How to Generate and Use NK.bin Files for Windows CE Devices
NK.bin is a file that contains the Windows CE kernel and other system components that are loaded by the bootloader of a device. It is usually stored on a flash memory or an SD card, depending on the device configuration. NK.bin files can be used to run custom code on devices with an unmodifiable bootloader designed to load Windows CE.
In this article, we will show you how to generate and use NK.bin files for Windows CE devices using some tools and examples.
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How to Generate NK.bin Files
There are two ways to generate NK.bin files: from scratch or by patching an existing file.
Generating NK.bin Files from Scratch
To generate NK.bin files from scratch, you need to have a binary file that contains the code you want to run on the device. This can be a bootloader, such as U-Boot, or any other program that is compatible with the device architecture and memory layout.
Then, you need to use a tool called nk_bin.py, which is a Python script that generates an NK.bin file that contains the user specified binary where the bootloader would expect to find the WinCE kernel[^2^]. You can download the tool from GitHub and run it with the following command:
python nk_bin.py input_file output_file
where input_file is the name of your binary file and output_file is the name of the NK.bin file you want to create.
The tool currently hardcodes the addresses used on some devices, but they could easily be modified or exposed as command line arguments. You can also check the source code for more details and documentation.
Patching an Existing NK.bin File
If you have an existing NK.bin file that works on your device, you can also patch it with your custom code using another tool called patch_nk_bin.py, which is also a Python script that replaces the WinCE kernel with the specified code within an existing NK.bin file[^2^]. You can download the tool from GitHub and run it with the following command:
python patch_nk_bin.py input_file output_file patch_file
where input_file is the name of your original NK.bin file, output_file is the name of the patched NK.bin file you want to create, and patch_file is the name of your binary file that contains your custom code.
This method was used for initial testing, when it was not sure if a valid NK.bin file could be generated from scratch. It can also be useful if you want to preserve some of the system components from the original NK.bin file.
How to Use NK.bin Files
Once you have generated or patched your NK.bin file, you need to copy it to your device's storage. Depending on your device configuration, this can be done in different ways. Here are some examples:
Using a Flash Memory
If your device has a flash memory that contains the bootloader and the NK.bin file, you need to flash your new NK.bin file to the flash memory using a tool that supports your device. For example, you can use Platform Builder, which is an integrated development environment for Windows CE. You can follow these steps:
Connect your device to your PC using a serial cable or USB cable.
Open Platform Builder and select your OS design project.
Select Target > Connectivity Options.
Select Ethernet, Serial, or USB, depending on how you connected your device.
Select Target > Cold Boot Device.
Select Target > Download Binaries.