How to replace the boot volume on a RaspberryPi

Just ran into what I think is called the “rainbow screen of death” where a fully functioning RaspberryPi running Raspbian stopped working on me after a reboot.

I know my MicroSD card is good quality and I wasn’t mucking with the boot file system before the reboot so it baffled me why things would just stop working.

I ran then MicroSD card through SpinRite and that didn’t solve the problem. If I connected the microSD card to another PC all the files were there.

Based on my research I found this happens from time to time where something goes wrong with the /boot volume. I could have just re-loaded and re-setup my RPi (it would have taken less time at this point) but I decided I wanted to try and fix it with out losing all of my data.

This is what worked for me:

  1. Image a fresh spare microSD card with the same distro of Raspbian you’re using on the non-functional microSD
  2. Connect the non-functional microSD to the same PC you have your freshly imaged microSD connected
  3. In Windows there is going to be one partition (disk) under My Computer you can actually view, that’s the boot partition
  4. On the non-functioning microSD copy ‘cmdline.txt’ and ‘config.txt’ to some place safe on your computer
  5. Copy the entire contents of the boot partition from the new microSD to the bad one overwriting all files when prompted
  6. Copy the backups of ‘cmdline.txt’ and ‘config.txt’ on to the bad microSD

If you’ve never run ‘rpi-update’ then you’re done. You should be able to put the microSD into your RPi and it will boot again.

If you have run ‘rpi-update’ you have a bit more work to do.

  1. Go to and download the release that matches the date of the last time you ran rpi-update
    Note: If you don’t know when this is you might be able to boot the RPi now, login locally and dig through your ‘history’ or look at the date/time stamps on the files in /boot
  2. Extract the downloaded file
  3. Copy the contents of firmware-#.#######\boot into \boot on your bad microSD overwriting all files when prompted

Now you’re done. You should be able to put that bad microSD back into a RPi and have it boot

Once your RPi is backup and running I highly recommend manually running a ‘rpi-update’


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