Suggested Workflows

The full bootstrapping process takes quite a while. Here are some suggestions to make your life easier.

Installing a pre-push hook

CI will automatically fail your build if it doesn't pass tidy, our internal tool for ensuring code quality. If you'd like, you can install a Git hook that will automatically run ./x test tidy on each push, to ensure your code is up to par. If the hook fails then run ./x test tidy --bless and commit the changes. If you decide later that the pre-push behavior is undesirable, you can delete the pre-push file in .git/hooks.

A prebuilt git hook lives at src/etc/ which can be copied into your .git/hooks folder as pre-push (without the .sh extension!).

You can also install the hook as a step of running ./x setup!

Configuring rust-analyzer for rustc

Visual Studio Code

rust-analyzer can help you check and format your code whenever you save a file. By default, rust-analyzer runs the cargo check and rustfmt commands, but you can override these commands to use more adapted versions of these tools when hacking on rustc. For example, x setup vscode will prompt you to create a .vscode/settings.json file which will configure Visual Studio code. This will ask rust-analyzer to use ./x check to check the sources, and the stage 0 rustfmt to format them. The recommended rust-analyzer settings live at src/etc/rust_analyzer_settings.json.

The default rust-analyzer.check.overrideCommand command line will check all the crates and tools in the repository. If you are working on a specific part, you can override the command to only check the part you are working on to save checking time. For example, if you are working on the compiler, you can override the command to x check compiler --json-output to only check the compiler part. You can run x check --help --verbose to see the available parts.

If you have enough free disk space and you would like to be able to run x commands while rust-analyzer runs in the background, you can also add --build-dir build-rust-analyzer to the overrideCommand to avoid x locking.

If running ./x check on save is inconvenient, in VS Code you can use a Build Task instead:

// .vscode/tasks.json
    "version": "2.0.0",
    "tasks": [
            "label": "./x check",
            "command": "./x check",
            "type": "shell",
            "problemMatcher": "$rustc",
            "presentation": { "clear": true },
            "group": { "kind": "build", "isDefault": true }


For Neovim users there are several options for configuring for rustc. The easiest way is by using neoconf.nvim, which allows for project-local configuration files with the native LSP. The steps for how to use it are below. Note that they require rust-analyzer to already be configured with Neovim. Steps for this can be found here.

  1. First install the plugin. This can be done by following the steps in the README.
  2. Run x setup, which will have a prompt for it to create a .vscode/settings.json file. neoconf is able to read and update rust-analyzer settings automatically when the project is opened when this file is detected.

If you're running coc.nvim, you can use :CocLocalConfig to create a .vim/coc-settings.json, and copy the settings from src/etc/rust_analyzer_settings.json.

Another way is without a plugin, and creating your own logic in your configuration. To do this you must translate the JSON to Lua yourself. The translation is 1:1 and fairly straight-forward. It must be put in the ["rust-analyzer"] key of the setup table, which is shown here

If you would like to use the build task that is described above, you may either make your own command in your config, or you can install a plugin such as overseer.nvim that can read VSCode's task.json files, and follow the same instructions as above.

Check, check, and check again

When doing simple refactorings, it can be useful to run ./x check continuously. If you set up rust-analyzer as described above, this will be done for you every time you save a file. Here you are just checking that the compiler can build, but often that is all you need (e.g., when renaming a method). You can then run ./x build when you actually need to run tests.

In fact, it is sometimes useful to put off tests even when you are not 100% sure the code will work. You can then keep building up refactoring commits and only run the tests at some later time. You can then use git bisect to track down precisely which commit caused the problem. A nice side-effect of this style is that you are left with a fairly fine-grained set of commits at the end, all of which build and pass tests. This often helps reviewing.

x suggest

The x suggest subcommand suggests (and runs) a subset of the extensive rust-lang/rust tests based on files you have changed. This is especially useful for new contributors who have not mastered the arcane x flags yet and more experienced contributors as a shorthand for reducing mental effort. In all cases it is useful not to run the full tests (which can take on the order of tens of minutes) and just run a subset which are relevant to your changes. For example, running tidy and linkchecker is useful when editing Markdown files, whereas UI tests are much less likely to be helpful. While x suggest is a useful tool, it does not guarantee perfect coverage (just as PR CI isn't a substitute for bors). See the dedicated chapter for more information and contribution instructions.

Please note that x suggest is in a beta state currently and the tests that it will suggest are limited.

Configuring rustup to use nightly

Some parts of the bootstrap process uses pinned, nightly versions of tools like rustfmt. To make things like cargo fmt work correctly in your repo, run

cd <path to rustc repo>
rustup override set nightly

after installing a nightly toolchain with rustup. Don't forget to do this for all directories you have setup a worktree for. You may need to use the pinned nightly version from src/stage0, but often the normal nightly channel will work.

Note see the section on vscode for how to configure it with this real rustfmt x uses, and the section on rustup for how to setup rustup toolchain for your bootstrapped compiler

Note This does not allow you to build rustc with cargo directly. You still have to use x to work on the compiler or standard library, this just lets you use cargo fmt.

Faster builds with --keep-stage.

Sometimes just checking whether the compiler builds is not enough. A common example is that you need to add a debug! statement to inspect the value of some state or better understand the problem. In that case, you don't really need a full build. By bypassing bootstrap's cache invalidation, you can often get these builds to complete very fast (e.g., around 30 seconds). The only catch is this requires a bit of fudging and may produce compilers that don't work (but that is easily detected and fixed).

The sequence of commands you want is as follows:

  • Initial build: ./x build library
    • As documented previously, this will build a functional stage1 compiler as part of running all stage0 commands (which include building a std compatible with the stage1 compiler) as well as the first few steps of the "stage 1 actions" up to "stage1 (sysroot stage1) builds std".
  • Subsequent builds: ./x build library --keep-stage 1
    • Note that we added the --keep-stage 1 flag here

As mentioned, the effect of --keep-stage 1 is that we just assume that the old standard library can be re-used. If you are editing the compiler, this is almost always true: you haven't changed the standard library, after all. But sometimes, it's not true: for example, if you are editing the "metadata" part of the compiler, which controls how the compiler encodes types and other states into the rlib files, or if you are editing things that wind up in the metadata (such as the definition of the MIR).

The TL;DR is that you might get weird behavior from a compile when using --keep-stage 1 -- for example, strange ICEs or other panics. In that case, you should simply remove the --keep-stage 1 from the command and rebuild. That ought to fix the problem.

You can also use --keep-stage 1 when running tests. Something like this:

  • Initial test run: ./x test tests/ui
  • Subsequent test run: ./x test tests/ui --keep-stage 1

Using incremental compilation

You can further enable the --incremental flag to save additional time in subsequent rebuilds:

./x test tests/ui --incremental --test-args issue-1234

If you don't want to include the flag with every command, you can enable it in the config.toml:

incremental = true

Note that incremental compilation will use more disk space than usual. If disk space is a concern for you, you might want to check the size of the build directory from time to time.

Fine-tuning optimizations

Setting optimize = false makes the compiler too slow for tests. However, to improve the test cycle, you can disable optimizations selectively only for the crates you'll have to rebuild (source). For example, when working on rustc_mir_build, the rustc_mir_build and rustc_driver crates take the most time to incrementally rebuild. You could therefore set the following in the root Cargo.toml:

opt-level = 0
opt-level = 0

Working on multiple branches at the same time

Working on multiple branches in parallel can be a little annoying, since building the compiler on one branch will cause the old build and the incremental compilation cache to be overwritten. One solution would be to have multiple clones of the repository, but that would mean storing the Git metadata multiple times, and having to update each clone individually.

Fortunately, Git has a better solution called worktrees. This lets you create multiple "working trees", which all share the same Git database. Moreover, because all of the worktrees share the same object database, if you update a branch (e.g. master) in any of them, you can use the new commits from any of the worktrees. One caveat, though, is that submodules do not get shared. They will still be cloned multiple times.

Given you are inside the root directory for your Rust repository, you can create a "linked working tree" in a new "rust2" directory by running the following command:

git worktree add ../rust2

Creating a new worktree for a new branch based on master looks like:

git worktree add -b my-feature ../rust2 master

You can then use that rust2 folder as a separate workspace for modifying and building rustc!

Using nix-shell

If you're using nix, you can use the following nix-shell to work on Rust:

{ pkgs ? import <nixpkgs> {} }:
pkgs.mkShell {
  name = "rustc";
  nativeBuildInputs = with pkgs; [
    binutils cmake ninja pkg-config python3 git curl cacert patchelf nix
  buildInputs = with pkgs; [
    openssl glibc.out glibc.static
  # Avoid creating text files for ICEs.
  RUSTC_ICE = "0";

Note that when using nix on a not-NixOS distribution, it may be necessary to set patch-binaries-for-nix = true in config.toml. Bootstrap tries to detect whether it's running in nix and enable patching automatically, but this detection can have false negatives.

You can also use your nix shell to manage config.toml:

  config = pkgs.writeText "rustc-config" ''
    # Your config.toml content goes here
pkgs.mkShell {
  /* ... */
  # This environment variable tells bootstrap where our config.toml is.

Shell Completions

If you use Bash, Fish or PowerShell, you can find automatically-generated shell completion scripts for in src/etc/completions. Zsh support will also be included once issues with clap_complete have been resolved.

You can use source ./src/etc/completions/<extension> to load completions for your shell of choice, or & .\src\etc\completions\ for PowerShell. Adding this to your shell's startup script (e.g. .bashrc) will automatically load this completion.