It is generally desirable that building the same source code with the same set of tools is reproducible, i.e. the output is always exactly the same. This makes it possible to verify that the build infrastructure for a binary distribution or embedded system has not been subverted. This can also make it easier to verify that a source or tool change does not make any difference to the resulting binaries.
The Reproducible Builds project has more information about this general topic. This document covers the various reasons why building the kernel may be unreproducible, and how to avoid them.
The kernel embeds timestamps in three places:
The version string exposed by
uname()and included in
File timestamps in the embedded initramfs
If enabled via
CONFIG_IKHEADERS, file timestamps of kernel headers embedded in the kernel or respective module, exposed via
By default the timestamp is the current time and in the case of
kheaders the various files’ modification times. This must
be overridden using the KBUILD_BUILD_TIMESTAMP variable.
If you are building from a git commit, you could use its commit date.
The kernel does not use the
and enables warnings if they are used. If you incorporate external
code that does use these, you must override the timestamp they
correspond to by setting the SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH environment
The kernel embeds the building user and host names in
/proc/version. These must be overridden using the
KBUILD_BUILD_USER and KBUILD_BUILD_HOST variables. If you are
building from a git commit, you could use its committer address.
When the kernel is built out-of-tree, debug information may include
absolute filenames for the source files. This must be overridden by
-fdebug-prefix-map option in the KCFLAGS variable.
Depending on the compiler used, the
__FILE__ macro may also expand
to an absolute filename in an out-of-tree build. Kbuild automatically
-fmacro-prefix-map option to prevent this, if it is
The Reproducible Builds web site has more information about these prefix-map options.
Generated files in source packages¶
The build processes for some programs under the
subdirectory do not completely support out-of-tree builds. This may
cause a later source package build using e.g.
make rpm-pkg to
include generated files. You should ensure the source tree is
pristine by running
make mrproper or
git clean -d -f -x before
building a source package.
If you enable
CONFIG_MODULE_SIG_ALL, the default behaviour is to
generate a different temporary key for each build, resulting in the
modules being unreproducible. However, including a signing key with
your source would presumably defeat the purpose of signing modules.
One approach to this is to divide up the build process so that the unreproducible parts can be treated as sources:
Generate a persistent signing key. Add the certificate for the key to the kernel source.
CONFIG_SYSTEM_TRUSTED_KEYSsymbol to include the signing key’s certificate, set
CONFIG_MODULE_SIG_KEYto an empty string, and disable
CONFIG_MODULE_SIG_ALL. Build the kernel and modules.
Create detached signatures for the modules, and publish them as sources.
Perform a second build that attaches the module signatures. It can either rebuild the modules or use the output of step 2.
If you enable
CONFIG_RANDSTRUCT, you will need to pre-generate
the random seed in
scripts/basic/randstruct.seed so the same
value is used by each build. See
Debug info conflicts¶
This is not a problem of unreproducibility, but of generated files being too reproducible.
Once you set all the necessary variables for a reproducible build, a vDSO’s debug information may be identical even for different kernel versions. This can result in file conflicts between debug information packages for the different kernel versions.
To avoid this, you can make the vDSO different for different
kernel versions by including an arbitrary string of “salt” in it.
This is specified by the Kconfig symbol
Uncommitted changes or different commit ids in git can also lead
to different compilation results. For example, after executing
git reset HEAD^, even if the code is the same, the
include/config/kernel.release generated during compilation
will be different, which will eventually lead to binary differences.
scripts/setlocalversion for details.