Linux Kernel Makefiles

来自Linux kernel docs,顺便整理了一下排版

Linux Kernel Makefiles

This document describes the Linux kernel Makefiles.

1 Overview

The Makefiles have five parts:

Makefile        the top Makefile.
.config         the kernel configuration file.
arch/$(ARCH)/Makefile   the arch Makefile.
scripts/Makefile.*  common rules etc. for all kbuild Makefiles.
kbuild Makefiles    there are about 500 of these.

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/$(ARCH)/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.

2 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 ia64. 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.

3 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 3.1 “Goal definitions” is a quick intro, further chapters provide more details, with real examples.

3.1 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:


“`shell obj-y += foo.o
obj-y += foo.o

<pre><code class="line-numbers"><br />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_FOOis neither y nor m, then the file will not be compiled
nor linked.

3.2 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 configuration.

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, which makes it unsuitable as a linker input.

The scripts/ script later makes an aggregate built-in.a with “${AR} rcsTP”, which creates the thin archive with a symbol table and an index, making it a valid input for the final vmlinux link passes.

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

3.3 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) variable.


    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 $(-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.

3.4 Objects which export symbols

No special notation is required in the makefiles for modules exporting symbols.

3.5 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 “6.4 List directories to visit when descending”.

Use of lib-y is normally restricted to lib/ and arch/*/lib.

3.6 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 them.

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 only uses this information to decide that it needs to visit the directory, it is the Makefile in the subdirectory that specifies what is modular and what is built-in.

It is good practice to use a CONFIG_ variable when assigning directory

This allows kbuild to totally skip the directory if the corresponding CONFIG_ option is neither ‘y’ nor ‘m’.

3.7 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
    ccflags-y           := -Os -D_LINUX -DBUILDING_ACPICA

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 options for assembling with (AS).


    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


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.


    # drivers/scsi/Makefile
    CFLAGS_aha152x.o =   -DAHA152X_STAT -DAUTOCONF
    CFLAGS_gdth.o    = # -DDEBUG_GDTH=2 -D__SERIAL__ -D__COM2__ \

These two lines specify compilation flags for aha152x.o and gdth.o.

(AFLAGS_@) is a similar feature for source files in assembly


    # arch/arm/kernel/Makefile
    AFLAGS_head.o        := -DTEXT_OFFSET=$(TEXT_OFFSET)
    AFLAGS_crunch-bits.o := -Wa,-mcpu=ep9312
    AFLAGS_iwmmxt.o      := -Wa,-mcpu=iwmmxt

3.9 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.

3.10 Special Rules

Special 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 special rules to prepare boot images etc.

Special rules are written as normal Make rules.
Kbuild is not executing in the directory where the Makefile is
located, so all special rules shall provide a relative
path to prerequisite files and target files.

Two variables are used when defining special rules:

(src) (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)
(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 special 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).

(kecho) 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.


    $(obj)/vmImage: $(obj)/vmlinux.gz
        $(call if_changed,uimage)
        @$(kecho) 'Kernel: $@ is ready'

3.11 $(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 available.

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. cc-ldoption cc-ldoption is used to check if (CC) when used to link object files
supports the given option. An optional second option may be
specified if first option are not supported.


    vsyscall-flags += $(call cc-ldoption, -Wl$(comma)--hash-style=sysv)

In the above example, vsyscall-flags will be assigned the option
-Wl(comma)–hash-style=sysv 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 (AS) options cc-option 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, respectively. 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.

cc-version returns a numerical version of the $(CC) compiler version.
The format is where both are two digits. So for example
gcc 3.41 would return 0341.
cc-version is useful when a specific $(CC) version is faulty in one
area, for example -mregparm=3 was broken in some gcc versions
even though the option was accepted by gcc.


    cflags-y += $(shell \
    if [ $(cc-version) -ge 0300 ] ; then \
        echo "-mregparm=3"; fi ;)

In the above example, -mregparm=3 is only used for gcc version greater
than or equal to gcc 3.0.

cc-ifversion tests the version of $(CC) and equals the fourth parameter
if version expression is true, or the fifth (if given) if the version
expression is false.


    ccflags-y := $(call cc-ifversion, -lt, 0402, -O1)

In this example, ccflags-y will be assigned the value -O1 if the
(CC) version is less than 4.2. cc-ifversion takes all the shell operators: -eq, -ne, -lt, -le, -gt, and -ge The third parameter may be a text as in this example, but it may also be an expanded variable or a macro. cc-cross-prefix 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-)

3.12 $(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)

4 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-y.

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).
Both possibilities are described in the following.

4.1 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-y := 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.

4.2 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.
$(-objs) lists all objects used to link the final


    hostprogs-y   := 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 -y is not permitted for host-programs.

4.3 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-y   := 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-y   := qconf
    qconf-cxxobjs := qconf.o
    qconf-objs    := check.o

4.4 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

4.5 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 special rule.


    hostprogs-y := 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 special rules must be prefixed with (obj). (2) Use (always)
When there is no suitable special rule, and the host program
shall be built when a makefile is entered, the $(always)
variable shall be used.


    hostprogs-y   := lxdialog
    always        := $(hostprogs-y)

This will tell kbuild to build lxdialog even if not referenced in
any rule.

4.6 Using hostprogs-$(CONFIG_FOO)

A typical pattern in a Kbuild file looks like this:


    hostprogs-$(CONFIG_KALLSYMS) += kallsyms

Kbuild knows about both ‘y’ for built-in and ‘m’ for module.
So if a config symbol evaluates to ‘m’, kbuild will still build
the binary. In other words, Kbuild handles hostprogs-m exactly
like hostprogs-y. But only hostprogs-y is recommended to be used
when no CONFIG symbols are involved.

5 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-y), (hostprogs-m), (always), (extra-y) 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 src tree when “make clean” is executed. Additional files can be specified in kbuild makefiles by use of (clean-files).


    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
Makefile, except if prefixed with $(objtree).

To delete a directory hierarchy use:


    clean-dirs := $(objtree)/debian/

This will delete the directory debian in the toplevel directory, including all

To exclude certain files from make clean, use the $(no-clean-files) variable.
This is only a special case used in the top level Kbuild file:


    no-clean-files := $(bounds-file) $(offsets-file)

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.

To support the clean infrastructure in the Makefiles that build the
final bootimage there is an optional target named archclean:


        $(Q)$(MAKE) $(clean)=arch/x86/boot

When “make clean” is executed, make will descend down in arch/x86/boot,
and clean as usual. The Makefile located in arch/x86/boot/ may use
the subdir- trick to descend further down.

Note 1: arch/$(ARCH)/Makefile cannot use “subdir-“, because that file is
included in the top level makefile, and the kbuild infrastructure
is not operational at that point.

Note 2: All directories listed in core-y, libs-y, drivers-y and net-y will
be visited during “make clean”.

6 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/(ARCH)/Makefile contains what is required to set up kbuild for said architecture. To do so, arch/(ARCH)/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/$(ARCH)/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/(ARCH)/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 head-y, assigned by arch/(ARCH)/Makefile.
    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

6.1 Set variables to tweak the build to the architecture

LDFLAGS Generic $(LD) options

Flags used for all invocations of the linker.
Often specifying the emulation is sufficient.


    LDFLAGS         := -m elf_s390

Note: ldflags-y can be used to further customise
the flags used. See chapter 3.7.

LDFLAGS_vmlinux 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.


OBJCOPYFLAGS 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


    OBJCOPYFLAGS := -O binary
$(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.

KBUILD_AFLAGS $(AS) assembler flags

Default value – see top level Makefile
Append or modify as required per architecture.


    KBUILD_AFLAGS += -m64 -mcpu=ultrasparc

KBUILD_CFLAGS $(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.

KBUILD_AFLAGS_KERNEL (AS) options specific for built-in (KBUILD_AFLAGS_KERNEL) contains extra C compiler flags used to compile
resident kernel code.

KBUILD_AFLAGS_MODULE Options for (AS) when building modules (KBUILD_AFLAGS_MODULE) is used to add arch-specific options that
are used for (AS). From commandline AFLAGS_MODULE shall be used (see kbuild.txt). KBUILD_CFLAGS_KERNEL (CC) options specific for built-in

(KBUILD_CFLAGS_KERNEL) contains extra C compiler flags used to compile resident kernel code. KBUILD_CFLAGS_MODULE 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.txt).

KBUILD_LDFLAGS_MODULE 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.txt).

KBUILD_ARFLAGS Options for (AR) when creating archives (KBUILD_ARFLAGS) set by the top level Makefile to “D” (deterministic
mode) if this option is supported by $(AR).

ARCH_CPPFLAGS, ARCH_AFLAGS, ARCH_CFLAGS Overrides the kbuild defaults

These variables are appended to the KBUILD_CPPFLAGS,
KBUILD_AFLAGS, and KBUILD_CFLAGS, respectively, after the
top-level Makefile has set any other flags. This provides a
means for an architecture to override the defaults.

6.2 Add prerequisites to archheaders:

The archheaders: rule is used to generate header files that
may be installed into user space by “make header_install” or
“make headers_install_all”. In order to support
“make headers_install_all”, this target has to be able to run
on an unconfigured tree, or a tree configured for another

It is run before “make archprepare” when run on the
architecture itself.

6.3 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 describe how kbuild supports
generating offset header files.

6.4 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.

head-y, init-y, core-y, libs-y, drivers-y, net-y

(head-y) lists objects to be linked first in vmlinux. (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

(init-y) objects will be located after (head-y).
Then the rest follows in this order:
(core-y), (libs-y), (drivers-y) and (net-y).

The top level Makefile defines values for all generic directories,
and arch/$(ARCH)/Makefile only adds architecture-specific directories.


    core-y += arch/sparc64/kernel/
    libs-y += arch/sparc64/prom/ arch/sparc64/lib/
    drivers-$(CONFIG_OPROFILE)  += arch/sparc64/oprofile/

6.5 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/(ARCH)/. Kbuild does not provide any smart way to support building a target specified in boot/. Therefore arch/(ARCH)/Makefile shall
call make manually to build a target in boot/.

The recommended approach is to include shortcuts in
arch/(ARCH)/Makefile, and use the full path when calling down into the arch/(ARCH)/boot/Makefile.


    boot := arch/x86/boot
    bzImage: vmlinux
        $(Q)$(MAKE) $(build)=$(boot) $(boot)/$@

(Q)(MAKE) $(build)=

” 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      - Image (arch/$(ARCH)/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.

6.6 Building non-kbuild targets


extra-y specifies additional targets created in the current
directory, in addition to any targets specified by obj-*.

Listing all targets in extra-y is required for two purposes:
1) Enable kbuild to check changes in command lines

When $(call if_changed,xxx) is used
2) kbuild knows what files to delete during “make clean”


    extra-y := head.o init_task.o

In this example, extra-y is used to list object files that
shall be built, but shall not be linked as part of built-in.a.

6.7 Commands useful for building a boot image

Kbuild provides a few macros that are useful when building a
boot image.


if_changed is the infrastructure used for the following commands.


    target: source(s) FORCE
        $(call if_changed,ld/objcopy/gzip/...)

When the rule is evaluated, it is checked to see if any files
need an update, or the command line has changed since the last
invocation. The latter will force a rebuild if any options
to the executable have changed.
Any target that utilises if_changed must be listed in (targets), otherwise the command line check will fail, and the target will always be built. Assignments to (targets) are without (obj)/ prefix. if_changed may be used in conjunction with custom commands as defined in 6.8 “Custom kbuild commands”. 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, ld/objcopy/gzip/…)

Note: 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.

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.
Note: 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
arch/(ARCH)/Makefile. 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

6.8 Custom kbuild commands

When kbuild is executing with KBUILD_VERBOSE=0, 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_ – what shall be echoed
​ cmd_ – the command to execute


    quiet_cmd_image = BUILD   $@
          cmd_image = $(obj)/tools/build $(BUILDFLAGS) \
                                         $(obj)/vmlinux.bin > $@
targets += bzImage
$(obj)/bzImage: $(obj)/vmlinux.bin $(obj)/tools/build FORCE
    $(call if_changed,image)
    @echo 'Kernel: $@ is ready'

When updating the $(obj)/bzImage target, the line

BUILD arch/x86/boot/bzImage

will be displayed with “make KBUILD_VERBOSE=0”.

6.9 Preprocessing linker scripts

When the vmlinux image is built, the linker script
arch/$(ARCH)/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.


    always :=
export += -P -C -U$(ARCH)

The assignment to (always) is used to tell kbuild to build the target 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
​ assignment.

The kbuild infrastructure for *lds files is used in several
architecture-specific files.

6.10 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 “7.2 generic-y” for further info on syntax etc.

6.11 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.

7 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//include/uapi/ and arch//include/generated/uapi/
are exported.

A Kbuild file may be defined under arch//include/uapi/asm/ and
arch//include/asm/ to list asm files coming from asm-generic.
See subsequent chapter for the syntax of the Kbuild file.

7.1 no-export-headers

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.

7.2 generic-y

If an architecture uses a verbatim copy of a header from
include/asm-generic then this is listed in the file
arch/$(ARCH)/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>

7.3 generated-y

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

7.4 mandatory-y

mandatory-y is essentially used by include/(uapi/)asm-generic/Kbuild.asm
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/$(ARCH)/include/(uapi/)/asm, Kbuild will automatically generate
a wrapper of the asm-generic one.

The convention is to list one subdir per line and
preferably in alphabetic order.

8 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
(KERNELRELEASE) instead. (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 (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 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

9 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.

10 Credits

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 section 7?


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