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A device tree is a data structure describing the hierarchy of hardware components of a particular board/computer. Device trees have both a binary format for operating systems to use and a textual format.

Given the correct device tree, the same compiled kernel can support different hardware configurations within a wider architecture family.

For example, the device tree will tell the kernel that it runs on a Cortex M4 CPU and that on Pin 13 and 14 of the CPU there is an I2C controller and that on the I2C bus there is a temperature sensor with address 0xB4.

The device tree is parsed before init.