Kernel series

Void Linux provides many kernel series in the default repository. These are named linux<x>.<y>: for example, linux4.19. You can query for all available kernel series by running:

$ xbps-query --regex -Rs '^linux[0-9.]+-[0-9._]+'

The linux meta package, installed by default, depends on one of the kernel packages, usually the package containing the latest mainline kernel that works with all DKMS modules. Newer kernels might be available in the repository, but are not necessarily considered stable enough to be the default; use these at your own risk. If you wish to use a more recent kernel and have DKMS modules that you need to build, install the relevant linux<x>.<y>-headers package, then use xbps-reconfigure(1) to reconfigure the linux<x>.<y> package you installed. This will build the DKMS modules.

Removing old kernels

When updating the kernel, old versions are left behind in case it is necessary to roll back to an older version. Over time, old kernel versions can accumulate, consuming disk space and increasing the time taken by DKMS module updates. Furthermore, if /boot is a separate partition and fills up with old kernels, updating can fail or result in incomplete initramfs filesystems to be generated and result in kernel panics if they are being booted. Thus, it may be advisable to clean old kernels from time to time.

Removing old kernels is done using the vkpurge(8) utility. vkpurge comes pre-installed on every Void Linux system. This utility runs the necessary hooks when removing old kernels. Note that vkpurge does not remove kernel packages, only particular kernels.

Removing the default kernel series

If you've installed a kernel package for a series other than the default, and want to remove the default kernel packages, you should install the linux-base package or mark it as a manual package in case it is already installed. After this procedure, you can remove the default kernel packages with xbps-remove(1). It might be necessary to add linux and linux-headers to an ignorepkg entry in xbps.d(5), since base packages can depend on them.

Switching to another kernel series

If you'd like to use the linux-lts or linux-mainline kernel series instead of the default linux, first install the desired series metapackage (and the linux-lts-headers or linux-mainline-headers metapackage if needed). Then you can add linux and linux-headers to an ignorepkg entry in xbps.d(5) and uninstall those packages.

Changing the default initramfs generator

By default, Void Linux uses dracut to prepare initramfs images for installed kernels. Alternatives such as mkinitcpio are available. Each initramfs generator registers an XBPS alternative in the initramfs group to link its kernel hooks to be used when creating or removing initramfs images for a given kernel.

To replace dracut with, e.g., mkinitcpio, install the mkinitcpio package; confirm that mkinitcpio appears in the list of available alternatives by running

$ xbps-alternatives -l -g initramfs

Issue the command

# xbps-alternatives -s mkinitcpio

to replace the dracut kernel hooks with those provided by mkinitcpio. With subsequent kernel updates (or updates to DKMS packages that trigger initramfs regeneration), mkinitcpio will be used instead of dracut to prepare initramfs images. To force images to regenerate, reconfigure your kernel packages by invoking

# xbps-reconfigure -f linux<x>.<y>

for each linux<x>.<y> package that is currently installed.


The kernel, the initial RAM disk (initrd) and some system programs can be configured at boot by kernel command line arguments. The parameters understood by the kernel are explained in the kernel-parameters documentation and by bootparam(7). Parameters understood by dracut can be found in dracut.cmdline(7).

Once the system is booted, the current kernel command line parameters can be found in the /proc/cmdline file. Some system programs can change their behavior based on the parameters passed in the command line, which is what happens when booting a different runsvdir, for example.

There are different ways of setting these parameters, some of which are explained below.


Kernel command line arguments can be added through the GRUB bootloader by editing /etc/default/grub, changing the GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT variable and then running update-grub.


Dracut offers a kernel_cmdline configuration option and --kernel-cmdline command-line option that will encode command-line arguments directly in the initramfs image. When dracut is used to create a UEFI executable, arguments set with these options will be passed to the kernel. However, when an ordinary initramfs is produced, these options will not be passed to the kernel at boot. Instead, they will be written to a configuration file in /etc/cmdline.d within the image. While dracut parses this configuration to control its own boot-time behavior, the kernel itself will not be aware of anything set via this mechanism.

After modifying a dracut configuration, regenerate the initramfs to ensure that it includes the changes.

Kernel hardening

Void Linux ships with some kernel security options enabled by default. This was originally provided by kernel command line arguments slub_debug=P page_poison=1, but since kernel series 5.3, these have been replaced with init_on_alloc and init_on_free (see this commit).

Void's kernels come with the init_on_alloc option enabled by default where available (i.e. linux5.4 and greater). In most cases you should usually not disable it, as it has a fairly minimal impact on performance (within 1%). The init_on_free option is more expensive (around 5% on average) and needs to be enabled manually by passing init_on_free=1 on the kernel command line. If you need to disable init_on_alloc, you can do that similarly by passing init_on_alloc=0.

There is a chance that your existing system still has the old options enabled. They still work in newer kernels, but have a performance impact more in line with init_on_free=1. On older hardware this can be quite noticeable. If you are running a kernel series older than 5.4, you can keep them (or add them) for extra security at the cost of speed; otherwise you should remove them.

Kernel modules

Kernel modules are typically drivers for devices or filesystems.

Loading kernel modules during boot

Normally the kernel automatically loads required modules, but sometimes it may be necessary to explicitly specify modules to be loaded during boot.

To load kernel modules during boot, a .conf file like /etc/modules-load.d/virtio.conf needs to be created with the contents:

# load virtio-net

Blacklisting kernel modules

Blacklisting kernel modules is a method for preventing modules from being loaded by the kernel. There are two different methods for blacklisting kernel modules, one for modules loaded by the initramfs and one for modules loaded after the initramfs process is done. Modules loaded by the initramfs have to be blacklisted in the initramfs configuration.

To blacklist modules loaded after the initramfs process, create a .conf file, like /etc/modprobe.d/radeon.conf, with the contents:

blacklist radeon

Blacklisting modules in the initramfs

After making the necessary changes to the configuration files, the initramfs needs to be regenerated for the changes to take effect on the next boot.


Dracut can be configured to not include kernel modules through a configuration file. To blacklist modules from being included in a dracut initramfs, create a .conf file, like /etc/dracut.conf.d/radeon.conf, with the contents:

omit_drivers+=" radeon "

To blacklist modules from being included in a mkinitcpio initramfs a .conf file needs to be created like /etc/modprobe.d/radeon.conf with the contents:

blacklist radeon

Kernel hooks

Void Linux provides directories for kernel hooks in /etc/kernel.d/{pre-install,post-install,pre-remove,post-remove}.

These hooks are used to update the boot menus for bootloaders like grub, gummiboot and lilo.

Install hooks

The {pre,post}-install hooks are executed by xbps-reconfigure(1) when configuring a Linux kernel, such as building its initramfs. This happens when a kernel series is installed for the first time or updated, but can also be run manually:

# xbps-reconfigure --force linux<x>.<y>

If run manually, they serve to apply initramfs configuration changes to the next boot.

Remove hooks

The {pre,post}-remove hooks are executed by vkpurge(8) when removing old kernels.

Dynamic Kernel Module Support (DKMS)

There are kernel modules that are not part of the Linux source tree that are built at install time using DKMS and kernel hooks. The available modules can be listed by searching for dkms in the package repositories.

DKMS build logs are available in /var/lib/dkms/.