how to build android kernel

How to Build Android Kernel: A Comprehensive Guide

Building the Android kernel is a complex process that requires technical expertise and a deep understanding of the Android operating system. However, with the right tools and resources, anyone can learn how to build their own Android kernel. In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to build an Android kernel, along with valuable insights and tips to help you succeed.

Understanding the Android Kernel

Before diving into the process of building an Android kernel, it is essential to understand what the kernel is and its role in the Android operating system. The kernel is the core component of the operating system that acts as a bridge between the hardware and software layers. It manages system resources, handles device drivers, and provides essential services to the rest of the operating system.

The Android kernel is based on the Linux kernel, which means it inherits many of its features and functionalities. However, it also includes additional components and modifications specific to the Android platform. Building the Android kernel allows developers to customize and optimize the kernel for specific devices or use cases.

Prerequisites for Building the Android Kernel

Before you can start building the Android kernel, there are a few prerequisites that you need to fulfill:

  • A Linux-based operating system: Building the Android kernel requires a Linux-based operating system. Ubuntu is a popular choice among developers, but other distributions like Fedora or Debian can also be used.
  • Development tools: Install the necessary development tools, including the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC), make, and other build essentials. These tools are essential for compiling the kernel source code.
  • Kernel source code: Obtain the kernel source code for the specific Android version you want to build. The source code can be downloaded from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) website or other reliable sources.
  • Device-specific source code: If you are building the kernel for a specific device, you will need the device-specific source code. This code includes the necessary drivers and configurations for the device.

Building the Android Kernel

Now that you have fulfilled the prerequisites, let’s dive into the process of building the Android kernel:

Step 1: Set up the Build Environment

The first step is to set up the build environment on your Linux-based operating system. This involves installing the necessary tools and configuring the environment variables. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Install the required packages: Open a terminal and install the necessary packages using the package manager of your Linux distribution. For example, on Ubuntu, you can use the following command: sudo apt-get install git-core gnupg flex bison gperf build-essential zip curl zlib1g-dev gcc-multilib g++-multilib libc6-dev-i386 lib32ncurses5-dev x11proto-core-dev libx11-dev lib32z-dev ccache libgl1-mesa-dev libxml2-utils xsltproc unzip
  2. Set up the environment variables: Open the ~/.bashrc file in a text editor and add the following lines at the end of the file:
    export PATH=$PATH:/path/to/android-sdk/tools
    export PATH=$PATH:/path/to/android-sdk/platform-tools

    Replace /path/to/android-sdk with the actual path to your Android SDK installation.

  3. Save the file and run the following command to apply the changes: source ~/.bashrc

Step 2: Download the Kernel Source Code

Next, you need to download the kernel source code for the specific Android version you want to build. Follow these steps:

  1. Open a terminal and navigate to the directory where you want to store the kernel source code.
  2. Clone the kernel source code repository using the following command: git clone<repository>
  3. Replace <repository> with the name of the repository for the desired Android version. For example, for Android 11, the repository name is android-4.19.
  4. Wait for the cloning process to complete. This may take some time depending on your internet connection speed.

Step 3: Configure the Kernel

Once you have downloaded the kernel source code, you need to configure it before building. Follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to the kernel source code directory in the terminal.
  2. Run the following command to start the configuration process: make ARCH=arm64 <defconfig>
  3. Replace <defconfig> with the name of the default configuration file for your device. You can find the appropriate file in the arch/arm64/configs directory of the kernel source code.
  4. Wait for the configuration process to complete. This may take some time as the script generates the necessary configuration files.

Step 4: Build the Kernel

Now that the kernel is configured, it’s time to build it. Follow these steps:

  1. Run the following command to start the build process: make ARCH=arm64
  2. Wait for the build process to complete. This may take a significant amount of time depending on your system’s processing power.
  3. Once the build process is finished, you will find the compiled kernel image in the arch/arm64/boot directory of the kernel source code.

Step 5: Install the Kernel

After successfully building the kernel, you need to install it on your device. The installation process may vary depending on the device and the bootloader. Here are the general steps:

  1. Connect your device to the computer using a USB cable.
  2. Boot your device into fastboot mode. The method to enter fastboot mode varies between devices. Refer to the device-specific documentation for instructions.
  3. Open a terminal and navigate to the directory where the compiled kernel image is located.
  4. Run the following command to flash the kernel image: fastboot flash boot <kernel_image>
  5. Replace <kernel_image> with the name of the compiled kernel image file.
  6. Wait for the flashing process to complete.
  7. Reboot your device.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Can I build the Android kernel on Windows?

A: Building the Android kernel is primarily done on Linux-based operating systems. While it is possible to set up a Linux environment on Windows using tools like Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), it is recommended to use a native Linux installation for better compatibility and performance.

Q: Do I need to build the kernel from source to customize my Android device?

A: Building the kernel from source is not the only way to customize your Android device. You can also modify the kernel by applying patches or using kernel modules. However, building the kernel from source provides the most flexibility and control over the customization process.

Q: Is it necessary to build the kernel for every Android update?

A: It is not necessary to build the kernel for every Android update. In most cases, the kernel provided by the device manufacturer or the custom ROM community is sufficient. However, if you want to take advantage of the latest features or optimizations, building the kernel for the latest Android version can be beneficial.

Q: Can I use the same kernel for different Android devices?

A: The kernel is specific to each device due to differences in hardware configurations and drivers. While some devices may share similar hardware components, it is generally not recommended to use the same kernel for different devices. Each device requires its own kernel build with the appropriate drivers and configurations.


Building the Android kernel is a complex process that requires technical knowledge and attention to detail. However, with the right tools and resources, anyone can learn how to build their own Android kernel. By following the step-by-step guide provided in this article, you can gain a deeper understanding of the Android kernel and customize it to meet your specific needs. Remember to always refer to the official documentation and seek support from the Android developer community when facing challenges. Happy kernel building!


I am a technology writer specialize in mobile tech and gadgets. I have been covering the mobile industry for over 5 years and have watched the rapid evolution of smartphones and apps. My specialty is smartphone reviews and comparisons. I thoroughly tests each device's hardware, software, camera, battery life, and other key features. I provide in-depth, unbiased reviews to help readers determine which mobile gadgets best fit their needs and budgets.

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