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The bootloader is a small program to start up the main operating system. The Openmoko phones can use U-Boot or Qi as bootloaders. Qi is actively developed, while the Openmoko version of U-Boot is not.

The default bootloader of the Neo 1973 is U-Boot. The bootloader of the Neo 1973 can be modified, but this is only recommended if a debug board is available.

The Neo FreeRunner has two bootloaders. The NOR Flash contains a version of U-Boot which cannot be modified. Therefore it is always available as a fallback, and the second bootloader can be modified without any risk. This bootloader can be booted into by pressing and holding the AUX button and then pressing the Power button.