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Occasionally, my system gets into a state where some kernels are missing a module or two, because DKMS somehow forgot to compile those modules for that kernel. Rather than spend time diagnosing the problem, it would be nice if there was a single command I could run that woudl just rebuild every dkms-controlled module for every installed kernel. Is there such a command?

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I always get the output Module broadcom-sta/ already installed on kernel 2.6.38jon-64/x86_64 I really want a --force or a --rebuild --just-do-what-i-say option ;) – user140350 Mar 14 '13 at 21:14
up vote 22 down vote accepted

I figured out a shell one-liner to do it:

ls /var/lib/initramfs-tools | \
    sudo xargs -n1 /usr/lib/dkms/dkms_autoinstaller start

This works because the names of the directories in /var/lib/initramfs-tools are exactly the kernel version names that you need to pass to dkms_autoinstaller to tell it to rebuild all modules for those kernel versions. Note that if you have uninstalled some old kernels, their directories might still be lying around and cause some errors to be reported, but this isn't a problem because dkms_autoinstaller will just do nothing for those kernel versions that aren't installed.

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it gave some errors because it came up headers-xxx and headers-xxx-generic but it seemed to rebuild the correct stuff despite the errors – frankster Feb 14 '12 at 19:09

Doesn't look like the dkms command allows you to do that. I created a small Python script that should do what you want. You can put an alias in your ~/.bashrc like

alias dkms-buildall='sudo ./wherever/your/script/is'

Of course you'd need to make it executable first. Here's the code:

#!/bin/env python
# NOTE: This assumes that all modules and versions are built for at
#       least one kernel. If that's not the case, adapt parsing as needed.
import os
import subprocess

# Permission check.
if os.geteuid() != 0:
    print "You need to be root to run this script."

# Get DKMS status output.
cmd = ['dkms', 'status']
process = subprocess.Popen(cmd, stdout=subprocess.PIPE)
dkms_status = process.communicate()[0].strip('\n').split('\n')
dkms_status = [x.split(', ') for x in dkms_status]

# Get kernel versions (probably crap).
cmd = ['ls', '/var/lib/initramfs-tools/']
# Alternative (for use with Arch Linux for example)
# cmd = ['ls', '/usr/lib/modules/']
process = subprocess.Popen(cmd, stdout=subprocess.PIPE)
kernels = process.communicate()[0].strip('\n').split('\n')

# Parse output, 'modules' will contain all modules pointing to a set
# of versions.
modules = {}

for entry in dkms_status:
   module = entry[0]
   version = entry[1].split(': ')[0]
   except KeyError:
      # We don't have that module, add it.
      modules[module] = set([version])

# For each module, build all versions for all kernels.
for module in modules:
   for version in modules[module]:
      for kernel in kernels:
         cmd = ['dkms', 'build', '-m', module, '-v', version, '-k', kernel]
         ret =

Tested it here, seems to work just fine:

$ dkms status
nvidia-current, 275.09.07, 3.0.0-5-generic, x86_64: installed
virtualbox, 4.0.10, 3.0.0-5-generic, x86_64: installed

$ sudo python

$ dkms status
nvidia-current, 275.09.07, 3.0.0-5-generic, x86_64: installed
nvidia-current, 275.09.07, 3.0-2-generic, x86_64: built
nvidia-current, 275.09.07, 3.0-3-generic, x86_64: built
virtualbox, 4.0.10, 3.0.0-5-generic, x86_64: installed
virtualbox, 4.0.10, 3.0-2-generic, x86_64: built
virtualbox, 4.0.10, 3.0-3-generic, x86_64: built

If you also want to install the modules, replace build with install in the second last line.

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Combining @htorque and @Ryan Thompson's answers, here's my (as root) one-liner:

dkms status | sed s/,//g | awk '{print "-m",$1,"-v",$2}' | while read line; do ls /var/lib/initramfs-tools | xargs -n 1 dkms install $line -k; done
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The above don't work on all variants, this might be a bit more helpful in those cases...

$moduleversion=`modinfo $modulename | grep "^version:" | awk '{ print $2 }'`
dkms status | grep $modulename | tr -d ',' | awk '{ print $3 }' | xargs -n1 dkms build $modulename/$moduleversion -k
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Could you elaborate on what this does that the other methods don't? – Ryan Thompson Feb 19 at 23:00
It works on systems that don't have /usr/src/linux-headers-* and /var/lib/initramfs-tools – stu Feb 21 at 12:43
consider the situation where you need it to run on many various linux distros that only have the fact that dkms (sort of) works, in common. – stu Feb 21 at 12:43

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