Building LLVM with CMake


CMake is a cross-platform build-generator tool. CMake does not build the project, it generates the files needed by your build tool (GNU make, Visual Studio, etc.) for building LLVM.

If you are really anxious about getting a functional LLVM build, go to the Quick start section. If you are a CMake novice, start with Basic CMake usage and then go back to the Quick start section once you know what you are doing. The Options and variables section is a reference for customizing your build. If you already have experience with CMake, this is the recommended starting point.

Quick start

We use here the command-line, non-interactive CMake interface.

  1. Download and install CMake. Version 2.8.8 is the minimum required.

  2. Open a shell. Your development tools must be reachable from this shell through the PATH environment variable.

  3. Create a build directory. Building LLVM in the source directory is not supported. cd to this directory:

    $ mkdir mybuilddir
    $ cd mybuilddir
  4. Execute this command in the shell replacing path/to/llvm/source/root with the path to the root of your LLVM source tree:

    $ cmake path/to/llvm/source/root

    CMake will detect your development environment, perform a series of tests, and generate the files required for building LLVM. CMake will use default values for all build parameters. See the Options and variables section for a list of build parameters that you can modify.

    This can fail if CMake can’t detect your toolset, or if it thinks that the environment is not sane enough. In this case, make sure that the toolset that you intend to use is the only one reachable from the shell, and that the shell itself is the correct one for your development environment. CMake will refuse to build MinGW makefiles if you have a POSIX shell reachable through the PATH environment variable, for instance. You can force CMake to use a given build tool; for instructions, see the Usage section, below.

  5. After CMake has finished running, proceed to use IDE project files, or start the build from the build directory:

    $ cmake --build .

    The --build option tells cmake to invoke the underlying build tool (make, ninja, xcodebuild, msbuild, etc.)

    The underlying build tool can be invoked directly, of course, but the --build option is portable.

  6. After LLVM has finished building, install it from the build directory:

    $ cmake --build . --target install

    The --target option with install parameter in addition to the --build option tells cmake to build the install target.

    It is possible to set a different install prefix at installation time by invoking the cmake_install.cmake script generated in the build directory:

    $ cmake -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/tmp/llvm -P cmake_install.cmake

Basic CMake usage

This section explains basic aspects of CMake which you may need in your day-to-day usage.

CMake comes with extensive documentation, in the form of html files, and as online help accessible via the cmake executable itself. Execute cmake --help for further help options.

CMake allows you to specify a build tool (e.g., GNU make, Visual Studio, or Xcode). If not specified on the command line, CMake tries to guess which build tool to use, based on your environment. Once it has identified your build tool, CMake uses the corresponding Generator to create files for your build tool (e.g., Makefiles or Visual Studio or Xcode project files). You can explicitly specify the generator with the command line option -G "Name of the generator". To see a list of the available generators on your system, execute

$ cmake --help

This will list the generator names at the end of the help text.

Generators’ names are case-sensitive, and may contain spaces. For this reason, you should enter them exactly as they are listed in the cmake --help output, in quotes. For example, to generate project files specifically for Visual Studio 12, you can execute:

$ cmake -G "Visual Studio 12" path/to/llvm/source/root

For a given development platform there can be more than one adequate generator. If you use Visual Studio, “NMake Makefiles” is a generator you can use for building with NMake. By default, CMake chooses the most specific generator supported by your development environment. If you want an alternative generator, you must tell this to CMake with the -G option.

Options and variables

Variables customize how the build will be generated. Options are boolean variables, with possible values ON/OFF. Options and variables are defined on the CMake command line like this:

$ cmake -DVARIABLE=value path/to/llvm/source

You can set a variable after the initial CMake invocation to change its value. You can also undefine a variable:

$ cmake -UVARIABLE path/to/llvm/source

Variables are stored in the CMake cache. This is a file named CMakeCache.txt stored at the root of your build directory that is generated by cmake. Editing it yourself is not recommended.

Variables are listed in the CMake cache and later in this document with the variable name and type separated by a colon. You can also specify the variable and type on the CMake command line:

$ cmake -DVARIABLE:TYPE=value path/to/llvm/source

Frequently-used CMake variables

Here are some of the CMake variables that are used often, along with a brief explanation and LLVM-specific notes. For full documentation, consult the CMake manual, or execute cmake --help-variable VARIABLE_NAME.

Sets the build type for make-based generators. Possible values are Release, Debug, RelWithDebInfo and MinSizeRel. If you are using an IDE such as Visual Studio, you should use the IDE settings to set the build type.
Path where LLVM will be installed if “make install” is invoked or the “install” target is built.
Extra suffix to append to the directory where libraries are to be installed. On a 64-bit architecture, one could use -DLLVM_LIBDIR_SUFFIX=64 to install libraries to /usr/lib64.
Extra flags to use when compiling C source files.
Extra flags to use when compiling C++ source files.
Flag indicating if shared libraries will be built. Its default value is OFF. This option is only recommended for use by LLVM developers. On Windows, shared libraries may be used when building with MinGW, including mingw-w64, but not when building with the Microsoft toolchain.

LLVM-specific variables

Semicolon-separated list of targets to build, or all for building all targets. Case-sensitive. Defaults to all. Example: -DLLVM_TARGETS_TO_BUILD="X86;PowerPC".
Build LLVM tools. Defaults to ON. Targets for building each tool are generated in any case. You can build a tool separately by invoking its target. For example, you can build llvm-as with a Makefile-based system by executing make llvm-as at the root of your build directory.
Generate build targets for the LLVM tools. Defaults to ON. You can use this option to disable the generation of build targets for the LLVM tools.
Build LLVM examples. Defaults to OFF. Targets for building each example are generated in any case. See documentation for LLVM_BUILD_TOOLS above for more details.
Generate build targets for the LLVM examples. Defaults to ON. You can use this option to disable the generation of build targets for the LLVM examples.
Build LLVM unit tests. Defaults to OFF. Targets for building each unit test are generated in any case. You can build a specific unit test using the targets defined under unittests, such as ADTTests, IRTests, SupportTests, etc. (Search for add_llvm_unittest in the subdirectories of unittests for a complete list of unit tests.) It is possible to build all unit tests with the target UnitTests.
Generate build targets for the LLVM unit tests. Defaults to ON. You can use this option to disable the generation of build targets for the LLVM unit tests.
Append version control revision info (svn revision number or Git revision id) to LLVM version string (stored in the PACKAGE_VERSION macro). For this to work cmake must be invoked before the build. Defaults to OFF.
Build with threads support, if available. Defaults to ON.
Build in C++1y mode, if available. Defaults to OFF.
Enables code assertions. Defaults to ON if and only if CMAKE_BUILD_TYPE is Debug.
Build LLVM with exception-handling support. This is necessary if you wish to link against LLVM libraries and make use of C++ exceptions in your own code that need to propagate through LLVM code. Defaults to OFF.
Add the -fPIC flag to the compiler command-line, if the compiler supports this flag. Some systems, like Windows, do not need this flag. Defaults to ON.
Build LLVM with run-time type information. Defaults to OFF.
Enable all compiler warnings. Defaults to ON.
Enable pedantic mode. This disables compiler-specific extensions, if possible. Defaults to ON.
Stop and fail the build, if a compiler warning is triggered. Defaults to OFF.
Used to decide if LLVM should be built with ABI breaking checks or not. Allowed values are WITH_ASSERTS (default), FORCE_ON and FORCE_OFF. WITH_ASSERTS turns on ABI breaking checks in an assertion enabled build. FORCE_ON (FORCE_OFF) turns them on (off) irrespective of whether normal (NDEBUG-based) assertions are enabled or not. A version of LLVM built with ABI breaking checks is not ABI compatible with a version built without it.
Build 32-bit executables and libraries on 64-bit systems. This option is available only on some 64-bit Unix systems. Defaults to OFF.
LLVM target to use for native code generation. This is required for JIT generation. It defaults to “host”, meaning that it shall pick the architecture of the machine where LLVM is being built. If you are cross-compiling, set it to the target architecture name.
Full path to a native TableGen executable (usually named llvm-tblgen). This is intended for cross-compiling: if the user sets this variable, no native TableGen will be created.
Arguments given to lit. make check and make clang-test are affected. By default, '-sv --no-progress-bar' on Visual C++ and Xcode, '-sv' on others.
The path to GnuWin32 tools for tests. Valid on Windows host. Defaults to the empty string, in which case lit will look for tools needed for tests (e.g. grep, sort, etc.) in your %PATH%. If GnuWin32 is not in your %PATH%, then you can set this variable to the GnuWin32 directory so that lit can find tools needed for tests in that directory.
Indicates whether the LLVM Interpreter will be linked with the Foreign Function Interface library (libffi) in order to enable calling external functions. If the library or its headers are installed in a custom location, you can also set the variables FFI_INCLUDE_DIR and FFI_LIBRARY_DIR to the directories where ffi.h and can be found, respectively. Defaults to OFF.
These variables specify the path to the source directory for the external LLVM projects Clang, lld, and Polly, respectively, relative to the top-level source directory. If the in-tree subdirectory for an external project exists (e.g., llvm/tools/clang for Clang), then the corresponding variable will not be used. If the variable for an external project does not point to a valid path, then that project will not be built.
Enable building OProfile JIT support. Defaults to OFF.
Path to a profdata file to pass into clang’s -fprofile-instr-use flag. This can only be specified if you’re building with clang.
Enable building support for Intel JIT Events API. Defaults to OFF.
Enable building with zlib to support compression/uncompression in LLVM tools. Defaults to ON.
Define the sanitizer used to build LLVM binaries and tests. Possible values are Address, Memory, MemoryWithOrigins, Undefined, Thread, and Address;Undefined. Defaults to empty string.
Define the maximum number of concurrent compilation jobs.
Define the maximum number of concurrent link jobs.
Enables all enabled documentation targets (i.e. Doxgyen and Sphinx targets) to be built as part of the normal build. If the install target is run then this also enables all built documentation targets to be installed. Defaults to OFF.
Enables the generation of browsable HTML documentation using doxygen. Defaults to OFF.
Enables the generation of a Qt Compressed Help file. Defaults to OFF. This affects the make target doxygen-llvm. When enabled, apart from the normal HTML output generated by doxygen, this will produce a QCH file named org.llvm.qch. You can then load this file into Qt Creator. This option is only useful in combination with -DLLVM_ENABLE_DOXYGEN=ON; otherwise this has no effect.
The filename of the Qt Compressed Help file that will be generated when -DLLVM_ENABLE_DOXYGEN=ON and -DLLVM_ENABLE_DOXYGEN_QT_HELP=ON are given. Defaults to org.llvm.qch. This option is only useful in combination with -DLLVM_ENABLE_DOXYGEN_QT_HELP=ON; otherwise it has no effect.
Namespace under which the intermediate Qt Help Project file lives. See Qt Help Project for more information. Defaults to “org.llvm”. This option is only useful in combination with -DLLVM_ENABLE_DOXYGEN_QT_HELP=ON; otherwise it has no effect.
See Qt Help Project for more information. Defaults to the CMake variable ${PACKAGE_STRING} which is a combination of the package name and version string. This filter can then be used in Qt Creator to select only documentation from LLVM when browsing through all the help files that you might have loaded. This option is only useful in combination with -DLLVM_ENABLE_DOXYGEN_QT_HELP=ON; otherwise it has no effect.
The path to the qhelpgenerator executable. Defaults to whatever CMake’s find_program() can find. This option is only useful in combination with -DLLVM_ENABLE_DOXYGEN_QT_HELP=ON; otherwise it has no effect.
Uses .svg files instead of .png files for graphs in the Doxygen output. Defaults to OFF.
If enabled CMake will search for the sphinx-build executable and will make the SPHINX_OUTPUT_HTML and SPHINX_OUTPUT_MAN CMake options available. Defaults to OFF.
The path to the sphinx-build executable detected by CMake.
If enabled (and LLVM_ENABLE_SPHINX is enabled) then the targets for building the documentation as html are added (but not built by default unless LLVM_BUILD_DOCS is enabled). There is a target for each project in the source tree that uses sphinx (e.g. docs-llvm-html, docs-clang-html and docs-lld-html). Defaults to ON.
If enabled (and LLVM_ENABLE_SPHINX is enabled) the targets for building the man pages are added (but not built by default unless LLVM_BUILD_DOCS is enabled). Currently the only target added is docs-llvm-man. Defaults to ON.
If enabled then sphinx documentation warnings will be treated as errors. Defaults to ON.
OS X Only: If enabled CMake will generate a target named ‘install-xcode-toolchain’. This target will create a directory at $CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX/Toolchains containing an xctoolchain directory which can be used to override the default system tools.

Executing the test suite

Testing is performed when the check-all target is built. For instance, if you are using Makefiles, execute this command in the root of your build directory:

$ make check-all

On Visual Studio, you may run tests by building the project “check-all”. For more information about testing, see the LLVM Testing Infrastructure Guide.

Cross compiling

See this wiki page for generic instructions on how to cross-compile with CMake. It goes into detailed explanations and may seem daunting, but it is not. On the wiki page there are several examples including toolchain files. Go directly to this section for a quick solution.

Also see the LLVM-specific variables section for variables used when cross-compiling.

Embedding LLVM in your project

From LLVM 3.5 onwards both the CMake and autoconf/Makefile build systems export LLVM libraries as importable CMake targets. This means that clients of LLVM can now reliably use CMake to develop their own LLVM-based projects against an installed version of LLVM regardless of how it was built.

Here is a simple example of a CMakeLists.txt file that imports the LLVM libraries and uses them to build a simple application simple-tool.

cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 2.8.8)


message(STATUS "Using LLVMConfig.cmake in: ${LLVM_DIR}")

# Set your project compile flags.
# E.g. if using the C++ header files
# you will need to enable C++11 support
# for your compiler.


# Now build our tools
add_executable(simple-tool tool.cpp)

# Find the libraries that correspond to the LLVM components
# that we wish to use
llvm_map_components_to_libnames(llvm_libs support core irreader)

# Link against LLVM libraries
target_link_libraries(simple-tool ${llvm_libs})

The find_package(...) directive when used in CONFIG mode (as in the above example) will look for the LLVMConfig.cmake file in various locations (see cmake manual for details). It creates a LLVM_DIR cache entry to save the directory where LLVMConfig.cmake is found or allows the user to specify the directory (e.g. by passing -DLLVM_DIR=/usr/share/llvm/cmake to the cmake command or by setting it directly in ccmake or cmake-gui).

This file is available in two different locations.

  • <INSTALL_PREFIX>/share/llvm/cmake/LLVMConfig.cmake where <INSTALL_PREFIX> is the install prefix of an installed version of LLVM. On Linux typically this is /usr/share/llvm/cmake/LLVMConfig.cmake.
  • <LLVM_BUILD_ROOT>/share/llvm/cmake/LLVMConfig.cmake where <LLVM_BUILD_ROOT> is the root of the LLVM build tree. Note: this is only available when building LLVM with CMake.

If LLVM is installed in your operating system’s normal installation prefix (e.g. on Linux this is usually /usr/) find_package(LLVM ...) will automatically find LLVM if it is installed correctly. If LLVM is not installed or you wish to build directly against the LLVM build tree you can use LLVM_DIR as previously mentioned.

The LLVMConfig.cmake file sets various useful variables. Notable variables include

The path to the LLVM CMake directory (i.e. the directory containing LLVMConfig.cmake).
A list of preprocessor defines that should be used when building against LLVM.
This is set to ON if LLVM was built with assertions, otherwise OFF.
This is set to ON if LLVM was built with exception handling (EH) enabled, otherwise OFF.
This is set to ON if LLVM was built with run time type information (RTTI), otherwise OFF.
A list of include paths to directories containing LLVM header files.
The LLVM version. This string can be used with CMake conditionals, e.g., if (${LLVM_PACKAGE_VERSION} VERSION_LESS "3.5").
The path to the directory containing the LLVM tools (e.g. llvm-as).

Notice that in the above example we link simple-tool against several LLVM libraries. The list of libraries is determined by using the llvm_map_components_to_libnames() CMake function. For a list of available components look at the output of running llvm-config --components.

Note that for LLVM < 3.5 llvm_map_components_to_libraries() was used instead of llvm_map_components_to_libnames(). This is now deprecated and will be removed in a future version of LLVM.

Developing LLVM passes out of source

It is possible to develop LLVM passes out of LLVM’s source tree (i.e. against an installed or built LLVM). An example of a project layout is provided below.

<project dir>/
    <pass name>/

Contents of <project dir>/CMakeLists.txt:



add_subdirectory(<pass name>)

Contents of <project dir>/<pass name>/CMakeLists.txt:

add_library(LLVMPassname MODULE Pass.cpp)

Note if you intend for this pass to be merged into the LLVM source tree at some point in the future it might make more sense to use LLVM’s internal add_llvm_loadable_module function instead by...

Adding the following to <project dir>/CMakeLists.txt (after find_package(LLVM ...))


And then changing <project dir>/<pass name>/CMakeLists.txt to


When you are done developing your pass, you may wish to integrate it into the LLVM source tree. You can achieve it in two easy steps:

  1. Copying <pass name> folder into <LLVM root>/lib/Transform directory.
  2. Adding add_subdirectory(<pass name>) line into <LLVM root>/lib/Transform/CMakeLists.txt.

Compiler/Platform-specific topics

Notes for specific compilers and/or platforms.

Microsoft Visual C++

Specifies the maximum number of parallel compiler jobs to use per project when building with msbuild or Visual Studio. Only supported for the Visual Studio 2010 CMake generator. 0 means use all processors. Default is 0.