Ask Ubuntu is a question and answer site for Ubuntu users and developers. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm interested in compiling a new kernel under Ubuntu 12.04 x86 64 bit.

I found this wiki page which is basically a mirror for this blog and there are a lot of steps (git, etc.) that appear useless to me.

With earlier releases/distros, I used to create a .config file and modify a Makefile if I needed to, then just run make and it's done.

Is there is a simple way to do this under Ubuntu?

share|improve this question
Worth checking out: – Colin Ian King Aug 2 '12 at 20:27
up vote 30 down vote accepted

1. Use apt-get source to download the Ubuntu version of the kernel

apt-get source linux-image-$(uname -r)

gives a folder that contains, for example:

linux-3.2.0                linux_3.2.0-26.41.dsc
linux_3.2.0-26.41.diff.gz  linux_3.2.0.orig.tar.gz

The bolded diff includes all the Ubuntu/Debian customizations.

2. To build a stock kernel with your own .config, use the "old-fashioned" Debian make-kpkg method

This is the alternate old-fashioned way described in the wiki:

sudo apt-get install kernel-package

If you are compiling a kernel for the first time:

sudo apt-get build-dep linux-image-$(uname -r)

Then cd into the source directory (here, linux-3.2.0), and either run make oldconfig to create .config file with your running kernel's configuration, or copy a third-part .config to this directory.

Depending on whether you want a text or graphical config, install:


sudo apt-get install libncurses5 libncurses5-dev


sudo apt-get install qt3-dev-tools libqt3-mt-dev

And then run:


make menuconfig


make xconfig

When done, just run:

fakeroot make-kpkg -j N --initrd --append-to-version=my-very-own-kernel kernel-image kernel-headers

where N is how many jobs to run in parallel (usually the number of CPUs you have), and my-very-own-kernel is a custom string to identify this build.

When done, the kernel image and header files will be ready as debs in the parent directory; you can simply install them with sudo dpkg -i, which will also take care of adding GRUB entries, etc.

share|improve this answer
why they tells you nothing about this diff, to me a diff is just a diff, it can contain everything. – user827992 Jul 14 '12 at 10:22
I don't know, you would have to ask them (google for Canonical Kernel Team). I just told you how to build it ;) – izx Jul 14 '12 at 10:29
ok, last question, how to apply this compressed diff? :D I have to go in the linux-3.2.0 directory and run patch -p1 <../patch.diff ? – user827992 Jul 14 '12 at 10:48
There's no need to apply the diff; apt-get source ... did that for you already! – izx Jul 14 '12 at 10:54
Excuse me, but I am new to kernel compilation: when you say "Then cd into the source directory (here, linux-3.2.0)", where is that directory supposed to be? Should it be `/usr/src/linux-headers-3.2.0" for this example? – Sopalajo de Arrierez Jul 13 '15 at 21:41

Here are the steps. This procedure is based on nixCraft's How to: Compile Linux kernel 2.6--but modernized considerably.

Download and extract the source code of the kernel you wish to build.

You can get upstream kernel source code at Version 3.16.1 (the latest stable kernel as of this writing) will be used here. So you may need to modify these commands if you're using a different version.

Kernel source code is currently provided in .tar.xz archives, so click the "tar.xz" link by whatever version you want:

screenshot from, showing kernel source archives available for download

After cding to the directory where you downloaded the archive, you can extract it with tar:

tar xf linux-3.16.1.tar.xz

Install the necessary build tools and perform kernel configuration.

To get Ubuntu's toolchain (gcc, make, and so forth) install the build-essential Install build-essential metapackage:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install build-essential

Two reasonably user-friendly ways to configure what goes into your kernel are provided by the make targets xconfig and menuconfig.

xconfig runs a graphical configuration utility, while menuconfig is text-based (i.e., its interface appears fully within your terminal). Each requires some additional software not provided by build-essential Install build-essential.

To configure graphically, install libqt4-dev Install libqt4-dev and pkg-config Install pkg-config and run make xconfig:

sudo apt-get install libqt4-dev pkg-config
make xconfig

To configure in the terminal, install libncurses5-dev (thanks to Hannu for this info) and run make menuconfig:

sudo apt-get install libncurses5-dev
make menuconfig

Build the configured kernel.

First run this to compile the kernel and create vmlinuz:


vmlinuz is "the kernel." Specifically, it is the kernel image that will be uncompressed and loaded into memory by GRUB or whatever other boot loader you use.

Then build the loadable kernel modules:

make modules

Install your newly built kernel.

Assuming those make commands completed successfully, it's time to install the new kernel. First install the modules:

sudo make modules_install

Then install the kernel itself:

sudo make install

That puts vmlinuz-3.16.1 (a copy of vmlinuz), config-3.16.1 (a text file storing kernel configuration parameters), and (the kernel symbol lookup table) in /boot. For more details, see this comp.os.linux.misc post by Hadron and man installkernel.

Final setup, so the kernel can be started and boot the system:

This section is partly based on information in Kernel/Compile.

With the kernel now where it needs to be, it needs:

Generate your initramfs with mkinitramfs:

cd /boot
sudo mkinitramfs -ko initrd.img-3.16.1 3.16.1

When you update the configuration of the GRUB2 boot loader--which has been the default in Ubuntu since 9.10--should automatically detect the new kernel and add an option to boot from it.

sudo update-grub

Try your kernel.

Now you can reboot to test out your new kernel. You may need to hold down Shift during boot to see the GRUB boot menu where you can select between the different kernels that are installed.

To make your kernel (or another one) the default, see How do I change the GRUB boot order?

share|improve this answer
Step 3, make menuconfig requires apt get install libncurses5-dev – Hannu Aug 19 '14 at 10:03
@Hannu thank you, I just completely forgot to mention that. 64-bit system users may require "ia32-libs" also for the support of 32-bit programs to run. – Novice Aug 19 '14 at 10:37
Could be better to find a version-independent package too... I'm not sure there is any though. – Hannu Aug 19 '14 at 10:47
@EliahKagan Thank you. Is it OK now or should I delete it completely? I have no issue in doing that. – Novice Aug 19 '14 at 12:05
@Novice You've lessened material reproduced from the source; this is helpful. But there was still copied text together with your own and it was otherwise very similar. When relying mostly on one source, it's better to make something inspired or educated by it than a version of it. You should understand why what you're saying is right, avoid some of the source's shortcomings, and make something well suited to your audience (here, Ubuntu users). I think we'll benefit from a "traditional" kernel compilation guide, so I've tried to improve this more. If you like, feel free to edit further. – Eliah Kagan Aug 19 '14 at 15:15

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.