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The Linux kernel is the core of the operating system and offers an interface for programs to access the hardware. The kernel contains most of the device drivers.


To create a kernel, it is necessary to install the kernel source code first. The recommended kernel sources for a desktop system are sys-kernel/gentoo-sources. These are maintained by the Gentoo developers, and patched to fix security vulnerabilities, functional problems, as well as to improve compatibility with rare system architectures.

Before installing, check the active USE flags:

→ Information about USE flags
USE flag Default Recommended Description
build No No  !!internal use only!! DO NOT SET THIS FLAG YOURSELF!, used for creating build images and the first half of bootstrapping [make stage1]
deblob No Remove binary blobs from kernel sources to provide libre license compliance.
symlink No Force kernel ebuilds to automatically update the /usr/src/linux symlink

Now install gentoo-sources:

root # emerge --ask gentoo-sources

There are various alternative kernel sources in the Portage tree:

  • sys-kernel/vanilla-sources - The official, non-patched Linux kernel sources. Note that because they are left as is, and do not contain any additional patches, they are not supported by Gentoo developers.
  • A full list with short descriptions can be found by searching with emerge:
root # emerge --search sources


Kernel package overview
Guide explaining the various kernel source flavors Gentoo provides.
Manual configuration
Manual configuration enables you, with some effort, to create a custom-fit kernel configuration.
Automatic configuration
genkernel is a tool to automatically configure and setup a kernel. The needed drivers for your system are detected and loaded at boot time.
Gentoo Kernel Configuration Guide
Gentoo's kernel configuration guide.
Steps to upgrade to a new kernel using an existing configuration.
Steps to completely remove old kernels.
2.4 to 2.6 Migration
Migration guide from Linux 2.4 to Linux 2.6.

See also

See the kernel category.