FreeRTOS provides optional tick suppression (tickless idle), a common and very effective low power technique. The low power examples that ship with FreeRTOS focus on power-optimized Cortex M3 and M4 MCUs (such as the STM32L1 and SAM4L) and there are (at this time) no in-tree examples for M0 or M0+ parts. The approach, however, is the same but just a little bit more work is required because the ARM_CM0 port in FreeRTOS does not export the “timer setup” symbol needed as part of tickless idle initialization.

Instead it implements a private method prvSetupTimerInterrupt which only deals with SysTick. The fix is really simple, go ahead and make that symbol public (and rename it to vPortSetupTimerInterrupt per FreeRTOS standard) and mark the internal (default) implementation as being a weak define so that we can replace it with an MCU-specific one.

Keep in mind that while FreeRTOS for ARM Cortex-M is very generic (relying on standard things like SysTick and the NVIC), the tick suppression is one of those areas where you must do MCU-specific things since you’re effectively setting an alarm (via a timer or similar hardware block), sleeping until woken by an interrupt, and then fixing up the RTOS tick accounting on wakeup. Another area that is MCU-specific is your NVIC configuration (number of bits for priority and groups) but that’s covered in FreeRTOSConfig.h

FreeRTOS patch

At time of writing, against FreeRTOSV8.2.1:

--- a/FreeRTOS/Source/portable/GCC/ARM_CM0/port.c
+++ b/FreeRTOS/Source/portable/GCC/ARM_CM0/port.c
@@ -107,7 +107,7 @@
  * Setup the timer to generate the tick interrupts.
-static void prvSetupTimerInterrupt( void );
+void vPortSetupTimerInterrupt( void );
  * Exception handlers.
@@ -205,7 +205,7 @@
    /* Start the timer that generates the tick ISR.  Interrupts are disabled
    here already. */
-	prvSetupTimerInterrupt();
+	vPortSetupTimerInterrupt();
    /* Initialise the critical nesting count ready for the first task. */
    uxCriticalNesting = 0;
@@ -358,7 +358,7 @@
  * Setup the systick timer to generate the tick interrupts at the required
  * frequency.
-void prvSetupTimerInterrupt( void )
+__attribute__(( weak )) void vPortSetupTimerInterrupt( void )
    /* Configure SysTick to interrupt at the requested rate. */
    *(portNVIC_SYSTICK_LOAD) = ( configCPU_CLOCK_HZ / configTICK_RATE_HZ ) - 1UL;


Per the FreeRTOS manual, you’ll define configUSE_TICKLESS_IDLE as 2 in your FreeRTOSConfig.h file in order to enable tick supression. You now need to implement the following somewhere in your code:

  • vPortSetupTimerInterrupt should set up a timer of your choosing to act as the RTOS tick. This takes the place of the standard SysTick in the CPU core.
  • vPortSuppressTicksAndSleep will be called by FreeRTOS to go ahead and activate tick suppression. This needs to set up the wakeup alarm timer, decide what low power mode (if any) to activate, activate that mode and, when execution resumes, fix up the RTOS tick accounting by calling vTaskStepTick. See the documentation for more details and an example implementation.

The implementation will need the vPortSuppressTicksAndSleep which is actually inserted with the macro portSUPPRESS_TICKS_AND_SLEEP so you will need something like:

#include <portmacro.h>

void vPortSuppressTicksAndSleep(TickType_t xExpectedIdleTime);
#define portSUPPRESS_TICKS_AND_SLEEP    vPortSuppressTicksAndSleep

and this can be placed right in to FreeRTOSConfig.h so that vPortSuppressTicksAndSleep gets called.

Example implementation

Please see this post for an example implementation for Atmel SAMD20 and related parts.