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TF-M Build System

When building a valid _ns board target, TF-M will be built in the background, and linked with the Zephyr non-secure application. No knowledge of TF-M’s build system is required in most cases, and the following will build a TF-M and Zephyr image pair, and run it in qemu with no additional steps required:

$ west build -p auto -t mps2_an521_ns samples/tfm_integration/psa_crypto/ -t run

The outputs and certain key steps in this build process are described here, however, since you will need to understand and interact with the outputs, and deal with signing the secure and non-secure images before deploying them.

Images Created by the TF-M Build

The TF-M build system creates the following executable files:

  • tfm_s - the secure firmware

  • tfm_ns - a nonsecure app which is discarded in favor of the Zephyr app

  • bl2 - mcuboot, if enabled

For each of these, it creates .bin, .hex, .elf, and .axf files.

The TF-M build system also creates signed variants of tfm_s and tfm_ns, and a file which combines them:

  • tfm_s_signed

  • tfm_ns_signed

  • tfm_s_ns_signed

For each of these, only .bin files are created.

The Zephyr build system usually signs both tfm_s and the Zephyr ns app itself. See below for details.

The ‘tfm’ target contains properties for all these paths. For example, the following will resolve to <path>/tfm_s.hex:


See the top level CMakeLists.txt file in the tfm module for an overview of all the properties.

Signing Images

When CONFIG_TFM_BL2 is set to y, TF-M uses a secure bootloader (BL2) and firmware images must be signed with a private key. The firmware image is validated by the bootloader during updates using the corresponding public key, which is stored inside the secure bootloader firmware image.

By default, tfm/bl2/ext/mcuboot/root-rsa-3072.pem is used to sign secure images, and tfm/bl2/ext/mcuboot/root-rsa-3072_1.pem is used to sign non-secure images. Theses default .pem keys can (and should) be overridden using the CONFIG_TFM_KEY_FILE_S and CONFIG_TFM_KEY_FILE_NS config flags.

To satisfy PSA Certified Level 1 requirements, You MUST replace the default .pem file with a new key pair!

To generate a new public/private key pair, run the following commands:

$ imgtool keygen -k root-rsa-3072_s.pem -t rsa-3072
$ imgtool keygen -k root-rsa-3072_ns.pem -t rsa-3072

You can then place the new .pem files in an alternate location, such as your Zephyr application folder, and reference them in the prj.conf file via the CONFIG_TFM_KEY_FILE_S and CONFIG_TFM_KEY_FILE_NS config flags.


Be sure to keep your private key file in a safe, reliable location! If you lose this key file, you will be unable to sign any future firmware images, and it will no longer be possible to update your devices in the field!

After the built-in signing script has run, it creates a tfm_merged.hex file that contains all three binaries: bl2, tfm_s, and the zephyr app. This hex file can then be flashed to your development board or run in QEMU.

Custom CMake arguments

When building a Zephyr application with TF-M it might be necessary to control the CMake arguments passed to the TF-M build.

Zephyr TF-M build offers several Kconfig options for controlling the build, but doesn’t cover every CMake argument supported by the TF-M build system.

The TFM_CMAKE_OPTIONS property on the zephyr_property_target can be used to pass custom CMake arguments to the TF-M build system.

To pass the CMake argument -DFOO=bar to the TF-M build system, place the following CMake snippet in your CMakeLists.txt file.

set_property(TARGET zephyr_property_target


The TFM_CMAKE_OPTIONS is a list so it is possible to append multiple options. Also CMake generator expressions are supported, such as $<1:-DFOO=bar>