I would like to use the i2c_gpio software i2c kernel module because the broadcom hardware i2c does not support I2C_M_NOSTART. How do I do this?

I think that in order to do it I need to take the device tree config for i2c_gpio and turn it into a device tree fragment, then compile and load it. But I don't know how to rewrite the config as a fragment. Perhaps there is another, easier way.

  • Have you actually compiled and tried to use i2c-gpio.ko? It seems to build pretty easily.
    – goldilocks
    Oct 31, 2015 at 16:39
  • i2c-gpio is already built in the standard kernel modules. My question is how do you make it work? Loading it won't do anything without a configuration. Oct 31, 2015 at 17:24
  • Are you sure? It's not set in bcmrpi_defconfig, which is usually identical to the one spit out via proc from this kernel. Try modprobe configs; gunzip -c /proc/config.gz | grep I2C_GPIO. You probably get # CONFIG_I2C_GPIO is not set. Not that that helps much with using it, but you are one step closer. Or further away, lol.
    – goldilocks
    Oct 31, 2015 at 17:40
  • Yeah you're right, it's not in the default modules on raspbian. One more thing I need to sort out. Oct 31, 2015 at 17:44
  • Okay I have rebuilt the kernel with the module. As I expected it does absolutely nothing when loaded. Oct 31, 2015 at 20:48

1 Answer 1


As of June 2016 Raspbian already has the necessary modifications. You only need to enable the overlay in config.txt (step 6 onwards).

I finally got this working as follows:

  1. Rebuild the kernel with i2c_gpio module. You must edit the bcm2708_defconfig or bcmrpi_defconfig and add the line CONFIG_I2C_GPIO=m before running the make defconfig.
  2. Install kernel and modules using mkknlimg for device tree support as described in the kernel building docs.
  3. Convert the example i2c_gpio config to a device tree fragment as follows:

    // Overlay for i2c_gpio bitbanging host bus.
    / {
            compatible = "brcm,bcm2708";
            fragment@0 {
                    target-path = "/";
                    __overlay__ {
                            i2c_gpio: i2c@0 {
                                    compatible = "i2c-gpio";
                                    gpios = <&gpio 23 0 /* sda */
                                             &gpio 24 0 /* scl */
                                    i2c-gpio,delay-us = <2>; /* ~100 kHz */
                                    #address-cells = <1>;
                                    #size-cells = <0>;
            __overrides__ {
                    i2c_gpio_sda = <&i2c_gpio>,"gpios:4";
                    i2c_gpio_scl = <&i2c_gpio>,"gpios:16";
                    i2c_gpio_delay_us = <&i2c_gpio>,"i2c-gpio,delay-us:0";
    • This will default to using gpio 23 and 24 for software i2c.
    • delay-us should be 2 for 100kHz operation.
    • The following lines should be removed because they will prevent the driver from working on Raspberry Pi: i2c-gpio,sda-open-drain; i2c-gpio,scl-open-drain;
  4. Build the device tree blob with dtc -@ -I dts -O dtb -o i2c-gpio.dtb i2c-gpio.dts

  5. Copy the blob to /boot/overlays/

  6. Add a line in /boot/config.txt dtoverlay=i2c-gpio

    If you want to use different pins, put dtoverlay=i2c-gpio,i2c_gpio_sda=<pin>,i2c_gpio_scl=<pin> instead. You can also change the rate with i2c_gpio_delay_us=<usecs>.

  7. Reboot.
  8. modprobe i2c-dev and you now should have /dev/i2c-3 in addition to any others you previously configured.
  • 1
    Good job. Could you edit your answer to clarify which line is the "open drain" one? As a matter of record you should be able to achieve the same I2C commands with my abyz.co.uk/rpi/pigpio/cif.html#bbI2CZip function.
    – joan
    Nov 1, 2015 at 9:48
  • Updated. I didn't know pigpio had that feature. I'm already using piscope and I2C_sniffer.py to watch the bus activity. It looks like I will need a user space implementation anyway because even i2c-gpio can't quite work with the buggy i2c device I am trying to control. Nov 1, 2015 at 19:21
  • It looks like Raspbian circa August 2016 has all of the tough work done as "i2c-gpio" is installed already. Steps 6-8 are really all that seem to be needed. Aug 28, 2016 at 5:39

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