I read the tutorials to make a mimalistic custom kernel from here and am able to boot it up as explained in the tutorial over a virtual machine using GRUB as the boot loader.

I think it would be more fun if I could do the same over bare hardware using a bootable pendrive. That is use GRUB, pendrive and my Kernel executable to form a bootable pendrive and then boot into the kernel from this pendrive.

Q1. I thought of using the normal procedure of how I make a bootable linux pendrive, but my kernel isn't really an iso image, its an elf format executable. Will the normal method work if I somehow convert my executable to iso format ?

Q2. Any other ideas / link to some resource how I should proceed ?

P.S. : Its NOT Linux kernel per-se, Its absolutely minimal kernel, no file system nothing. Just boots up, prints something on console and can handle keyboard events, thats it.

2 Answers 2


From a bootup perspective, the kernel file itself is just a configuration option fed to grub. As long as grub can find the kernel, you should be good to go.

You will however need something to use as a rootfs, so a partition or dd image on your usb key would make sense, and then store your kernel file in there. Likely you can even get away with putting it right in /boot with all your grub stuff. So at minimum you'll need the mbr set up on the usb key to boot, and a filesystem containing your grub configuration... (I was googling around, and see examples of both fat and ext being used for /boot- I know most usb boot key tools use fat for the base, so I would recommend that- but ext should work also I would think.) There is some info here with an example for ubuntu. I think in your position I would create a bootable USB with on of these tools, and then modify it for my needs- that way I get the grub installation, and mbr stuff taken care of for me.

At the end of the day, I think it's a question of how to get grub up and running on the usb key, after that it's just grub config which this link has helped me out in the past.


Read about Debian's live-build system.

There is option --linux-package which should point on the linux-kernel.deb, you may specify your own kernel, just pack it into Debian format.

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