How to Build Linux Kernel From Scratch {Step-By-Step Guide}

November 12, 2020


The Linux Kernel is the foundation of all the Linux distributions. The kernel is responsible for communication between hardware and software and the allocation of available resources.

All Linux distributions are based on a predefined kernel. But, if you want to disable certain options and drivers or try experimental patches, you need to compile your own Linux kernel.

In this step-by-step guide, you will learn how to build and compile a Linux kernel from scratch.

How to Build Linux Kernel.


Building Linux Kernel

The process of building a Linux kernel can be performed in seven easy steps. However, the procedure may require a significant amount of time to complete, depending on the system speed.

Follow the steps below to build the latest Linux kernel.

Note: If the latest kernel version on the official website does not match the one mentioned in the steps below, replace the version number in the commands with the current latest version.

Step 1: Download the Source Code

1. Visit the official kernel website and download the latest kernel version. The downloaded file contains a compressed source code.

Downloading the latest Linux kernel.

2. Open the terminal and use the wget command to download the Linux kernel source code:


The output shows the “saved” message when the download completes.

Using the wget command to download the source code.

Note: Learn what to do when you get wget: command not found error.

Step 2: Extract the Source Code

When the file is ready, run the tar command to extract the source code:

tar xvf linux-6.0.7.tar.xz

The output displays the extracted kernel source code:

Extracting the source code.

Step 3: Install Required Packages

Install additional packages before building a kernel. To do so, run this command:

sudo apt-get install git fakeroot build-essential ncurses-dev xz-utils libssl-dev bc flex libelf-dev bison

The command we used above installs the following packages:

PackagePackage description
gitTracks and makes a record of all changes during development in the source code. It also allows reverting the changes.
fakerootCreates the fake root environment.
build-essentialInstalls development tools such as C, C++, gcc, and g++.
ncurses-devProvides API for the text-based terminals.
xz-utilsProvides fast file compression and file decompression.
libssl-devSupports SSL and TSL that encrypt data and make the internet connection secure.
bc (Basic Calculator)Supports the interactive execution of statements.
flex (Fast Lexical Analyzer Generator)Generates lexical analyzers that convert characters into tokens.
libelf-devIssues a shared library for managing ELF files (executable files, core dumps and object code)
bisonConverts grammar description to a C program.
Installing additional packages.

Step 4: Configure Kernel

The Linux kernel source code comes with the default configuration. However, you can adjust it to your needs. To do so, follow the steps below:

1. Navigate to the linux-6.0.7 directory using the cd command:

cd linux-6.0.7

2. Copy the existing Linux config file using the cp command:

cp -v /boot/config-$(uname -r) .config
Navigating to the kernel folder and copying configuration file.

3. To make changes to the configuration file, run the make command:

make menuconfig

The command launches several scripts that open the configuration menu:

Loading the configuration menu.

4. The configuration menu includes options such as firmware, file system, network, and memory settings. Use the arrows to make a selection or choose Help to learn more about the options. When you finish making the changes, select Save, and then exit the menu.

Changing the settings in the navigation menu.

Note: Changing settings for some options can lead to a non-functional kernel. If you are unsure what to change, leave the default settings.

Step 5: Build the Kernel

1. Start building the kernel by running the following command:


The process of building and compiling the Linux kernel takes some time to complete.

The terminal lists all Linux kernel components: memory management, hardware device drivers, filesystem drivers, network drivers, and process management.

Building a Linux kernel with the make command.

If you are compiling the kernel on Ubuntu, you may receive the following error that interrupts the building process:

No rule to make target 'debian/canonical-certs.pem

Disable the conflicting security certificates by executing the two commands below:

scripts/config --disable SYSTEM_TRUSTED_KEYS
scripts/config --disable SYSTEM_REVOCATION_KEYS

The commands return no output. Start the building process again with make, and press Enter repeatedly to confirm the default options for the generation of new certificates.

2. Install the required modules with this command:

sudo make modules_install
Installing kernel modules.

3. Finally, install the kernel by typing:

sudo make install 

The output shows done when finished:

Installing the kernel.

Step 6: Update the Bootloader (Optional)

The GRUB bootloader is the first program that runs when the system powers on.

The make install command performs this process automatically, but you can also do it manually.

1. Update the initramfs to the installed kernel version:

sudo update-initramfs -c -k 6.0.7

2. Update the GRUB bootloader with this command:

sudo update-grub

The terminal prints out the process and confirmation message:

Updating the grub.

Step 7: Reboot and Verify Kernel Version

When you complete the steps above, reboot the machine.

When the system boots up, verify the kernel version using the uname command:

uname -mrs

The terminal prints out the current Linux kernel version.

Verify the current Linux Kernel version.


In this step-by-step guide, you learned how to build a Linux kernel from scratch and install the required packages.

If you follow the instructions carefully, the process will complete successfully on your Linux machine.

The Linux kernel has a modular design. Functionality is extendible with modules or drivers. Learn how to use the modprobe command to add or remove modules on Linux.

Next, learn how to update the Linux kernel in Ubuntu.

Was this article helpful?
Goran Jevtic
Goran combines his leadership skills and passion for research, writing, and technology as a Technical Writing Team Lead at phoenixNAP. Working with multiple departments and on various projects, he has developed an extraordinary understanding of cloud and virtualization technology trends and best practices.
Next you should read
How to Remove Old Kernels on Ubuntu 16.04, 18.04, & 19.04
March 11, 2020

There are several methods to remove old or unused kernels. It's also considered good system hygiene practice...
Read more
How to Upgrade Linux Kernel in CentOS 7
October 8, 2019

The Linux kernel is the underlying software architecture of each Linux distribution. It provides and defines...
Read more
How to Uninstall or Remove Software Packages From Ubuntu
May 23, 2024

This guide will walk you through several methods for removing old software from Ubuntu...
Read more
How to Check Kernel Version in Linux in Command Line
April 18, 2024

The Linux kernel is much like the central brain of the operating system. Although it is open-source, meaning...
Read more