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Customizing the Kernel

Guide on how to customize the kernel used by Talos Linux.

Talos Linux configures the kernel to allow loading only cryptographically signed modules. The signing key is generated during the build process, it is unique to each build, and it is not available to the user. The public key is embedded in the kernel, and it is used to verify the signature of the modules. So if you want to use a custom kernel module, you will need to build your own kernel, and all required kernel modules in order to get the signature in sync with the kernel.


In order to build a custom kernel (or a custom kernel module), the following steps are required:

  • build a new Linux kernel and modules, push the artifacts to a registry
  • build a new Talos base artifacts: kernel and initramfs image
  • produce a new Talos boot artifact (ISO, installer image, disk image, etc.)

We will go through each step in detail.

Building a Custom Kernel

First, you might need to prepare the build environment, follow the Building Custom Images guide.

Checkout the siderolabs/pkgs repository:

git clone
cd pkgs
git checkout release-1.6

The kernel configuration is located in the files kernel/build/config-ARCH files. It can be modified using the text editor, or by using the Linux kernel menuconfig tool:

make kernel-menuconfig

The kernel configuration can be cleaned up by running:

make kernel-olddefconfig

Both commands will output the new configuration to the kernel/build/config-ARCH files.

Once ready, build the kernel any out-of-tree modules (if required, e.g. zfs) and push the artifacts to a registry:

make kernel REGISTRY= PUSH=true

By default, this command will compile and push the kernel both for amd64 and arm64 architectures, but you can specify a single architecture by overriding a variable PLATFORM:

make kernel REGISTRY= PUSH=true PLATFORM=linux/amd64

This will create a container image$TAG with the kernel and modules.

Building Talos Base Artifacts

Follow the Building Custom Images guide to set up the Talos source code checkout.

If some new kernel modules were introduced, adjust the list of the default modules compiled into the Talos initramfs by editing the file hack/modules-ARCH.txt.

Try building base Talos artifacts:

make kernel initramfs PKG_KERNEL=$TAG PLATFORM=linux/amd64

This should create a new image of the kernel and initramfs in _out/vmlinuz-amd64 and _out/initramfs-amd64.xz respectively.

Note: if building for arm64, replace amd64 with arm64 in the commands above.

As a final step, produce the new imager container image which can generate Talos boot assets:

make imager PKG_KERNEL=$TAG PLATFORM=linux/amd64 INSTALLER_ARCH=targetarch

Note: if you built the kernel for both amd64 and arm64, a multi-arch imager container can be built as well by specifying INSTALLER_ARCH=all and PLATFORM=linux/amd64,linux/arm64.

Building Talos Boot Assets

Follow the Boot Assets guide to build Talos boot assets you might need to boot Talos: ISO, installer image, etc. Replace the reference to the imager in guide with the reference to the imager container built above.

Note: if you update the imager container, don’t forget to docker pull it, as docker caches pulled images and won’t pull the updated image automatically.