    └── segger
        ├── burn-template.seg

    Simply write:
    tar -xvf simple-nrf51822-linux.tar.gz
    cd simple-nrf51822-linux
    make install
    while the evaluation kit is connected to the USB port, and the flash of the nRF51822 should be programmed and the LEDs should start flashing.

    Note! For some reason the Makefile will report that an error has occured after programming the flash. This does actually not mean that the programming has failed (if the LEDs have started flashing). You may also have to modify the path for the Segger-driver installation in the segger/ file.

    The next step now will be to modify the "main.c" file according to your wishes and recompile with "make install" and then see if the changes are reflected by the nRF51822!

    Please let me know in the comment field below if this tutorial worked for you or if you experienced any problems!

    You may now continue to the tutorial on how to program the BLE soft device from Linux: Part 2 -->.


Erase the flash:

In order to erase the flash content, start (you can start it with ./segger/ from the "simple-nrf51822-linux" project directory) and execute these commands:
w4 4001e504 2
w4 4001e50c 1
w4 4001e514 1
You do not have to erase the flash before every time you program above. However, this must be done if for instance the Bluetooth low energy Soft-device has been programmed onto the chip and you want to remove it.

Add a comment:

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Doh! Nevermind - Mark B (2014-07-31 00:01:59)
I just read the first comment! Doh! Thanks for posting that Scott.
gcc_linker_script_nrf51.ld - Mark B (2014-07-31 00:00:58)
It appears that gcc_linker_script_nrf51.ld is no longer included with the SDK zip file. I just downloaded it and I don't see it at all. Any advice?
Thanks! - Scott (2014-07-14 16:20:34)
Still very relevant info, thankyou for getting it down on paper! For those using the example Makefile you'll need to update for the latest changes to the Linker scripts. Add '-L"$(NRF51_SDK)/Nordic/nrf51822/Source/templates/gcc"' and change the template to '-T$(NRF51_SDK)/Nordic/nrf51822/Source/templates/gcc/gcc_nrf51_blank_xxaa.ld'. Or perhaps even xxab.ld if you have the latest silicon.
Engineer - Peter (2014-06-07 03:01:44)
Thanks a lot for putting this online! Please consider moving the note about the new upstream GCC toolchain up in the article. I only saw it after wasting a couple of hours on the old toolchain, -lnosys _start etc.
- Ole Morten (2014-01-29 14:15:00)
Disclaimer: I'm an application engineer at Nordic, but have a private interest in Linux-support. :-) This tutorial seems to be a little outdated, since we've switched to the upstream GCC toolchain now: Also, I maintain this repo in my spare time, which may be worth having a look at:
Engineer - Cedric (2013-09-28 12:33:28)
Awesome tuto, thanks a lot !!! I had a few problems and I listed my workarounds here: I hope it helps ;) Cedric.
- Joel (2013-06-24 12:53:05)
Oh no, I have the rev 2 board. The tms and tck arent terminated anywhere on the board. :(
Engineer - Reluxwong (2013-06-24 07:59:11)
@Joel I haven't solved the issue yet. It is always fail when installing embsysregview. And I have no .makefile.
- David (2013-06-23 01:34:27)
Hi! I bought the EVK but can't find a serial number anywhere on the boards. Nordic are slow to respond. I was wondering if you can help. I've tried the codes etched onto the n51822 but with no luck. Any thoughts?
- Ruben (2013-06-22 13:49:46)
@Joel. You need only connect three wires between the eval kit and your standalone nrf51822: The SWDIO, the SWCLK and a ground pin. If you have the first release of the eval kit you will have access to the SWDIO and SWCLK on the jumper just above the Segger chip next to the reset button. Remove the two jumpers and connect wires to the two pins closest to the segger chip. When you remove the jumpers, you also remove the connection between the segger chip and the on-board nRF51822 which you will need. Then make sure that your standalone nrf51822 has power and then program the chip as you usual.
- Joel (2013-06-20 04:06:45)
@Ruben Thanks for the prompt reply. Thinking ahead, how would I flash a standalone nrf51822? The eval kit has an on board segger chip. What are my options? @Reluxwong, Not sure if you have solve that problem but I had no problems setting up the environment on eclipse 32bit in w7 64 bit.I had some trouble with the embsysreg not installing properly when I have the eclipse folder in program files which is weird. Moving it to root C works well/
Engineer - Reluxwong (2013-06-14 08:07:46)
Hi Sir, could you tell me how to set the developing environment in win 7? I have met some trouble when do so. I follow "Development_with_GCC_and_Eclipse_v1.0" from Nordicsemi, but failed on step "5. Repeat step 2 and add to the list of repositories. 6. Install embsysregview.". I can't access the web address.
- Ruben (2013-04-20 12:56:36)
By purchasing the evaluation kit for $99 (, you will be able to quickly start prototyping. I don't know of any particular license issues. The BLE stack may be downloaded from the Nordic Semiconductor web site for free after registering the evaluation kit.
- Joel (2013-04-19 06:52:06)
Hey,Thanks for the tutorial. I am not familiar with Nordic semiconductors. Was wondering if there are any license limitations when using their software? I have narrowed it down to the ble112 by bluegiga and this particular module.Leaning towards the nrf51822 if development is free.

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