Build & Update Linux kernel on HiKey

This page provides the instructions for building and deploying linux kernel on HiKey from x86 host machine.


  • A host machine with relevant OS to install cross compiler and packages (Preferrably Ubuntu/Debian)
  • A HiKey board running latest Debian release from Linaro

Download GNU cross-toolchain binaries

You need to download the correct GCC toolchain on your host depending the architecture. Usually host is a standard Intel x86-64 computer, target is the HiKey which is AARCH64. Linaro provides linux host binaries.

       $ mkdir toolchain
       $ wget*-x86_64_aarch64-linux-gnu.tar.xz
       $ tar -xf gcc-*-x86_64_aarch64-linux-gnu.tar.xz -C ./toolchain --strip-components=1

Install packages

Install the required packages on host by following the instructions below:

$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt install build-essential fakeroot bc kmod cpio libssl-dev bison flex

Get Linux Kernel Source

$ git clone

Build the Linux Kernel

$ export ARCH=arm64
$ export CROSS_COMPILE=<path-to-cross-compiler>/aarch64-linux-gnu-gcc-

Note: Replace in the above command with the location where you have extracted the toolchain

$ make defconfig distro.config
$ make bindeb-pkg LOCALVERSION=-hikey-linaro

After the compilation, in the directory one level above the kernel source tree, you will get:

  • linux-image-xxx.deb, a Debian package with the kernel and modules
  • linux-headers-xxx.deb, a Debian package with kernel headers (not needed mostly)

Installing the Kernel

Copy linux-image-xxx.deb file to your target device and install it by:

$ dpkg -i linux-image-xxx.deb

Note: Replace xxx in the image name with the generated version string

Booting Custom Device Tree

You can override the default device tree which comes with the image and boot with your own custom device tree.

  1. First copy the device tree binary (dtb) to /boot directory and reboot the board.
  2. At the GRUB boot selection menu, press e and then add the following entry in the last line after initrd.
devicetree /boot/hi6220-hikey.dtb

Now press ctrl+x to boot with custom device tree binary.