There are hundreds of configuration options. Basically, be aware of these ones:
Power Management Options – If you’re using a pre-2001 computer, do NOT install ACPI or APM. Otherwise, be clear which options your chipset supports.
IRDA Support – If you don’t need it, ditch it.
ISDN Subsystem – If you’re not using ISDN, ditch it.
Input Core Support – Enable support for USB mice and keyboards here.
Character Devices – Enable support for serial mice, serial ports, and joysticks here.
Multimedia Devices – Video configuration is here.
File Systems – Use the ones you need, and no more.
Console Drivers – Set options for text-mode display.
Sound – If you must have a sound card.
USB Support – Yes, enable it here too.
Kernel Hacking – Do you really do this?
Most configuration settings accept values of Y (yes), N (no), or M (separately loaded module). Note that, joyfully, Linux handles almost all modules on an auto-loading basis. Modules take time to load, but save memory when they’re not loaded. You want your NIC compiled into the kernel, but may want your floppy drive to auto-load since you rarely use it.
Take some time looking through these options. It is highly worth considering them one by one, because the fewer unnecessary support options you choose, the faster your kernel will be. If you don’t need Bluetooth, IrDA, ATM, PCMCIA, SCSI, or any of the many, many other options, consider ditching them. This will be an experimental kernel; you might as well try for the fastest one you can get.
Once you’ve completed this configuration, depending on which make program you’re using, you’ll Save and Exit by various processes.