% The mkosi Authors
mkosi - Build Legacy-Free OS Images
`mkosi [options…] build`
`mkosi [options…] clean`
`mkosi [options…] summary`
`mkosi [options…] shell [command line…]`
`mkosi [options…] boot [command line…]`
`mkosi [options…] qemu`
`mkosi` is a tool for easily building legacy-free OS images. It's a
fancy wrapper around `dnf --installroot`, `debootstrap`, `pacstrap`
and `zypper` that may generate disk images with a number of bells and
## Supported output formats
The following output formats are supported:
* Raw *GPT* disk image, with ext4 as root (*gpt_ext4*)
* Raw *GPT* disk image, with xfs as root (*gpt_xfs*)
* Raw *GPT* disk image, with btrfs as root (*gpt_btrfs*)
* Raw *GPT* disk image, with squashfs as read-only root (*gpt_squashfs*)
* Plain squashfs image, without partition table, as read-only root
* Plain directory, containing the *OS* tree (*directory*)
* btrfs subvolume, with separate subvolumes for `/var`, `/home`,
`/srv`, `/var/tmp` (*subvolume*)
* Tarball (*tar*)
When a *GPT* disk image is created, the following additional
options are available:
* A swap partition may be added in
* The image may be made bootable on *EFI* and *BIOS* systems
* Separate partitions for `/srv` and `/home` may be added in
* The root, /srv and /home partitions may optionally be encrypted with
* A dm-verity partition may be added in that adds runtime integrity
data for the root partition
## Other features
* Optionally, create an *SHA256SUMS* checksum file for the result,
possibly even signed via `gpg`.
* Optionally, place a specific `.nspawn` settings file along
with the result.
* Optionally, build a local project's *source* tree in the image
and add the result to the generated image (see below).
* Optionally, share *RPM*/*DEB* package cache between multiple runs,
in order to optimize build speeds.
* Optionally, the resulting image may be compressed with *XZ*.
* Optionally, the resulting image may be converted into a *QCOW2* file
suitable for `qemu` storage.
* Optionally, btrfs' read-only flag for the root subvolume may be
* Optionally, btrfs' compression may be enabled for all
* By default images are created without all files marked as
documentation in the packages, on distributions where the
package manager supports this. Use the `--with-docs` flag to
build an image with docs added.
## Command Line Verbs
The following command line verbs are known:
: This builds the image, based on the settings passed in on the
command line or read from a `mkosi.default` file, see below. This
verb is the default if no verb is explicitly specified. This command
must be executed as `root`.
: Remove build artifacts generated on a previous build. If combined
with `-f`, also removes incremental build cache images. If `-f` is
specified twice, also removes any package cache.
: Outputs a human-readable summary of all options used for building an
image. This will parse the command line and `mkosi.default` file as it
would do on `build`, but only output what it is configured for and not
actually build anything.`
: This builds the image if it is not build yet, and then invokes
`systemd-nspawn` to acquire an interactive shell prompt in it. If
this verb is used an optional command line may be specified which is
then invoked in place of the shell in the container. Combine this
with `-f` in order to rebuild the image unconditionally before
acquiring the shell, see below. This command must be executed as
: Similar to `shell` but boots the image up using `systemd-nspawn`. If
this verb is used an optional command line may be specified which is
passed as "kernel command line" to the init system in the image.
: Similar to `boot` but uses `qemu` to boot up the image, i.e. instead
of container virtualization VM virtualization is used. This verb is
only supported on images that contain a boot loader, i.e. those
built with `--bootable` (see below). This command must be executed
as `root` unless the image already exists and `-f` is not specified.
: This verb is equivalent to the `--help` switch documented below: it
shows a brief usage explanation.
## Command Line Parameters
The following command line parameters are understood. Note that many
of these parameters can also be set in the `mkosi.default` file, for
details see the table below.
: The distribution to install in the image. Takes one of the following
arguments: `fedora`, `debian`, `ubuntu`, `arch`, `opensuse`,
`mageia`, `centos`, `clear`. If not specified, defaults to the
distribution of the host.
: The release of the distribution to install in the image. The precise
syntax of the argument this takes depends on the distribution used,
and is either a numeric string (in case of Fedora, CentOS, …,
e.g. `29`), or a distribution version name (in case of Debian,
Ubuntu, …, e.g. `artful`). If neither this option, not
`--distribution=` is specified, defaults to the distribution version
of the host. If the distribution is specified, defaults to a recent
version of it.
: The mirror to use for downloading the distribution packages. Expects
a mirror URL as argument.
: Additional package repositories to use during installation. Expects
one or more URLs as argument, separated by commas. This option may
be used multiple times, in which case the list of repositories to
use is combined.
: The architecture to build the image for. Note that this currently
only works for architectures compatible with the host's
: The image format type to generate. One of `directory` (for
generating OS images inside a local directory), `subvolume`
(similar, but as a btrfs subvolume), `tar` (similar, but a tarball
of the image is generated), `gpt_ext4` (a block device image with an
ext4 file system inside a GPT partition table), `gpt_xfs`
(similar, but with an xfs file system), `gpt_btrfs` (similar, but
with an btrfs file system), `gpt_squashfs` (similar, but with a
squashfs file system), `plain_squashfs` (a plain squashfs file
system without a partition table).
: Path for the output image file to generate. Takes a relative or
absolute path where the generated image will be placed. If neither
this option nor `--output-dir=` is used (see below), the image is
generated under the name `image`, but its name suffixed with an
appropriate file suffix (e.g. `image.raw.xz` in case `gpt_ext4` is
used in combination with `--xz`).
: Path to a directory where to place all generated artifacts (i.e. the
`SHA256SUMS` file and similar). If this is not specified and a
directory `mkosi.output/` exists in the local directory it is
automatically used for this purpose. If this is not specified and
such a directory does not exist, all output artifacts are placed
adjacent to the output image file.
: Replace the output file if it already exists, when building an
image. By default when building an image and an output artifact
already exists `mkosi` will refuse operation. Specify `-f` to delete
all build artifacts from a previous run before re-building the
image. If incremental builds are enabled (see below), specifying
this option twice will ensure the intermediary cache files are
removed, too, before the re-build is initiated. If a package cache
is used (see below), specifying this option thrice will ensure the
package cache is removed too, before the re-build is initiated. For
the `clean` operation `-f` has a slightly different effect: by
default the verb will only remove build artifacts from a previous
run, when specified once the incremental cache files are deleted
too, and when specified twice the package cache is also removed.
: Generate a bootable image. By default this will generate an image
bootable on UEFI systems. Use `--boot-protocols=` to select support
for a different boot protocol.
: Pick one or more boot protocols to support when generating a
bootable image, as enabled with `--bootable` above. Takes a
comma-separated list of `uefi` or `bios`. May be specified more than
once in which case the specified lists are merged. If `uefi` is
specified the `sd-boot` UEFI boot loader is used, if `bios` is
specified the GNU Grub boot loader is used.
: Use the specified kernel command line for when building bootable
: Sign the resulting kernel/initrd image for UEFI SecureBoot
: Path to the PEM file containing the secret key for signing the
UEFI kernel image, if `--secure-boot` is used.
: Path to the X.509 file containing the certificate for the signed
UEFI kernel image, if `--secure-boot` is used.
: Make root file system read-only. Only applies to `gpt_ext4`,
`gpt_xfs`, `gpt-btrfs`, `subvolume` output formats, and implied on
`gpt_squashfs` and `plain_squashfs`.
: Encrypt all partitions in the file system or just the root file
system. Takes either `all` or `data` as argument. If `all` the root,
`/home` and `/srv` file systems will be encrypted using
dm-crypt/LUKS (with its default settings). If `data` the root file
system will be left unencrypted, but `/home` and `/srv` will be
encrypted. The passphrase to use is read from the `mkosi.passphrase`
file in the current working directory (see below). Note that the
UEFI System Partition (ESP) containing the boot loader and kernel to
boot is never encrypted since it needs to be accessible by the
: Add an "Verity" integrity partition to the image. If enabled, the
root partition is protected with `dm-verity` against off-line
modification, the verification data is placed in an additional GPT
partition. Implies `--read-only`.
: Compress the generated file systems. Only applies to `gpt_btrfs`,
`subvolume`, `gpt_squashfs`, `plain_squashfs`. Takes one of `zlib`,
`lzo`, `zstd`, `lz4`, `xz` or a boolean value as argument. If the
latter is used compression is enabled/disabled and the default
algorithm is used. In case of the `squashfs` output formats
compression is implied, however this option may be used to select
: Set the path to the `mksquashfs` executable to use. This is useful
in case the parameters for the tool shall be augmented, as the tool
may be replaced by a script invoking it with the right parameters,
: Compress the resulting image with `xz`. This only applies to
`gpt_ext4`, `gpt_xfs`, `gpt_btrfs`, `gpt_squashfs` and is implied
for `tar`. Note that when applied to the block device image types
this means the image cannot be started directly but needs to be
decompressed first. This also means that the `shell`, `boot`, `qemu`
verbs are not available when this option is used.
: Encode the resulting image as QEMU QCOW2 image. This only applies to
`gpt_ext4`, `gpt_xfs`, `gpt_btrfs`, `gpt_squashfs`. QCOW2 images can
be read natively by `qemu`, but not by the Linux kernel. This means
the `shell` and `boot` verbs are not available when this option is
used, however `qemu` will work.
: Set the image's hostname to the specified name.
: By default, if `mkosi` is run inside a `sudo` environment all
generated artifacts have their UNIX user/group ownership changed to
the user which invoked `sudo`. With this option this may be turned
off and all generated files are owned by `root`.
: Enable incremental build mode. This only applies if the two-phase
`mkosi.build` build script logic is used. In this mode, a copy of
the OS image is created immediately after all OS packages are
unpacked but before the `mkosi.build` script is invoked in the
development container. Similar a copy of the final image is created
immediately before the build artifacts from the `mkosi.build` script
are copied in. On subsequent invocations of `mkosi` with the `-i`
switch these cached images may be used to skip the OS package
unpacking, thus drastically speeding up repetitive build times. Note
that when this is used and a pair of cached incremental images
exists they are not automatically regenerated, even if options such
as `--packages=` are modified. In order to force rebuilding of these
cached images, combined `-i` with `-ff`, which ensures the cached
images are removed first, and then re-created.
: Install the specified distribution packages (i.e. RPM, DEB, …) in
the image. Takes a comma separated list of packages. This option may
be used multiple times in which case the specified package list is
combined. Packaged specified this way will be installed both in the
development and the final image (see below). Use `--build-package=`
(see below) to specify packages that shall only be used for the
image generated in the build image, but that shall not appear in the
: Include documentation in the image built. By default if the
underlying distribution package manager supports it documentation is
not included in the image built. The `$WITH_DOCS` environment
variable passed to the `mkosi.build` script indicates whether this
option was used or not, see below.
: If set the `$WITH_TESTS` environment variable is set to `0` when the
`mkosi.build` script is invoked. This is supposed to be used by the
build script to bypass any unit or integration tests that are
normally run during the source build process. Note that this option
has no effect unless the `mkosi.build` build script honors it.
: Takes a path to a directory to use as package cache for the
distribution package manager used. If this option is not used, but a
`mkosi.cache/` directory is found in the local directory it is
automatically used for this purpose (also see below). The directory
configured this way is mounted into both the development and the
final image while the package manager is running.
: Takes a path to a directory to copy on top of the OS tree the
package manager generated. Use this to override any default
configuration files shipped with the distribution. If this option is
not used, but the `mkosi.extra/` directory is found in the local
directory it is automatically used for this purpose (also see
below). Instead of a directory a `tar` file may be specified too. In
this case it is unpacked into the OS tree before the package manager
is invoked. This mode of operation allows setting permissions and
file ownership explicitly, in particular for projects stored in a
version control system such as `git` which does retain full file
ownership and access mode metadata for committed files. If a tar file
`mkosi.extra.tar` is found in the local directory it automatically
used for this purpose.
: Takes a path to a directory to copy into the OS tree before invoking
the package manager. Use this to insert files and directories into
the OS tree before the package manager installs any packages. If
this option is not used, but the `mkosi.skeleton/` directory is
found in the local directory it is automatically used for this
purpose (also see below). As with the extra tree logic above,
instead of a directory a `tar` file may be used too, and
`mkosi.skeleton.tar` is automatically used.
: Takes a path to an executable that is used as build script for this
image. If this option is used the build process will be two-phased
instead of single-phased (see below). The specified script is copied
onto the development image and executed inside an `systemd-nspawn`
container environment. If this option is not used, but the
`mkosi.build` file found in the local directory it is automatically
used for this purpose (also see below).
: Takes a path of a source tree to copy into the development image, if
a build script is used. This only applies if a build script is used,
and defaults to the local directory. Use `--source-file-transfer=`
to configure how the files are transferred from the host to the
: Takes a path of a directory to use as build directory for build
systems that support out-of-tree builds (such as Meson). The
directory used this way is shared between repeated builds, and
allows the build system to reuse artifacts (such as object files,
executable, …) generated on previous invocations. This directory is
mounted into the development image when the build script is
invoked. The build script can find the path to this directory in the
`$BUILDDIR` environment variable. If this option is not specified,
but a directory `mkosi.builddir/` exists in the local directory it
is automatically used for this purpose (also see below).
: Similar to `--package=`, but configures packages to install only in
the first phase of the build, into the development image. This
option should be used to list packages containing header files,
compilers, build systems, linkers and other build tools the
`mkosi.build` script requires to operate. Note that packages listed
here are only included in the image created during the first phase
of the build, and are absent in the final image. use `--package=` to
list packages that shall be included in both.
: Takes a path to an executable that is invoked inside the final image
right after copying in the build artifacts generated in the first
phase of the build. This script is invoked inside a `systemd-nspawn`
container environment, and thus does not have access to host
resources. If this option is not used, but an executable
`mkosi.postinst` is found in the local directory, it is
automatically used for this purpose (also see below).
: Takes a path to an executable that is invoked outside the final
image right after copying in the build artifacts generated in the
first phase of the build, and after having executed the
`mkosi.postinst` script (see above). This script is invoked directly
in the host environment, and hence has full access to the host's
resources. If this option is not used, but an executable
`mkosi.finalize` is found in the local directory, it is
automatically used for this purpose (also see below).
: Configures how the source file tree (as configured with
`--build-sources=`) is transferred into the container image
during the first phase of the build. Takes one of `copy-all` (to
copy all files from the source tree), `copy-git-cached` (to copy
only those files `git-ls-files --cached` lists), `copy-git-others`
(to copy only those files `git-ls-files --others` lists), `mount` to
bind mount the source tree directly. Defaults to `copy-git-cached`
if a `git` source tree is detected, otherwise `copy-all`.
: Enables network connectivity while the build script `mkosi.build` is
invoked. By default, the build script runs with networking turned
off. The `$WITH_NETWORK` environment variable is passed to the
`mkosi.build` build script indicating whether the build is done with
or without this option.
: Specifies a `.nspawn` settings file for `systemd-nspawn` to use in
the `boot` and `shell` verbs, and to place next to the generated
image file. This is useful to configure the `systemd-nspawn`
environment when the image is run. If this setting is not used but
an `mkosi.nspawn` file found in the local directory it is
automatically used for this purpose (also see below).
: Takes a size in bytes for the root file system. The specified
numeric value may be suffixed with `K`, `M`, `G` to indicate kilo-,
mega- and gigabytes (all to the base of 1024). This applies to
output formats `gpt_ext4`, `gpt_xfs`, `gpt_btrfs`. Defaults to 1G,
except for `gpt_xfs` where it defaults to 1.3G.
: Similar, and configures the size of the UEFI System Partition
(ESP). This is only relevant if the `--bootable` option is used to
generate a bootable image. Defaults to 256M.
: Similar, and configures the size of a swap partition on the
image. If omitted no swap partition is created.
: Similar, and configures the size of the `/home` partition. If
omitted no separate `/home` partition is created.
: Similar, and configures the size of the `/srv` partition. If
omitted no separate `/srv` partition is created.
: Generate a `SHA256SUMS` file of all generated artifacts after the
build is complete.
: Sign the generated `SHA256SUMS` using `gpg` after completion.
: Select the `gpg` key to use for signing `SHA256SUMS`. This key
is required to exist in the `gpg` keyring already.
: Generate a `bmap` file for usage with `bmaptool` from the generated
: Set the password of the `root` user. By default the `root` account
is locked. If this option is not used but a file `mkosi.rootpw` exists
in the local directory the root password is automatically read from it.
: List of colon-separated paths to look for tools in, before using the
regular `$PATH` search path.
: Takes a path to a directory. `mkosi` switches to this directory
before doing anything. Note that the various `mkosi.*` files are
searched for only after changing to this directory, hence using this
option is an effective way to build a project located in a specific
: Loads additional settings from the specified settings file. Most
command line options may also be configured in a settings file. See
the table below to see which command line options match which
settings file option. If this option is not used, but a file
`mkosi.default` is found in the local directory it is automatically
used for this purpose. If a setting is configured both on the
command line and in the settings file, the command line generally
wins, except for options taking lists in which case both lists are
: Iterate through all files `mkosi.*` in the `mkosi.files/`
subdirectory, and build each as if `--default=mkosi.files/mkosi.…`
was invoked. This is a quick way to build a large number of images
in one go. Any additional specified command line arguments override
the relevant options in all files processed this way.
: If specified, overrides the directory the `--all` logic described
above looks for settings files in. If unspecified, defaults to
`mkosi.files/` in the current working directory (see above).
: Show package version.
: Show brief usage information.
## Command Line Parameters and their Settings File Counterparts
Most command line parameters may also be placed in an `mkosi.default`
settings file (or any other file `--default=` is used on). The
following table shows which command lines parameters correspond with
which settings file options.
| Command Line Parameter | `mkosi.default` section | `mkosi.default` setting |
| `--distribution=`, `-d` | `[Distribution]` | `Distribution=` |
| `--release=`, `-r` | `[Distribution]` | `Release=` |
| `--repositories=` | `[Distribution]` | `Repositories=` |
| `--mirror=`, `-m` | `[Distribution]` | `Mirror=` |
| `--architecture=` | `[Distribution]` | `Architecture=` |
| `--format=`, `-t` | `[Output]` | `Format=` |
| `--output=`, `-o` | `[Output]` | `Output=` |
| `--output-dir=`, `-O` | `[Output]` | `OutputDirectory=` |
| `--force`, `-f` | `[Output]` | `Force=` |
| `--bootable`, `-b` | `[Output]` | `Bootable=` |
| `--boot-protocols=` | `[Output]` | `BootProtocols=` |
| `--kernel-command-line=` | `[Output]` | `KernelCommandLine=` |
| `--secure-boot` | `[Output]` | `SecureBoot=` |
| `--secure-boot-key=` | `[Output]` | `SecureBootKey=` |
| `--secure-boot-certificate=` | `[Output]` | `SecureBootCertificate=` |
| `--read-only` | `[Output]` | `ReadOnly=` |
| `--encrypt=` | `[Output]` | `Encrypt=` |
| `--verity=` | `[Output]` | `Verity=` |
| `--compress=` | `[Output]` | `Compress=` |
| `--mksquashfs=` | `[Output]` | `Mksquashfs=` |
| `--xz` | `[Output]` | `XZ=` |
| `--qcow2` | `[Output]` | `QCow2=` |
| `--hostname=` | `[Output]` | `Hostname=` |
| `--package=` | `[Packages]` | `Packages=` |
| `--with-docs` | `[Packages]` | `WithDocs=` |
| `--without-tests`, `-T` | `[Packages]` | `WithTests=` |
| `--cache=` | `[Packages]` | `Cache=` |
| `--extra-tree=` | `[Packages]` | `ExtraTrees=` |
| `--skeleton-tree=` | `[Packages]` | `SkeletonTrees=` |
| `--build-script=` | `[Packages]` | `BuildScript=` |
| `--build-sources=` | `[Packages]` | `BuildSources=` |
| `--source-file-transfer=` | `[Packages]` | `SourceFileTransfer=` |
| `--build-directory=` | `[Packages]` | `BuildDirectory=` |
| `--build-packages=` | `[Packages]` | `BuildPackages=` |
| `--postinst-script=` | `[Packages]` | `PostInstallationScript=` |
| `--finalize-script=` | `[Packages]` | `FinalizeScript=` |
| `--with-network` | `[Packages]` | `WithNetwork=` |
| `--settings=` | `[Packages]` | `NSpawnSettings=` |
| `--root-size=` | `[Partitions]` | `RootSize=` |
| `--esp-size=` | `[Partitions]` | `ESPSize=` |
| `--swap-size=` | `[Partitions]` | `SwapSize=` |
| `--home-size=` | `[Partitions]` | `HomeSize=` |
| `--srv-size=` | `[Partitions]` | `SrvSize=` |
| `--checksum` | `[Validation]` | `CheckSum=` |
| `--sign` | `[Validation]` | `Sign=` |
| `--key=` | `[Validation]` | `Key=` |
| `--bmap` | `[Validation]` | `BMap=` |
| `--password=` | `[Validation]` | `Password=` |
| `--extra-search-paths=` | `[Host]` | `ExtraSearchPaths=` |
Command line options that take no argument are not suffixed with a `=`
in their long version in the table above. In the `mkosi.default` file
they are modeled as boolean option that take either `1`, `yes`,
`true` for enabling, and `0`, `no`, `false` for disabling.
## Supported distributions
Images may be created containing installations of the
* *Arch Linux*
* *Clear Linux*
In theory, any distribution may be used on the host for building
images containing any other distribution, as long as the necessary
tools are available. Specifically, any distribution that packages
`debootstrap` may be used to build *Debian* or *Ubuntu* images. Any
distribution that packages `dnf` may be used to build *Fedora* or
*Mageia* images. Any distro that packages `pacstrap` may be used to
build *Arch Linux* images. Any distribution that packages `zypper` may
be used to build *openSUSE* images. Any distribution that packages
`yum` (or the newer replacement `dnf`) may be used to build *CentOS*
Currently, *Fedora* packages all relevant tools as of Fedora 28.
Generated images are *legacy-free*. This means only *GPT* disk labels
(and no *MBR* disk labels) are supported, and only systemd based
images may be generated.
All generated *GPT* disk images may be booted in a local
container directly with:
systemd-nspawn -bi image.raw
Additionally, bootable *GPT* disk images (as created with the
`--bootable` flag) work when booted directly by *EFI* and *BIOS*
systems, for example in *KVM* via:
qemu-kvm -m 512 -smp 2 -bios /usr/share/edk2/ovmf/OVMF_CODE.fd -drive format=raw,file=image.raw
*EFI* bootable *GPT* images are larger than plain *GPT* images, as
they additionally carry an *EFI* system partition containing a
boot loader, as well as a kernel, kernel modules, udev and
All directory or btrfs subvolume images may be booted directly
systemd-nspawn -bD image
To make it easy to build images for development versions of your
projects, mkosi can read configuration data from the local directory,
under the assumption that it is invoked from a *source*
tree. Specifically, the following files are used if they exist in the
* `mkosi.default` may be used to configure mkosi's image building
process. For example, you may configure the distribution to use
(`fedora`, `ubuntu`, `debian`, `arch`, `opensuse`, `mageia`) for the
image, or additional distribution packages to install. Note that all
options encoded in this configuration file may also be set on the
command line, and this file is hence little more than a way to make
sure simply typing `mkosi` without further parameters in your
*source* tree is enough to get the right image of your choice set
up. Additionally if a `mkosi.default.d` directory exists, each file
in it is loaded in the same manner adding/overriding the values
specified in `mkosi.default`. The file format is inspired by Windows
`.ini` files and supports multi-line assignments: any line with
initial whitespace is considered a continuation line of the line
before. Command-line arguments, as shown in the help description,
have to be included in a configuration block (e.g. "[Packages]")
corresponding to the argument group (e.g. "Packages"), and the
argument gets converted as follows: "--with-network" becomes
"WithNetwork=yes". For further details see the table above.
* `mkosi.extra/` or `mkosi.extra.tar` may be respectively a directory
or archive. If any exist all files contained in it are copied over
the directory tree of the image after the *OS* was installed. This
may be used to add in additional files to an image, on top of what
the distribution includes in its packages. When using a directory
file ownership is not preserved: all files copied will be owned by
root. To preserve ownership use a tar archive.
* `mkosi.skeleton/` or `mkosi.skeleton.tar` may be respectively a
directory or archive, and they work in the same way as
`mkosi.extra`/`mkosi.skeleton.tar`. However the files are copied
before anything else so to have a skeleton tree for the OS. This
allows to change the package manager and create files that need to
be there before anything is installed. When using a directory file
ownership is not preserved: all files copied will be owned by
root. To preserve ownership use a tar archive.
* `mkosi.build` may be an executable script. If it exists the image
will be built twice: the first iteration will be the *development*
image, the second iteration will be the *final* image. The
*development* image is used to build the project in the current
working directory (the *source* tree). For that the whole directory
is copied into the image, along with the mkosi.build build
script. The script is then invoked inside the image (via
`systemd-nspawn`), with `$SRCDIR` pointing to the *source*
tree. `$DESTDIR` points to a directory where the script should place
any files generated it would like to end up in the *final*
image. Note that `make`/`automake`/`meson` based build systems
generally honor `$DESTDIR`, thus making it very natural to build
*source* trees from the build script. After the *development* image
was built and the build script ran inside of it, it is removed
again. After that the *final* image is built, without any *source*
tree or build script copied in. However, this time the contents of
`$DESTDIR` are added into the image.
When the source tree is copied into the *build* image, all files are
copied, except for `mkosi.builddir/`, `mkosi.cache/` and
`mkosi.output/`. That said, `.gitignore` is respected if the source
tree is a `git` checkout. If multiple different images shall be
built from the same source tree it's essential to exclude their
output files from this copy operation, as otherwise a version of an
image built earlier might be included in a later build, which is
usually not intended. An alternative to excluding these built images
via `.gitignore` entries is making use of the `mkosi.output/`
directory (see below), which is an easy way to exclude all build
* `mkosi.postinst` may be an executable script. If it exists it is
invoked as the penultimate step of preparing an image, from within
the image context. It is once called for the *development* image (if
this is enabled, see above) with the "build" command line parameter,
right before invoking the build script. It is called a second time
for the *final* image with the "final" command line parameter, right
before the image is considered complete. This script may be used to
alter the images without any restrictions, after all software
packages and built sources have been installed. Note that this
script is executed directly in the image context with the final root
directory in place, without any `$SRCDIR`/`$DESTDIR` setup.
* `mkosi.finalize` may be an executable script. If it exists it is
invoked as last step of preparing an image, from the host system.
It is once called for the *development* image (if this is enabled,
see above) with the "build" command line parameter, as the last step
before invoking the build script, after the `mkosi.postinst` script
is invoked. It is called the second time with the "final" command
line parameter as the last step before the image is considered
complete. The environment variable `$BUILDROOT` points to the root
directory of the installation image. Additional verbs may be added
in the future, the script should be prepared for that. This script
may be used to alter the images without any restrictions, after all
software packages and built sources have been installed. This script
is more flexible than `mkosi.postinst` in two regards: it has access
to the host file system so it's easier to copy in additional files
or to modify the image based on external configuration, and the
script is run in the host, so it can be used even without emulation
even if the image has a foreign architecture.
* `mkosi.mksquashfs-tool` may be an executable script. If it exists is
is called instead of `mksquashfs`.
* `mkosi.nspawn` may be an nspawn settings file. If this exists it
will be copied into the same place as the output image file. This is
useful since nspawn looks for settings files next to image files it
boots, for additional container runtime settings.
* `mkosi.cache/` may be a directory. If so, it is automatically used as
package download cache, in order to speed repeated runs of the tool.
* `mkosi.builddir/` may be a directory. If so, it is automatically
used as out-of-tree build directory, if the build commands in the
`mkosi.build` script support it. Specifically, this directory will
be mounted into the build container, and the `$BUILDDIR` environment
variable will be set to it when the build script is invoked. The
build script may then use this directory as build directory, for
automake-style or ninja-style out-of-tree builds. This speeds up
builds considerably, in particular when `mkosi` is used in
incremental mode (`-i`): not only the disk images but also the build
tree is reused between subsequent invocations. Note that if this
directory does not exist the `$BUILDDIR` environment variable is not
set, and it is up to build script to decide whether to do in in-tree
or an out-of-tree build, and which build directory to use.
* `mkosi.rootpw` may be a file containing the password for the root
user of the image to set. The password may optionally be followed by
a newline character which is implicitly removed. The file must have
an access mode of 0600 or less. If this file does not exist the
distribution's default root password is set (which usually means
access to the root user is blocked).
* `mkosi.passphrase` may be a passphrase file to use when LUKS
encryption is selected. It should contain the passphrase literally,
and not end in a newline character (i.e. in the same format as
cryptsetup and /etc/crypttab expect the passphrase files). The file
must have an access mode of 0600 or less. If this file does not
exist and encryption is requested the user is queried instead.
* `mkosi.secure-boot.crt` and `mkosi.secure-boot.key` may contain an
X.509 certificate and PEM private key to use when UEFI SecureBoot
support is enabled. All EFI binaries included in the image's ESP are
signed with this key, as a late step in the build process.
* `mkosi.output/` may be a directory. If it exists, and the image
output path is not configured (i.e. no `--output=` setting
specified), or configured to a filename (i.e. a path containing no
`/` character) all build artifacts (that is: the image itself, the
root hash file in case Verity is used, the checksum and its
signature if that's enabled, and the nspawn settings file if there
is any) are placed in this directory. Note that this directory is
not used if the image output path contains at least one slash, and
has no effect in that case. This setting is particularly useful if
multiple different images shall be built from the same working
directory, as otherwise the build result of a preceding run might be
copied into a build image as part of the source tree (see above).
All these files are optional.
Note that the location of all these files may also be configured
during invocation via command line switches, and as settings in
`mkosi.default`, in case the default settings are not acceptable for a
# BUILD PHASES
If no build script `mkosi.build` (see above) is used the build
consists of a single phase only: the final image is generated as the
combination of `mkosi.skeleton/` (see above), the unpacked
distribution packages and `mkosi.extra/`.
If a build script `mkosi.build` is used the build consists of two
phases: in the the first `development` phase an image that includes
necessary build tools (i.e. the combination of `Packages=` and
`BuildPackages=` is installed) is generated (i.e. the combination of
`mkosi.skeleton/` and unpacked distribution packages). Into this image
the source tree is copied and `mkosi.build` executed. The artifacts
the `mkosi.build` generates are saved. Then, the second `final` phase
starts: an image that excludes the build tools (i.e. only `Packages=`
is installed, `BuildPackages=` is not) is generated. This time the
build artifacts saved from the first phase are copied in, and
`mkosi.extra` copied on top, thus generating the final image.
The two-phased approach ensures that source tree is executed in a
clean and comprehensive environment, while at the same the final image
remains minimal and contains only those packages necessary at runtime,
but avoiding those necessary at build-time.
Note that only the package cache `mkosi.cache/` (see below) is shared
between the two phases. The distribution package manager is executed
exactly once in each phase, always starting from a directory tree that
is populated with `mkosi.skeleton` but nothing else.
`mkosi` supports three different caches for speeding up repetitive
re-building of images. Specifically:
1. The package cache of the distribution package manager may be cached
between builds. This is configured with the `--cache=` option or
the `mkosi.cache/` directory. This form of caching relies on the
distribution's package manager, and caches distribution packages
(RPM, DEB, …) after they are downloaded, but before they are
2. If an `mkosi.build` script is used, by enabling incremental build
mode with `--incremental` (see above) a cached copy of the
development and final images can be made immediately before the
build sources are copied in (for the development image) or the
artifacts generated by `mkosi.build` are copied in (in case of the
final image). This form of caching allows bypassing the
time-consuming package unpacking step of the distribution package
managers, but is only effective if the list of packages to use
remains stable, but the build sources and its scripts change
regularly. Note that this cache requires manual flushing: whenever
the package list is modified the cached images need to be
explicitly removed before the next re-build, using the `-f` switch.
3. Finally, between multiple builds the build artifact directory may
be shared, using the `mkosi.builddir/` directory. This directory
allows build systems such as Meson to reuse already compiled
sources from a previous built, thus speeding up the build process
of the `mkosi.build` build script.
The package cache (i.e. the first item above) is unconditionally
useful. The latter two caches only apply to uses of `mkosi` with a
source tree and build script. When all three are enabled together
turn-around times for complete image builds are minimal, as only
changed source files need to be recompiled: an OS image rebuilt will
be almost as quick to build the source tree only.
# ENVIRONMENT VARIABLES
The build script `mkosi.build` receives the following environment
* `$SRCDIR` contains the path to the sources to build.
* `$DESTDIR` is a directory into which any artifacts generated by the
build script shall be placed.
* `$BUILDDIR` is only defined if `mkosi.builddir` and points to the
build directory to use. This is useful for all build systems that
support out-of-tree builds to reuse already built artifacts from
* `$WITH_DOCS` is either `0` or `1` depending on whether a build
without or with installed documentation was requested (see
`--with-docs` above). The build script should suppress installation
of any package documentation to `$DESTDIR` in case `$WITH_DOCS` is
set to `0`.
* `$WITH_TESTS` is either `0`or `1` depending on whether a build
without or with running the test suite was requested (see
`--without-tests` above). The build script should avoid running any
unit or integration tests in case `$WITH_TESTS` is `0`.
* `$WITH_NETWORK` is either `0`or `1` depending on whether a build
without or with networking is being executed (see `--with-network`
above). The build script should avoid any network communication in
case `$WITH_NETWORK` is `0`.
Create and run a raw *GPT* image with *ext4*, as `image.raw`:
# systemd-nspawn -b -i image.raw
Create and run a bootable btrfs *GPT* image, as `foobar.raw`:
# mkosi -t gpt_btrfs --bootable -o foobar.raw
# systemd-nspawn -b -i foobar.raw
# qemu-kvm -m 512 -smp 2 -bios /usr/share/edk2/ovmf/OVMF_CODE.fd -drive format=raw,file=foobar.raw
Create and run a *Fedora* image into a plain directory:
# mkosi -d fedora -t directory -o quux
# systemd-nspawn -b -D quux
Create a compressed image `image.raw.xz` and add a checksum file, and
install *SSH* into it:
# mkosi -d fedora -t gpt_squashfs --checksum --xz --package=openssh-clients
Inside the source directory of an `automake`-based project,
configure *mkosi* so that simply invoking `mkosi` without any
parameters builds an *OS* image containing a built version of
the project in its current state:
# cat > mkosi.default <<EOF
BuildPackages=make gcc libcurl-devel
# cat > mkosi.build <<EOF
make -j `nproc`
# chmod +x mkosi.build
# systemd-nspawn -bi image.raw
To create a *Fedora* image with hostname:
# mkosi -d fedora --hostname image
Also you could set hostname in configuration file:
# cat mkosi.default
mkosi is packaged for various distributions: Debian, Ubuntu, Arch (in AUR), Fedora.
It is usually easiest to use the distribution package.
The current version requires systemd 233 (or actually, systemd-nspawn of it).
When not using distribution packages make sure to install the
necessary dependencies. For example, on *Fedora* you need:
dnf install arch-install-scripts btrfs-progs debootstrap dosfstools edk2-ovmf e2fsprogs squashfs-tools gnupg python3 tar veritysetup xfsprogs xz zypper sbsigntools
On Debian/Ubuntu it might be necessary to install the `ubuntu-keyring`,
`ubuntu-archive-keyring` and/or `debian-archive-keyring` packages explicitly,
in addition to `debootstrap`, depending on what kind of distribution images
you want to build. `debootstrap` on Debian only pulls in the Debian keyring
on its own, and the version on Ubuntu only the one from Ubuntu.
Note that the minimum required Python version is 3.6.
* [Primary mkosi git repository on GitHub](https://github.com/systemd/mkosi/)
* [mkosi — A Tool for Generating OS Images](http://0pointer.net/blog/mkosi-a-tool-for-generating-os-images.html) introductory blog post by Lennart Poettering
* [The mkosi OS generation tool](https://lwn.net/Articles/726655/) story on LWN
# SEE ALSO
`systemd-nspawn(1)`, `dnf(8)`, `debootstrap(8)`