MKINITCPIO(8) mkinitcpio manual MKINITCPIO(8)

mkinitcpio - Create an initial ramdisk environment

mkinitcpio [options]

Creates an initial ramdisk environment for booting the Linux kernel. The initial ramdisk is in essence a very small environment (early userspace) which loads various kernel modules and sets up necessary things before handing over control to init. This makes it possible to have, for example, encrypted root file systems and root file systems on a software RAID array. mkinitcpio allows for easy extension with custom hooks, has autodetection at runtime, and many other features.

-A, --addhooks hooks

Add the additional hooks to the image. These will be processed in order after all other hooks from the config file. Multiple hooks should be comma-separated. This option can be specified multiple times.

-c, --config config

Use config file to generate the ramdisk. Default: /etc/mkinitcpio.conf. If specified, drop-in files in /etc/mkinitcpio.conf.d/ will be ignored.

-d, --generatedir directory

Set directory as the location where the initramfs is built. This might be useful to generate a shutdown ramfs in /run/initramfs/.

-D, --hookdir directory

Set directory as the location where hooks will be searched for when generating the image.

-g, --generate filename

Generate a CPIO image as filename. Default: no; this means nothing will be written to the file system unless this option is specified.

-H, --hookhelp hookname

Output help for hookname hookname.

-h, --help

Output a short overview of available command-line switches.

-k, --kernel kernelversion

Use kernelversion, instead of the current running kernel. This may be a path to a kernel image (only supported for x86-based architectures), a specific kernel version or the special keyword none. In the latter case, no kernel modules are added to the image.

-L, --listhooks

List all available hooks.

-M, --automods

Display modules found via autodetection. mkinitcpio will automatically try to determine which kernel modules are needed to start your computer. This option lists which modules were detected.

-n, --nocolor

Disable color output.

-U, --uki filename

Generate a unified kernel image as filename. If a CPIO image is successfully built, it will be used to generate a unified kernel image for UEFI booting. This combines the initramfs, the kernel, and the kernel cmdline into one executable. This is useful for boot chain integrity where the file is signed. Default: no. For a list of relevant options see Options for unified kernel image below.

-P, --allpresets

Process all presets contained in /etc/mkinitcpio.d. See the -p option for more detail about presets.

-p, --preset preset

Build initramfs image(s) according to specified preset. This may be a file in /etc/mkinitcpio.d (without the .preset extension) or a full, absolute path to a file. This option may be specified multiple times to process multiple presets.

-R, --remove

Remove initramfs image(s) generated by the specified preset(s). If used in combination with -P|--allpresets, removes the images for all presets. This option can only be used with either -p|--presets or -P|--allpresets.

-r, --moduleroot root

Specifies the root directory to find modules in, defaulting to /.

-S, --skiphooks hooks

Skip hooks when generating the image. Multiple hooks should be comma-separated. This option can be specified multiple times.

-s, --save

Saves the build directory for the initial ramdisk. Default: no; This means the directory will not be retained if this option is not specified. Useful for debugging purposes.

-t, --builddir tmpdir

Use tmpdir as the temporary build directory instead of /tmp. tmpdir must exist. The TMPDIR environment variable is also honored to set this location, but the command line option will take precedence.

-V, --version

Display version information.

-v, --verbose

Verbose output. Outputs more information about what is happening during creation of the ramdisk.

-z, --compress compress

Override the compression method with the compress program.

--cmdline filename

Use kernel command line with unified kernel image. If none is specified, try one of the files /etc/kernel/cmdline, /usr/lib/kernel/cmdline or /proc/cmdline.


Omit embedding a kernel command line string in the unified kernel image. Kernel command line options will need to be passed via the kernel command line. Overrides the --cmdline option.

--splash filename

UEFI executables can show a bitmap file on boot.

--uefistub filename

UEFI stub image used for unified kernel image generation. Has no effect if ukify is being used. Default: Attempts to look for a systemd-boot or gummiboot stub loader.

--ukiconfig filename

Configuration file to pass to ukify. If none is specified, try one of the files /etc/kernel/uki.conf or /usr/lib/kernel/uki.conf. If neither of those exists, ukify will use its internal default.


Do not use ukify to build UKIs even if it is available. This is not recommended.

--kernelimage filename

Include a kernel image for the unified kernel image. Default: one of /lib/modules/${KERNELVERSION}/vmlinuz, /boot/vmlinuz-${KERNELVERSION}, or /boot/vmlinuz-linux.

--osrelease filename

Include a os-release file for the unified kernel image. Default: /etc/os-release or /usr/lib/os-release.

A preset is a pre-defined definition on how to create an initial ramdisk. Instead of specifying the configuration file and which output file, every time you generate a new initial ramdisk, you define a preset and use the -p switch to generate an initial ramdisk according to your preset.

Typically, presets are files located in /etc/mkinitcpio.d/ with the extension .preset, e.g. /etc/mkinitcpio.d/linux.preset for the linux preset. It is possible to use files in other locations, too. Then the path to this file needs to be specified.

Presets files are shell scripts that get sourced by mkinitcpio and the following variables will influence its behavior.

Note, that mkinitcpio calls itself for each preset and passes the options defined in the preset file file via command line arguments. Those are mentioned in the description of the options below, so refer to the manual of the command line arguments for more information about a particular option.


An array of preset names defined in this file. These names will be used as prefix to other options to provide preset-specific options. For example, if a PRESET=('custom') is given, then the image is specified via custom_image='/boot/custom.img'.

<preset>_kver (defaults to value of ALL_kver — one of the two is required)

Specify the Kernel version (via -k in mkinitcpio).

<preset>_config (defaults to value of ALL_config — one of the two is required)

Path to the configuration file (passed via -c to mkinitcpio).

<preset>_uki (one of <preset>_uki and <preset>_image is required)

Output file path for a unified kernel image (passed via -U to mkinitcpio).

<preset>_image (one of <preset>_uki and <preset>_image is required)

Output file path for the generated image (passed via -g to mkinitcpio).


Further command line arguments to pass to mkinitcpio as a string or array. They will get appended at the end of the call to mkinitcpio (after all the options mentioned above), so this can be used to overwrite options (for example pass a -S hook here to skip a hook).

Install hooks are bash scripts which are sourced during mkinitcpio runtime in order to add modules, binaries, and other files to the image. A variety of functions exist to facilitate this.

add_module modname

Adds the module specified by modname to the image. Dependencies are derived and added automatically.

add_binary binary [ destination ] [ mode ]

Adds a binary to the image. The argument binary need not be an absolute path and, if needed, a lookup will be performed. If the binary is a dynamically linked ELF binary, dependencies will be automatically added. If it is a symlink, both the symlink and the target binary will be added. Optionally, a destination within the initramfs image as well as a file mode can be specified. By default, the destination and mode be taken from the source derived from binary.

add_file path [ destination ] [ mode ]

Adds a file and any needed parent directories to the image. If it is a symlink, both the symlink and the target file will be added. Optionally, a destination within the initramfs image as well as a file mode can be specified. By default, the destination and mode will be taken from the source and mode of the file specified by the path.

add_file_early path [ destination ] [ mode ]

Adds a file and any needed parent directories to the early uncompressed image. Works the same way as add_file.

add_dir path

Adds a directory and its parents to the image.

add_dir_early path

Adds a directory and its parents to the early uncompressed image. Works the same way as add_dir.

add_full_dir directory [ glob ] [ strip_prefix ]

Recursively adds a directory to the image by walking the given path and calling add_file, add_dir, and add_symlink accordingly. This function will not follow symlinks, nor will it add the targets of symlinks.

If the glob argument is passed, only files and symlinks matching this glob will be added.

If the strip_prefix argument is passed, it will be used to strip the destination path (path in the initramfs image) from the prefix specified by the strip_prefix argument. This can be useful when writing rootfs-overlay hooks.

add_symlink path [ link-target ]

Adds a symlink to the image at the specified path, optionally pointing to the specified link-target. If the link-target is not provided, it is assumed that this symlink exists in the real file system, and the target will be read using readlink(1). There is no checking done to ensure that the target of the symlink exists, and symlinks will not be followed recursively.

add_all_modules [ -f filter ] pattern

Adds modules to the image, without regard for the autodetect whitelist. pattern should be a subdirectory within the kernel tree describing a subset of modules to be included. Further refinement can be provided via the -f flag with an extended regular expression.

add_checked_modules [ -f filter ] pattern

Similar to add_all_modules with the constraint that only modules matching the whitelist generated by the autodetect hook will be added to the image. If the autodetect hook is not present in the image, this function is identical to add_all_modules.

add_runscript scriptname

Adds a runtime hook to the image, which is a busybox ash compatible shell script. The name of the script is guaranteed to match the name of the hook the script is called from.

add_udev_rule rule-file

Adds a udev rule to the image. Dependencies on binaries will be discovered and added. The argument can be a rule file name (discovered from well known udev paths) or an absolute path.

add_all_modules_from_symbol symbol paths

Adds modules from the paths directories containing the symbol to the image.

add_checked_modules_from_symbol symbol paths

Similar to add_all_modules_from_symbol with the constraint that only modules matching the whitelist generated by the autodetect hook will be added to the image. If the autodetect hook is not present in the image, this function is identical to add_all_modules_from_symbol.

mkinitcpio has support for early CPIO. These are uncompressed CPIO archives prepended to the main compressed CPIO archive. They are used for early loading CPU microcode or loading ACPI table overrides.

Install hooks can install files to this archive by adding them to $EARLYROOT.

Runtime hooks added to the image via the add_runscript function from an install hook are able to provide extra functionality during early userspace. Specific functions in these files will run at different times. A hook can define one or more of these. At each hook point, hooks are run in the order that they are defined in the HOOKS variable, except for cleanup hooks which are run in reverse.


Functions of this name will be run once the API mounts have been setup and the kernel command line has been parsed. Daemons needed for early userspace should be started from this hook point.


Functions of this name will be run after any early hooks, and after user defined modules have been installed. This is the most common hook point, and functionality such as scanning for LVM volumes and mapping encrypted volumes should be performed here.


Functions of this name will be run after root has been mounted. This is generally used for further necessary setup in the real root, such as mounting other system partitions.


Functions of this name are run as late as possible. Any daemons started from a run_earlyhook function should be shut down here in preparation for switching to the real root.


Functions of this name are run before the emergency shell launched in case of boot failure. For example this allows boot splash screens to terminate their process, so users will notice the failure.

getarg argument [ default ]

This function can be used in runtime hooks to get an argument from the kernel cmdline. If argument exists with a value, the value is returned. If argument exists without a value, y is returned. If argument does not exist, default is returned. If default is not specified, nothing is returned.

Post hooks are executables or scripts that get executed after the image has been successfully generated and can be used for further processing (i.e. signing). They receive the kernel as the first argument, the image as second and optionally the unified kernel image as a third.

Note that the first argument will be empty when the mkinitcpio has been invoked with -k none or -k version and the kernel image cannot be found on the file system.

The following enviroment variables are passed:


Contains the full version of the kernel the image has been built from.


The default location where the kernel should be located for booting. This usually is the same as the first argument but might differ if mkinitcpio has not been invoked with -k /boot/*. If no kernel image has been found this variable will be empty as well.

mkinitcpio gives special treatment to certain environment variables passed on the kernel command line:


If specified, mkinitcpio will start a shell during early init. The optional parameter controls when this occurs: when premount or no parameter are specified, the shell will be launched prior to mounting root. If postmount is specified, the shell will be launched after mounting root.


This is a comma separated list of hooks which will be skipped during early init.


This is a comma separated list of modules which will be loaded prior to any others. This is generally not needed, and usually points to a configuration or kernel problem.


Causes mkinitcpio to output fewer messages during boot. Errors will not be suppressed.


Specifies that root should be mounted with readonly permissions. This is the default behavior.


Specifies that root should be mounted with readwrite permissions. This is generally only useful if your initramfs uses the fsck hook.


This variable describes the root partition which early init will mount before passing control to the real init. mkinitcpio understands a variety of formats, the most basic of which is the path to the block device, either directly such as /dev/sda2, or using a udev symlink such as /dev/disk/by-label/CorsairF80-root. Support for identification by LABEL or UUID tags are also supported, such as, LABEL=CorsairF80-root. As of util-linux 2.22, PARTUUID and PARTLABEL are also supported. Identification via hex encoded major/minor device ID is supported for legacy reasons, but should be avoided as it tends to be fragile.


Sets the delay, in seconds, that mkinitcpio is willing to wait for the root device to show up, if it is not available immediately. This defaults to 10 seconds. If an invalid integer is passed, this variable will have no effect.


A comma-separated list of flags which will be passed onto the mount(8) command when mounting the root file system. Acceptable values are file system specific.


Overrides the type of file system being mounted as root. This should almost never be needed as mount(8) usually detects this on its own.


Enables shell debug (xtrace). If rd.log is not also a parameter on the kernel command line, this parameter implies rd.log=console.


Enables logging of early userspace messages. If specified, the optional parameter describes where this information is logged. Multiple options can be OR-d together using the pipe (|) character. Messages are always logged to the console unless the quiet parameter is passed. If the optional parameter is not specified, kmsg|console is assumed. If rd.log is not present on the kernel command line, no logging will take place.


Writes output to /dev/console.


Writes output to /run/initramfs/init.log.


Writes output to the /dev/kmsg device (introduced in Linux 3.5). This option is a no-op if your kernel lacks support for /dev/kmsg.


Writes output to all known log targets.

These are only the variables that the core of mkinitcpio honor. Additional hooks may look for other environment variables and should be documented by the help output for the hook.

mkinitcpio aims to create reproducible initramfs images by default.

This means that two subsequent runs of mkinitcpio should produce two files that are identical at the binary level.

Timestamps within the initramfs are set to the Unix epoch of 1970-01-01.

Note that in order for the build to be fully reproducible, the compressor specified (e.g. gzip, xz) must also produce reproducible archives. At the time of writing, as an inexhaustive example, the lzop compressor is incapable of producing reproducible archives due to the insertion of a runtime timestamp.

More information can be found at


Default configuration file for mkinitcpio.


Directory containing drop-in configuration files.


Directory containing mkinitcpio presets.

/etc/initcpio/install, /usr/lib/initcpio/install

Search path for build time hooks.

/etc/initcpio/hooks, /usr/lib/initcpio/hooks

Search path for early userspace runtime hooks.

/etc/initcpio/post, /usr/lib/initcpio/post

Search path for post generation hooks.


Perform a dry-run. This will generate an initial ramdisk but will not write anything. Use -g to create the real image.

mkinitcpio -p linux

Create an initial ramdisk based on the linux preset.

mkinitcpio -g /boot/initramfs-linux.img -k /boot/vmlinuz-linux

Create an initial ramdisk for the kernel at /boot/vmlinuz-linux. The resulting image will be written to /boot/initramfs-linux.img.

mkinitcpio -U /efi/EFI/Linux/systemd-linux.efi

Create an initial ramdisk for the kernel along with a unified kernel image. The resulting executable will be written to /efi/EFI/Linux/systemd-linux.efi.

mkinitcpio -U /efi/EFI/Linux/systemd-linux.efi --splash /usr/share/systemd/bootctl/splash-arch.bmp

Create an initial ramdisk for the kernel and a unified kernel image. This also includes a splash image which will be used during boot.

A more thorough article on configuring mkinitcpio:

initrd(4), lsinitcpio(1), mkinitcpio.conf(5), bootparam(7)

Upon writing this man page, there were no noticeable bugs present. Please visit for an up to date list.

mkinitcpio is maintained by the Arch Linux community. Refer to the AUTHORS file for a full list of contributors.

Copyright 🄯 mkinitcpio contributors. GPL-2.0-only.