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Commands and Options

This page covers the options that are available with various Bazel commands, such as bazel build, bazel run, and bazel test. This page is a companion to the Bazel user guide, which lists Bazel's commands.

Target syntax

Some commands, like build or test, can operate on a list of targets. They use a syntax more flexible than labels, which is documented in the "Specifying targets to build" section of the User's Guide.


The following sections describe the options available during a build. When --long is used on a help command, the on-line help messages provide summary information about the meaning, type and default value for each option.

Most options can only be specified once. When specified multiple times, the last instance wins. Options that can be specified multiple times are identified in the on-line help with the text 'may be used multiple times'.

Package location


This option specifies the set of directories that are searched to find the BUILD file for a given package.

Bazel finds its packages by searching the package path. This is a colon separated ordered list of bazel directories, each being the root of a partial source tree.

To specify a custom package path using the --package_path option:

  % bazel build --package_path %workspace%:/some/other/root

Package path elements may be specified in three formats:

  1. If the first character is /, the path is absolute.
  2. If the path starts with %workspace%, the path is taken relative to the nearest enclosing bazel directory.
    For instance, if your working directory is /home/bob/clients/bob_client/bazel/foo, then the string %workspace% in the package-path is expanded to /home/bob/clients/bob_client/bazel.
  3. Anything else is taken relative to the working directory.
    This is usually not what you mean to do, and may behave unexpectedly if you use Bazel from directories below the bazel workspace. For instance, if you use the package-path element ., and then cd into the directory /home/bob/clients/bob_client/bazel/foo, packages will be resolved from the /home/bob/clients/bob_client/bazel/foo directory.

If you use a non-default package path, specify it in your Bazel configuration file for convenience.

Bazel doesn't require any packages to be in the current directory, so you can do a build from an empty bazel workspace if all the necessary packages can be found somewhere else on the package path.

Example: Building from an empty client

  % mkdir -p foo/bazel
  % cd foo/bazel
  % touch WORKSPACE
  % bazel build --package_path /some/other/path //foo

Error checking

These options control Bazel's error-checking and/or warnings.


If this option is set to false, visibility checks are demoted to warnings. The default value of this option is true, so that by default, visibility checking is done.


The --output_filter option will only show build and compilation warnings for targets that match the regular expression. If a target does not match the given regular expression and its execution succeeds, its standard output and standard error are thrown away.

Here are some typical values for this option:

--output_filter='^//(first/project|second/project):' Show the output for the specified packages.
--output_filter='^//((?!(first/bad_project|second/bad_project):).)*$' Don't show output for the specified packages.
--output_filter= Show everything.
--output_filter=DONT_MATCH_ANYTHING Show nothing.

Tool flags

These options control which options Bazel will pass to other tools.


This option takes an argument which is to be passed to the compiler. The argument will be passed to the compiler whenever it is invoked for preprocessing, compiling, and/or assembling C, C++, or assembler code. It will not be passed when linking.

This option can be used multiple times. For example:

  % bazel build --copt="-g0" --copt="-fpic" //foo

will compile the foo library without debug tables, generating position-independent code.

Note that changing --copt settings will force a recompilation of all affected object files. Also note that copts values listed in specific cc_library or cc_binary build rules will be placed on the compiler command line after these options.

Warning: C++-specific options (such as -fno-implicit-templates) should be specified in --cxxopt, not in --copt. Likewise, C-specific options (such as -Wstrict-prototypes) should be specified in --conlyopt, not in copt. Similarly, compiler options that only have an effect at link time (such as -l) should be specified in --linkopt, not in --copt.


This option takes an argument which is to be passed to the compiler for source files that are compiled in the host configuration. This is analogous to the --copt option, but applies only to the host configuration.


This option takes an argument which is to be passed to the compiler for C source files that are compiled in the host configuration. This is analogous to the --conlyopt option, but applies only to the host configuration.


This option takes an argument which is to be passed to the compiler for C++ source files that are compiled in the host configuration. This is analogous to the --cxxopt option, but applies only to the host configuration.


This option takes an argument which is to be passed to the linker for source files that are compiled in the host configuration. This is analogous to the --linkopt option, but applies only to the host configuration.


This option takes an argument which is to be passed to the compiler when compiling C source files.

This is similar to --copt, but only applies to C compilation, not to C++ compilation or linking. So you can pass C-specific options (such as -Wno-pointer-sign) using --conlyopt.

Note that copts parameters listed in specific cc_library or cc_binary build rules will be placed on the compiler command line after these options.


This option takes an argument which is to be passed to the compiler when compiling C++ source files.

This is similar to --copt, but only applies to C++ compilation, not to C compilation or linking. So you can pass C++-specific options (such as -fpermissive or -fno-implicit-templates) using --cxxopt. For example:

  % bazel build --cxxopt="-fpermissive" --cxxopt="-Wno-error" //foo/cruddy_code

Note that copts parameters listed in specific cc_library or cc_binary build rules will be placed on the compiler command line after these options.


This option takes an argument which is to be passed to the compiler when linking.

This is similar to --copt, but only applies to linking, not to compilation. So you can pass compiler options that only make sense at link time (such as -lssp or -Wl,--wrap,abort) using --linkopt. For example:

  % bazel build --copt="-fmudflap" --linkopt="-lmudflap" //foo/buggy_code

Build rules can also specify link options in their attributes. This option's settings always take precedence. Also see cc_library.linkopts.

--strip (always|never|sometimes)

This option determines whether Bazel will strip debugging information from all binaries and shared libraries, by invoking the linker with the -Wl,--strip-debug option. --strip=always means always strip debugging information. --strip=never means never strip debugging information. The default value of --strip=sometimes means strip if the --compilation_mode is fastbuild.

  % bazel build --strip=always //foo:bar

will compile the target while stripping debugging information from all generated binaries.

Note that if you want debugging information, it's not enough to disable stripping; you also need to make sure that the debugging information was generated by the compiler, which you can do by using either -c dbg or --copt -g.

Note also that Bazel's --strip option corresponds with ld's --strip-debug option: it only strips debugging information. If for some reason you want to strip all symbols, not just debug symbols, you would need to use ld's --strip-all option, which you can do by passing --linkopt=-Wl,--strip-all to Bazel. Also be aware that setting Bazel's --strip flag will override --linkopt=-Wl,--strip-all, so you should only set one or the other. If you are only building a single binary and want all symbols stripped, you could also pass --stripopt=--strip-all and explicitly build the //foo:bar.stripped version of the target. As described in the section on --stripopt, this applies a strip action after the final binary is linked rather than including stripping in all of the build's link actions.


This is an additional option to pass to the strip command when generating a *.stripped binary. The default is -S -p. This option can be used multiple times.

Note that --stripopt does not apply to the stripping of the main binary with --strip=(always|sometimes).


The --fdo_instrument option enables the generation of FDO (feedback directed optimization) profile output when the built C/C++ binary is executed. For GCC, the argument provided is used as a directory prefix for a per-object file directory tree of .gcda files containing profile information for each .o file.

Once the profile data tree has been generated, the profile tree should be zipped up, and provided to the --fdo_optimize=profile-zip Bazel option to enable the FDO-optimized compilation.

For the LLVM compiler the argument is also the directory under which the raw LLVM profile data file(s) is dumped, e.g. --fdo_instrument=/path/to/rawprof/dir/.

The options --fdo_instrument and --fdo_optimize cannot be used at the same time.


The --fdo_optimize option enables the use of the per-object file profile information to perform FDO (feedback directed optimization) optimizations when compiling. For GCC, the argument provided is the zip file containing the previously-generated file tree of .gcda files containing profile information for each .o file.

Alternatively, the argument provided can point to an auto profile identified by the extension .afdo.

Note that this option also accepts labels that resolve to source files. You may need to add an exports_files directive to the corresponding package to make the file visible to Bazel.

For the LLVM compiler the argument provided should point to the indexed LLVM profile output file prepared by the llvm-profdata tool, and should have a .profdata extension.

The options --fdo_instrument and --fdo_optimize cannot be used at the same time.


If enabled, each gold-invoked link of a C++ executable binary will output a symbol counts file (via the --print-symbol-counts gold option). For each linker input, the file logs the number of symbols that were defined and the number of symbols that were used in the binary. This information can be used to track unnecessary link dependencies. The symbol counts file is written to the binary's output path with the name [targetname].sc.

This option is disabled by default.


This option specifies the version of Java sources. For example:

  % bazel build --java_language_version=8 java/com/example/common/foo:all

compiles and allows only constructs compatible with Java 8 specification. Default value is 11. --> Possible values are: 8, 9, 10, --> 11 .


The Java language version used to build tools that are executed during a build. Default value is 11.


This option specifies the version of JVM to use to execute the code and run the tests. For example:

  % bazel run --java_runtime_version=remotejdk_11 java/com/example/common/foo:java_application

downloads JDK 11 from a remote repository and run the Java application using it.

Default value is localjdk. Possible values are: localjdk, localjdk_version, remotejdk_11, and remote_jdk17. You can extend the values by registering custom JVM using either local_java_repository or remote_java_repostory repository rules.


The version of JVM used to execute tools that are needed during a build. Default value is remotejdk_11.



This option allows option arguments to be passed to the Java VM. It can be used with one big argument, or multiple times with individual arguments. For example:

  % bazel build --jvmopt="-server -Xms256m" java/com/example/common/foo:all

will use the server VM for launching all Java binaries and set the startup heap size for the VM to 256 MB.


This option allows option arguments to be passed to javac. It can be used with one big argument, or multiple times with individual arguments. For example:

  % bazel build --javacopt="-g:source,lines" //myprojects:prog

will rebuild a java_binary with the javac default debug info (instead of the bazel default).

The option is passed to javac after the Bazel built-in default options for javac and before the per-rule options. The last specification of any option to javac wins. The default options for javac are:

  -source 8 -target 8 -encoding UTF-8

Note that changing --javacopt settings will force a recompilation of all affected classes. Also note that javacopts parameters listed in specific java_library or java_binary build rules will be placed on the javac command line after these options.


This javac option enables extra correctness checks. Any problems found will be presented as errors. Either -extra_checks or -extra_checks:on may be used to force the checks to be turned on. -extra_checks:off completely disables the analysis. When this option is not specified, the default behavior is used.

--strict_java_deps (default|strict|off|warn|error)

This option controls whether javac checks for missing direct dependencies. Java targets must explicitly declare all directly used targets as dependencies. This flag instructs javac to determine the jars actually used for type checking each java file, and warn/error if they are not the output of a direct dependency of the current target.

  • off means checking is disabled.
  • warn means javac will generate standard java warnings of type [strict] for each missing direct dependency.
  • default, strict and error all mean javac will generate errors instead of warnings, causing the current target to fail to build if any missing direct dependencies are found. This is also the default behavior when the flag is unspecified.

Build semantics

These options affect the build commands and/or the output file contents.

--compilation_mode (fastbuild|opt|dbg) (-c)

The --compilation_mode option (often shortened to -c, especially -c opt) takes an argument of fastbuild, dbg or opt, and affects various C/C++ code-generation options, such as the level of optimization and the completeness of debug tables. Bazel uses a different output directory for each different compilation mode, so you can switch between modes without needing to do a full rebuild every time.

  • fastbuild means build as fast as possible: generate minimal debugging information (-gmlt -Wl,-S), and don't optimize. This is the default. Note: -DNDEBUG will not be set.
  • dbg means build with debugging enabled (-g), so that you can use gdb (or another debugger).
  • opt means build with optimization enabled and with assert() calls disabled (-O2 -DNDEBUG). Debugging information will not be generated in opt mode unless you also pass --copt -g.


This option specifies the target CPU architecture to be used for the compilation of binaries during the build.

Note that a particular combination of crosstool version, compiler version, and target CPU is allowed only if it has been specified in the currently used CROSSTOOL file.


Specifies the set of environment variables available during the execution of all actions. Variables can be either specified by name, in which case the value will be taken from the invocation environment, or by the name=value pair which sets the value independent of the invocation environment. This --action_env flag can be specified multiple times. If a value is assigned to the same variable across multiple --action_env flags, the latest assignment wins.


WARNING: Extra actions are deprecated. Use aspects instead.

The experimental_action_listener option instructs Bazel to use details from the action_listener rule specified by label to insert extra_actions into the build graph.


WARNING: Extra actions are deprecated. Use aspects instead.

If this option is set to true, extra actions specified by the --experimental_action_listener command line option will only be scheduled for top level targets.


WARNING: Extra actions are deprecated. Use aspects instead.

The experimental_extra_action_filter option instructs Bazel to filter the set of targets to schedule extra_actions for.

This flag is only applicable in combination with the --experimental_action_listener flag.

By default all extra_actions in the transitive closure of the requested targets-to-build get scheduled for execution. --experimental_extra_action_filter will restrict scheduling to extra_actions of which the owner's label matches the specified regular expression.

The following example will limit scheduling of extra_actions to only apply to actions of which the owner's label contains '/bar/':

% bazel build --experimental_action_listener=//test:al //foo/... \


This option specifies the name of the CPU architecture that should be used to build host tools.


The CPUs to build C/C++ libraries for in the transitive deps of android_binary rules. Other C/C++ rules are not affected. For example, if a cc_library appears in the transitive deps of an android_binary rule and a cc_binary rule, the cc_library will be built at least twice: once for each CPU specified with --fat_apk_cpu for the android_binary rule, and once for the CPU specified with --cpu for the cc_binary rule.

The default is armeabi-v7a.

One .so file is created and packaged in the APK for each CPU specified with --fat_apk_cpu. The .so file's name prefixes the name of the android_binary rule with "lib". For example, if the name of the android_binary is "foo", then the file is

One .so file will be created and packaged in the APK for each CPU specified with --fat_apk_cpu. The name of the .so file will be the name of the android_binary rule prefixed with "lib", e.g., if the name of the android_binary is "foo", then the file will be

Note that an Android-compatible crosstool must be selected. If an android_ndk_repository rule is defined in the WORKSPACE file, an Android-compatible crosstool is automatically selected. Otherwise, the crostool can be selected using the --android_crosstool_top or --crosstool_top flags.

--per_file_copt [+-]regex[,[+-]regex]...@option[,option]...

--per_file_copt= [+-]regex[,[+-]regex]...@option[,option]...

When present, any C++ file with a label or an execution path matching one of the inclusion regex expressions and not matching any of the exclusion expressions will be built with the given options. The label matching uses the canonical form of the label (i.e //package:label_name). The execution path is the relative path to your workspace directory including the base name (including extension) of the C++ file. It also includes any platform dependent prefixes. Note, that if only one of the label or the execution path matches the options will be used.

Notes: To match the generated files (e.g. genrule outputs) Bazel can only use the execution path. In this case the regexp shouldn't start with '//' since that doesn't match any execution paths. Package names can be used like this: --per_file_copt=base/.*\.pb\.cc@-g0. This will match every file under a directory called base.

This option can be used multiple times.

The option is applied regardless of the compilation mode used. I.e. it is possible to compile with --compilation_mode=opt and selectively compile some files with stronger optimization turned on, or with optimization disabled.

Caveat: If some files are selectively compiled with debug symbols the symbols might be stripped during linking. This can be prevented by setting --strip=never.

Syntax: [+-]regex[,[+-]regex]...@option[,option]... Where regex stands for a regular expression that can be prefixed with a + to identify include patterns and with - to identify exclude patterns. option stands for an arbitrary option that is passed to the C++ compiler. If an option contains a , it has to be quoted like so \,. Options can also contain @, since only the first @ is used to separate regular expressions from options.

Example: --per_file_copt=//foo:.*\.cc,-//foo:file\.cc@-O0,-fprofile-arcs adds the -O0 and the -fprofile-arcs options to the command line of the C++ compiler for all .cc files in //foo/ except


Determines whether C++ binaries will be linked dynamically, interacting with the linkstatic attribute on build rules.


  • auto: Translates to a platform-dependent mode; default for linux and off for cygwin.
  • default: Allows bazel to choose whether to link dynamically. See linkstatic for more information.
  • fully: Links all targets dynamically. This will speed up linking time, and reduce the size of the resulting binaries.
  • off: Links all targets in mostly static mode. If -static is set in linkopts, targets will change to fully static.

--fission (yes|no|[dbg][,opt][,fastbuild])

Enables Fission, which writes C++ debug information to dedicated .dwo files instead of .o files, where it would otherwise go. This substantially reduces the input size to links and can reduce link times.

When set to [dbg][,opt][,fastbuild] (example: --fission=dbg,fastbuild), Fission is enabled only for the specified set of compilation modes. This is useful for bazelrc settings. When set to yes, Fission is enabled universally. When set to no, Fission is disabled universally. Default is no.


If this flag is set, any -static options in linkopts of cc_* rules BUILD files are ignored. This is only intended as a workaround for C++ hardening builds.


If enabled, all C++ compilations produce position-independent code ("-fPIC"), links prefer PIC pre-built libraries over non-PIC libraries, and links produce position-independent executables ("-pie"). Default is disabled.

Note that dynamically linked binaries (i.e. --dynamic_mode fully) generate PIC code regardless of this flag's setting. So this flag is for cases where users want PIC code explicitly generated for static links.


Selects whether to perform resource shrinking for android_binary rules. Sets the default for the shrink_resources attribute on android_binary rules; see the documentation for that rule for further details. Defaults to off.


When specified, always use the given malloc implementation, overriding all malloc="target" attributes, including in those targets that use the default (by not specifying any malloc).


This option specifies the location of the crosstool compiler suite to be used for all C++ compilation during a build. Bazel will look in that location for a CROSSTOOL file and uses that to automatically determine settings for --compiler.


If not specified, bazel uses the value of --crosstool_top to compile code in the host configuration, i.e., tools run during the build. The main purpose of this flag is to enable cross-compilation.


The crosstool to use for compiling C/C++ rules in the transitive deps of objc_*, ios__*, and apple_* rules. For those targets, this flag overwrites --crosstool_top.


The crosstool to use for compiling C/C++ rules in the transitive deps of android_binary rules. This is useful if other targets in the build require a different crosstool. The default is to use the crosstool generated by the android_ndk_repository rule in the WORKSPACE file. See also --fat_apk_cpu.


This option specifies the C/C++ compiler version (e.g. gcc-4.1.0) to be used for the compilation of binaries during the build. If you want to build with a custom crosstool, you should use a CROSSTOOL file instead of specifying this flag.

Note that only certain combinations of crosstool version, compiler version, and target CPU are allowed.


This option specifies the Android SDK/platform toolchain and Android runtime library that will be used to build any Android-related rule. The Android SDK will be automatically selected if an android_sdk_repository rule is defined in the WORKSPACE file.


This option specifies the label of the java_toolchain used to compile Java source files.


If not specified, bazel uses the value of --java_toolchain to compile code in the host configuration, i.e., tools run during the build. The main purpose of this flag is to enable cross-compilation.


This option sets the label of the base Java installation to use for bazel run, bazel test, and for Java binaries built by java_binary and java_test rules. The JAVABASE and JAVA "Make" variables are derived from this option.


This option sets the label of the base Java installation to use in the host configuration, for example for host build tools including JavaBuilder and Singlejar.

This does not select the Java compiler that is used to compile Java source files. The compiler can be selected by settings the --java_toolchain option.

Execution strategy

These options affect how Bazel will execute the build. They should not have any significant effect on the output files generated by the build. Typically their main effect is on the speed of the build.


This option controls where and how commands are executed.

  • standalone causes commands to be executed as local subprocesses. This value is deprecated. Please use local instead.
  • sandboxed causes commands to be executed inside a sandbox on the local machine. This requires that all input files, data dependencies and tools are listed as direct dependencies in the srcs, data and tools attributes. Bazel enables local sandboxing by default, on systems that support sandboxed execution.
  • local causes commands to be executed as local subprocesses.
  • worker causes commands to be executed using a persistent worker, if available.
  • docker causes commands to be executed inside a docker sandbox on the local machine. This requires that docker is installed.
  • remote causes commands to be executed remotely; this is only available if a remote executor has been configured separately.

--strategy mnemonic=strategy

This option controls where and how commands are executed, overriding the --spawn_strategy (and --genrule_strategy with mnemonic Genrule) on a per-mnemonic basis. See --spawn_strategy for the supported strategies and their effects.


This option specifies which strategy should be used to execute commands that have descriptions matching a certain regex_filter. See --per_file_copt for details on regex_filter matching. See --spawn_strategy for the supported strategies and their effects.

The last regex_filter that matches the description is used. This option overrides other flags for specifying strategy.

  • Example: --strategy_regexp=//foo.*\\.cc,-//foo/bar=local means to run actions using local strategy if their descriptions match //foo.*.cc but not //foo/bar.
  • Example: --strategy_regexp='Compiling.*/bar=local' --strategy_regexp=Compiling=sandboxed will run 'Compiling //foo/bar/baz' with the sandboxed strategy, but reversing the order would run it with local.
  • Example: --strategy_regexp='Compiling.*/bar=local,sandboxed' will run 'Compiling //foo/bar/baz' with the local strategy and fall back to sandboxed if fails.


This is a deprecated short-hand for --strategy=Genrule=strategy.

--jobs=n (-j)

This option, which takes an integer argument, specifies a limit on the number of jobs that should be executed concurrently during the execution phase of the build.

Note that the number of concurrent jobs that Bazel will run is determined not only by the --jobs setting, but also by Bazel's scheduler, which tries to avoid running concurrent jobs that will use up more resources (RAM or CPU) than are available, based on some (very crude) estimates of the resource consumption of each job. The behavior of the scheduler can be controlled by the --local_ram_resources option.


Bazel periodically prints a progress report on jobs that are not finished yet (e.g. long running tests). This option sets the reporting frequency, progress will be printed every n seconds.

The default is 0, that means an incremental algorithm: the first report will be printed after 10 seconds, then 30 seconds and after that progress is reported once every minute.

--local_{ram,cpu}_resources resources or resource expression

These options specify the amount of local resources (RAM in MB and number of CPU logical cores) that Bazel can take into consideration when scheduling build and test activities to run locally. They take an integer, or a keyword (HOST_RAM or HOST_CPUS) optionally followed by [-|*float] (for example, --local_cpu_resources=2, --local_ram_resources=HOST_RAM*.5, --local_cpu_resources=HOST_CPUS-1). The flags are independent; one or both may be set. By default Bazel will estimate the amount of RAM and number of CPU cores directly from the local system's configuration.

This option, which is enabled by default, specifies whether the runfiles symlinks for tests and binaries should be built in the output directory. Using --nobuild_runfile_links can be useful to validate if all targets compile without incurring the overhead for building the runfiles trees.

When tests (or applications) are executed, their run-time data dependencies are gathered together in one place. Within Bazel's output tree, this "runfiles" tree is typically rooted as a sibling of the corresponding binary or test. During test execution, runfiles may be accessed using paths of the form $TEST_SRCDIR/workspace/packagename/filename. The runfiles tree ensures that tests have access to all the files upon which they have a declared dependence, and nothing more. By default, the runfiles tree is implemented by constructing a set of symbolic links to the required files. As the set of links grows, so does the cost of this operation, and for some large builds it can contribute significantly to overall build time, particularly because each individual test (or application) requires its own runfiles tree.


This option, which is enabled by default, specifies whether runfiles manifests should be written to the output tree. Disabling it implies --nobuild_runfile_links. It can be disabled when executing tests remotely, as runfiles trees will be created remotely from in-memory manifests.


When this option is enabled, Bazel will discard the analysis cache right before execution starts, thus freeing up additional memory (around 10%) for the execution phase. The drawback is that further incremental builds will be slower. See also memory-saving mode.

--[no]keep_going (-k)

As in GNU Make, the execution phase of a build stops when the first error is encountered. Sometimes it is useful to try to build as much as possible even in the face of errors. This option enables that behavior, and when it is specified, the build will attempt to build every target whose prerequisites were successfully built, but will ignore errors.

While this option is usually associated with the execution phase of a build, it also affects the analysis phase: if several targets are specified in a build command, but only some of them can be successfully analyzed, the build will stop with an error unless --keep_going is specified, in which case the build will proceed to the execution phase, but only for the targets that were successfully analyzed.


This option changes the way java_library targets are compiled by Bazel. Instead of using the output of a java_library for compiling dependent java_library targets, Bazel will create interface jars that contain only the signatures of non-private members (public, protected, and default (package) access methods and fields) and use the interface jars to compile the dependent targets. This makes it possible to avoid recompilation when changes are only made to method bodies or private members of a class.

Note that using --use_ijars might give you a different error message when you are accidentally referring to a non visible member of another class: Instead of getting an error that the member is not visible you will get an error that the member does not exist.

Note that changing the --use_ijars setting will force a recompilation of all affected classes.


This option enables interface shared objects, which makes binaries and other shared libraries depend on the interface of a shared object, rather than its implementation. When only the implementation changes, Bazel can avoid rebuilding targets that depend on the changed shared library unnecessarily.

Output selection

These options determine what to build or test.


This option causes the execution phase of the build to occur; it is on by default. When it is switched off, the execution phase is skipped, and only the first two phases, loading and analysis, occur.

This option can be useful for validating BUILD files and detecting errors in the inputs, without actually building anything.


If specified, Bazel will build only what is necessary to run the *_test and test_suite rules that were not filtered due to their size, timeout, tag, or language. If specified, Bazel will ignore other targets specified on the command line. By default, this option is disabled and Bazel will build everything requested, including *_test and test_suite rules that are filtered out from testing. This is useful because running bazel test --build_tests_only foo/... may not detect all build breakages in the foo tree.


This option causes Bazel not to perform a build, but merely check whether all specified targets are up-to-date. If so, the build completes successfully, as usual. However, if any files are out of date, instead of being built, an error is reported and the build fails. This option may be useful to determine whether a build has been performed more recently than a source edit (e.g. for pre-submit checks) without incurring the cost of a build.

See also --check_tests_up_to_date.


Compile a single dependency of the argument files. This is useful for syntax checking source files in IDEs, for example, by rebuilding a single target that depends on the source file to detect errors as early as possible in the edit/build/test cycle. This argument affects the way all non-flag arguments are interpreted: each argument must be a file target label or a plain filename relative to the current working directory, and one rule that depends on each source filename is built. For C++ and Java sources, rules in the same language space are preferentially chosen. For multiple rules with the same preference, the one that appears first in the BUILD file is chosen. An explicitly named target pattern which does not reference a source file results in an error.


The --save_temps option causes temporary outputs from the compiler to be saved. These include .s files (assembler code), .i (preprocessed C) and .ii (preprocessed C++) files. These outputs are often useful for debugging. Temps will only be generated for the set of targets specified on the command line.

Note that the implementation of --save_temps does not use the compiler's -save-temps flag. Instead, there are two passes, one with -S and one with -E. A consequence of this is that if your build fails, Bazel may not yet have produced the ".i" or ".ii" and ".s" files. If you're trying to use --save_temps to debug a failed compilation, you may need to also use --keep_going so that Bazel will still try to produce the preprocessed files after the compilation fails.

The --save_temps flag currently works only for cc_* rules.

To ensure that Bazel prints the location of the additional output files, check that your --show_result n setting is high enough.


If specified, Bazel will build only targets that have at least one required tag (if any of them are specified) and does not have any excluded tags. Build tag filter is specified as comma delimited list of tag keywords, optionally preceded with '-' sign used to denote excluded tags. Required tags may also have a preceding '+' sign.

When running tests, Bazel ignores --build_tag_filters for test targets, which are built and run even if they do not match this filter. To avoid building them, filter test targets using --test_tag_filters or by explicitly excluding them.


If specified, Bazel will test (or build if --build_tests_only is also specified) only test targets with the given size. Test size filter is specified as comma delimited list of allowed test size values (small, medium, large or enormous), optionally preceded with '-' sign used to denote excluded test sizes. For example,

  % bazel test --test_size_filters=small,medium //foo:all
  % bazel test --test_size_filters=-large,-enormous //foo:all

will test only small and medium tests inside //foo.

By default, test size filtering is not applied.


If specified, Bazel will test (or build if --build_tests_only is also specified) only test targets with the given timeout. Test timeout filter is specified as comma delimited list of allowed test timeout values (short, moderate, long or eternal), optionally preceded with '-' sign used to denote excluded test timeouts. See --test_size_filters for example syntax.

By default, test timeout filtering is not applied.


If specified, Bazel will test (or build if --build_tests_only is also specified) only test targets that have at least one required tag (if any of them are specified) and does not have any excluded tags. Test tag filter is specified as comma delimited list of tag keywords, optionally preceded with '-' sign used to denote excluded tags. Required tags may also have a preceding '+' sign.

For example,

  % bazel test --test_tag_filters=performance,stress,-flaky //myproject:all

will test targets that are tagged with either performance or stress tag but are not tagged with the flaky tag.

By default, test tag filtering is not applied. Note that you can also filter on test's size and local tags in this manner.


Specifies a comma-separated list of test languages for languages with an official *_test rule the (see build encyclopedia for a full list of these). Each language can be optionally preceded with '-' to specify excluded languages. The name used for each language should be the same as the language prefix in the *_test rule, for example, cc, java or sh.

If specified, Bazel will test (or build if --build_tests_only is also specified) only test targets of the specified language(s).

For example,

  % bazel test --test_lang_filters=cc,java foo/...

will test only the C/C++ and Java tests (defined using cc_test and java_test rules, respectively) in foo/..., while

  % bazel test --test_lang_filters=-sh,-java foo/...

will run all of the tests in foo/... except for the sh_test and java_test tests.

By default, test language filtering is not applied.


Specifies a filter that the test runner may use to pick a subset of tests for running. All targets specified in the invocation are built, but depending on the expression only some of them may be executed; in some cases, only certain test methods are run.

The particular interpretation of filter-expression is up to the test framework responsible for running the test. It may be a glob, substring, or regexp. --test_filter is a convenience over passing different --test_arg filter arguments, but not all frameworks support it.


These options control the verbosity of Bazel's output, either to the terminal, or to additional log files.


This option, which requires a filename argument, causes the dependency checker in bazel build's execution phase to explain, for each build step, either why it is being executed, or that it is up-to-date. The explanation is written to logfile.

If you are encountering unexpected rebuilds, this option can help to understand the reason. Add it to your .bazelrc so that logging occurs for all subsequent builds, and then inspect the log when you see an execution step executed unexpectedly. This option may carry a small performance penalty, so you might want to remove it when it is no longer needed.


This option increases the verbosity of the explanations generated when the --explain option is enabled.

In particular, if verbose explanations are enabled, and an output file is rebuilt because the command used to build it has changed, then the output in the explanation file will include the full details of the new command (at least for most commands).

Using this option may significantly increase the length of the generated explanation file and the performance penalty of using --explain.

If --explain is not enabled, then --verbose_explanations has no effect.


This option, which takes a filename argument, causes Bazel to write profiling data into a file. The data then can be analyzed or parsed using the bazel analyze-profile command. The Build profile can be useful in understanding where Bazel's build command is spending its time.


This option causes Bazel to output package-loading progress messages. If it is disabled, the messages won't be shown.


This option causes progress messages to be displayed; it is on by default. When disabled, progress messages are suppressed.

--show_progress_rate_limit= n

This option causes bazel to display only one progress message per n seconds, where n is a real number. If n is -1, all progress messages will be displayed. The default value for this option is 0.2, meaning bazel will limit the progress messages to one per every 0.2 seconds.


This option controls the printing of result information at the end of a bazel build command. By default, if a single build target was specified, Bazel prints a message stating whether or not the target was successfully brought up-to-date, and if so, the list of output files that the target created. If multiple targets were specified, result information is not displayed.

While the result information may be useful for builds of a single target or a few targets, for large builds (e.g. an entire top-level project tree), this information can be overwhelming and distracting; this option allows it to be controlled. --show_result takes an integer argument, which is the maximum number of targets for which full result information should be printed. By default, the value is 1. Above this threshold, no result information is shown for individual targets. Thus zero causes the result information to be suppressed always, and a very large value causes the result to be printed always.

Users may wish to choose a value in-between if they regularly alternate between building a small group of targets (for example, during the compile-edit-test cycle) and a large group of targets (for example, when establishing a new workspace or running regression tests). In the former case, the result information is very useful whereas in the latter case it is less so. As with all options, this can be specified implicitly via the .bazelrc file.

The files are printed so as to make it easy to copy and paste the filename to the shell, to run built executables. The "up-to-date" or "failed" messages for each target can be easily parsed by scripts which drive a build.


This option causes Bazel to print extra debugging information when using sandboxing for action execution. This option also preserves sandbox directories, so that the files visible to actions during execution can be examined.

--subcommands (-s)

This option causes Bazel's execution phase to print the full command line for each command prior to executing it.

  >>>>> # //examples/cpp:hello-world [action 'Linking examples/cpp/hello-world']
  (cd /home/johndoe/.cache/bazel/_bazel_johndoe/4c084335afceb392cfbe7c31afee3a9f/bazel && \
    exec env - \
    /usr/bin/gcc -o bazel-out/local-fastbuild/bin/examples/cpp/hello-world -B/usr/bin/ -Wl,-z,relro,-z,now -no-canonical-prefixes -pass-exit-codes -Wl,-S -Wl,@bazel-out/local_linux-fastbuild/bin/examples/cpp/hello-world-2.params)

Where possible, commands are printed in a Bourne shell compatible syntax, so that they can be easily copied and pasted to a shell command prompt. (The surrounding parentheses are provided to protect your shell from the cd and exec calls; be sure to copy them!) However some commands are implemented internally within Bazel, such as creating symlink trees. For these there's no command line to display.

--subcommands=pretty_print may be passed to print the arguments of the command as a list rather than as a single line. This may help make long command lines more readable.

See also --verbose_failures, below.

For logging subcommands to a file in a tool-friendly format, see --execution_log_json_file and --execution_log_binary_file.


This option causes Bazel's execution phase to print the full command line for commands that failed. This can be invaluable for debugging a failing build.

Failing commands are printed in a Bourne shell compatible syntax, suitable for copying and pasting to a shell prompt.

Workspace status

Use these options to "stamp" Bazel-built binaries: to embed additional information into the binaries, such as the source control revision or other workspace-related information. You can use this mechanism with rules that support the stamp attribute, such as genrule, cc_binary, and more.


This flag lets you specify a binary that Bazel runs before each build. The program can report information about the status of the workspace, such as the current source control revision.

The flag's value must be a path to a native program. On Linux/macOS this may be any executable. On Windows this must be a native binary, typically an ".exe", ".bat", or a ".cmd" file.

The program should print zero or more key/value pairs to standard output, one entry on each line, then exit with zero (otherwise the build fails). The key names can be anything but they may only use upper case letters and underscores. The first space after the key name separates it from the value. The value is the rest of the line (including additional whitespaces). Neither the key nor the value may span multiple lines. Keys must not be duplicated.

Bazel partitions the keys into two buckets: "stable" and "volatile". (The names "stable" and "volatile" are a bit counter-intuitive, so don't think much about them.)

Bazel then writes the key-value pairs into two files:

  • bazel-out/stable-status.txt contains all keys and values where the key's name starts with STABLE_
  • bazel-out/volatile-status.txt contains the rest of the keys and their values

The contract is:

  • "stable" keys' values should change rarely, if possible. If the contents of bazel-out/stable-status.txt change, Bazel invalidates the actions that depend on them. In other words, if a stable key's value changes, Bazel will rerun stamped actions. Therefore the stable status should not contain things like timestamps, because they change all the time, and would make Bazel rerun stamped actions with each build.

    Bazel always outputs the following stable keys:

    • BUILD_EMBED_LABEL: value of --embed_label
    • BUILD_HOST: the name of the host machine that Bazel is running on
    • BUILD_USER: the name of the user that Bazel is running as
  • "volatile" keys' values may change often. Bazel expects them to change all the time, like timestamps do, and duly updates the bazel-out/volatile-status.txt file. In order to avoid rerunning stamped actions all the time though, Bazel pretends that the volatile file never changes. In other words, if the volatile status file is the only file whose contents has changed, Bazel will not invalidate actions that depend on it. If other inputs of the actions have changed, then Bazel reruns that action, and the action will see the updated volatile status, but just the volatile status changing alone will not invalidate the action.

    Bazel always outputs the following volatile keys:

    • BUILD_TIMESTAMP: time of the build in seconds since the Unix Epoch (the value of System.currentTimeMillis() divided by a thousand)

On Linux/macOS you can pass --workspace_status_command=/bin/true to disable retrieving workspace status, because true does nothing, successfully (exits with zero) and prints no output. On Windows you can pass the path of MSYS's true.exe for the same effect.

If the workspace status command fails (exits non-zero) for any reason, the build will fail.

Example program on Linux using Git:

echo "CURRENT_TIME $(date +%s)"
echo "RANDOM_HASH $(cat /proc/sys/kernel/random/uuid)"
echo "STABLE_GIT_COMMIT $(git rev-parse HEAD)"

Pass this program's path with --workspace_status_command, and the stable status file will include the STABLE lines and the volatile status file will include the rest of the lines.


This option, in conjunction with the stamp rule attribute, controls whether to embed build information in binaries.

Stamping can be enabled or disabled explicitly on a per-rule basis using the stamp attribute. Please refer to the build encyclopedia for details. When a rule sets stamp = -1 (the default for *_binary rules), this option determines whether stamping is enabled.

Bazel never stamps binaries that are built for the host configuration, regardless of this option or the stamp attribute. By default, stamping is disabled for all tests. Specifying --stamp does not force targets to be rebuilt if their dependencies have not changed.

Setting --nostamp is generally desireable for build performance, as it reduces input volatility and maximizes build caching.


Use these options to control the host and target platforms that configure how builds work, and to control what execution platforms and toolchains are available to Bazel rules.

Please see background information on Platforms and Toolchains.


The labels of the platform rules describing the target platforms for the current command.


The label of a platform rule that describes the host system.


The platforms that are available as execution platforms to run actions. Platforms can be specified by exact target, or as a target pattern. These platforms will be considered before those declared in the WORKSPACE file by register_execution_platforms().


The toolchain rules to be considered during toolchain resolution. Toolchains can be specified by exact target, or as a target pattern. These toolchains will be considered before those declared in the WORKSPACE file by register_toolchains().


Print debug information while finding toolchains if the toolchain type matches the regex. Multiple regexes can be separated by commas. The regex can be negated by using a - at the beginning. This might help developers of Bazel or Starlark rules with debugging failures due to missing toolchains.



A convenience flag used to bind longer Starlark build settings to a shorter name. For more details, see the Starlark Configurations.

Changes the prefix of the generated convenience symlinks. The default value for the symlink prefix is bazel- which will create the symlinks bazel-bin, bazel-testlogs, and bazel-genfiles.

If the symbolic links cannot be created for any reason, a warning is issued but the build is still considered a success. In particular, this allows you to build in a read-only directory or one that you have no permission to write into. Any paths printed in informational messages at the conclusion of a build will only use the symlink-relative short form if the symlinks point to the expected location; in other words, you can rely on the correctness of those paths, even if you cannot rely on the symlinks being created.

Some common values of this option:

  • Suppress symlink creation: --symlink_prefix=/ will cause Bazel to not create or update any symlinks, including the bazel-out and bazel-<workspace> symlinks. Use this option to suppress symlink creation entirely.

  • Reduce clutter: --symlink_prefix=.bazel/ will cause Bazel to create symlinks called bin (etc) inside a hidden directory .bazel.


Adds a suffix to the configuration short name, which is used to determine the output directory. Setting this option to different values puts the files into different directories, for example to improve cache hit rates for builds that otherwise clobber each others output files, or to keep the output files around for comparisons.


Temporary flag for testing bazel default visibility changes. Not intended for general use but documented for completeness' sake.


This option is enabled by default. If disabled, Bazel will not use its local action cache. Disabling the local action cache saves memory and disk space for clean builds, but will make incremental builds slower.


This flag, whose value is the name of a file, causes Bazel to gather statistics about CPU usage by all Starlark threads, and write the profile, in pprof format, to the named file. Use this option to help identify Starlark functions that make loading and analysis slow due to excessive computation. For example:

$ bazel build --nobuild --starlark_cpu_profile=/tmp/pprof.gz my/project/...
$ pprof /tmp/pprof.gz
(pprof) top
Type: CPU
Time: Feb 6, 2020 at 12:06pm (PST)
Duration: 5.26s, Total samples = 3.34s (63.55%)
Showing nodes accounting for 3.34s, 100% of 3.34s total
      flat  flat%   sum%        cum   cum%
     1.86s 55.69% 55.69%      1.86s 55.69%  sort_source_files
     1.02s 30.54% 86.23%      1.02s 30.54%  expand_all_combinations
     0.44s 13.17% 99.40%      0.44s 13.17%  range
     0.02s   0.6%   100%      3.34s   100%  sorted
         0     0%   100%      1.38s 41.32%  my/project/main/BUILD
         0     0%   100%      1.96s 58.68%  my/project/library.bzl
         0     0%   100%      3.34s   100%  main

For different views of the same data, try the pprof commands svg, web, and list.

Using Bazel for releases

Bazel is used both by software engineers during the development cycle, and by release engineers when preparing binaries for deployment to production. This section provides a list of tips for release engineers using Bazel.

Significant options

When using Bazel for release builds, the same issues arise as for other scripts that perform a build, so you should read the scripting section of this manual. In particular, the following options are strongly recommended:

These options are also important:

  • --package_path
  • --symlink_prefix: for managing builds for multiple configurations, it may be convenient to distinguish each build with a distinct identifier, e.g. "64bit" vs. "32bit". This option differentiates the bazel-bin (etc.) symlinks.

Running tests

To build and run tests with bazel, type bazel test followed by the name of the test targets.

By default, this command performs simultaneous build and test activity, building all specified targets (including any non-test targets specified on the command line) and testing *_test and test_suite targets as soon as their prerequisites are built, meaning that test execution is interleaved with building. Doing so usually results in significant speed gains.

Options for bazel test

--cache_test_results=(yes|no|auto) (-t)

If this option is set to 'auto' (the default) then Bazel will only rerun a test if any of the following conditions applies:

  • Bazel detects changes in the test or its dependencies
  • the test is marked as external
  • multiple test runs were requested with --runs_per_test
  • the test failed.

If 'no', all tests will be executed unconditionally.

If 'yes', the caching behavior will be the same as auto except that it may cache test failures and test runs with --runs_per_test.

Note that test results are always saved in Bazel's output tree, regardless of whether this option is enabled, so you needn't have used --cache_test_results on the prior run(s) of bazel test in order to get cache hits. The option only affects whether Bazel will use previously saved results, not whether it will save results of the current run.

Users who have enabled this option by default in their .bazelrc file may find the abbreviations -t (on) or -t- (off) convenient for overriding the default on a particular run.


This option tells Bazel not to run the tests, but to merely check and report the cached test results. If there are any tests which have not been previously built and run, or whose tests results are out-of-date (e.g. because the source code or the build options have changed), then Bazel will report an error message ("test result is not up-to-date"), will record the test's status as "NO STATUS" (in red, if color output is enabled), and will return a non-zero exit code.

This option also implies --check_up_to_date behavior.

This option may be useful for pre-submit checks.


This option tells Bazel to explicitly warn the user if a test's timeout is significantly longer than the test's actual execution time. While a test's timeout should be set such that it is not flaky, a test that has a highly over-generous timeout can hide real problems that crop up unexpectedly.

For instance, a test that normally executes in a minute or two should not have a timeout of ETERNAL or LONG as these are much, much too generous. This option is useful to help users decide on a good timeout value or sanity check existing timeout values.

Note that each test shard is allotted the timeout of the entire XX_test target. Using this option does not affect a test's timeout value, merely warns if Bazel thinks the timeout could be restricted further.


By default, all tests are run to completion. If this flag is disabled, however, the build is aborted on any non-passing test. Subsequent build steps and test invocations are not run, and in-flight invocations are canceled. Do not specify both --notest_keep_going and --keep_going.


This option specifies the maximum number of times a test should be attempted if it fails for any reason. A test that initially fails but eventually succeeds is reported as FLAKY on the test summary. It is, however, considered to be passed when it comes to identifying Bazel exit code or total number of passed tests. Tests that fail all allowed attempts are considered to be failed.

By default (when this option is not specified, or when it is set to "default"), only a single attempt is allowed for regular tests, and 3 for test rules with the flaky attribute set. You can specify an integer value to override the maximum limit of test attempts. Bazel allows a maximum of 10 test attempts in order to prevent abuse of the system.


This option specifies the number of times each test should be executed. All test executions are treated as separate tests (e.g. fallback functionality will apply to each of them independently).

The status of a target with failing runs depends on the value of the --runs_per_test_detects_flakes flag:

  • If absent, any failing run causes the entire test to fail.
  • If present and two runs from the same shard return PASS and FAIL, the test will receive a status of flaky (unless other failing runs cause it to fail).

If a single number is specified, all tests will run that many times. Alternatively, a regular expression may be specified using the syntax regex@number. This constrains the effect of --runs_per_test to targets which match the regex (e.g. "--runs_per_test=^//pizza:.*@4" runs all tests under //pizza/ 4 times). This form of --runs_per_test may be specified more than once.


If this option is specified (by default it is not), Bazel will detect flaky test shards through --runs_per_test. If one or more runs for a single shard fail and one or more runs for the same shard pass, the target will be considered flaky with the flag. If unspecified, the target will report a failing status.


Specifies how the test result summary should be displayed.

  • short prints the results of each test along with the name of the file containing the test output if the test failed. This is the default value.
  • terse like short, but even shorter: only print information about tests which did not pass.
  • detailed prints each individual test case that failed, not only each test. The names of test output files are omitted.
  • none does not print test summary.


Specifies how test output should be displayed:

  • summary shows a summary of whether each test passed or failed. Also shows the output log file name for failed tests. The summary will be printed at the end of the build (during the build, one would see just simple progress messages when tests start, pass or fail). This is the default behavior.
  • errors sends combined stdout/stderr output from failed tests only into the stdout immediately after test is completed, ensuring that test output from simultaneous tests is not interleaved with each other. Prints a summary at the build as per summary output above.
  • all is similar to errors but prints output for all tests, including those which passed.
  • streamed streams stdout/stderr output from each test in real-time.


This option causes the Java virtual machine of a java test to wait for a connection from a JDWP-compliant debugger before starting the test. This option implies --test_output=streamed.


By default this option is enabled, causing test times and other additional information (such as test attempts) to be printed to the test summary. If --noverbose_test_summary is specified, test summary will include only test name, test status and cached test indicator and will be formatted to stay within 80 characters when possible.


Specifies temporary directory for tests executed locally. Each test will be executed in a separate subdirectory inside this directory. The directory will be cleaned at the beginning of the each bazel test command. By default, bazel will place this directory under Bazel output base directory. Note that this is a directory for running tests, not storing test results (those are always stored under the bazel-out directory).

--test_timeout= seconds OR --test_timeout= seconds,seconds,seconds,seconds

Overrides the timeout value for all tests by using specified number of seconds as a new timeout value. If only one value is provided, then it will be used for all test timeout categories.

Alternatively, four comma-separated values may be provided, specifying individual timeouts for short, moderate, long and eternal tests (in that order). In either form, zero or a negative value for any of the test sizes will be substituted by the default timeout for the given timeout categories as defined by the page Writing Tests. By default, Bazel will use these timeouts for all tests by inferring the timeout limit from the test's size whether the size is implicitly or explicitly set.

Tests which explicitly state their timeout category as distinct from their size will receive the same value as if that timeout had been implicitly set by the size tag. So a test of size 'small' which declares a 'long' timeout will have the same effective timeout that a 'large' tests has with no explicit timeout.


Passes command-line options/flags/arguments to each test process. This option can be used multiple times to pass several arguments, e.g. --test_arg=--logtostderr --test_arg=--v=3.

--test_env=variable=value OR --test_env=variable

Specifies additional variables that must be injected into the test environment for each test. If value is not specified it will be inherited from the shell environment used to start the bazel test command.

The environment can be accessed from within a test by using System.getenv("var") (Java), getenv("var") (C or C++),


This specifies a prefix that the test runner will insert in front of the test command before running it. The command-prefix is split into words using Bourne shell tokenization rules, and then the list of words is prepended to the command that will be executed.

If the first word is a fully-qualified label (i.e. starts with //) it is built. Then the label is substituted by the corresponding executable location that is prepended to the command that will be executed along with the other words.

Some caveats apply:

  • The PATH used for running tests may be different than the PATH in your environment, so you may need to use an absolute path for the --run_under command (the first word in command-prefix).
  • stdin is not connected, so --run_under can't be used for interactive commands.


        --run_under='/usr/bin/strace -c'
        --run_under='/usr/bin/valgrind --quiet --num-callers=20'

Test selection

As documented under Output selection options, you can filter tests by size, timeout, tag, or language. A convenience general name filter can forward particular filter args to the test runner.

Other options for bazel test

The syntax and the remaining options are exactly like bazel build.

Cleaning build outputs

The clean command

Bazel has a clean command, analogous to that of Make. It deletes the output directories for all build configurations performed by this Bazel instance, or the entire working tree created by this Bazel instance, and resets internal caches. If executed without any command-line options, then the output directory for all configurations will be cleaned.

Recall that each Bazel instance is associated with a single workspace, thus the clean command will delete all outputs from all builds you've done with that Bazel instance in that workspace.

To completely remove the entire working tree created by a Bazel instance, you can specify the --expunge option. When executed with --expunge, the clean command simply removes the entire output base tree which, in addition to the build output, contains all temp files created by Bazel. It also stops the Bazel server after the clean, equivalent to the shutdown command. For example, to clean up all disk and memory traces of a Bazel instance, you could specify:

  % bazel clean --expunge

Alternatively, you can expunge in the background by using --expunge_async. It is safe to invoke a Bazel command in the same client while the asynchronous expunge continues to run. Note, however, that this may introduce IO contention.

The clean command is provided primarily as a means of reclaiming disk space for workspaces that are no longer needed. Bazel's incremental rebuilds may not be perfect so clean can be used to recover a consistent state when problems arise.

Bazel's design is such that these problems are fixable and these bugs are a high priority to be fixed. If you ever find an incorrect incremental build, file a bug report, and report bugs in the tools rather than using clean.

Running executables

The bazel run command is similar to bazel build, except it is used to build and run a single target. Here is a typical session:

  % bazel run java/myapp:myapp -- --arg1 --arg2
  Welcome to Bazel
  INFO: Loading package: java/myapp
  INFO: Loading package: foo/bar
  INFO: Loading complete.  Analyzing...
  INFO: Found 1 target...
  Target //java/myapp:myapp up-to-date:
  INFO: Elapsed time: 0.638s, Critical Path: 0.34s

  INFO: Running command line: bazel-bin/java/myapp:myapp --arg1 --arg2
  Hello there

Note the use of the --. This is needed so that Bazel does not interpret --arg1 and --arg2 as Bazel options, but rather as part of the command line for running the binary. (The program being run simply says hello and prints out its args.)

bazel run is similar, but not identical, to directly invoking the binary built by Bazel and its behavior is different depending on whether the binary to be invoked is a test or not. When the binary is not a test, the current working directory will be the runfiles tree of the binary. When the binary is a test, the current working directory will be the exec root and a good-faith attempt is made to replicate the environment tests are usually run in. The emulation is not perfect, though, and tests that have multiple shards cannot be run this way (the --test_sharding_strategy=disabled command line option can be used to work around this) The following extra environment variables are also available to the binary:

  • BUILD_WORKSPACE_DIRECTORY: the root of the workspace where the build was run.
  • BUILD_WORKING_DIRECTORY: the current working directory where Bazel was run from.
These can be used, for example, to interpret file names on the command line in a user-friendly way.

Options for bazel run


This has the same effect as the --run_under option for bazel test (see above), except that it applies to the command being run by bazel run rather than to the tests being run by bazel test.

Filtering logging outputs from Bazel

When invoking a binary with bazel run, Bazel prints logging output from Bazel itself and the binary under invocation. To make the logs less noisy, you can suppress the outputs from Bazel itself with the --ui_event_filters and --noshow_progress flags. For example:

  bazel run --ui_event_filters=-info,-stdout,-stderr --noshow_progress //java/myapp:myapp

Executing tests

bazel run can also execute test binaries, which has the effect of running the test in a close approximation of the environment described at Writing Tests. Note that none of the --test_* arguments have an effect when running a test in this manner except --test_arg .

Querying the dependency graph

Bazel includes a query language for asking questions about the dependency graph used during the build. The query language is used by two commands: query and cquery. The major difference between the two commands is that query runs after the loading phase and cquery runs after the analysis phase. These tools are an invaluable aid to many software engineering tasks.

The query language is based on the idea of algebraic operations over graphs; it is documented in detail in Bazel Query Reference. Please refer to that document for reference, for examples, and for query-specific command-line options.

The query tool accepts several command-line option. --output selects the output format. --[no]keep_going (disabled by default) causes the query tool to continue to make progress upon errors; this behavior may be disabled if an incomplete result is not acceptable in case of errors.

The --[no]tool_deps option, enabled by default, causes dependencies in non-target configurations to be included in the dependency graph over which the query operates.

The --[no]implicit_deps option, enabled by default, causes implicit dependencies to be included in the dependency graph over which the query operates. An implicit dependency is one that is not explicitly specified in the BUILD file but added by bazel.

Example: "Show the locations of the definitions (in BUILD files) of all genrules required to build all the tests in the PEBL tree."

  bazel query --output location 'kind(genrule, deps(kind(".*_test rule", foo/bar/pebl/...)))'

Querying the action graph

Caution: The aquery command is still experimental and its API will change.

The aquery command allows you to query for actions in your build graph. It operates on the post-analysis configured target graph and exposes information about actions, artifacts and their relationships.

The tool accepts several command-line options. --output selects the output format. The default output format (text) is human-readable, use proto or textproto for machine-readable format. Notably, the aquery command runs on top of a regular Bazel build and inherits the set of options available during a build.

It supports the same set of functions that is also available to traditional query but siblings, buildfiles and tests.

More details on aquery can be found here.

Miscellaneous commands and options


The help command provides on-line help. By default, it shows a summary of available commands and help topics, as shown in the Bazel overview section above. Specifying an argument displays detailed help for a particular topic. Most topics are Bazel commands, e.g. build or query, but there are some additional help topics that do not correspond to commands.

--[no]long (-l)

By default, bazel help [topic] prints only a summary of the relevant options for a topic. If the --long option is specified, the type, default value and full description of each option is also printed.


Bazel server processes (see Client/server implementation) may be stopped by using the shutdown command. This command causes the Bazel server to exit as soon as it becomes idle (i.e. after the completion of any builds or other commands that are currently in progress). Bazel servers stop themselves after an idle timeout, so this command is rarely necessary; however, it can be useful in scripts when it is known that no further builds will occur in a given workspace.

shutdown accepts one option, --iff_heap_size_greater_than n, which requires an integer argument (in MB). If specified, this makes the shutdown conditional on the amount of memory already consumed. This is useful for scripts that initiate a lot of builds, as any memory leaks in the Bazel server could cause it to crash spuriously on occasion; performing a conditional restart preempts this condition.


The info command prints various values associated with the Bazel server instance, or with a specific build configuration. (These may be used by scripts that drive a build.)

The info command also permits a single (optional) argument, which is the name of one of the keys in the list below. In this case, bazel info key will print only the value for that one key. (This is especially convenient when scripting Bazel, as it avoids the need to pipe the result through sed -ne /key:/s/key://p:

Configuration-independent data

  • release: the release label for this Bazel instance, or "development version" if this is not a released binary.
  • workspace the absolute path to the base workspace directory.
  • install_base: the absolute path to the installation directory used by this Bazel instance for the current user. Bazel installs its internally required executables below this directory.
  • output_base: the absolute path to the base output directory used by this Bazel instance for the current user and workspace combination. Bazel puts all of its scratch and build output below this directory.
  • execution_root: the absolute path to the execution root directory under output_base. This directory is the root for all files accessible to commands executed during the build, and is the working directory for those commands. If the workspace directory is writable, a symlink named bazel-<workspace> is placed there pointing to this directory.
  • output_path: the absolute path to the output directory beneath the execution root used for all files actually generated as a result of build commands. If the workspace directory is writable, a symlink named bazel-out is placed there pointing to this directory.
  • server_pid: the process ID of the Bazel server process.
  • server_log: the absolute path to the Bazel server's debug log file. This file contains debugging information for all commands over the lifetime of the Bazel server, and is intended for human consumption by Bazel developers and power users.
  • command_log: the absolute path to the command log file; this contains the interleaved stdout and stderr streams of the most recent Bazel command. Note that running bazel info will overwrite the contents of this file, since it then becomes the most recent Bazel command. However, the location of the command log file will not change unless you change the setting of the --output_base or --output_user_root options.
  • used-heap-size, committed-heap-size, max-heap-size: reports various JVM heap size parameters. Respectively: memory currently used, memory currently guaranteed to be available to the JVM from the system, maximum possible allocation.
  • gc-count, gc-time: The cumulative count of garbage collections since the start of this Bazel server and the time spent to perform them. Note that these values are not reset at the start of every build.
  • package_path: A colon-separated list of paths which would be searched for packages by bazel. Has the same format as the --package_path build command line argument.

Example: the process ID of the Bazel server.

% bazel info server_pid

Configuration-specific data

These data may be affected by the configuration options passed to bazel info, for example --cpu, --compilation_mode, etc. The info command accepts all the options that control dependency analysis, since some of these determine the location of the output directory of a build, the choice of compiler, etc.

  • bazel-bin, bazel-testlogs, bazel-genfiles: reports the absolute path to the bazel-* directories in which programs generated by the build are located. This is usually, though not always, the same as the bazel-* symlinks created in the base workspace directory after a successful build. However, if the workspace directory is read-only, no bazel-* symlinks can be created. Scripts that use the value reported by bazel info, instead of assuming the existence of the symlink, will be more robust.
  • The complete "Make" environment. If the --show_make_env flag is specified, all variables in the current configuration's "Make" environment are also displayed (e.g. CC, GLIBC_VERSION, etc). These are the variables accessed using the $(CC) or varref("CC") syntax inside BUILD files.

Example: the C++ compiler for the current configuration. This is the $(CC) variable in the "Make" environment, so the --show_make_env flag is needed.

  % bazel info --show_make_env -c opt COMPILATION_MODE

Example: the bazel-bin output directory for the current configuration. This is guaranteed to be correct even in cases where the bazel-bin symlink cannot be created for some reason (e.g. you are building from a read-only directory).

% bazel info --cpu=piii bazel-bin
% bazel info --cpu=k8 bazel-bin

version and --version

The version command prints version details about the built Bazel binary, including the changelist at which it was built and the date. These are particularly useful in determining if you have the latest Bazel, or if you are reporting bugs. Some of the interesting values are:

  • changelist: the changelist at which this version of Bazel was released.
  • label: the release label for this Bazel instance, or "development version" if this is not a released binary. Very useful when reporting bugs.

bazel --version, with no other args, will emit the same output as bazel version --gnu_format, except without the side-effect of potentially starting a Bazel server or unpacking the server archive. bazel --version can be run from anywhere - it does not require a workspace directory.


The mobile-install command installs apps to mobile devices. Currently only Android devices running ART are supported. See bazel mobile-install for more information.

Note that this command does not install the same thing that bazel build produces: Bazel tweaks the app so that it can be built, installed and re-installed quickly. This should, however, be mostly transparent to the app.

The following options are supported:


If set, Bazel tries to install the app incrementally, that is, only those parts that have changed since the last build. This cannot update resources referenced from AndroidManifest.xml, native code or Java resources (i.e. ones referenced by Class.getResource()). If these things change, this option must be omitted. Contrary to the spirit of Bazel and due to limitations of the Android platform, it is the responsibility of the user to know when this command is good enough and when a full install is needed. If you are using a device with Marshmallow or later, consider the --split_apks flag.


Whether to use split apks to install and update the application on the device. Works only with devices with Marshmallow or later. Note that the --incremental flag is not necessary when using --split_apks.


Starts the app in a clean state after installing. Equivalent to --start=COLD.


Waits for debugger to be attached before starting the app in a clean state after installing. Equivalent to --start=DEBUG.


How the app should be started after installing it. Supported start_types are:

  • NO Does not start the app. This is the default.
  • COLD Starts the app from a clean state after install.
  • WARM Preserves and restores the application state on incremental installs.
  • DEBUG Waits for the debugger before starting the app in a clean state after install.

Note that if more than one of --start=start_type, --start_app or --debug_app is set, the last value is used.


Indicates the adb binary to be used. The default is to use the adb in the Android SDK specified by --android_sdk.


Extra arguments to adb. These come before the subcommand in the command line and are typically used to specify which device to install to. For example, to select the Android device or emulator to use:

% bazel mobile-install --adb_arg=-s --adb_arg=deadbeef

invokes adb as

adb -s deadbeef install ...


The verbosity for incremental install. Set to 1 for debug logging to be printed to the console.


The dump command prints to stdout a dump of the internal state of the Bazel server. This command is intended primarily for use by Bazel developers, so the output of this command is not specified, and is subject to change.

By default, command will just print help message outlining possible options to dump specific areas of the Bazel state. In order to dump internal state, at least one of the options must be specified.

Following options are supported:

  • --action_cache dumps action cache content.
  • --packages dumps package cache content.
  • --skyframe dumps state of internal Bazel dependency graph.
  • --rules dumps rule summary for each rule and aspect class, including counts and action counts. This includes both native and Starlark rules. If memory tracking is enabled, then the rules' memory consumption is also printed.
  • --skylark_memory dumps a pprof compatible .gz file to the specified path. You must enable memory tracking for this to work.

Memory tracking

Some dump commands require memory tracking. To turn this on, you have to pass startup flags to Bazel:

  • --host_jvm_args=-javaagent:$BAZEL/third_party/allocation_instrumenter/java-allocation-instrumenter-3.3.0.jar
  • --host_jvm_args=-DRULE_MEMORY_TRACKER=1

The java-agent is checked into Bazel at third_party/allocation_instrumenter/java-allocation-instrumenter-3.3.0.jar, so make sure you adjust $BAZEL for where you keep your Bazel repository. Do not forget to keep passing these options to Bazel for every command or the server will restart.


    % bazel --host_jvm_args=-javaagent:$BAZEL/third_party/allocation_instrumenter/java-allocation-instrumenter-3.3.0.jar \
    --host_jvm_args=-DRULE_MEMORY_TRACKER=1 \
    build --nobuild <targets>

    # Dump rules
    % bazel --host_jvm_args=-javaagent:$BAZEL/third_party/allocation_instrumenter/java-allocation-instrumenter-3.3.0.jar \
    --host_jvm_args=-DRULE_MEMORY_TRACKER=1 \
    dump --rules

    # Dump Starlark heap and analyze it with pprof
    % bazel --host_jvm_args=-javaagent:$BAZEL/third_party/allocation_instrumenter/java-allocation-instrumenter-3.3.0.jar \
    --host_jvm_args=-DRULE_MEMORY_TRACKER=1 \
    dump --skylark_memory=$HOME/prof.gz
    % pprof -flame $HOME/prof.gz


The analyze-profile command analyzes data previously gathered during the build using --profile option. It provides several options to either perform analysis of the build execution or export data in the specified format.

The following options are supported:

  • --dump displays all gathered data in a human-readable format. However, this it does not support other formats yet.

See the section on Troubleshooting performance by profiling for format details and usage help.


The canonicalize-flags command, which takes a list of options for a Bazel command and returns a list of options that has the same effect. The new list of options is canonical, i.e., two lists of options with the same effect are canonicalized to the same new list.

The --for_command option can be used to select between different commands. At this time, only build and test are supported. Options that the given command does not support cause an error.

Note that a small number of options cannot be reordered, because Bazel cannot ensure that the effect is identical. Also note that this command does not expand flags from --config.

As an example:

  % bazel canonicalize-flags -- --config=any_name --test_tag_filters="-lint"

Startup options

The options described in this section affect the startup of the Java virtual machine used by Bazel server process, and they apply to all subsequent commands handled by that server. If there is an already running Bazel server and the startup options do not match, it will be restarted.

All of the options described in this section must be specified using the --key=value or --key value syntax. Also, these options must appear before the name of the Bazel command. Use startup --key=value to list these in a .bazelrc file.


This option requires a path argument, which must specify a writable directory. Bazel will use this location to write all its output. The output base is also the key by which the client locates the Bazel server. By changing the output base, you change the server which will handle the command.

By default, the output base is derived from the user's login name, and the name of the workspace directory (actually, its MD5 digest), so a typical value looks like: /var/tmp/google/_bazel_johndoe/d41d8cd98f00b204e9800998ecf8427e. Note that the client uses the output base to find the Bazel server instance, so if you specify a different output base in a Bazel command, a different server will be found (or started) to handle the request. It's possible to perform two concurrent builds in the same workspace directory by varying the output base.

For example:

  % bazel --output_base ${OUTPUT_BASE}1 build //foo  &  bazel --output_base ${OUTPUT_BASE}2 build //bar

In this command, the two Bazel commands run concurrently (because of the shell & operator), each using a different Bazel server instance (because of the different output bases). In contrast, if the default output base was used in both commands, then both requests would be sent to the same server, which would handle them sequentially: building //foo first, followed by an incremental build of //bar.

Tip:We recommend you do not use an NFS or similar networked file system for the root directory, as the higher access latency will cause noticeably slower builds.


Points to the root directory where output and install bases are created. The directory must either not exist or be owned by the calling user. In the past, this was allowed to point to a directory shared among various users but it's not allowed any longer. This may be allowed once issue #11100 is addressed.

If the --output_base option is specified, it overrides using --output_user_root to calculate the output base.

The install base location is calculated based on --output_user_root, plus the MD5 identity of the Bazel embedded binaries.

You can use the --output_user_root option to choose an alternate base location for all of Bazel's output (install base and output base) if there is a better location in your filesystem layout.

Tip:We recommend you do not use an NFS or similar networked file system for the root directory, as the higher access latency will cause noticeably slower builds.


Specifies the Java virtual machine in which Bazel itself runs. The value must be a path to the directory containing a JDK or JRE. It should not be a label. This option should appear before any Bazel command, for example:

  % bazel --server_javabase=/usr/local/buildtools/java/jdk11 build //foo

This flag does not affect the JVMs used by Bazel subprocesses such as applications, tests, tools, and so on. Use build options --javabase or --host_javabase instead.

This flag was previously named --host_javabase (sometimes referred to as the 'left-hand side' --host_javabase), but was renamed to avoid confusion with the build flag --host_javabase (sometimes referred to as the 'right-hand side' --host_javabase).


Specifies a startup option to be passed to the Java virtual machine in which Bazel itself runs. This can be used to set the stack size, for example:

  % bazel --host_jvm_args="-Xss256K" build //foo

This option can be used multiple times with individual arguments. Note that setting this flag should rarely be needed. You can also pass a space-separated list of strings, each of which will be interpreted as a separate JVM argument, but this feature will soon be deprecated.

That this does not affect any JVMs used by subprocesses of Bazel: applications, tests, tools, and so on. To pass JVM options to executable Java programs, whether run by bazel run or on the command-line, you should use the --jvm_flags argument which all java_binary and java_test programs support. Alternatively for tests, use bazel test --test_arg=--jvm_flags=foo ....


This option causes the Java virtual machine to wait for a connection from a JDWP-compliant debugger before calling the main method of Bazel itself. This is primarily intended for use by Bazel developers.

(Please note that this does not affect any JVMs used by subprocesses of Bazel: applications, tests, tools, etc.)


This option causes Bazel to automatically search for an installed JDK on startup, and to fall back to the installed JRE if the embedded JRE isn't available. --explicit_server_javabase can be used to pick an explicit JRE to run bazel with.


Batch mode causes Bazel to not use the standard client/server mode described above, instead running a bazel java process for a single command, which has been used for more predictable semantics with respect to signal handling, job control, and environment variable inheritance, and is necessary for running bazel in a chroot jail.

Batch mode retains proper queueing semantics within the same output_base. That is, simultaneous invocations will be processed in order, without overlap. If a batch mode Bazel is run on a client with a running server, it first kills the server before processing the command.

Bazel will run slower in batch mode, or with the alternatives described above. This is because, among other things, the build file cache is memory-resident, so it is not preserved between sequential batch invocations. Therefore, using batch mode often makes more sense in cases where performance is less critical, such as continuous builds.

WARNING: --batch is sufficiently slower than standard client/server mode. Additionally it might not support all of the features and optimizations which are made possible by a persistent Bazel server. If you're using --batch for the purpose of build isolation, you should use the command option --nokeep_state_after_build, which guarantees that no incremental in-memory state is kept between builds. In order to restart the Bazel server and JVM after a build, please explicitly do so using the "shutdown" command.


This option specifies how long, in seconds, the Bazel server process should wait after the last client request, before it exits. The default value is 10800 (3 hours). --max_idle_secs=0 will cause the Bazel server process to persist indefinitely. NOTE: this flag is only read if Bazel needs to start a new server. Changing this option will not cause the server to restart.

This option may be used by scripts that invoke Bazel to ensure that they do not leave Bazel server processes on a user's machine when they would not be running otherwise. For example, a presubmit script might wish to invoke bazel query to ensure that a user's pending change does not introduce unwanted dependencies. However, if the user has not done a recent build in that workspace, it would be undesirable for the presubmit script to start a Bazel server just for it to remain idle for the rest of the day. By specifying a small value of --max_idle_secs in the query request, the script can ensure that if it caused a new server to start, that server will exit promptly, but if instead there was already a server running, that server will continue to run until it has been idle for the usual time. Of course, the existing server's idle timer will be reset.


If enabled and --max_idle_secs is set to a positive duration, after the build server has been idle for a while, shut down the server when the system is low on memory. Linux only.

In addition to running an idle check corresponding to max_idle_secs, the build server will starts monitoring available system memory after the server has been idle for some time. If the available system memory becomes critically low, the server will exit.


If enabled, Bazel will wait for other Bazel commands holding the server lock to complete before progressing. If disabled, Bazel will exit in error if it cannot immediately acquire the lock and proceed. Developers might use this in presubmit checks to avoid long waits caused by another Bazel command in the same client.


Sets a level from 0-7 for best-effort IO scheduling. 0 is highest priority, 7 is lowest. The anticipatory scheduler may only honor up to priority 4. Negative values are ignored.


Use batch CPU scheduling for Bazel. This policy is useful for workloads that are non-interactive, but do not want to lower their nice value. See 'man 2 sched_setscheduler'. This policy may provide for better system interactivity at the expense of Bazel throughput.

Miscellaneous options


Controls whether Bazel announces command options read from the bazelrc file when starting up. (Startup options are unconditionally announced.)

--color (yes|no|auto)

This option determines whether Bazel will use colors to highlight its output on the screen.

If this option is set to yes, color output is enabled. If this option is set to auto, Bazel will use color output only if the output is being sent to a terminal and the TERM environment variable is set to a value other than dumb, emacs, or xterm-mono. If this option is set to no, color output is disabled, regardless of whether the output is going to a terminal and regardless of the setting of the TERM environment variable.


Selects additional config section from the rc files; for the current command, it also pulls in the options from command:name if such a section exists. Can be specified multiple times to add flags from several config sections. Expansions can refer to other definitions (i.e. expansions can be chained).

--curses (yes|no|auto)

This option determines whether Bazel will use cursor controls in its screen output. This results in less scrolling data, and a more compact, easy-to-read stream of output from Bazel. This works well with --color.

If this option is set to yes, use of cursor controls is enabled. If this option is set to no, use of cursor controls is disabled. If this option is set to auto, use of cursor controls will be enabled under the same conditions as for --color=auto.


If specified, a timestamp is added to each message generated by Bazel specifying the time at which the message was displayed.