How To Compile A Kernel - The Fedora Way - Page 2

3 Building A Kernel The Traditional Way

This chapter describes a different approach that can be used on any Linux system. As there's nothing Fedora-specific in this, of course you will not end up with a kernel rpm package.


3.1 Download The Kernel Sources

We download our desired kernel to /usr/src. Go to and select the kernel you want to install, e.g. linux- (you can find all 2.6 kernels here: Then you can download it to /usr/src like this:

cd /usr/src

Then we unpack the kernel sources and create a symlink linux to the kernel sources directory:

tar xjf linux-
ln -s linux- linux
cd /usr/src/linux


3.2 Apply Patches To The Kernel Sources (Optional)

Sometimes you need drivers for hardware that isn't supported by the new kernel by default, or you need support for virtualization techniques or some other bleeding-edge technology that hasn't made it to the kernel yet. In all these cases you have to patch the kernel sources (provided there is a patch available...).

Now let's assume you have downloaded the needed patch (I call it patch.bz2 in this example) to /usr/src. This is how you apply it to your kernel sources (you must still be in the /usr/src/linux directory):

bzip2 -dc /usr/src/patch.bz2 | patch -p1 --dry-run
bzip2 -dc /usr/src/patch.bz2 | patch -p1

The first command is just a test, it does nothing to your sources. If it doesn't show errors, you can run the second command which actually applies the patch. Don't do it if the first command shows errors!

You can also apply kernel prepatches to your kernel sources. For example, if you need a feature that is available only in kernel 2.6.19-rc5, but the full sources haven't been released yet for this kernel. Instead, a patch-2.6.19-rc5.bz2 is available. You can apply that patch to the 2.6.18 kernel sources, but not to kernel or, etc. This is explained on

Prepatches are the equivalent to alpha releases for Linux; they live in the testing directories in the archives. They should be applied using the patch(1) utility to the source code of the previous full release with a 3-part version number (for example, the 2.6.12-rc4 prepatch should be applied to the 2.6.11 kernel sources, not, for example,

So if you want to compile a 2.6.19-rc5 kernel, you must download the 2.6.18 kernel sources ( in step 3.1 instead of kernel!

This is how you apply the 2.6.19-rc5 patch to kernel 2.6.18:

cd /usr/src
cd /usr/src/linux
bzip2 -dc /usr/src/patch-2.6.19-rc5.bz2 | patch -p1 --dry-run
bzip2 -dc /usr/src/patch-2.6.19-rc5.bz2 | patch -p1


3.3 Configure The Kernel

It's a good idea to use the configuration of your current working kernel as a basis for your new kernel. Therefore we copy the existing configuration to /usr/src/linux:

make mrproper
cp /boot/config-`uname -r` ./.config

Then we run

make menuconfig

which brings up the kernel configuration menu. Go to Load an Alternate Configuration File and choose .config (which contains the configuration of your current working kernel) as the configuration file:

Then browse through the kernel configuration menu and make your choices. When you are finished and select Exit, answer the following question (Do you wish to save your new kernel configuration?) with Yes:


3.4 Build And Install The Kernel

To build and install the kernel, execute these three commands:

make all
make modules_install
make install

Now be patient, the kernel compilation can take some hours, depending on your kernel configuration and your processor speed. The last command will also automatically create a ramdisk for you as well as configure /boot/grub/menu.lst.

Now edit /boot/grub/menu.lst. You should find a stanza for your new kernel at the top of the list, but to make sure that the new kernel gets booted instead of your old one, you must set the value of default to 0.

vi /boot/grub/menu.lst

My menu.lst looks like this:

# grub.conf generated by anaconda
# Note that you do not have to rerun grub after making changes to this file
# NOTICE:  You have a /boot partition.  This means that
#          all kernel and initrd paths are relative to /boot/, eg.
#          root (hd0,0)
#          kernel /vmlinuz-version ro root=/dev/VolGroup00/LogVol00
#          initrd /initrd-version.img

title Fedora Core (
        root (hd0,0)
        kernel /vmlinuz- ro root=/dev/VolGroup00/LogVol00
        initrd /initrd-

title Fedora Core (2.6.18-1.2798.fc6)
        root (hd0,0)
        kernel /vmlinuz-2.6.18-1.2798.fc6 ro root=/dev/VolGroup00/LogVol00
        initrd /initrd-2.6.18-1.2798.fc6.img

Now reboot the system:

shutdown -r now

If everything goes well, it should come up with the new kernel. You can check if it's really using your new kernel by running

uname -r

This should display something like

If the system doesn't start, restart it, and when you see this:

press any key to enter the GRUB menu:

Select your old kernel and start the system. You can now try again to compile a working kernel. Don't forget to remove the stanza of the not-working kernel from /boot/grub/menu.lst.


Falko Timme

About Falko Timme

Falko Timme is an experienced Linux administrator and founder of Timme Hosting, a leading nginx business hosting company in Germany. He is one of the most active authors on HowtoForge since 2005 and one of the core developers of ISPConfig since 2000. He has also contributed to the O'Reilly book "Linux System Administration".

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By: rodmar

one the simplest and best how to compile a kernel.



I ran into trouble trying to compile a 'vanilla' kernel which I downloaded from

It turned out I needed to create a symlink as follows:

 ln -s /usr/src/linux-X.Y.Z/include/linux /usr/include/linux

Also, it might be worth mentioning that to run "make menuconfig", the ncurses development package must be installed. 

By: Anonymous


 I used the traditional method with Fedora 10 and kernel  It took a long time, but it worked correctly.  Eliminating many configuration items decreased the time to compile the kernel by 1/2.

 Thanks for the guide ... cheers, a nonny mouse

By: Anonymous

I have tried many times to compile a kernel for linux and for some reason it never worked. I followed each step verbatim and it still never worked. Just wanted to say thanks for a very easy and step-by-step instructions on how to compile a kernel. Compiled on Fedora 11 VM. It did take quite some time though. Now I have a working process I will delve into the menuconfig part deeper and customize kernel just for this VM.



I have installed a Fedora 12 in a Sun Virtual Box, downloaded the latest kernel 2.6.32. Tried to compile the kernel in the standard procedure. On the last step, after - make all and make modules_install make install - ends up in following an error message: sh /usr/src/linux- arch/x86/boot/bzImage "\boot" /sbin/new-kernel-pkg: line 277: /sbin/mkinitrd: No such file or directory mkinitrd failed Appreciate any help

By: Anonymous

I had the same problem. I opened /sbin/new-kernel-pkg in vi and went to line 277. Right before

"[ -n "$verbose" ] ..." add

tool="/sbin/dracut -f $initrdfile $version" (this line is just copy and pasted from a few lines up)

By: Anonymous

I have the same problem too. Any expert out there who can help? Has anyone been able to solve that problem? 

By: saurabh

Hi all,

Here is a working copy of what solution worked for me.


By: Anonymous

please paste how the final code looks like becaus when i tried ur solution on fedra 12 it is giving some comile errors in the new-kernel-pkg in line 510 511 and 516 if possible please mail @ [email protected] thanks

By: Abdul

I tried long way to resolve this issue

Finally got solved

Install initrd-tools following steps

1 . download a file 'mkinitrd-6.0.93-1.fc12.i686.rpm' from

2. install initrd-tools

 ....#rpm -i  mkinitrd-6.0.93-1.fc12.i686.rpm

Note: my PC "isomd5sum-1.0.5-3.fc12.i686" package is missing while install initrd-tools. So I did install "isomd5sum" first then installed mkinitrd-6.0.93-1.fc12.i686.rpm

1 . download a file 'isomd5sum-1.0.5-3.fc12.i686.rpm' from

2. install isomd5sum

 ....#rpm -i  isomd5sum-1.0.5-3.fc12.i686.rpm

Now you can try........ All the best........