In order to ensure a secure and robust update process, Mender needs additional metadata alongside the raw bits of the update payload. Depending on the version of the Artifact used, the metadata might be different, but must contain the:

  • Name of the software build, used to track installed software on a given device and ensures that identical software versions are not redeployed.
  • Device types the software is compatible with, so that software is not deployed to incompatible hardware (e.g. CPU architecture, hardware floating point support, peripheral drivers).
  • Checksum of the payload, so that software is not run if it gets corrupted during transit or storage.

The Mender Artifact file format

To handle the requirements mentioned above, Mender uses a specific file format, identified by its .mender suffix which is also known as a Mender Artifact or simply an Artifact. All relevant components of Mender, such as the client and server, understand and use only this specific file format when doing software deployments.

Internally, a Mender Artifact is simply a file archive in the tarball format. It contains several files for incorporating versioning, extensions, metadata and the payload file(s).

Artifact payloads support multiple compression algorithms, and are compressed by default.

The diagram below shows an example of the main attributes and structure of a Mender Artifact file.

The exact Artifact format may vary between versions.

Mender Artifact format

You can find more details about the Mender Artifact format in the Mender Artifact specification.


Mender is constantly evolving to adapt to the needs of its users, and the Mender Artifact format has several revisions. See the Compatibility section for an overview of which versions of the Mender Artifact format are supported by which Mender client versions.

Work with Mender Artifacts

The command-line utility mender-artifact is the best way to work directly with Mender Artifacts. It allows you to view, create, modify and sign all types of Mender Artifacts. Get it in the Downloads section.

Mender also has OS-level integrations for creating system updates as part of your existing OS build process. Learn more by reading the following sections:

Sign and verify

To verify that the Artifact comes from a trusted source, the Mender Artifact format supports end-to-end signing and verification. In order to create a signed Artifact, please follow the instructions at Sign & Verify.

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