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Kernel Design


This document outlines the overall design of the kernel, as it relates to Chromium OS.

See also the Frequently Asked Questions page for more day-to-day details.


Chromium OS uses the Linux Kernel. Historically we stayed on a 2.6.32 Ubuntu-based for the first several releases, but have since then moved on to track the upstream mainline kernel directly, applying our changes for the features and stability we need on top of it. 

Source code

Git repository

The Chromium OS Linux kernel will be stored in a gerrit/git repository, hosted on an externally accessible website. All platforms will build from one single kernel source tree (though there will be multiple binary images).  

If necessary, we will create short-term private branches for specific vendor projects that involve pre-production hardware. These branches will be merged back into the main kernel as soon as possible, using one code review per CL so that all code in our master branch is either from upstream or code reviewed. The intent of these private branches is to enable code review and project status monitoring of code that cannot be publicly released yet, due to NDA. The intent is specifically not to use these branches to keep changes that are shipping to customers.

Any code submitted should be done as one Git commit per logical change, with a good description. (See Documentation/SubmittingPatches in the kernel tree.) We may create temporary public branches for the purpose of working together on code review and integration.


All Linux kernel code, from Google and from partners, must be released under GPLv2 and must be released under the DCO (documented certificate of ownership) as a signoff of ownership. Each commit will contain the signoff of the code author/committer and the ACK of the patch approver. Code should be submitted under the Chromium contributor license agreement.

Changelog entries

Here's an example of a changelog entry:

CHROMIUM: bibble: a patch to fix everything

Bug: 12345

This patch fixes bug 12345 by checking for a NULL pointer before dereferencing ops->thingy

Signed-off-by: Author <>
Signed-off-by: Committer <>
Acked-by: Approver <>

All kernel code (including backports from upstream) contributed by Google or partners will include a classification tag in the first line of the commit log. The classification will be useful when the maintainer needs to rebase to a newer kernel; the tag is also needed for proper attribution. The tag is in ALL_CAPS_UNDERSCORE, is followed by a colon, and is at the beginning of the first line. The first line from each commit should be a summary.

Whenever possible use the -x flag with git cherry-pick. This appends a line to the commit message that says which commit this cherry-pick came from. Only do this in the case that the commit was cherry-picked from a repository that is easily accessible by the public.

Code contributed by the Chromium community will use the tag CHROMIUM. For example:

CHROMIUM: bibble: a patch to fix everything

Code backported from upstream (Linus's tree) will use the tag UPSTREAM. For example:

UPSTREAM: bibble: a patch to fix everything

Code backported from an upstream maintainer tree will use two tags. For example:

UPSTREAM: WIRELESS: bibble: a patch to fix everything

Code ported from a Linux distribution tree or other non-upstream tree will also use an appropriate tag. For example:

UBUNTU: bibble: a patch to fix everything


YOCTO: bibble: a patch to fix everything

Code ported from a patch will use the tag FROMLIST and should include a link to the list the patch was obtained from. For example:

FROMLIST: bibble: a patch to fix everything

(am from

Code backported that you had to change to make it run with an older kernel version, including conflict resolutions, will use the tag BACKPORT. For example:

BACKPORT: bibble: a patch to fix everything


The kernel will be upgraded to a new version as soon as practical after a new version of the upstream kernel is released. We will do this via a Git rebase, this means we'll keep clean versions of our patches floated on top of the latest tree. In practice, this will happen approximately every 3-6 months, and approximately every other kernel versions from upstream. Other, smaller updates will be done on a continuous basis, such as merging in the -stable kernel updates.

All third-party vendors are expected to supply updated versions of their code against every new mainline kernel version (for example, at 3.2, 3.3, and so on) within 14 days of its release, if the code is not already upstream.

Supported and unsupported features

Kernel modules and initial RAM disks

We will support kernel modules, though this feature may be removed at some point in the future. We will not support modules built outside of the main kernel tree.

We will not support initial RAM disks (initrd) for the general kernel, but will need them on recovery image kernels as well as for the factory install flow.


Support for i386, ARMv7 and x86_64 is planned.

The tradeoff for using 64 bits is additional power consumption and memory usage, in return for greater performance.


We do not plan to support swap in our initial release, but will conduct a further feasibility investigation to review this. We are concerned about the effect of swap on:

  • SSD write cycle lifetime
  • maximum latency

We realize that not having swap will limit how many tabs a user can keep open and the amount of anonymous memory a process can allocate. Aggregate size of anonymous memory in the system will be limited to the size of RAM. We may revisit this decision in future releases.

Configuration files

We use a custom split config to help keep settings unified across different architectures.  See the Kernel Configuration document for more details.