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Linux Kernel Makefiles
This document describes the Linux kernel Makefiles.
The Makefiles have five parts::
Makefile the top Makefile.
.config the kernel configuration file.
arch/$(SRCARCH)/Makefile the arch Makefile.
scripts/Makefile.* common rules etc. for all kbuild Makefiles.
kbuild Makefiles exist in every subdirectory
The top Makefile reads the .config file, which comes from the kernel
configuration process.
The top Makefile is responsible for building two major products: vmlinux
(the resident kernel image) and modules (any module files).
It builds these goals by recursively descending into the subdirectories of
the kernel source tree.
The list of subdirectories which are visited depends upon the kernel
configuration. The top Makefile textually includes an arch Makefile
with the name arch/$(SRCARCH)/Makefile. The arch Makefile supplies
architecture-specific information to the top Makefile.
Each subdirectory has a kbuild Makefile which carries out the commands
passed down from above. The kbuild Makefile uses information from the
.config file to construct various file lists used by kbuild to build
any built-in or modular targets.
scripts/Makefile.* contains all the definitions/rules etc. that
are used to build the kernel based on the kbuild makefiles.
Who does what
People have four different relationships with the kernel Makefiles.
*Users* are people who build kernels. These people type commands such as
``make menuconfig`` or ``make``. They usually do not read or edit
any kernel Makefiles (or any other source files).
*Normal developers* are people who work on features such as device
drivers, file systems, and network protocols. These people need to
maintain the kbuild Makefiles for the subsystem they are
working on. In order to do this effectively, they need some overall
knowledge about the kernel Makefiles, plus detailed knowledge about the
public interface for kbuild.
*Arch developers* are people who work on an entire architecture, such
as sparc or x86. Arch developers need to know about the arch Makefile
as well as kbuild Makefiles.
*Kbuild developers* are people who work on the kernel build system itself.
These people need to know about all aspects of the kernel Makefiles.
This document is aimed towards normal developers and arch developers.
The kbuild files
Most Makefiles within the kernel are kbuild Makefiles that use the
kbuild infrastructure. This chapter introduces the syntax used in the
kbuild makefiles.
The preferred name for the kbuild files are ``Makefile`` but ``Kbuild`` can
be used and if both a ``Makefile`` and a ``Kbuild`` file exists, then the ``Kbuild``
file will be used.
Section `Goal definitions`_ is a quick intro; further chapters provide
more details, with real examples.
Goal definitions
Goal definitions are the main part (heart) of the kbuild Makefile.
These lines define the files to be built, any special compilation
options, and any subdirectories to be entered recursively.
The most simple kbuild makefile contains one line:
obj-y += foo.o
This tells kbuild that there is one object in that directory, named
foo.o. foo.o will be built from foo.c or foo.S.
If foo.o shall be built as a module, the variable obj-m is used.
Therefore the following pattern is often used:
obj-$(CONFIG_FOO) += foo.o
$(CONFIG_FOO) evaluates to either y (for built-in) or m (for module).
If CONFIG_FOO is neither y nor m, then the file will not be compiled
nor linked.
Built-in object goals - obj-y
The kbuild Makefile specifies object files for vmlinux
in the $(obj-y) lists. These lists depend on the kernel
Kbuild compiles all the $(obj-y) files. It then calls
``$(AR) rcSTP`` to merge these files into one built-in.a file.
This is a thin archive without a symbol table. It will be later
linked into vmlinux by scripts/
The order of files in $(obj-y) is significant. Duplicates in
the lists are allowed: the first instance will be linked into
built-in.a and succeeding instances will be ignored.
Link order is significant, because certain functions
(module_init() / __initcall) will be called during boot in the
order they appear. So keep in mind that changing the link
order may e.g. change the order in which your SCSI
controllers are detected, and thus your disks are renumbered.
# Makefile for the kernel ISDN subsystem and device drivers.
# Each configuration option enables a list of files.
obj-$(CONFIG_ISDN_I4L) += isdn.o
obj-$(CONFIG_ISDN_PPP_BSDCOMP) += isdn_bsdcomp.o
Loadable module goals - obj-m
$(obj-m) specifies object files which are built as loadable
kernel modules.
A module may be built from one source file or several source
files. In the case of one source file, the kbuild makefile
simply adds the file to $(obj-m).
obj-$(CONFIG_ISDN_PPP_BSDCOMP) += isdn_bsdcomp.o
Note: In this example $(CONFIG_ISDN_PPP_BSDCOMP) evaluates to "m"
If a kernel module is built from several source files, you specify
that you want to build a module in the same way as above; however,
kbuild needs to know which object files you want to build your
module from, so you have to tell it by setting a $(<module_name>-y)
obj-$(CONFIG_ISDN_I4L) += isdn.o
isdn-y := isdn_net_lib.o isdn_v110.o isdn_common.o
In this example, the module name will be isdn.o. Kbuild will
compile the objects listed in $(isdn-y) and then run
``$(LD) -r`` on the list of these files to generate isdn.o.
Due to kbuild recognizing $(<module_name>-y) for composite objects,
you can use the value of a ``CONFIG_`` symbol to optionally include an
object file as part of a composite object.
obj-$(CONFIG_EXT2_FS) += ext2.o
ext2-y := balloc.o dir.o file.o ialloc.o inode.o ioctl.o \
namei.o super.o symlink.o
ext2-$(CONFIG_EXT2_FS_XATTR) += xattr.o xattr_user.o \
In this example, xattr.o, xattr_user.o and xattr_trusted.o are only
part of the composite object ext2.o if $(CONFIG_EXT2_FS_XATTR)
evaluates to "y".
Note: Of course, when you are building objects into the kernel,
the syntax above will also work. So, if you have CONFIG_EXT2_FS=y,
kbuild will build an ext2.o file for you out of the individual
parts and then link this into built-in.a, as you would expect.
Library file goals - lib-y
Objects listed with obj-* are used for modules, or
combined in a built-in.a for that specific directory.
There is also the possibility to list objects that will
be included in a library, lib.a.
All objects listed with lib-y are combined in a single
library for that directory.
Objects that are listed in obj-y and additionally listed in
lib-y will not be included in the library, since they will
be accessible anyway.
For consistency, objects listed in lib-m will be included in lib.a.
Note that the same kbuild makefile may list files to be built-in
and to be part of a library. Therefore the same directory
may contain both a built-in.a and a lib.a file.
lib-y := delay.o
This will create a library lib.a based on delay.o. For kbuild to
actually recognize that there is a lib.a being built, the directory
shall be listed in libs-y.
See also `List directories to visit when descending`_.
Use of lib-y is normally restricted to ``lib/`` and ``arch/*/lib``.
Descending down in directories
A Makefile is only responsible for building objects in its own
directory. Files in subdirectories should be taken care of by
Makefiles in these subdirs. The build system will automatically
invoke make recursively in subdirectories, provided you let it know of
To do so, obj-y and obj-m are used.
ext2 lives in a separate directory, and the Makefile present in fs/
tells kbuild to descend down using the following assignment.
obj-$(CONFIG_EXT2_FS) += ext2/
If CONFIG_EXT2_FS is set to either "y" (built-in) or "m" (modular)
the corresponding obj- variable will be set, and kbuild will descend
down in the ext2 directory.
Kbuild uses this information not only to decide that it needs to visit
the directory, but also to decide whether or not to link objects from
the directory into vmlinux.
When Kbuild descends into the directory with "y", all built-in objects
from that directory are combined into the built-in.a, which will be
eventually linked into vmlinux.
When Kbuild descends into the directory with "m", in contrast, nothing
from that directory will be linked into vmlinux. If the Makefile in
that directory specifies obj-y, those objects will be left orphan.
It is very likely a bug of the Makefile or of dependencies in Kconfig.
Kbuild also supports dedicated syntax, subdir-y and subdir-m, for
descending into subdirectories. It is a good fit when you know they
do not contain kernel-space objects at all. A typical usage is to let
Kbuild descend into subdirectories to build tools.
# scripts/Makefile
subdir-$(CONFIG_GCC_PLUGINS) += gcc-plugins
subdir-$(CONFIG_MODVERSIONS) += genksyms
subdir-$(CONFIG_SECURITY_SELINUX) += selinux
Unlike obj-y/m, subdir-y/m does not need the trailing slash since this
syntax is always used for directories.
It is good practice to use a ``CONFIG_`` variable when assigning directory
names. This allows kbuild to totally skip the directory if the
corresponding ``CONFIG_`` option is neither "y" nor "m".
Non-builtin vmlinux targets - extra-y
extra-y specifies targets which are needed for building vmlinux,
but not combined into built-in.a.
Examples are:
1) vmlinux linker script
The linker script for vmlinux is located at
# arch/x86/kernel/Makefile
extra-y +=
$(extra-y) should only contain targets needed for vmlinux.
Kbuild skips extra-y when vmlinux is apparently not a final goal.
(e.g. ``make modules``, or building external modules)
If you intend to build targets unconditionally, always-y (explained
in the next section) is the correct syntax to use.
Always built goals - always-y
always-y specifies targets which are literally always built when
Kbuild visits the Makefile.
# ./Kbuild
offsets-file := include/generated/asm-offsets.h
always-y += $(offsets-file)
Compilation flags
ccflags-y, asflags-y and ldflags-y
These three flags apply only to the kbuild makefile in which they
are assigned. They are used for all the normal cc, as and ld
invocations happening during a recursive build.
Note: Flags with the same behaviour were previously named:
They are still supported but their usage is deprecated.
ccflags-y specifies options for compiling with $(CC).
# drivers/acpi/acpica/Makefile
This variable is necessary because the top Makefile owns the
variable $(KBUILD_CFLAGS) and uses it for compilation flags for the
entire tree.
asflags-y specifies assembler options.
asflags-y := -ansi
ldflags-y specifies options for linking with $(LD).
ldflags-y += -T $(srctree)/$(src)/decompress_$(arch-y).lds
subdir-ccflags-y, subdir-asflags-y
The two flags listed above are similar to ccflags-y and asflags-y.
The difference is that the subdir- variants have effect for the kbuild
file where they are present and all subdirectories.
Options specified using subdir-* are added to the commandline before
the options specified using the non-subdir variants.
subdir-ccflags-y := -Werror
ccflags-remove-y, asflags-remove-y
These flags are used to remove particular flags for the compiler,
assembler invocations.
ccflags-remove-$(CONFIG_MCOUNT) += -pg
CFLAGS_$@ and AFLAGS_$@ only apply to commands in current
kbuild makefile.
$(CFLAGS_$@) specifies per-file options for $(CC). The $@
part has a literal value which specifies the file that it is for.
CFLAGS_$@ has the higher priority than ccflags-remove-y; CFLAGS_$@
can re-add compiler flags that were removed by ccflags-remove-y.
# drivers/scsi/Makefile
This line specify compilation flags for aha152x.o.
$(AFLAGS_$@) is a similar feature for source files in assembly
AFLAGS_$@ has the higher priority than asflags-remove-y; AFLAGS_$@
can re-add assembler flags that were removed by asflags-remove-y.
# arch/arm/kernel/Makefile
AFLAGS_crunch-bits.o := -Wa,-mcpu=ep9312
AFLAGS_iwmmxt.o := -Wa,-mcpu=iwmmxt
Dependency tracking
Kbuild tracks dependencies on the following:
1) All prerequisite files (both ``*.c`` and ``*.h``)
2) ``CONFIG_`` options used in all prerequisite files
3) Command-line used to compile target
Thus, if you change an option to $(CC) all affected files will
be re-compiled.
Custom Rules
Custom rules are used when the kbuild infrastructure does
not provide the required support. A typical example is
header files generated during the build process.
Another example are the architecture-specific Makefiles which
need custom rules to prepare boot images etc.
Custom rules are written as normal Make rules.
Kbuild is not executing in the directory where the Makefile is
located, so all custom rules shall use a relative
path to prerequisite files and target files.
Two variables are used when defining custom rules:
$(src) is a relative path which points to the directory
where the Makefile is located. Always use $(src) when
referring to files located in the src tree.
$(obj) is a relative path which points to the directory
where the target is saved. Always use $(obj) when
referring to generated files.
$(obj)/53c8xx_d.h: $(src)/53c7,8xx.scr $(src)/
$(CPP) -DCHIP=810 - < $< | ... $(src)/
This is a custom rule, following the normal syntax
required by make.
The target file depends on two prerequisite files. References
to the target file are prefixed with $(obj), references
to prerequisites are referenced with $(src) (because they are not
generated files).
echoing information to user in a rule is often a good practice
but when execution ``make -s`` one does not expect to see any output
except for warnings/errors.
To support this kbuild defines $(kecho) which will echo out the
text following $(kecho) to stdout except if ``make -s`` is used.
# arch/arm/Makefile
$(BOOT_TARGETS): vmlinux
$(Q)$(MAKE) $(build)=$(boot) MACHINE=$(MACHINE) $(boot)/$@
@$(kecho) ' Kernel: $(boot)/$@ is ready'
When kbuild is executing with KBUILD_VERBOSE unset, then only a shorthand
of a command is normally displayed.
To enable this behaviour for custom commands kbuild requires
two variables to be set::
quiet_cmd_<command> - what shall be echoed
cmd_<command> - the command to execute
# lib/Makefile
quiet_cmd_crc32 = GEN $@
cmd_crc32 = $< > $@
$(obj)/crc32table.h: $(obj)/gen_crc32table
$(call cmd,crc32)
When updating the $(obj)/crc32table.h target, the line::
GEN lib/crc32table.h
will be displayed with ``make KBUILD_VERBOSE=``.
Command change detection
When the rule is evaluated, timestamps are compared between the target
and its prerequisite files. GNU Make updates the target when any of the
prerequisites is newer than that.
The target should be rebuilt also when the command line has changed
since the last invocation. This is not supported by Make itself, so
Kbuild achieves this by a kind of meta-programming.
if_changed is the macro used for this purpose, in the following form::
quiet_cmd_<command> = ...
cmd_<command> = ...
<target>: <source(s)> FORCE
$(call if_changed,<command>)
Any target that utilizes if_changed must be listed in $(targets),
otherwise the command line check will fail, and the target will
always be built.
If the target is already listed in the recognized syntax such as
obj-y/m, lib-y/m, extra-y/m, always-y/m, hostprogs, userprogs, Kbuild
automatically adds it to $(targets). Otherwise, the target must be
explicitly added to $(targets).
Assignments to $(targets) are without $(obj)/ prefix. if_changed may be
used in conjunction with custom rules as defined in `Custom Rules`_.
Note: It is a typical mistake to forget the FORCE prerequisite.
Another common pitfall is that whitespace is sometimes significant; for
instance, the below will fail (note the extra space after the comma)::
target: source(s) FORCE
**WRONG!** $(call if_changed, objcopy)
if_changed should not be used more than once per target.
It stores the executed command in a corresponding .cmd
file and multiple calls would result in overwrites and
unwanted results when the target is up to date and only the
tests on changed commands trigger execution of commands.
$(CC) support functions
The kernel may be built with several different versions of
$(CC), each supporting a unique set of features and options.
kbuild provides basic support to check for valid options for $(CC).
$(CC) is usually the gcc compiler, but other alternatives are
as-option is used to check if $(CC) -- when used to compile
assembler (``*.S``) files -- supports the given option. An optional
second option may be specified if the first option is not supported.
cflags-y += $(call as-option,-Wa$(comma)-isa=$(isa-y),)
In the above example, cflags-y will be assigned the option
-Wa$(comma)-isa=$(isa-y) if it is supported by $(CC).
The second argument is optional, and if supplied will be used
if first argument is not supported.
as-instr checks if the assembler reports a specific instruction
and then outputs either option1 or option2
C escapes are supported in the test instruction
Note: as-instr-option uses KBUILD_AFLAGS for assembler options
cc-option is used to check if $(CC) supports a given option, and if
not supported to use an optional second option.
cflags-y += $(call cc-option,-march=pentium-mmx,-march=i586)
In the above example, cflags-y will be assigned the option
-march=pentium-mmx if supported by $(CC), otherwise -march=i586.
The second argument to cc-option is optional, and if omitted,
cflags-y will be assigned no value if first option is not supported.
Note: cc-option uses KBUILD_CFLAGS for $(CC) options
cc-option-yn is used to check if gcc supports a given option
and return "y" if supported, otherwise "n".
biarch := $(call cc-option-yn, -m32)
aflags-$(biarch) += -a32
cflags-$(biarch) += -m32
In the above example, $(biarch) is set to y if $(CC) supports the -m32
option. When $(biarch) equals "y", the expanded variables $(aflags-y)
and $(cflags-y) will be assigned the values -a32 and -m32,
Note: cc-option-yn uses KBUILD_CFLAGS for $(CC) options
cc-disable-warning checks if gcc supports a given warning and returns
the commandline switch to disable it. This special function is needed,
because gcc 4.4 and later accept any unknown -Wno-* option and only
warn about it if there is another warning in the source file.
KBUILD_CFLAGS += $(call cc-disable-warning, unused-but-set-variable)
In the above example, -Wno-unused-but-set-variable will be added to
KBUILD_CFLAGS only if gcc really accepts it.
gcc-min-version tests if the value of $(CONFIG_GCC_VERSION) is greater than
or equal to the provided value and evaluates to y if so.
cflags-$(call gcc-min-version, 70100) := -foo
In this example, cflags-y will be assigned the value -foo if $(CC) is gcc and
$(CONFIG_GCC_VERSION) is >= 7.1.
clang-min-version tests if the value of $(CONFIG_CLANG_VERSION) is greater
than or equal to the provided value and evaluates to y if so.
cflags-$(call clang-min-version, 110000) := -foo
In this example, cflags-y will be assigned the value -foo if $(CC) is clang
and $(CONFIG_CLANG_VERSION) is >= 11.0.0.
cc-cross-prefix is used to check if there exists a $(CC) in path with
one of the listed prefixes. The first prefix where there exist a
prefix$(CC) in the PATH is returned - and if no prefix$(CC) is found
then nothing is returned.
Additional prefixes are separated by a single space in the
call of cc-cross-prefix.
This functionality is useful for architecture Makefiles that try
to set CROSS_COMPILE to well-known values but may have several
values to select between.
It is recommended only to try to set CROSS_COMPILE if it is a cross
build (host arch is different from target arch). And if CROSS_COMPILE
is already set then leave it with the old value.
ifneq ($(SUBARCH),$(ARCH))
ifeq ($(CROSS_COMPILE),)
CROSS_COMPILE := $(call cc-cross-prefix, m68k-linux-gnu-)
$(LD) support functions
ld-option is used to check if $(LD) supports the supplied option.
ld-option takes two options as arguments.
The second argument is an optional option that can be used if the
first option is not supported by $(LD).
LDFLAGS_vmlinux += $(call ld-option, -X)
Script invocation
Make rules may invoke scripts to build the kernel. The rules shall
always provide the appropriate interpreter to execute the script. They
shall not rely on the execute bits being set, and shall not invoke the
script directly. For the convenience of manual script invocation, such
as invoking ./scripts/, it is recommended to set execute
bits on the scripts nonetheless.
Kbuild provides variables $(CONFIG_SHELL), $(AWK), $(PERL),
and $(PYTHON3) to refer to interpreters for the respective
cmd_depmod = $(CONFIG_SHELL) $(srctree)/scripts/ $(DEPMOD) \
Host Program support
Kbuild supports building executables on the host for use during the
compilation stage.
Two steps are required in order to use a host executable.
The first step is to tell kbuild that a host program exists. This is
done utilising the variable ``hostprogs``.
The second step is to add an explicit dependency to the executable.
This can be done in two ways. Either add the dependency in a rule,
or utilise the variable ``always-y``.
Both possibilities are described in the following.
Simple Host Program
In some cases there is a need to compile and run a program on the
computer where the build is running.
The following line tells kbuild that the program bin2hex shall be
built on the build host.
hostprogs := bin2hex
Kbuild assumes in the above example that bin2hex is made from a single
c-source file named bin2hex.c located in the same directory as
the Makefile.
Composite Host Programs
Host programs can be made up based on composite objects.
The syntax used to define composite objects for host programs is
similar to the syntax used for kernel objects.
$(<executable>-objs) lists all objects used to link the final
hostprogs := lxdialog
lxdialog-objs := checklist.o lxdialog.o
Objects with extension .o are compiled from the corresponding .c
files. In the above example, checklist.c is compiled to checklist.o
and lxdialog.c is compiled to lxdialog.o.
Finally, the two .o files are linked to the executable, lxdialog.
Note: The syntax <executable>-y is not permitted for host-programs.
Using C++ for host programs
kbuild offers support for host programs written in C++. This was
introduced solely to support kconfig, and is not recommended
for general use.
hostprogs := qconf
qconf-cxxobjs := qconf.o
In the example above the executable is composed of the C++ file - identified by $(qconf-cxxobjs).
If qconf is composed of a mixture of .c and .cc files, then an
additional line can be used to identify this.
hostprogs := qconf
qconf-cxxobjs := qconf.o
qconf-objs := check.o
Using Rust for host programs
Kbuild offers support for host programs written in Rust. However,
since a Rust toolchain is not mandatory for kernel compilation,
it may only be used in scenarios where Rust is required to be
available (e.g. when ``CONFIG_RUST`` is enabled).
hostprogs := target
target-rust := y
Kbuild will compile ``target`` using ```` as the crate root,
located in the same directory as the ``Makefile``. The crate may
consist of several source files (see ``samples/rust/hostprogs``).
Controlling compiler options for host programs
When compiling host programs, it is possible to set specific flags.
The programs will always be compiled utilising $(HOSTCC) passed
the options specified in $(KBUILD_HOSTCFLAGS).
To set flags that will take effect for all host programs created
in that Makefile, use the variable HOST_EXTRACFLAGS.
HOST_EXTRACFLAGS += -I/usr/include/ncurses
To set specific flags for a single file the following construction
is used:
It is also possible to specify additional options to the linker.
HOSTLDLIBS_qconf := -L$(QTDIR)/lib
When linking qconf, it will be passed the extra option
When host programs are actually built
Kbuild will only build host-programs when they are referenced
as a prerequisite.
This is possible in two ways:
(1) List the prerequisite explicitly in a custom rule.
hostprogs := gen-devlist
$(obj)/devlist.h: $(src)/pci.ids $(obj)/gen-devlist
( cd $(obj); ./gen-devlist ) < $<
The target $(obj)/devlist.h will not be built before
$(obj)/gen-devlist is updated. Note that references to
the host programs in custom rules must be prefixed with $(obj).
(2) Use always-y
When there is no suitable custom rule, and the host program
shall be built when a makefile is entered, the always-y
variable shall be used.
hostprogs := lxdialog
always-y := $(hostprogs)
Kbuild provides the following shorthand for this::
hostprogs-always-y := lxdialog
This will tell kbuild to build lxdialog even if not referenced in
any rule.
Userspace Program support
Just like host programs, Kbuild also supports building userspace executables
for the target architecture (i.e. the same architecture as you are building
the kernel for).
The syntax is quite similar. The difference is to use ``userprogs`` instead of
Simple Userspace Program
The following line tells kbuild that the program bpf-direct shall be
built for the target architecture.
userprogs := bpf-direct
Kbuild assumes in the above example that bpf-direct is made from a
single C source file named bpf-direct.c located in the same directory
as the Makefile.
Composite Userspace Programs
Userspace programs can be made up based on composite objects.
The syntax used to define composite objects for userspace programs is
similar to the syntax used for kernel objects.
$(<executable>-objs) lists all objects used to link the final
userprogs := bpf-fancy
bpf-fancy-objs := bpf-fancy.o bpf-helper.o
Objects with extension .o are compiled from the corresponding .c
files. In the above example, bpf-fancy.c is compiled to bpf-fancy.o
and bpf-helper.c is compiled to bpf-helper.o.
Finally, the two .o files are linked to the executable, bpf-fancy.
Note: The syntax <executable>-y is not permitted for userspace programs.
Controlling compiler options for userspace programs
When compiling userspace programs, it is possible to set specific flags.
The programs will always be compiled utilising $(CC) passed
the options specified in $(KBUILD_USERCFLAGS).
To set flags that will take effect for all userspace programs created
in that Makefile, use the variable userccflags.
# samples/seccomp/Makefile
userccflags += -I usr/include
To set specific flags for a single file the following construction
is used:
bpf-helper-userccflags += -I user/include
It is also possible to specify additional options to the linker.
# net/bpfilter/Makefile
bpfilter_umh-userldflags += -static
To specify libraries linked to a userspace program, you can use
``<executable>-userldlibs``. The ``userldlibs`` syntax specifies libraries
linked to all userspace programs created in the current Makefile.
When linking bpfilter_umh, it will be passed the extra option -static.
From command line, :ref:`USERCFLAGS and USERLDFLAGS <userkbuildflags>` will also be used.
When userspace programs are actually built
Kbuild builds userspace programs only when told to do so.
There are two ways to do this.
(1) Add it as the prerequisite of another file
userprogs := bpfilter_umh
$(obj)/bpfilter_umh_blob.o: $(obj)/bpfilter_umh
$(obj)/bpfilter_umh is built before $(obj)/bpfilter_umh_blob.o
(2) Use always-y
userprogs := binderfs_example
always-y := $(userprogs)
Kbuild provides the following shorthand for this::
userprogs-always-y := binderfs_example
This will tell Kbuild to build binderfs_example when it visits this
Kbuild clean infrastructure
``make clean`` deletes most generated files in the obj tree where the kernel
is compiled. This includes generated files such as host programs.
Kbuild knows targets listed in $(hostprogs), $(always-y), $(always-m),
$(always-), $(extra-y), $(extra-) and $(targets). They are all deleted
during ``make clean``. Files matching the patterns ``*.[oas]``, ``*.ko``, plus
some additional files generated by kbuild are deleted all over the kernel
source tree when ``make clean`` is executed.
Additional files or directories can be specified in kbuild makefiles by use of
clean-files := crc32table.h
When executing ``make clean``, the file ``crc32table.h`` will be deleted.
Kbuild will assume files to be in the same relative directory as the
To exclude certain files or directories from make clean, use the
$(no-clean-files) variable.
Usually kbuild descends down in subdirectories due to ``obj-* := dir/``,
but in the architecture makefiles where the kbuild infrastructure
is not sufficient this sometimes needs to be explicit.
subdir- := compressed
The above assignment instructs kbuild to descend down in the
directory compressed/ when ``make clean`` is executed.
Note 1: arch/$(SRCARCH)/Makefile cannot use ``subdir-``, because that file is
included in the top level makefile. Instead, arch/$(SRCARCH)/Kbuild can use
Note 2: All directories listed in core-y, libs-y, drivers-y and net-y will
be visited during ``make clean``.
Architecture Makefiles
The top level Makefile sets up the environment and does the preparation,
before starting to descend down in the individual directories.
The top level makefile contains the generic part, whereas
arch/$(SRCARCH)/Makefile contains what is required to set up kbuild
for said architecture.
To do so, arch/$(SRCARCH)/Makefile sets up a number of variables and defines
a few targets.
When kbuild executes, the following steps are followed (roughly):
1) Configuration of the kernel => produce .config
2) Store kernel version in include/linux/version.h
3) Updating all other prerequisites to the target prepare:
- Additional prerequisites are specified in arch/$(SRCARCH)/Makefile
4) Recursively descend down in all directories listed in
init-* core* drivers-* net-* libs-* and build all targets.
- The values of the above variables are expanded in arch/$(SRCARCH)/Makefile.
5) All object files are then linked and the resulting file vmlinux is
located at the root of the obj tree.
The very first objects linked are listed in scripts/head-object-list.txt.
6) Finally, the architecture-specific part does any required post processing
and builds the final bootimage.
- This includes building boot records
- Preparing initrd images and the like
Set variables to tweak the build to the architecture
Generic $(LD) options
Flags used for all invocations of the linker.
Often specifying the emulation is sufficient.
KBUILD_LDFLAGS := -m elf_s390
Note: ldflags-y can be used to further customise
the flags used. See `Non-builtin vmlinux targets - extra-y`_.
Options for $(LD) when linking vmlinux
LDFLAGS_vmlinux is used to specify additional flags to pass to
the linker when linking the final vmlinux image.
LDFLAGS_vmlinux uses the LDFLAGS_$@ support.
LDFLAGS_vmlinux := -e stext
objcopy flags
When $(call if_changed,objcopy) is used to translate a .o file,
the flags specified in OBJCOPYFLAGS will be used.
$(call if_changed,objcopy) is often used to generate raw binaries on
$(obj)/image: vmlinux FORCE
$(call if_changed,objcopy)
In this example, the binary $(obj)/image is a binary version of
vmlinux. The usage of $(call if_changed,xxx) will be described later.
Assembler flags
Default value - see top level Makefile.
Append or modify as required per architecture.
KBUILD_AFLAGS += -m64 -mcpu=ultrasparc
$(CC) compiler flags
Default value - see top level Makefile.
Append or modify as required per architecture.
Often, the KBUILD_CFLAGS variable depends on the configuration.
cflags-$(CONFIG_X86_32) := -march=i386
cflags-$(CONFIG_X86_64) := -mcmodel=small
KBUILD_CFLAGS += $(cflags-y)
Many arch Makefiles dynamically run the target C compiler to
probe supported options::
cflags-$(CONFIG_MPENTIUMII) += $(call cc-option,\
# Disable unit-at-a-time mode ...
KBUILD_CFLAGS += $(call cc-option,-fno-unit-at-a-time)
The first example utilises the trick that a config option expands
to "y" when selected.
$(RUSTC) compiler flags
Default value - see top level Makefile.
Append or modify as required per architecture.
Often, the KBUILD_RUSTFLAGS variable depends on the configuration.
Note that target specification file generation (for ``--target``)
is handled in ``scripts/``.
Assembler options specific for built-in
$(KBUILD_AFLAGS_KERNEL) contains extra C compiler flags used to compile
resident kernel code.
Assembler options specific for modules
$(KBUILD_AFLAGS_MODULE) is used to add arch-specific options that
are used for assembler.
From commandline AFLAGS_MODULE shall be used (see kbuild.rst).
$(CC) options specific for built-in
$(KBUILD_CFLAGS_KERNEL) contains extra C compiler flags used to compile
resident kernel code.
Options for $(CC) when building modules
$(KBUILD_CFLAGS_MODULE) is used to add arch-specific options that
are used for $(CC).
From commandline CFLAGS_MODULE shall be used (see kbuild.rst).
$(RUSTC) options specific for built-in
$(KBUILD_RUSTFLAGS_KERNEL) contains extra Rust compiler flags used to
compile resident kernel code.
Options for $(RUSTC) when building modules
$(KBUILD_RUSTFLAGS_MODULE) is used to add arch-specific options that
are used for $(RUSTC).
From commandline RUSTFLAGS_MODULE shall be used (see kbuild.rst).
Options for $(LD) when linking modules
$(KBUILD_LDFLAGS_MODULE) is used to add arch-specific options
used when linking modules. This is often a linker script.
From commandline LDFLAGS_MODULE shall be used (see kbuild.rst).
The linker script with full path. Assigned by the top-level Makefile.
All object files for vmlinux. They are linked to vmlinux in the same
order as listed in KBUILD_VMLINUX_OBJS.
The objects listed in scripts/head-object-list.txt are exceptions;
they are placed before the other objects.
All .a ``lib`` files for vmlinux. KBUILD_VMLINUX_OBJS and
KBUILD_VMLINUX_LIBS together specify all the object files used to
link vmlinux.
Add prerequisites to archheaders
The archheaders: rule is used to generate header files that
may be installed into user space by ``make header_install``.
It is run before ``make archprepare`` when run on the
architecture itself.
Add prerequisites to archprepare
The archprepare: rule is used to list prerequisites that need to be
built before starting to descend down in the subdirectories.
This is usually used for header files containing assembler constants.
archprepare: maketools
In this example, the file target maketools will be processed
before descending down in the subdirectories.
See also chapter XXX-TODO that describes how kbuild supports
generating offset header files.
List directories to visit when descending
An arch Makefile cooperates with the top Makefile to define variables
which specify how to build the vmlinux file. Note that there is no
corresponding arch-specific section for modules; the module-building
machinery is all architecture-independent.
core-y, libs-y, drivers-y
$(libs-y) lists directories where a lib.a archive can be located.
The rest list directories where a built-in.a object file can be
Then the rest follows in this order:
$(core-y), $(libs-y), $(drivers-y)
The top level Makefile defines values for all generic directories,
and arch/$(SRCARCH)/Makefile only adds architecture-specific
# arch/sparc/Makefile
core-y += arch/sparc/
libs-y += arch/sparc/prom/
libs-y += arch/sparc/lib/
drivers-$(CONFIG_PM) += arch/sparc/power/
Architecture-specific boot images
An arch Makefile specifies goals that take the vmlinux file, compress
it, wrap it in bootstrapping code, and copy the resulting files
somewhere. This includes various kinds of installation commands.
The actual goals are not standardized across architectures.
It is common to locate any additional processing in a boot/
directory below arch/$(SRCARCH)/.
Kbuild does not provide any smart way to support building a
target specified in boot/. Therefore arch/$(SRCARCH)/Makefile shall
call make manually to build a target in boot/.
The recommended approach is to include shortcuts in
arch/$(SRCARCH)/Makefile, and use the full path when calling down
into the arch/$(SRCARCH)/boot/Makefile.
boot := arch/x86/boot
bzImage: vmlinux
$(Q)$(MAKE) $(build)=$(boot) $(boot)/$@
``$(Q)$(MAKE) $(build)=<dir>`` is the recommended way to invoke
make in a subdirectory.
There are no rules for naming architecture-specific targets,
but executing ``make help`` will list all relevant targets.
To support this, $(archhelp) must be defined.
define archhelp
echo '* bzImage - Compressed kernel image (arch/x86/boot/bzImage)'
When make is executed without arguments, the first goal encountered
will be built. In the top level Makefile the first goal present
is all:.
An architecture shall always, per default, build a bootable image.
In ``make help``, the default goal is highlighted with a ``*``.
Add a new prerequisite to all: to select a default goal different
from vmlinux.
all: bzImage
When ``make`` is executed without arguments, bzImage will be built.
Commands useful for building a boot image
Kbuild provides a few macros that are useful when building a
boot image.
Link target. Often, LDFLAGS_$@ is used to set specific options to ld.
LDFLAGS_bootsect := -Ttext 0x0 -s --oformat binary
LDFLAGS_setup := -Ttext 0x0 -s --oformat binary -e begtext
targets += setup setup.o bootsect bootsect.o
$(obj)/setup $(obj)/bootsect: %: %.o FORCE
$(call if_changed,ld)
In this example, there are two possible targets, requiring different
options to the linker. The linker options are specified using the
LDFLAGS_$@ syntax - one for each potential target.
$(targets) are assigned all potential targets, by which kbuild knows
the targets and will:
1) check for commandline changes
2) delete target during make clean
The ``: %: %.o`` part of the prerequisite is a shorthand that
frees us from listing the setup.o and bootsect.o files.
It is a common mistake to forget the ``targets :=`` assignment,
resulting in the target file being recompiled for no
obvious reason.
Copy binary. Uses OBJCOPYFLAGS usually specified in
OBJCOPYFLAGS_$@ may be used to set additional options.
Compress target. Use maximum compression to compress target.
$(obj)/vmlinux.bin.gz: $(vmlinux.bin.all-y) FORCE
$(call if_changed,gzip)
Create flattened device tree blob object suitable for linking
into vmlinux. Device tree blobs linked into vmlinux are placed
in an init section in the image. Platform code *must* copy the
blob to non-init memory prior to calling unflatten_device_tree().
To use this command, simply add ``*.dtb`` into obj-y or targets, or make
some other target depend on ``%.dtb``
A central rule exists to create ``$(obj)/%.dtb`` from ``$(src)/%.dts``;
architecture Makefiles do no need to explicitly write out that rule.
targets += $(dtb-y)
DTC_FLAGS ?= -p 1024
Preprocessing linker scripts
When the vmlinux image is built, the linker script
arch/$(SRCARCH)/kernel/ is used.
The script is a preprocessed variant of the file
located in the same directory.
kbuild knows .lds files and includes a rule ``*lds.S`` -> ``*lds``.
extra-y :=
The assignment to extra-y is used to tell kbuild to build the
The assignment to $( tells kbuild to use the
specified options when building the target
When building the ``*.lds`` target, kbuild uses the variables::
KBUILD_CPPFLAGS : Set in top-level Makefile
cppflags-y : May be set in the kbuild makefile
CPPFLAGS_$(@F) : Target-specific flags.
Note that the full filename is used in this
The kbuild infrastructure for ``*lds`` files is used in several
architecture-specific files.
Generic header files
The directory include/asm-generic contains the header files
that may be shared between individual architectures.
The recommended approach how to use a generic header file is
to list the file in the Kbuild file.
See `generic-y`_ for further info on syntax etc.
Post-link pass
If the file arch/xxx/Makefile.postlink exists, this makefile
will be invoked for post-link objects (vmlinux and modules.ko)
for architectures to run post-link passes on. Must also handle
the clean target.
This pass runs after kallsyms generation. If the architecture
needs to modify symbol locations, rather than manipulate the
kallsyms, it may be easier to add another postlink target for
.tmp_vmlinux? targets to be called from
For example, powerpc uses this to check relocation sanity of
the linked vmlinux file.
Kbuild syntax for exported headers
The kernel includes a set of headers that is exported to userspace.
Many headers can be exported as-is but other headers require a
minimal pre-processing before they are ready for user-space.
The pre-processing does:
- drop kernel-specific annotations
- drop include of compiler.h
- drop all sections that are kernel internal (guarded by ``ifdef __KERNEL__``)
All headers under include/uapi/, include/generated/uapi/,
arch/<arch>/include/uapi/ and arch/<arch>/include/generated/uapi/
are exported.
A Kbuild file may be defined under arch/<arch>/include/uapi/asm/ and
arch/<arch>/include/asm/ to list asm files coming from asm-generic.
See subsequent chapter for the syntax of the Kbuild file.
no-export-headers is essentially used by include/uapi/linux/Kbuild to
avoid exporting specific headers (e.g. kvm.h) on architectures that do
not support it. It should be avoided as much as possible.
If an architecture uses a verbatim copy of a header from
include/asm-generic then this is listed in the file
arch/$(SRCARCH)/include/asm/Kbuild like this:
generic-y += termios.h
generic-y += rtc.h
During the prepare phase of the build a wrapper include
file is generated in the directory::
When a header is exported where the architecture uses
the generic header a similar wrapper is generated as part
of the set of exported headers in the directory::
The generated wrapper will in both cases look like the following:
Example: termios.h::
#include <asm-generic/termios.h>
If an architecture generates other header files alongside generic-y
wrappers, generated-y specifies them.
This prevents them being treated as stale asm-generic wrappers and
generated-y += syscalls_32.h
mandatory-y is essentially used by include/(uapi/)asm-generic/Kbuild
to define the minimum set of ASM headers that all architectures must have.
This works like optional generic-y. If a mandatory header is missing
in arch/$(SRCARCH)/include/(uapi/)/asm, Kbuild will automatically
generate a wrapper of the asm-generic one.
Kbuild Variables
The top Makefile exports the following variables:
These variables define the current kernel version. A few arch
Makefiles actually use these values directly; they should use
$(VERSION), $(PATCHLEVEL), and $(SUBLEVEL) define the basic
three-part version number, such as "2", "4", and "0". These three
values are always numeric.
$(EXTRAVERSION) defines an even tinier sublevel for pre-patches
or additional patches. It is usually some non-numeric string
such as "-pre4", and is often blank.
$(KERNELRELEASE) is a single string such as "2.4.0-pre4", suitable
for constructing installation directory names or showing in
version strings. Some arch Makefiles use it for this purpose.
This variable defines the target architecture, such as "i386",
"arm", or "sparc". Some kbuild Makefiles test $(ARCH) to
determine which files to compile.
By default, the top Makefile sets $(ARCH) to be the same as the
host system architecture. For a cross build, a user may
override the value of $(ARCH) on the command line::
make ARCH=m68k ...
This variable specifies the directory in arch/ to build.
ARCH and SRCARCH may not necessarily match. A couple of arch
directories are biarch, that is, a single ``arch/*/`` directory supports
both 32-bit and 64-bit.
For example, you can pass in ARCH=i386, ARCH=x86_64, or ARCH=x86.
For all of them, SRCARCH=x86 because arch/x86/ supports both i386 and
This variable defines a place for the arch Makefiles to install
the resident kernel image and file.
Use this for architecture-specific install targets.
$(INSTALL_MOD_PATH) specifies a prefix to $(MODLIB) for module
installation. This variable is not defined in the Makefile but
may be passed in by the user if desired.
$(MODLIB) specifies the directory for module installation.
The top Makefile defines $(MODLIB) to
$(INSTALL_MOD_PATH)/lib/modules/$(KERNELRELEASE). The user may
override this value on the command line if desired.
If this variable is specified, it will cause modules to be stripped
after they are installed. If INSTALL_MOD_STRIP is "1", then the
default option --strip-debug will be used. Otherwise, the
INSTALL_MOD_STRIP value will be used as the option(s) to the strip
This variable specifies a prefix for relocations required by build
roots. It defines a place for installing the device tree blobs. Like
INSTALL_MOD_PATH, it isn't defined in the Makefile, but can be passed
by the user if desired. Otherwise it defaults to the kernel install
Makefile language
The kernel Makefiles are designed to be run with GNU Make. The Makefiles
use only the documented features of GNU Make, but they do use many
GNU extensions.
GNU Make supports elementary list-processing functions. The kernel
Makefiles use a novel style of list building and manipulation with few
``if`` statements.
GNU Make has two assignment operators, ``:=`` and ``=``. ``:=`` performs
immediate evaluation of the right-hand side and stores an actual string
into the left-hand side. ``=`` is like a formula definition; it stores the
right-hand side in an unevaluated form and then evaluates this form each
time the left-hand side is used.
There are some cases where ``=`` is appropriate. Usually, though, ``:=``
is the right choice.
- Original version made by Michael Elizabeth Chastain, <>
- Updates by Kai Germaschewski <>
- Updates by Sam Ravnborg <>
- Language QA by Jan Engelhardt <>
- Describe how kbuild supports shipped files with _shipped.
- Generating offset header files.
- Add more variables to chapters 7 or 9?