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4.5. Troubleshooting Build Failures

If your build fails with a signal 11 error it is most likely because of hardware problems; often the culprit is failing memory. Unfortunately, the BIOS memory check is close to useless in detecting intermittent memory failures. Even dedicated memory checkers do not stress memory as much as gcc running a kernel build. One way to tell if hardware is at fault is to restart the 'make bzImage' process. If you can get a little further before failing again then it is a hardware error. There are several possible ways to try to correct these.

Try changing your memory settings in the BIOS to more conservative levels. For example, change to SLOW or NORMAL instead of FAST. Verify that all the fans are working correctly. [1] Swap out the memory. One trick is to specify less memory than is actually installed by passing values to the kernel on boot. This prevents the kernel from accessing all the memory in the machine, and could help diagnose bad SIMMs or SDRAMs.

If instead the 'make' fails at the same point each time, then it is a configuration error. These usually result from not enabling a feature that is required by another. For example, IP Firewalling requires TCP/IP. If the prerequisite is not enabled, the build will fail. You may also get errors if you select the wrong processor or are using either a very old or development compiler.

Also keep in mind that the kernel is highly sensitive to the versions of the build tools such as the compiler and linker. Double check that your tools and libraries are the minimum required. In other words, the versions listed in in the Documentation/Changes are necessary to build the kernel correctly and are not merely suggestions.



For a long while, I thought that the xmatrix screensaver was crashing my machine because of the numerous core dumps I would discover in my home directory. It turned out that xmatrix was cpu intensive. Unknown to me, the CPU fan on this machine had failed. Everything was fine until xmatrix started, causing the processor to overheat, eventually leading to a crash.

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