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I was following the steps here to build my own kernel, which worked great, then I wanted to make a small tweak to the setup file (/arch/x86/kernel/setup.c) and rebuild it to see my message printed in the dmesg log.

Before I clean and build again, is there a way to avoid the delay this will have? Can I just rebuild a portion of the kernel that I changed or do I really have to clean/rebuild the entire thing?

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Just try running build again (without clean before that). If I'm not mistaken this should rebuild some common files anyways + your file, but not the whole kernel. –  Pavel A Feb 14 '13 at 13:56

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