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5.2. Building and Installing a Custom Kernel

First, let us take a quick tour of the kernel build directory. All directories mentioned will be relative to the main /usr/src/sys directory, which is also accessible through /sys. There are a number of subdirectories here representing different parts of the kernel, but the most important, for our purposes, are i386/conf, where you will edit your custom kernel configuration, and compile, which is the staging area where your kernel will be built. Notice the logical organization of the directory tree, with each supported device, filesystem, and option in its own subdirectory. Also, anything inside the i386 directory deals with PC hardware only, while everything outside the i386 directory is common to all platforms which FreeBSD could potentially be ported to.

Note: If there is not a /usr/src/sys directory on your system, then the kernel source has not been been installed. The easiest way to do this is by running /stand/sysinstall as root, choosing Configure, then Distributions, then src, then sys.

Next, move to the i386/conf directory and copy the GENERIC configuration file to the name you want to give your kernel. For example:

    # cd /usr/src/sys/i386/conf

Traditionally, this name is in all capital letters and, if you are maintaining multiple FreeBSD machines with different hardware, it is a good idea to name it after your machine's hostname. We will call it MYKERNEL for the purpose of this example.

Note: You must execute these and all of the following commands under the root account or you will get permission denied errors.

Now, edit MYKERNEL with your favorite text editor. If you are just starting out, the only editor available will probably be vi, which is too complex to explain here, but is covered well in many books in the bibliography. However, FreeBSD does offer an easier editor called ``ee'' which, if you are a beginner, should be your editor of choice. Feel free to change the comment lines at the top to reflect your configuration or the changes you have made to differentiate it from GENERIC.

If you have build a kernel under SunOS or some other BSD operating system, much of this file will be very familiar to you. If you are coming from some other operating system such as DOS, on the other hand, the GENERIC configuration file might seem overwhelming to you, so follow the descriptions in the Configuration File section slowly and carefully.

Note: If you are trying to upgrade your kernel from an older version of FreeBSD, you will probably have to get a new version of config(8) from the same place you got the new kernel sources. It is located in /usr/src/usr.sbin, so you will need to download those sources as well. Re-build and install it before running the next commands.

When you are finished, type the following to compile and install your kernel:

    # /usr/sbin/config MYKERNEL
    # cd ../../compile/MYKERNEL
    # make depend
    # make
    # make install

The new kernel will be copied to the root directory as /kernel and the old kernel will be moved to /kernel.old. Now, shutdown the system and reboot to use your kernel. In case something goes wrong, there are some troubleshooting instructions at the end of this document. Be sure to read the section which explains how to recover in case your new kernel does not boot.

Note: If you have added any new devices (such as sound cards) you may have to add some device nodes to your /dev directory before you can use them.