I want to automate a Linux build but eventually get to a point where I need to run what seems to be a very manual step: make menuconfig. This seems to synchronize configs between the OS and kernel configs?

cp git-tracked-config .config
make defconfig 
make menuconfig # <- how to automate/script this?
make V=s

Basically, how can I remove the call to make menuconfig for a build script?

As an aside, this is in reaction to a build error that seems to happen when I run without ever calling make menuconfig:

make[1]: *** No rule to make target `include/config/auto.conf', needed by `include/config/kernel.release'.  Stop.

Which seems to be there is a missing rule in a makefile perhaps because the makefile itself does NOT exist or the makefile has not been generated/morphed to contain that rule but that is a separate question.

There could be a smarter way to approach this alltogether. Are there other configs that I'm not tracking but should (e.g. oldconfig)?

  • 1
    Have you tested make olddefconfig?
    – jimmij
    Aug 23, 2015 at 4:26
  • no, reading more about that now... it's just so painful because any small experiment takes so long.
    – tarabyte
    Aug 23, 2015 at 4:30

3 Answers 3


The Linux kernel build-system provide many build targets, the best way to know about it is probably to do a make help:

Configuration targets:
  config      - Update current config utilising a line-oriented program
  nconfig         - Update current config utilising a ncurses menu based program
  menuconfig      - Update current config utilising a menu based program
  xconfig     - Update current config utilising a QT based front-end
  gconfig     - Update current config utilising a GTK based front-end
  oldconfig   - Update current config utilising a provided .config as base
  localmodconfig  - Update current config disabling modules not loaded
  localyesconfig  - Update current config converting local mods to core
  silentoldconfig - Same as oldconfig, but quietly, additionally update deps
  defconfig   - New config with default from ARCH supplied defconfig
  savedefconfig   - Save current config as ./defconfig (minimal config)
  allnoconfig     - New config where all options are answered with no
  allyesconfig    - New config where all options are accepted with yes
  allmodconfig    - New config selecting modules when possible
  alldefconfig    - New config with all symbols set to default
  randconfig      - New config with random answer to all options
  listnewconfig   - List new options
  olddefconfig    - Same as silentoldconfig but sets new symbols to their default value
  kvmconfig   - Enable additional options for guest kernel support
  tinyconfig      - Configure the tiniest possible kernel

As jimmij says in the comments, the interesting parts are in the oldconfig related targets.

Personally, I would recommend you to go for silentoldconfig (if nothing changed in the .config file or olddefconfig if you updated your .config file with a new kernel.


merge_config.sh config fragments

$ cd linux
$ git checkout v4.9
$ make x86_64_defconfig
$ grep -E 'CONFIG_(DEBUG_INFO|GDB_SCRIPTS)[= ]' .config
# CONFIG_DEBUG_INFO is not set
$ # GDB_SCRIPTS depends on CONFIG_DEBUG_INFO in lib/Kconfig.debug.
$ cat <<EOF >.config-fragment
$ # Order is important here. Must be first base config, then fragment.
$ ./scripts/kconfig/merge_config.sh .config .config-fragment
$ grep -E 'CONFIG_(DEBUG_INFO|GDB_SCRIPTS)[= ]' .config

Process substitution does not work unfortunately:

./scripts/kconfig/merge_config.sh arch/x86/configs/x86_64_defconfig \
    <( printf 'CONFIG_DEBUG_INFO=y\nCONFIG_GDB_SCRIPTS=y\n' ) 

because of: https://unix.stackexchange.com/a/164109/32558

merge_config.sh is a simple front-end for the make alldefconfig target.

When cross compiling, ARCH must be exported when you run merge_config.sh, e.g.:

export ARCH=arm64
export CROSS_COMPILE=aarch64-linux-gnu-
make defconfig
./scripts/kconfig/merge_config.sh .config .config-fragment

The merged output file can be specified explicitly with the KCONFIG_CONFIG environment variable; otherwise it just overwrites .config:

KCONFIG_CONFIG=some/path/.config ./scripts/kconfig/merge_config.sh .config .config-fragment

Buildroot automates it with BR2_LINUX_KERNEL_CONFIG_FRAGMENT_FILES: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/1414968/how-do-i-configure-the-linux-kernel-within-buildroot

Related: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/7505164/how-do-you-non-interactively-turn-on-features-in-a-linux-kernel-config-file

  • 1
    thanks for help in comments on this question stackoverflow.com/questions/4943857/… also can u please let me know which flag in makefile I have to add like config_XYZ=y to disable linux kernel tcp stack since I like to give a try to Userspace TCP stack that I downloaded
    – user786
    Jun 1, 2021 at 11:04
  • @user786 not sure about this. grep the Kconfig files to see if any interesting options show up. You can also try to search inside make menuconfig with /. Jun 1, 2021 at 11:09
  • I plan to write in makefile the debug flags=y. Please confirm is this also correct way that I plan
    – user786
    Jun 1, 2021 at 12:20
  • @user786 which makefile? Linux kernel or your own? By debug flags do you mean a standard kernel config, or something else? For standard kernel configs, no need to patch makefiles. For non standard, then you might need to hack kernel source I suppose. Jun 1, 2021 at 12:43
  • There is file with name Makefile which inside in the kernel downloaded source folder. For example when I downloaded linux-5.12.6 its inside that folder
    – user786
    Jun 1, 2021 at 12:59

I had this same issue since I wanted to upgrade my CentOS kernel and needed to do it on several machines. Assume here my new CentOS kernel tree is in /linux-5.1 (I'm logged into the root account)

  1. cd /linux-5.1
  2. run make menuconfig and make your changes and save them to .config
  3. copy the /linux-5.1/.config file to your development server
  4. Now for your next machine to upgrade you'll copy .config file from your development server to /linux-5.1/.config on the new machine.

Hope this helps someone in the same predicament.

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