Mainline Kernel Howto

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This page describes how you can compile and use the Linux mainline kernel.

Warning: Mainline NAND support is not compatible with Allwinner NAND support and will make your existing NAND unreadable.

Current status

Please refer to the Linux mainlining effort page for detailed status of the mainlining effort, and supported boards and driver coverage.

Some SoCs and some subsystems might not be supported yet, you might need to revert to our heavily hacked kernel version that's close to Allwinners code for A10/A13/A20, or use a BSP kernel.


You should be running through this howto as part of our Manual build howto. It guides you through toolchain, u-boot and rootfs steps as well.

Kernel source

Linus' tree

The stable releases are released by Linus Torvalds. Since Linux 3.8, the Allwinner support is added gradually.

For a full clone (if you wish to do future development) run:

git clone git://

Often a shallow clone will suffice to just get mainline working:

git clone git:// --depth=1

Patches merged in the next stable release

There is also a sunxi-next branch maintained with all the inclusions that have been accepted, merged and will be included in the next stable release. If you want to do some development, it's probably the best pick.

git clone [ git://] -b sunxi-next --depth=1

Kernel Configuration


To get a working kernel, just use the following for configuration:


make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf- sunxi_defconfig


ARCH=arm64 CROSS_COMPILE=aarch64-linux-gnu- make defconfig


If you have an old relevant .config, e.g. if you installed a late debian, and now want to build the kernel, you can copy it in and run make ARCH=arm oldconfig or make ARCH=arm64 oldconfig.

Sticky-note-pin.png Note: If you happen to run make menuconfig without specifying the architecture, architecture-specific options will be lost; in that case you'll need to go back to an existing config and start again.

manual configuration

If you wish to alter configuration, run:


make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf- menuconfig


ARCH=arm64 CROSS_COMPILE=aarch64-linux-gnu- make menuconfig

Kernel Compilation

zImage/ Image


ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf- make -j4 zImage


ARCH=arm64 CROSS_COMPILE=aarch64-linux-gnu- make -j4 Image

After the compilation ended, you should have generated zImage in arch/arm/boot (armhf) or Image in arch/arm64/boot (arm64).



ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf- make -j4 dtbs


ARCH=arm64 CROSS_COMPILE=aarch64-linux-gnu- make -j4 dtbs

You should now have a device tree binary (.dtb) in arch/arm/boot/dts (armhf) or arch/arm64/boot/dts (arm64), which matches your device, it should be listed on the device page for your device.

All the sunxi dtbs follow the pattern <family>-<soc>-<board>.dtb.



ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf- make -j4 modules
ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf- INSTALL_MOD_PATH=<any-path-you-like> make modules modules_install


ARCH=arm64 CROSS_COMPILE=aarch64-linux-gnu- make -j4 modules
ARCH=arm64 CROSS_COMPILE=aarch64-linux-gnu- INSTALL_MOD_PATH=<any-path-you-like> make modules modules_install

After the build succeeds, you can find the modules in the supplied INSTALL_MOD_PATH directory.



ARCH=arm INSTALL_HDR_PATH=<any-path-you-like> make headers_install


ARCH=arm64 INSTALL_HDR_PATH=<any-path-you-like> make headers_install

Change INSTALL_HDR_PATH to the path, you want the headers to be installed to, for example /usr or <some_prefix>/usr if you are doing a cross build.

Specific Debian kernel notes

Having installed a late debian using the arm installer, building the Debian kernel is an attractive proposition. (for Debian install, see Rikomagic_mk802 'Images' section).

Some notes on doing so (as it's not so obvious from Google): You can download the sources using apt-get linux-source. Today, Dec 2016, this will get you ~4.8.7. Given sufficient space, this can be built on device (~4 days compile time), but probably better to cross-compile. Extract the tar to a suitable location, and copy /boot/config-<your current version> to .config. You may want to edit the .config comment out CONFIG_MODULE_SIG_FORCE and CONFIG_MODULE_SIG. Prepare your cross machine, and then run

make ARCH=arm oldconfig

(you may get some new options).

Now, the important bit. IF 'uname -a' on your target shows 'armmp' anywhere, your kernel will need to be this 'flavor'; if it is not, then your newly created .deb kernel package will not install on the device..... So, to stamp it as flavor 'armmp':

Create a file called 'localversion' in the linux-source directory, and put -armmp inside. This will then generate a kernel stamped with the version '4.8.7-armmp' rather than plain '4.8.7', and will make dpkg/flash-kernel happy on install.

Then, to make the kernel, use; substituting your cross compiler;:

make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf- deb-pkg

Note: if you want to build, but not start from scratch, the target bindeb-pkg does not do a clean first, whereas deb-pkg does.

You should end up with a file in one folder lower called something like linux-image-4.8.7-armmp_4.8.7-armmp-3_armhf.deb

To install this on the device, go to that folder, or copy it to the device, and use

dpkg -i linux-image-4.8.7-armmp_4.8.7-armmp-3_armhf.deb

and if successful, reboot...

Note from the author of this last bit: I'm no expert on this, but as it took me over a week to establish the above; I hope it helps somebody! Please feel free to enhance or correct any of the above. If you do intend to reproduce this, then please make notes as you do it; a good (accurate) from scratch description would be a bonus here.


SD-Card Boot partition

Like with our Manual build howto, you have to set up the boot partition. Instead of script.bin, you need to install your board-specific .dtb to the boot partition. (Above kernel compilation should generate this binary representation of the device tree automatically.)


Like in the Manual build howto, create a boot.cmd with the following contents:

fatload mmc 0 0x46000000 zImage
fatload mmc 0 0x49000000 <board>.dtb

setenv bootargs console=ttyS0,115200 earlyprintk root=/dev/mmcblk0p<partition> rootwait panic=10 ${extra}

bootz 0x46000000 - 0x49000000
Sticky-note-pin.png Note: In order to boot an arm64 kernel, remember to use Image instead of zImage. You also have to load it with booti instead of bootz. So you have to adopt the corresponding lines in the above boot.cmd file.

Replace fatload with ext2load if needed. earlyprintk is optional; if your kernel boots up just fine, you might as well remove it.

If you are using an older U-Boot (you shouldn't - Which?), you might require the following line, to keep the extracted kernel from overwriting the device tree configuration:

setenv fdt_high ffffffff

If you wish to use an initramfs, then the bootz command becomes:

bootz 0x46000000 0x<initramfs-address> 0x49000000

Now generate boot.scr. Don't forget to copy over your zImage and <board>.dtb files as well.

eMMC boot partition

eMMC is very similar to the SD card case (see above). From a user's perspective, think of it as an "internal" memory card. Some devices are able to boot entirely from eMMC, forgoing the need for an external SD card.

Information.png Keep a keen eye on the numbering of the mmcblk devices when switching the boot process between SD card and eMMC, e.g. during installation.

The Linux kernel may change device numbers depending on which mmc devices are actually present.
For example: If your SD card corresponds to mmc0, and the eMMC is mmc1, you'll probably end up with the eMMC as mmcblk1 when a SD card is also present (with the latter being mmcblk0). But it's likely that the eMMC becomes mmcblk0 as soon as no SD card (mmc0) is present. If in doubt, check the kernel messages and adjust your partition layout / boot options accordingly.

Network boot setup

TODO. Fold in Possible setups for hacking on mainline.

Extra features

SYSV IPC (debian users!)

The current sunxi_defconfig has actually become rather complete, but SYSV IPC is disabled, and it is important for the fakeroot tool which is used for making debian packages.

Go to:

    General setup  --->


[*] System V IPC

Early printk

If and only if your kernel does nothing, it pays to enable early printk support.

Go to:

    Kernel hacking  --->


[*] Kernel debugging

To actually get early printk, you need to also enable CONFIG_DEBUG_LL, select one of the CONFIG_DEBUG_SUNXI_ options, and enable CONFIG_EARLY_PRINTK:

[*] Kernel low-level debugging functions (read help!)
      Kernel low-level debugging port (Kernel low-level debugging messages via sunXi UART0)  --->
[*] Early printk

The selection of the debugging port (CONFIG_DEBUG_SUNXI_) depends on the board you are using. The selection of these is this contrived as these are all symbolic names for the raw addresses for the debug port.

  • For most SoCs, you should first select DEBUG_SUNXI_UART0:
    (X) Kernel low-level debugging messages via sunXi UART0
  • For A13, try DEBUG_SUNXI_UART1 first:
    (X) Kernel low-level debugging messages via sunXi UART1
  • For A23, try DEBUG_SUNXI_R_UART first:
    (X) Kernel low-level debugging messages via sunXi R_UART
  • For A80, try DEBUG_SUN9I_UART0 first:
    (X) Kernel low-level debugging messages via sun9i UART0


TODO: This is now part of defconfig anyway. Be sure to add the console command line option to the console/display support page.

Don't forget to change your console in your boot.cmd/boot.scr to console=tty1 to enable the simple framebuffer driver.

Adding a new device

Mainly, you have to write a device description. Please send a patch to help others finding good examples.

See also