Building Kernels

This page details how to build only the kernel. The following instructions assume you have not downloaded all of AOSP; if you have already done so, you can skip the git clone steps except the step that downloads the kernel sources.

All examples in this section use the hikey kernel.

Selecting a kernel

This table lists the name and locations of the kernel sources and binaries:

Device Binary location Source location Build configuration
marlin device/google/marlin-kernel kernel/msm marlin_defconfig
sailfish device/google/marlin-kernel kernel/msm marlin_defconfig
hikey device/linaro/hikey-kernel kernel/hikey-linaro hikey_defconfig
angler device/huawei/angler-kernel kernel/msm angler_defconfig
bullhead device/lge/bullhead-kernel kernel/msm bullhead_defconfig
shamu device/moto/shamu-kernel kernel/msm shamu_defconfig
fugu device/asus/fugu-kernel kernel/x86_64 fugu_defconfig
volantis device/htc/flounder-kernel kernel/tegra flounder_defconfig
hammerhead device/lge/hammerhead-kernel kernel/msm hammerhead_defconfig
flo device/asus/flo-kernel/kernel kernel/msm flo_defconfig
deb device/asus/flo-kernel/kernel kernel/msm flo_defconfig
manta device/samsung/manta/kernel kernel/exynos manta_defconfig
mako device/lge/mako-kernel/kernel kernel/msm mako_defconfig
grouper device/asus/grouper/kernel kernel/tegra tegra3_android_defconfig
tilapia device/asus/grouper/kernel kernel/tegra tegra3_android_defconfig
maguro device/samsung/tuna/kernel kernel/omap tuna_defconfig
toro device/samsung/tuna/kernel kernel/omap tuna_defconfig
panda device/ti/panda/kernel kernel/omap panda_defconfig
stingray device/moto/wingray/kernel kernel/tegra stingray_defconfig
wingray device/moto/wingray/kernel kernel/tegra stingray_defconfig
crespo device/samsung/crespo/kernel kernel/samsung herring_defconfig
crespo4g device/samsung/crespo/kernel kernel/samsung herring_defconfig

After determining the device project you want to work with, view the git log for the kernel binary. Device projects use the form device/<vendor>/<name>.

$ git clone
$ cd hikey-linaro
$ git log --max-count=1 kernel

The commit message for the kernel binary contains a partial git log of the kernel sources used to build the binary. The first entry in the log is the most recent (the one used to build the kernel). Make a note of the commit message as you will need it in a later step.

Identifying kernel version

To determine the kernel version used in a system image, run the following command against the kernel file:

$ dd if=kernel bs=1 skip=$(LC_ALL=C grep -a -b -o $'\x1f\x8b\x08\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00' kernel | cut -d ':' -f 1) | zgrep -a 'Linux version'

For Nexus 5 (hammerhead), the command is:

$ dd if=zImage-dtb bs=1 skip=$(LC_ALL=C od -Ad -x -w2 zImage-dtb | grep 8b1f | cut -d ' ' -f1 | head -1) | zgrep -a 'Linux version'

Downloading sources

Download the source for the kernel you want to build using the appropriate git clone command:

$ git clone
$ git clone
$ git clone
$ git clone
$ git clone
$ git clone
$ git clone
$ git clone
$ git clone
  • The goldfish project contains the kernel sources for the emulated platforms.
  • The msm project has the sources for ADP1, ADP2, Nexus One, Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 7 (2013), Pixel, and Pixel XL, and can be used as a starting point for work on Qualcomm MSM chipsets.
  • The omap project is used for PandaBoard and Galaxy Nexus, and can be used as a starting point for work on TI OMAP chipsets.
  • The samsung project is used for Nexus S, and can be used as a starting point for work on Samsung Hummingbird chipsets.
  • The tegra project is for Xoom, Nexus 7 (2012), Nexus 9, and can be used as a starting point for work on NVIDIA Tegra chipsets.
  • The exynos project has the kernel sources for Nexus 10, and can be used as a starting point for work on Samsung Exynos chipsets.
  • The x86_64 project has the kernel sources for Nexus Player, and can be used as a starting point for work on Intel x86_64 chipsets.
  • The hikey-linaro project is used for HiKey reference boards, and can be used as a starting point for work on HiSilicon 620 chipsets.

Downloading a prebuilt gcc

Ensure the prebuilt toolchain is in your path:

$ export PATH=$(pwd)/prebuilts/gcc/linux-x86/arm/arm-eabi-4.6/bin:$PATH


$ export PATH=$(pwd)/prebuilts/gcc/darwin-x86/arm/arm-eabi-4.6/bin:$PATH

On a Linux host, if you don't have an Android source tree, you can download the prebuilt toolchain from:

$ git clone

Building the kernel

When you know the last commit message for a kernel and have successfully downloaded the kernel source and prebuilt gcc, you are ready to build the kernel. The following build commands use the hikey kernel:

$ export ARCH=arm64
$ export CROSS_COMPILE=aarch64-linux-android-
$ cd hikey-linaro
$ git checkout -b android-hikey-linaro-4.1 origin/android-hikey-linaro-4.1
$ make hikey_defconfig
$ make

To build a different kernel, simply replace hikey-linaro with the name of the kernel you want to build.

The image outputs to the arch/arm64/boot/Image directory; the kernel binary outputs to the arch/arm64/boot/dts/hisilicon/hi6220-hikey.dtb fle. Copy the Image directory and the hi6220-hikey.dtb file to the hikey-kernel directory.

Alternatively, you can include the TARGET_PREBUILT_KERNEL variable while using make bootimage (or any other make command line that builds a boot image). This variable is supported by all devices as it is set up via device/common/ For example:

$ export TARGET_PREBUILT_KERNEL=$your_kernel_path/arch/arm/boot/zImage-dtb

Note: Kernel names differ by device. To locate the correct filename for your kernel, refer to device/<vendor>/<name> in the kernel source.