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SUSE Linux Enterprise Server
The Linux kernel maintains a"taint state" which is included in kernel error messages. The taint state provides an indication whether something has happened to the running kernel that affects whether a kernel error or hang can be troubleshot effectively by analysing the kernel source code. Some of the information in the taint relates to whether the information provided by the kernel in an error message can be considered trustworthy.
As an example, the taint state is set when a machine check exception (MCE) has been raised, indicating a hardware related problem has occurred.
Once the taint state of a running kernel has been set, it cannot be unset other than by reloading the kernel, that is by shutting down and then restarting the system.
The taint status of the kernel not only indicates whether or not the kernel has been tainted but also indicates what type(s) of event caused the kernel to be marked as tainted. This information is encoded through single-character flags in the string following "Tainted:" in a kernel error message.
- P: A module with a Proprietary license has been loaded, i.e. a module that is not licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL) or a compatible license. This may indicate that source code for this module is not available to the Linux kernel developers or to Novell's developers.
- G: The opposite of 'P': the kernel has been tainted (for a
reason indicated by a different flag), but all modules loaded into
it were licensed under the GPL or a license compatible with
- F: A module was loaded using the Force option "-f" of insmod or modprobe, which caused a sanity check of the versioning information from the module (if present) to be skipped.
- R: A
module which was in use or was not designed to be removed has been
forcefully Removed from the
running kernelusing the force option "-f" of rmmod.
- S: The Linux kernel is running with Symmetric MultiProcessor support (SMP), but the CPUs in the system are not designed or certified for SMP use.
- M: A Machine Check Exception (MCE) has been raised while the kernel was running. MCEs are triggered by the hardware to indicate a hardware related problem, for example the CPU's temperature exceeding a treshold or a memory bank signaling an uncorrectable error.
- B: A
process has been found in a Bad page state, indicating a
corruption of the virtual memory subsystem, possibly caused by
malfunctioning RAM or cache memory.
In SUSE kernels, additional taint flags are implemented.
- U or N: An Unsupported module has been
loaded, i.e. a module which is not supported by Novell and which is
not known to be supported by a third party. For example, the module
is a driver that is not yet mature enough to be supportable or is a
driver for an obsolete type of hardware which can no longer be
- X: A module that is not supported by Novell but that is supported eXternally by a third party has been loaded into the kernel.
The taint status of a running kernel can be determined by running
When the output is 0, the kernel is not tainted. When the output is non-zero, the kernel is tainted. The value will be a combined number of all applying kernel taint flags added (ORed) together. You can find a list of currently used kernel flags under:
When the kernel produces an error, a string detailing the taint status will be included.
Tainted kernels and support from Novell Technical Services
As the information provided by a tainted kernel is not necessarily trustworthy and may relate to third-party code for which source code is not available to Novell, it can be of limited value for troubleshooting. As such, the support Novell Technical Services is able to provide for issues involving tainted kernels is limited.
When an issue occurs with a tainted kernel, it is important that every effort be made to reproduce the issue with an untainted kernel (or a kernel only tainted with X) so that Novell Technical Services can provide appropriate support.
Avoiding kernel tainting
The following steps can be taken to avoid tainting the kernel:
- To avoid "P"
tainting, switch to using Novell-supplied drivers and modules
instead of ones supplied by other vendors. For instance, use Linux'
device-mapper multipath I/O rather than a vendor's proprietary
Note that is not always possible. Some hardware components are only supported by proprietary drivers, for instance.
- To avoid "F" or "R"
tainting, do not use force options when (un)loading kernel modules.
If necessary, obtain drivers built specifically for the running
- To avoid "S"
tainting, do not use SMP-enabled kernels on systems with CPUs that
have not been designed or certified for SMP use.
- To avoid "M" or "B"
tainting, ensure that the hardware is operated within specified
parameters for power supply, temperature, humidity and air flow.
Additionally, check the hardware using hardware diagnostics tools
from the hardware vendor and consult the Sig11 information page
for more information on hardware and hardware configuration
- To avoid "U" or "N", use a YES certified configuration.
tainting is not necessarily problematic (as for support, Novell
Technical Services can involve the third party that provides
support for the driver involved), but can be avoided by switching
to hardware components that are directly supported by the SUSE
This Support Knowledgebase provides a valuable tool for NetIQ/Novell/SUSE customers and parties interested in our products and solutions to acquire information, ideas and learn from one another. Materials are provided for informational, personal or non-commercial use within your organization and are presented "AS IS" WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND.
- Document ID:3582750
- Creation Date:26-JUL-07
- Modified Date:27-NOV-12
- SUSESUSE Linux Enterprise DesktopSUSE Linux Enterprise Server
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