The linux-source-... has a module which is disabled in the config /boot/config-3.4-trunk-686-pae so that it is not part of linux-image-... (This is on Debian, but the solution should be the same for Ubuntu, or?), e.g.

# CONFIG_CAN_PEAK_USB is not set

How would one compile just that kernel module, so that it can be used with the distributed kernel?

The respective linux-source-... package is already installed, uncompressed and linked to /usr/src/linux. /boot/config-3.4-trunk-686-pae is copied to /usr/src/linux/.config and modified with



make modules

it is possible to compile the kernel and all modules. But how would one compile only that specific single module?

(Note: also the kernel needs to be compiled before, otherwise you get the following error: no symbol version for module_layout)


4 Answers 4


I had the same problem. I assume that you need not only to copy .config but also Module.symvers

my steps to compile module ft1000 (running Debian Wheeze 7.1.0; kernel 3.2.0-4-686-pae):

aptitude install linux-headers-3.2.0-4-686-pae
aptitude install linux-source-3.2
cd /usr/src/
tar xjf linux-source-3.2.tar.bz2
cd /usr/src/linux-source-3.2
cp ../linux-headers-3.2.0-4-686-pae/Module.symvers .
make oldconfig # it copies .config to ./
vi .config # enable ft1000 module: CONFIG_FT1000=m
make prepare # setup FT1000 as module
make modules_prepare
make SUBDIRS=scripts/mod
make SUBDIRS=drivers/staging/ft1000/ft1000-usb modules
cp drivers/staging/ft1000/ft1000-usb/ft1000.ko /lib/modules/3.2.0-4-686-pae/kernel
modprobe ft1000
  • 9
    I'm not sure if SUBDIRS is still correct. It was ignored for me. After reading kernel.org/doc/Documentation/kbuild/modules.txt I tried using make M=/path/to/module which seemed to work.
    – harmic
    Sep 17, 2014 at 12:44
  • Iam trying to modify a different module (is just adding a USB ID to an existent module) when I compile it I get no errors but when I insert it I get Invalid module format why?!
    – Zibri
    Oct 31, 2017 at 22:05

From within the top-level source directory, simply give make the path to the module name or module directory, e.g.:

make drivers/net/can/usb/peak_usb/

or for a simpler example (Intel e1000 Ethernet driver):

make drivers/net/ethernet/intel/e1000/e1000.ko
  • Just doing: make drivers/net/can/usb/peak_usb/pcan_usb.ko did only build pcan_usb.o. Doing make drivers/net/can/usb/peak_usb/ && make drivers/net/can/usb/peak_usb/pcan_usb.ko compiles it, but insmod complains Error: could not insert module drivers/net/can/usb/peak_usb/peak_usb.ko: Invalid module format. dmesg: peak_usb: no symbol version for module_layout
    – mab
    Jul 29, 2012 at 18:38
  • Are you running that specific kernel, and have you already compiled the kernel once? Please try with modprobe also.
    – ish
    Aug 9, 2012 at 23:44
  • I am running the packaged kernel. Compiling the complete kernel works. but I am trying to not compile the complete kernel, just the specific kernel module. Is there a make target that 'prepares' a single module compilation? modprobe shows the same error.
    – mab
    Aug 13, 2012 at 14:08
  • 6
    According to stackoverflow you can just use make modules SUBDIRS=drivers/net/can/usb/peak_usb or any other subdir. It works fine here.
    – Treviño
    Jul 13, 2013 at 17:57
  • If you find new driver still used old version, sometimes you need run make clean && make mrproper before build.
    – fkpwolf
    Jan 5, 2020 at 12:53

As simple as : (this example illustrate ft1000 driver, this should take just few minutes if not instants)

cd /usr/src/kernel-sources
make SUBDIRS=drivers/staging/ft1000/ft1000-usb modules
# Enable the ft1000 module: CONFIG_FT1000=m  on the config with 
make xconfig # or "make menuconfig" then save
make prepare
make modules_prepare
make SUBDIRS=scripts/mod
make SUBDIRS=drivers/staging/ft1000/ft1000-usb modules
make SUBDIRS=drivers/staging/ft1000/ft1000-usb modules_install

You can then load the module with modprobe after depmod

Note : depending on the module dependency you may need to rebuild the kernel entirely

  • +1 Because this approach can be used in any make projects, not only Linux kernel. May 13, 2022 at 3:36
  • To build the final module images in a directory, you can use the M= argument for your make command:

    make M=drivers/usb/serial

This will build all the needed files in that directory and link the final module images.

  • To build only a specific file in the kernel tree, just pass it as the argument to make:

    make drivers/usb/serial/visor.ko

The build system will build all needed files for the visor.ko kernel module, and do the final link to create the module.

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