Run Tests without kunit_tool

If we do not want to use kunit_tool (For example: we want to integrate with other systems, or run tests on real hardware), we can include KUnit in any kernel, read out results, and parse manually.


KUnit is not designed for use in a production system. It is possible that tests may reduce the stability or security of the system.

Configure the Kernel

KUnit tests can run without kunit_tool. This can be useful, if:

  • We have an existing kernel configuration to test.

  • Need to run on real hardware (or using an emulator/VM kunit_tool does not support).

  • Wish to integrate with some existing testing systems.

KUnit is configured with the CONFIG_KUNIT option, and individual tests can also be built by enabling their config options in our .config. KUnit tests usually (but don’t always) have config options ending in _KUNIT_TEST. Most tests can either be built as a module, or be built into the kernel.


We can enable the KUNIT_ALL_TESTS config option to automatically enable all tests with satisfied dependencies. This is a good way of quickly testing everything applicable to the current config.

Once we have built our kernel (and/or modules), it is simple to run the tests. If the tests are built-in, they will run automatically on the kernel boot. The results will be written to the kernel log (dmesg) in TAP format.

If the tests are built as modules, they will run when the module is loaded.

# modprobe example-test

The results will appear in TAP format in dmesg.


KUnit can be accessed from userspace via the debugfs filesystem (See more information about debugfs at DebugFS).

If CONFIG_KUNIT_DEBUGFS is enabled, the KUnit debugfs filesystem is mounted at /sys/kernel/debug/kunit. You can use this filesystem to perform the following actions.

Retrieve Test Results

You can use debugfs to retrieve KUnit test results. The test results are accessible from the debugfs filesystem in the following read-only file:


The test results are printed in a KTAP document. Note this document is separate to the kernel log and thus, may have different test suite numbering.

Run Tests After Kernel Has Booted

You can use the debugfs filesystem to trigger built-in tests to run after boot. To run the test suite, you can use the following command to write to the /sys/kernel/debug/kunit/<test_suite>/run file:

echo "any string" > /sys/kernel/debugfs/kunit/<test_suite>/run

As a result, the test suite runs and the results are printed to the kernel log.

However, this feature is not available with KUnit suites that use init data, because init data may have been discarded after the kernel boots. KUnit suites that use init data should be defined using the kunit_test_init_section_suites() macro.

Also, you cannot use this feature to run tests concurrently. Instead a test will wait to run until other tests have completed or failed.


For test authors, to use this feature, tests will need to correctly initialise and/or clean up any data, so the test runs correctly a second time.