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Android Kernel Configs

How are kernel config settings typically stored?

When building the Linux kernel for a particular platform one usually begins by basing the kernel configuration off of a particular defconfig. The platform’s defconfig contains all of the Linux kconfig settings required to properly configure the kernel build (features, default system parameters, etc) for that platform. Defconfig files are typically stored in the kernel tree at arch/*/configs/.

It may be desirable to modify the kernel configuration beyond what the hardware platform requires in order to support a particular hardware or software feature. Storing these kernel configuration changes is often done using fragments. These are files which have the same format as a defconfig but are typically much smaller, as they only contain the kernel configuration settings needed to support the hardware or software feature/behavior in question. Maintainers of hardware extensions or software features can use fragments to compactly express their kernel requirements. The fragments can be combined with a platform defconfig using the kernel's make rules or using the scripts/kconfig/ script in the kernel tree.

How are Android's kernel configs stored?

The kernel configs are stored in the kernel/configs repo.

Kernel configuration settings that must be present for Android to function are located in the base config fragment, android-base.config. Configuration settings that enhance Android’s functionality in some way but are not required for it to run are located in the recommended config fragment, android-recommended.config.

Some kernel config requirements only apply on certain architectures. Other requirements only apply if some other kernel config option has a particular value. The platform owner may also have a choice between several config options. These types of constraints cannot be expressed with a simple kernel config fragment. In releases up to and including Android P, kernel config requirements that are specific to a particular architecture are contained in architecture-specific base config fragments, such as android-base-arm64.config. If an architecture-specific base config fragment does not exist for a particular architecture in Android P or an earlier release, it means there are no required kernel config options for Android specific to that architecture. Note that the architecture-agnostic kernel config requirements from android-base.config still apply in that case.

In releases after Android P the architecture-specific base config fragments are removed, and conditional kernel config requirements are stored in android-base-conditional.xml.

In Android R or above, additional config fragments are added conditionally on build variants. In particular, non_debuggable.config contains additional requirements for user builds.

Kernel configs vary by kernel version, so there are sets of kernel configs for each version of the kernel that Android supports.

How can I easily combine platform and required Android configs?

Assuming you already have a minimalist defconfig for your platform, a possible way to enable these options would be to use the aforementioned script in the kernel tree. From the root of the kernel tree:

ARCH=<arch> scripts/kconfig/ <...>/<platform>_defconfig <...>/android-base.config <...>/android-base-<arch>.config <...>/android-recommended.config

This will generate a .config that can then be used to save a new defconfig or compile a new kernel with Android features enabled.

The kernel build system also supports merging in config fragments directly. The fragments must be located in the kernel/configs directory of the kernel tree and they must have filenames that end with the extension “.config”. The platform defconfig must also be located in arch/<arch>/configs/. Once these requirements are satisfied, the full defconfig can be prepared with:

make ARCH=<arch> <platform>_defconfig android-base.config android-base-<arch>.config android-recommended.config

If there is an android-base-conditional.xml file for your release/kernel version combination, it is necessary to review it and manually edit your defconfig to satisfy any applicable requirements.

Are the config requirements tested?

Starting with Android O the base kernel configs are not just advisory. They are tested as part of VTS (specifically the SystemVendorTest.KernelCompatibility subtest of CtsOnGsiTrebleFrameworkVintfTest), and also during device boot when the vendor interface (which includes the kernel configuration) and framework compatibility matrix are compared.

Ensuring Device Upgradability

Devices launched with prior releases of Android must be able to upgrade to later releases of Android. This means that AOSP must function not only with device kernels that adhere to the Android kernel configs of the current release, but also with those device kernels that adhere to the configs of past releases. To facilitate that in the VtsKernelConfig test and in the framework compatibility matrix, past versions of the Android kernel config requirements are stored in the kernel/configs repo. During tests the appropriate versions of the configs are accessed depending on the launch level of the device.

If you are adding a new feature to AOSP which depends on a particular kernel configuration value, either that kernel configuration value must already be present in the base android config fragments of past releases still on the supported upgrade path, or the feature must be designed in a way to degrade gracefully when the required kernel configuration is not present (and not be essential to AOSP’s overall functionality). All configs on the supported upgrade path are in the kernel/configs repo.

Support for kernel configs from previous dessert releases is dropped from AOSP when the upgrade path from that dessert release is no longer supported.

Organization and Maintenance of the Kernel Config Repo

The top level of the kernel configs repo contains directories for each supported kernel version. These contain the kernel config requirements (and recommendations) for the next release. There are also directories at the top level for previous releases. These directories contain the final kernel config requirements (for all supported kernel versions) for those releases and must not be changed once those releases have been published. AOSP must support all kernel configurations in this repo.

For release branches the structure is similar, except there are no configs at the top level. When a release is branched from master the top-level configs are copied into a new directory for the release (this change is propagated to master) and the top-level configs are removed (this change is not propagated to master) since no development beyond that release is done in that branch.

I want to add/modify/remove a kernel config requirement. What do I do?

Modify the top level kernel configs in AOSP. Make sure to modify the configs for all applicable kernel versions. Do not modify the config fragments in release directories.

Because there is no tool to consistently generate these config fragments, please keep them alphabetically (not randomly) sorted.


This file lists all common kernel configuration requirements on kernel version x.y.


Contains the following:

  • Minimum LTS required
  • Conditional requirements.


Build rules from the aforementioned files to a framework compatibility matrix . See this link for details of the output format.

I want to edit a released kernel requirement. What do I do?

Don't edit a released kernel requirement unless necessary. If you have to make such a change, after discussing the change with maintainers, keep in mind that you CANNOT make a requirement more restrictive. Specifically,


  • Support a new kernel version by creating a new <dessert>/android-x.y directory
  • Remove a line from <dessert>/android-*/android-base.config
  • Remove a line from <dessert>/android-*/android-base-*.config
  • In <dessert>/android-*/android-base-conditional.xml
    • Lower minimum LTS requirement from x.y.u to x.y.v (where v < u)
    • Remove a <group>
    • Add a condition <group><conditions><config>
    • Remove a conditional requirement <group><config>

Not allowed

  • Add or change a line from <dessert>/android-*/android-base.config
  • Add or change a line from <dessert>/android-*/android-base-*.config
  • Add new conditional requirements <dessert>/android-*/android-base-*.config
  • Rename existing conditional requirements <dessert>/android-*/android-base-*.config
  • In <dessert>/android-*/android-base-conditional.xml
    • Raise minimum LTS requirement from x.y.u to x.y.v (where v < u)
    • Add a new <group>
    • Remove or change a condition <conditions><config>
    • Add or change a conditional requirement <group><config>
  • Other changes that are not in the Allowed list