Getting Started

This documentation is not intended to be comprehensive; it is meant to be a quick guide for the most useful things. For more information, see this chapter on how to build and run the compiler.

Asking Questions

The compiler team (or t-compiler) usually hangs out in Zulip in this "stream"; it will be easiest to get questions answered there.

Please ask questions! A lot of people report feeling that they are "wasting expert time", but nobody on t-compiler feels this way. Contributors are important to us.

Also, if you feel comfortable, prefer public topics, as this means others can see the questions and answers, and perhaps even integrate them back into this guide :)


Not all t-compiler members are experts on all parts of rustc; it's a pretty large project. To find out who has expertise on different parts of the compiler, consult this "experts map".

It's not perfectly complete, though, so please also feel free to ask questions even if you can't figure out who to ping.


We do ask that you be mindful to include as much useful information as you can in your question, but we recognize this can be hard if you are unfamiliar with contributing to Rust.

Just pinging someone without providing any context can be a bit annoying and just create noise, so we ask that you be mindful of the fact that the t-compiler folks get a lot of pings in a day.

Cloning and Building

System Requirements

Internet access is required.

The most notable software requirement is that you will need Python 2 or 3, but there are various others.

The following hardware is recommended.

  • 30GB+ of free disk space.
  • 8GB+ RAM
  • 2+ cores

More powerful machines will lead to much faster builds. There are various strategies to work around lesser hardware in the following chapters.

See this chapter for more details about software and hardware prerequisites.


You can just do a normal git clone:

git clone
cd rust Intro

rustc is a bootstrapping compiler, which makes it more complex than a typical Rust program. As a result, you cannot use Cargo to build it. Instead you must use the special tool It is used for the things Cargo is normally used for: building, testing, creating releases, formatting, etc.

Configuring the compiler

In the top level of the repo:

$ ./ setup

This will do some initialization and walk you through an interactive setup to create config.toml, the primary configuration file.

See this chapter for more info about configuration.

Common commands

Here are the basic invocations of the commands most commonly used when working on rustc, std, rustdoc, and other tools.

CommandWhen to use it
./ checkQuick check to see if most things compile; rust-analyzer can run this automatically for you
./ buildBuilds rustc, std, and rustdoc
./ testRuns all tests
./ fmtFormats all code

As written, these commands are reasonable starting points. However, there are additional options and arguments for each of them that are worth learning for serious development work. In particular, ./ build and ./ test provide many ways to compile or test a subset of the code, which can save a lot of time.

Also, note that supports all kinds of path suffixes for compiler, library, and src/tools directories. So, you can simply run test tidy instead of test src/tools/tidy. Or, build std instead of build library/std.

See the chapters on building, testing, and rustdoc for more details.

Contributing code to other Rust projects

There are a bunch of other projects that you can contribute to outside of the rust-lang/rust repo, including clippy, miri, chalk, and many others.

These repos might have their own contributing guidelines and procedures. Many of them are owned by working groups (e.g. chalk is largely owned by WG-traits). For more info, see the documentation in those repos' READMEs.

Other ways to contribute

There are a bunch of other ways you can contribute, especially if you don't feel comfortable jumping straight into the large rust-lang/rust codebase.

The following tasks are doable without much background knowledge but are incredibly helpful:

  • Cleanup crew: find minimal reproductions of ICEs, bisect regressions, etc. This is a way of helping that saves a ton of time for others to fix an error later.
  • Writing documentation: if you are feeling a bit more intrepid, you could try to read a part of the code and write doc comments for it. This will help you to learn some part of the compiler while also producing a useful artifact!
  • Working groups: there are a bunch of working groups on a wide variety of rust-related things.

Contributor Procedures

There are some official procedures to know about. This is a tour of the highlights, but there are a lot more details, which we will link to below.

Code Review

When you open a PR on the rust-lang/rust repo, a bot called @rustbot will automatically assign a reviewer to the PR based on which files you changed. The reviewer is the person that will approve the PR to be tested and merged. If you want a specific reviewer (e.g. a team member you've been working with), you can specifically request them by writing r? @user (e.g. r? @jyn514) in either the original post or a followup comment (you can see this comment for example).

Please note that the reviewers are humans, who for the most part work on rustc in their free time. This means that they can take some time to respond and review your PR. It also means that reviewers can miss some PRs that are assigned to them.

To try to move PRs forward, the Triage WG regularly goes through all PRs that are waiting for review and haven't been discussed for at least 2 weeks. If you don't get a review within 2 weeks, feel free to ask the Triage WG on Zulip (#t-release/triage). They have knowledge of when to ping, who might be on vacation, etc.

The reviewer may request some changes using the GitHub code review interface. They may also request special procedures (such as a crater run; see below) for some PRs.

When the PR is ready to be merged, the reviewer will issue a command to @bors, the CI bot. Usually, this is @bors r+ or @bors r=user to approve a PR (there are few other commands, but they are less relevant here). You can see this comment for example. This puts the PR in bors's queue to be tested and merged. Be patient; this can take a while and the queue can sometimes be long. PRs are never merged by hand.

Bug Fixes or "Normal" code changes

For most PRs, no special procedures are needed. You can just open a PR, and it will be reviewed, approved, and merged. This includes most bug fixes, refactorings, and other user-invisible changes. The next few sections talk about exceptions to this rule.

Also, note that it is perfectly acceptable to open WIP PRs or GitHub Draft PRs. Some people prefer to do this so they can get feedback along the way or share their code with a collaborator. Others do this so they can utilize the CI to build and test their PR (e.g. if you are developing on a laptop).

New Features

Rust has strong backwards-compatibility guarantees. Thus, new features can't just be implemented directly in stable Rust. Instead, we have 3 release channels: stable, beta, and nightly.

  • Stable: this is the latest stable release for general usage.
  • Beta: this is the next release (will be stable within 6 weeks).
  • Nightly: follows the master branch of the repo. This is the only channel where unstable, incomplete, or experimental features are usable with feature gates.

In order to implement a new feature, usually you will need to go through the RFC process to propose a design, have discussions, etc. In some cases, small features can be added with only an FCP (see below). If in doubt, ask the compiler, language, or libs team (whichever is most relevant).

After a feature is approved to be added, a tracking issue is created on the rust-lang/rust repo, which tracks the progress towards the implementation of the feature, any bugs reported, and eventually stabilization.

The feature then needs to be implemented behind a feature gate, which prevents it from being accidentally used.

Finally, somebody may propose stabilizing the feature in an upcoming version of Rust. This requires a Final Comment Period (see below) to get the approval of the relevant teams.

After that, the feature gate can be removed and the feature turned on for all users.

For more details on this process, see this chapter on implementing new features.

Breaking Changes

As mentioned above, Rust has strong backwards-compatibility guarantees. To this end, we are reluctant to make breaking changes. However, sometimes they are needed to correct compiler bugs (e.g. code that compiled but should not) or make progress on some features.

Depending on the scale of the breakage, there are a few different actions that can be taken. If the reviewer believes the breakage is very minimal (i.e. very unlikely to be actually encountered by users), they may just merge the change. More often, they will request a Final Comment Period (FCP), which calls for rough consensus among the members of a relevant team. The team members can discuss the issue and either accept, reject, or request changes on the PR.

If the scale of breakage is large, a deprecation warning may be needed. This is a warning that the compiler will display to users whose code will break in the future. After some time, an FCP can be used to move forward with the actual breakage.

If the scale of breakage is unknown, a team member or contributor may request a crater run. This is a bot that will compile all crates and many public github repos with the compiler with your changes. A report will then be generated with crates that ceased to compile with or began to compile with your changes. Crater runs can take a few days to complete.

Major Changes

The compiler team has a special process for large changes, whether or not they cause breakage. This process is called a Major Change Proposal (MCP). MCP is a relatively lightweight mechanism for getting feedback on large changes to the compiler (as opposed to a full RFC or a design meeting with the team).

Example of things that might require MCPs include major refactorings, changes to important types, or important changes to how the compiler does something, or smaller user-facing changes.

When in doubt, ask on zulip. It would be a shame to put a lot of work into a PR that ends up not getting merged! See this document for more info on MCPs.


Compiler performance is important. We have put a lot of effort over the last few years into gradually improving it.

If you suspect that your change may cause a performance regression (or improvement), you can request a "perf run" (your reviewer may also request one before approving). This is yet another bot that will compile a collection of benchmarks on a compiler with your changes. The numbers are reported here, and you can see a comparison of your changes against the latest master.

For an introduction to the performance of Rust code in general which would also be useful in rustc development, see The Rust Performance Book.

Other Resources