Cross-Compiling Geth

Note: All of these and much more have been merged into the project Makefile. You can cross build via make geth-<os>-<platform> without needing to know any of these details from below.

Developers usually have a preferred platform that they feel most comfortable working in, with all the necessary tools, libraries and environments set up for an optimal workflow. However, there’s often need to build for either a different CPU architecture, or an entirely different operating system; but maintaining a development environment for each and switching between the them quickly becomes unwieldy.

Here we present a very simple way to cross compile Ethereum to various operating systems and architectures using a minimal set of prerequisites and a completely containerized approach, guaranteeing that your development environment remains clean even after the complex requirements and mechanisms of a cross compilation.

The currently supported target platforms are:

  • ARMv7 Android and iOS
  • 32 bit, 64 bit and ARMv5 Linux
  • 32 bit and 64 bit Mac OSX
  • 32 bit and 64 bit Windows

Please note, that cross compilation does not replace a release build. Although resulting binaries can usually run perfectly on the desired platform, compiling on a native system with the specialized tools provided by the official vendor can often result in more a finely optimized code.

Cross compilation environment

Although the go-ethereum project is written in Go, it does include a bit of C code shared between all implementations to ensure that all perform equally well, including a dependency to the GNU Multiple Precision Arithmetic Library. Because of these, Go cannot by itself compile to a different platform than the host. To overcome this limitation, we will use xgo, a Go cross compiler package based on Docker containers that has been architected specifically to allow both embedded C snippets as well as simpler external C dependencies during compilation.

The xgo project has two simple dependencies: Docker (to ensure that the build environment is completely contained) and Go. On most platforms these should be available from the official package repositories. For manually installing them, please consult their install guides at Docker and Go respectively. This guide assumes that these two dependencies are met.

To install and/or update xgo, simply type:

$ go get -u

You can test whether xgo is functioning correctly by requesting it to cross compile itself and verifying that all cross compilations succeeded or not.

$ xgo

$ ls -al
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root     root      2792436 Sep 14 16:45 xgo-android-21-arm
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root     root      2353212 Sep 14 16:45 xgo-darwin-386
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root     root      2906128 Sep 14 16:45 xgo-darwin-amd64
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root     root      2388288 Sep 14 16:45 xgo-linux-386
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root     root      2960560 Sep 14 16:45 xgo-linux-amd64
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root     root      2437864 Sep 14 16:45 xgo-linux-arm
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root     root      2551808 Sep 14 16:45 xgo-windows-386.exe
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root     root      3130368 Sep 14 16:45 xgo-windows-amd64.exe

Building Ethereum

Cross compiling Ethereum is analogous to the above example, but an additional flags is required to satisfy the dependencies:

  • --deps is used to inject arbitrary C dependency packages and pre-build them

Injecting the GNU Arithmetic Library dependency and selecting geth would be:

$ xgo --deps= \

$ ls -al
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root     root     23213372 Sep 14 17:59 geth-android-21-arm
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root     root     14373980 Sep 14 17:59 geth-darwin-386
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root     root     17373676 Sep 14 17:59 geth-darwin-amd64
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root     root     21098910 Sep 14 17:59 geth-linux-386
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root     root     25049693 Sep 14 17:59 geth-linux-amd64
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root     root     20578535 Sep 14 17:59 geth-linux-arm
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root     root     16351260 Sep 14 17:59 geth-windows-386.exe
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root     root     19418071 Sep 14 17:59 geth-windows-amd64.exe

As the cross compiler needs to build all the dependencies as well as the main project itself for each platform, it may take a while for the build to complete (approximately 3-4 minutes on a Core i7 3770K machine).

Fine tuning the build

By default Go, and inherently xgo, checks out and tries to build the master branch of a source repository. However, more often than not, you’ll probably want to build a different branch from possibly an entirely different remote repository. These can be controlled via the --remote and --branch flags.

To build the develop branch of the official go-ethereum repository instead of the default master branch, you just need to specify it as an additional command line flag (--branch):

$ xgo --deps= \
      --branch=develop                                          \

Additionally, during development you will most probably want to not only build a custom branch, but also one originating from your own fork of the repository instead of the upstream one. This can be done via the --remote flag:

$ xgo --deps= \
      --remote=          \
      --branch=rpi-staging                                      \

By default xgo builds binaries for all supported platforms and architectures, with Android binaries defaulting to the highest released Android NDK platform. To limit the build targets or compile to a different Android platform, use the --targets CLI parameter.

$ xgo --deps= \
      --targets=android-16/arm,windows/*                        \

Building locally

If you would like to cross compile your local development version, simply specify a local path (starting with . or /), and xgo will use all local code from GOPATH, only downloading missing dependencies. In such a case of course, the --branch, --remote and --pkg arguments are no-op:

$ xgo --deps= \

Using the Makefile

Having understood the gist of xgo based cross compilation, you do not need to actually memorize and maintain these commands, as they have been incorporated into the official Makefile and can be invoked with a trivial make request:

  • make geth-cross: Cross compiles to every supported OS and architecture
  • make geth-<os>: Cross compiles supported architectures of a particular OS (e.g. linux)
  • make geth-<os>-<arch>: Cross compiles to a specific OS/architecture (e.g. linux, arm)

We advise using the make based commands opposed to manually invoking xgo as we do maintain the Makefile actively whereas we cannot guarantee that this document will be always readily updated to latest advancements.

Tuning the cross builds

A few of the xgo build options have also been surfaced directly into the Makefile to allow fine tuning builds to work around either upstream Go issues, or to enable some fancier mechanics.

  • make ... GO=<go>: Use a specific Go runtime (e.g. 1.5.1, 1.5-develop, develop)
  • make ... MODE=<mode>: Build a specific target type (e.g. exe, c-archive).

Please note that these are not yet fully finalized, so they may or may not change in the future as our code and the Go runtime features change.