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TuxMake: Building Linux with LLVM toolchains

Senthil Kumaran S

Senthil Kumaran S

Wednesday, April 17, 20245 min read


The Linux kernel is the heart of any Linux-based operating system. It orchestrates hardware, memory, and other crucial system resources. Building a Linux kernel from source code offers immense flexibility and customization but can be a daunting task, especially for beginners. In the case of experienced kernel developers, maintaining custom scripts or tooling for building a Linux kernel, for various architecture and toolchain combinations, can quickly prove painful in the long run.

TuxMake streamlines this process by providing a consistent command-line interface (CLI) and a Python library for building the Linux kernel across diverse architectures, toolchains, and configurations.

TuxMake provides Docker container images to build Linux kernels across various architectures and toolchain combinations. These container images are Debian-based (ranging from oldstable to unstable) and come pre-installed with stock (Debian-provided) toolchains and all the tools required for kernel compilation. The TuxMake Docker container images ( can be used in any Linux distribution to build Linux kernels.

This blog post brings exciting news for TuxMake users. The TuxMake team has listened to the long-term users’ requests. We are now introducing support for LLVM toolchains. This addition allows the users to leverage the official toolchains within their TuxMake builds, potentially leading to improved build compatibility and build performance. LLVM toolchain

Previously, the TuxMake Docker images were built with all the tools that are required for building the Linux kernel, along with the stock toolchain that comes from the official Debian repository. For example, if Debian bookworm defaults to gcc version 13.x then the Docker image corresponding to gcc-13 toolchain provided by TuxMake would have the stock gcc toolchain available from Debian bookworm. Similarly, for Clang/LLVM toolchains.

The stock toolchains that are part of the Debian repositories are generic and not optimised for the linux kernel builds or for any project since they have to cater to all projects as a compiler toolchain provided by the Debian operating system. In the case of the Linux kernel project, the official website provides compilers that are optimised (most of the time) for building the Linux kernel. The users of TuxMake have wished to leverage the toolchains provided by for a long time, and finally, the wait is over! TuxMake has introduced Docker containers that have pre-installed toolchains from (

Internals of LLVM toolchain support

The TuxMake toolchain Docker images use a Debian base with all the necessary tools to build a Linux kernel for a specific architecture, except for the compiler toolchain itself which is obtained from

These Docker images are available in two host architecture combinations (aarch64 and x86_64). Figure 1, shows the supported toolchains and the target architectures.

Tuxmake toolchain vs architecture support matrix

NOTE: The loongarch target architecture Docker image is only available for x86_64 host architecture.

How to use LLVM toolchains?

$ tuxmake -r podman -a loongarch -t korg-clang-18 -k defconfig

The above command builds the Linux kernel with a Clang 18 toolchain for the loongarch target architecture, with defconfig as the kernel config and podman as the runtime.

To reproduce this build locally, use the following command:

tuxmake --target-arch=loongarch --kconfig=defconfig --toolchain=korg-clang-18 --wrapper=none --environment=KBUILD_BUILD_TIMESTAMP=@1710894445 --environment=KBUILD_BUILD_USER=tuxmake --environment=KBUILD_BUILD_HOST=tuxmake --environment=KCFLAGS=-ffile-prefix-map=/home/stylesen/.cache/tuxmake/builds/32/build/= --runtime=podman config default kernel xipkernel modules dtbs dtbs-legacy debugkernel headers

Trying to pull

When necessary, the container for loongarch_korg-clang-18 will be fetched from TuxMake’s public container registry at

The actual make command that will be invoked by TuxMake will be:

make --silent --keep-going --jobs=12 O=/home/stylesen/.cache/tuxmake/builds/32/build ARCH=loongarch CROSS_COMPILE=loongarch64-linux-gnu- LLVM=1 LLVM_IAS=1 HOSTCC=clang CC=clang defconfig

Once the build process is complete we will see the following output:

I: config: PASS in 0:00:01.715550 I: default: PASS in 0:18:54.221519 I: kernel: PASS in 0:00:16.026103 I: xipkernel: SKIP in 0:00:00.311325 I: modules: PASS in 0:00:32.313870 I: dtbs: PASS in 0:00:12.584119 I: dtbs-legacy: SKIP in 0:00:00.361245 I: debugkernel: PASS in 0:00:14.388657 I: headers: PASS in 0:00:05.408176 I: build output in /home/stylesen/.cache/tuxmake/builds/32

The kernel build artifacts will reside in, /home/stylesen/.cache/tuxmake/builds/32 which is a customizable location. Thus, we have just seen the korg-clang-18 toolchain in action with TuxMake.


Thus TuxMake makes building Linux kernels with official toolchains a breeze. The TuxMake developers are actively working to bring in support for GCC, which is available at

TuxMake excels at simplifying complexity across target devices, processor architectures, compiler tool sets, kernel configuration options, and the underlying build environment on the developer’s machine to produce target-specific Linux build artifacts.

Developed by Linaro, TuxMake works hand-in-hand with TuxSuite, a commercial service. While TuxMake focuses on individual builds executed locally, TuxBuild offers a public API that seamlessly integrates with continuous integration (CI) pipelines. This allows for large-scale, on-demand parallel builds of Linux kernels, ideal for development teams and organisations.

Please open an issue at, and email us at if you have any concerns. The complete documentation of TuxMake is available at