How to upgrade the Taranis X-Lite firmware

In this article I will show you how to upgrade the firmware of your Taranis X-Lite. This might seem intimidating at first, but once you know what you are doing, the hardest part is to plug in the USB cable.

The most recent OpenTX firmware version (as of June 2019) is 2.2.3 I will try to keep this howto up to date as versions progress, but the basics should apply no matter which version you are using.

I always like to upgrade my firmware as soon as I get a new gadget, after that I usually only upgrade if the newer version has a feature that I really want to try or fixes a bug that is annoying me. Other then that I live by the mantra: Never touch a running system.

Overview

The basic steps to get your FrSky Taranis X-Lite flashed with new firmware are the following:

  1. Acquire required files
  2. Set up a Radio Profile
  3. Connect transmitter to Computer
  4. Backup Radio firmware, settings and SD card
  5. Flash transmitter with new firmware
  6. Check new firmware

Acquire needed files

First of all you need to download and install OpenTX companion for your operating system. I would highly recommend to go with the latest stable release from the OpenTX download page.

Installers are available for Windows and Mac. There is also a package for Debian Linux and in Ubuntu you can pull the OpenTx Companion package from the PPA, although it seems that this is currently not up to date, so you might be better off to get the debian package instead.

While you are at it, also grab the SDCard Content zip from the download page too, this one depends on your transmitter model and has to match the firmware version, so double check that.

Radio Profile Setup

After you start the OpenTX companion for the first time, it will ask you to set up a Radio Profile, should the profile wizzard not pop up by default you can add a new Radio Profile by navigating to

Settings -> Radio Profile -> Add Radio Profile

Let’s go through all the options and discuss them briefly:

  • Profile Name: select a descriptive name here.
  • Radio Type: choose your radio, in my case (and if you found this tutorial, probably your case too) it is FrSky Taranis X-Lite
  • Menu Language: choose the menu language, I would recommend to leave this in English since you will have an easier time following tutorials regarding OpenTX - most of them are in English.
  • Build Options: This is the section where you chose which options you want to be enabled in the firmware you will be flashing. You can hover over them and you will be shown a brief tool tip. Unfortunately this tooltip is very brief and it might not be obvious what those options do, so let me explain them in a bit more detail:
    • ppmus: show channel values in micro seconds instead of absolute values from -100 to +100.
    • nooverridech: disables channel overrides in the special functions - not sure why you would want to disable that.
    • faichoice: Allows you to enable FAI mode. FAI stands for Federation Aeronautique Internationale and is basically the mode you have to run for championships and world records, it disables all telemetry except for RSSI and battery voltage. After you have enabled it once, you will not be able to go back without re-connecting with the OpenTX companion.
    • faimode: Permanently enable FAI mode.
    • multimodule: Enables the use of a multi protocol module that allows you to use different protocals than the ones offered by FrSky. With such a module you could then for example also communicate with a FlySky receiver.
    • noheli: Disables Helicopter related features - if you are only flying quadcopters you can enable this.
    • nogvars: Removes global variables screen - global variables might be used throughout different functions, I am not sure why anyone would want to disable this.
    • lua: Enables LUA screen, if you want to run LUA scripts, enable this.
    • luac: Enables the LUA compiler, if you enabled the lua option, you should also enable this one.
    • eu: Basically removes the option to choose the D8 protocol. This has nothing to do with the actual RF module firmware, but simply removes D8 as an option. If you are in the EU and bought your radio after the 1st January of 2015 you need to enable this in order to be compliant to current regulations.
    • flexr9m: Enable this when you use an r9 module running the custom flex firmware.
    • sqt5font: Use the alternative sqt5 font instead of the default - in my opinion the sqt5 font is easier to read, so I like to enable this option.
  • Splash Screen: Here you can select an image that will be used as your splash screen on startup. This field accepts quite some formats, but in order to get the best results your image should be gray-scale bitmap and have a size of 212x64 pixels. You can check the OpenTX Start screen page to see if you find something that you like. I don’t set anything here since I am happy with the default image.
  • SD structure path: This is the path where you extract the content of the SDCard Content zip file you downloaded earlier.
  • Backupt folder: Set where your backups will be saved, this needs to be set in order to enable the next option.
  • Enable automatic backup before writing the firmware: This is pretty self explanatory and I like to keep this enabled - you never know. Better have too many backups than to cry after you lost all your settings.
  • Default Stick Mode: Leave this at Mode 2. Mode 2 means having throttle and yaw on the left stick, and pitch and roll on the right stick. This is how 95% of people fly and I would recommend to stick to it.
  • Default Channel Order: The order in which the channels are sent to the receiver. I leave this at the defaults, you might need to adapt the channel order to this in the Betaflight receiver tab.

I then also check “Append version number to FW file name” and “Offer to write FW to Tx after download”.

This is how the Radio Profile tab looks after I am done:

In the Application Settings tab I leave everything as it is and in the Simulator Settings tab I only set the Screenshot Capture Folder path. If you are not planning on developing OpenTX or making tutorials, you don’t even need to set this option.

Once done, simply hit the OK button and you should see the main window of the OpenTX companion.

Connecting the radio

In order to flash your X-Lite you need to put it in Bootloader mode first: Press and hold the DPad in the centerwhile pressing the power button, you should now see the Bootloader screen. Now connect the X-Lite to your computer via USB.

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Backing up the Radio

The first thing after connecting the Radio to the OpenTX companion and before flashing a new firmware should always be a backup. there are different things you can Backup, the Models and Settings, the Firmware itself and the SD card.

Backing up Models and Settings

Simply click the Backup Radio to File button in the left sidebar, select a destination and write the EEPROM file, make sure it has the .bin file extension. This will backup all your models and settings you mad, but not the content of the SD card, also not the Firmware itself.

Backing up the Firmware

Click the Backup Firmware button in the left sidebar, select a destination and write the binary firmware backup file, again make sure it has the .bin file extension. This will backup the firmware - basically exactly what you flashed before or what came on the transmitter originally.

Backing up the SD Card

The SD card should have been recognized as mass media device by your operating system. Copy the contents of your SD card to a safe location.

Now you are on the safe side, you have everything backed up and should something go wrong, you can return to the current state.

I like to put the two binary files and the content of the SD card in one folder and then ZIP all of it up in order to have everything in one place, should I ever need to go back to this state.

Updating the Radio

Before attempting this step make sure that your transmitter is fully charged - bad things might happen if you lose power during the flashing process.

After we are done with the backups, it is now time to update the radio. Press the Check for updates button in the UI. This will now check if there is an update for the firmware of one of your radio profiles or if the firmware has been downloaded at all. It will prompt you with a window where you have the option to see the Release Notes, which I highly recommend - this way you can learn what changed from the last version. After that you can confirm the download of the firmware.

The companion will now ask you if you want to write the firmware to the radio, you can accept this.

Should this dialog not pop up, you have to manually flash the downloaded firmware, simply press the Write Firmware to Radio button, navigate to the folder the firmware has previously been saved to and select it.

You are now presented with the last screen before flashing the firmware to your radio. Double check that you chose the proper version, if you want, you have another chance here to select a splash screen - since I did not set anything in the profile, the default is selected.

Leave the Check hardware compatibility checkbox enabled and click the Write to TX button.

After flashing is done, you are presented with a confirmation message and you can now proceed.

Synchronize SD

Once you have flashed the radio with the current firmware, you also want to make sure that the SD card is up to date by pressing the Synchronize SD button.

Since I use a custom sound pack, chances are high that the synchronization would override my custom sound pack, so I check the Test-run only checkbox to see which files would be overwritten during synchronization. In the Progress window I now enable the Show Details checkbox to see which files are being replaced.

And sure enough, my custom soundpack files would have been replaced. Since I know this now, I override the sound pack files in the SD folder with my custom files. Keep in mind that you can only do this as long as the names of the files did not change, but in case you see that the files are being overwritten, chances are, that the names did not change.

Now I run the SD synchronization again - this time without the Test-run only checkbox enabled, to actually update the file on the SD card.

Check Success

This is it, you have now flashed your Taranis X-Lite with the newest firmware and updated your SD card.

You can now unmount the SD card. After that unplug the USB cable and power cycle the transmitter.

Check that you indeed have the newest firmware flashed: On your X-Lite go to the Radio Setup screen by holding the joystick to the left. Go to page 5 here you should see the version you just flashed.

Also make sure that all your models are still there.

I would highly recommend to check at least with one model in beta flight that the channel mappings are still as you would expect them.

Restoring a Backup

Should something have gone wrong or should you for whatever reason not be happy with the new OpenTX version, restore your transmitter from the backups you made earlier:

  1. Write the firmware file
  2. Wrtie the models and settings
  3. Erase the SD card and copy your backup to the SD card

Chris is a Vienna based software developer. In his spare time he enjoys reviewing tech gear, ripping quads of all sizes and making stuff.

Learn more about Chris, the gear he uses and follom him on social media:

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