Getting Started with the LLVM System


Welcome to LLVM! In order to get started, you first need to know some basic information.

First, LLVM comes in three pieces. The first piece is the LLVM suite. This contains all of the tools, libraries, and header files needed to use LLVM. It contains an assembler, disassembler, bitcode analyzer and bitcode optimizer. It also contains basic regression tests that can be used to test the LLVM tools and the Clang front end.

The second piece is the Clang front end. This component compiles C, C++, Objective C, and Objective C++ code into LLVM bitcode. Once compiled into LLVM bitcode, a program can be manipulated with the LLVM tools from the LLVM suite.

There is a third, optional piece called Test Suite. It is a suite of programs with a testing harness that can be used to further test LLVM’s functionality and performance.

Getting Started Quickly (A Summary)

The LLVM Getting Started documentation may be out of date. So, the Clang Getting Started page might also be a good place to start.

Here’s the short story for getting up and running quickly with LLVM:

  1. Read the documentation.
  2. Read the documentation.
  3. Remember that you were warned twice about reading the documentation.
  4. Checkout LLVM:
    • cd where-you-want-llvm-to-live
    • svn co llvm
  5. Checkout Clang:
    • cd where-you-want-llvm-to-live
    • cd llvm/tools
    • svn co clang
  6. Checkout Compiler-RT:
    • cd where-you-want-llvm-to-live
    • cd llvm/projects
    • svn co compiler-rt
  7. Get the Test Suite Source Code [Optional]
    • cd where-you-want-llvm-to-live
    • cd llvm/projects
    • svn co test-suite
  8. Configure and build LLVM and Clang:
    • cd where-you-want-to-build-llvm
    • mkdir build (for building without polluting the source dir)
    • cd build
    • ../llvm/configure [options] Some common options:
      • --prefix=directory — Specify for directory the full pathname of where you want the LLVM tools and libraries to be installed (default /usr/local).
      • --enable-optimized — Compile with optimizations enabled (default is NO).
      • --enable-assertions — Compile with assertion checks enabled (default is YES).
    • make [-j] — The -j specifies the number of jobs (commands) to run simultaneously. This builds both LLVM and Clang for Debug+Asserts mode. The --enable-optimized configure option is used to specify a Release build.
    • make check-all — This run the regression tests to ensure everything is in working order.
    • It is also possible to use CMake instead of the makefiles. With CMake it is possible to generate project files for several IDEs: Xcode, Eclipse CDT4, CodeBlocks, Qt-Creator (use the CodeBlocks generator), KDevelop3.
    • If you get an “internal compiler error (ICE)” or test failures, see below.

Consult the Getting Started with LLVM section for detailed information on configuring and compiling LLVM. See Setting Up Your Environment for tips that simplify working with the Clang front end and LLVM tools. Go to Program Layout to learn about the layout of the source code tree.


Before you begin to use the LLVM system, review the requirements given below. This may save you some trouble by knowing ahead of time what hardware and software you will need.


LLVM is known to work on the following host platforms:

OS Arch Compilers
AuroraUX x861 GCC
Linux x861 GCC, Clang
Linux amd64 GCC, Clang
Linux ARM4 GCC, Clang
Linux PowerPC GCC, Clang
Solaris V9 (Ultrasparc) GCC
FreeBSD x861 GCC, Clang
FreeBSD amd64 GCC, Clang
MacOS X2 PowerPC GCC
MacOS X x86 GCC, Clang
Cygwin/Win32 x861, 3 GCC
Windows x861 Visual Studio
Windows x64 x86-64 Visual Studio


  1. Code generation supported for Pentium processors and up
  2. Code generation supported for 32-bit ABI only
  3. To use LLVM modules on Win32-based system, you may configure LLVM with --enable-shared.
  4. MCJIT not working well pre-v7, old JIT engine not supported any more.

Note that you will need about 1-3 GB of space for a full LLVM build in Debug mode, depending on the system (it is so large because of all the debugging information and the fact that the libraries are statically linked into multiple tools). If you do not need many of the tools and you are space-conscious, you can pass ONLY_TOOLS="tools you need" to make. The Release build requires considerably less space.

The LLVM suite may compile on other platforms, but it is not guaranteed to do so. If compilation is successful, the LLVM utilities should be able to assemble, disassemble, analyze, and optimize LLVM bitcode. Code generation should work as well, although the generated native code may not work on your platform.


Compiling LLVM requires that you have several software packages installed. The table below lists those required packages. The Package column is the usual name for the software package that LLVM depends on. The Version column provides “known to work” versions of the package. The Notes column describes how LLVM uses the package and provides other details.

Package Version Notes
GNU Make 3.79, 3.79.1 Makefile/build processor
GCC >=4.7.0 C/C++ compiler1
python >=2.5 Automated test suite2
GNU M4 1.4 Macro processor for configuration3
GNU Autoconf 2.60 Configuration script builder3
GNU Automake 1.9.6 aclocal macro generator3
libtool 1.5.22 Shared library manager3
zlib >= Compression library4


  1. Only the C and C++ languages are needed so there’s no need to build the other languages for LLVM’s purposes. See below for specific version info.
  2. Only needed if you want to run the automated test suite in the llvm/test directory.
  3. If you want to make changes to the configure scripts, you will need GNU autoconf (2.60), and consequently, GNU M4 (version 1.4 or higher). You will also need automake (1.9.6). We only use aclocal from that package.
  4. Optional, adds compression / uncompression capabilities to selected LLVM tools.

Additionally, your compilation host is expected to have the usual plethora of Unix utilities. Specifically:

  • ar — archive library builder
  • bzip2 — bzip2 command for distribution generation
  • bunzip2 — bunzip2 command for distribution checking
  • chmod — change permissions on a file
  • cat — output concatenation utility
  • cp — copy files
  • date — print the current date/time
  • echo — print to standard output
  • egrep — extended regular expression search utility
  • find — find files/dirs in a file system
  • grep — regular expression search utility
  • gzip — gzip command for distribution generation
  • gunzip — gunzip command for distribution checking
  • install — install directories/files
  • mkdir — create a directory
  • mv — move (rename) files
  • ranlib — symbol table builder for archive libraries
  • rm — remove (delete) files and directories
  • sed — stream editor for transforming output
  • sh — Bourne shell for make build scripts
  • tar — tape archive for distribution generation
  • test — test things in file system
  • unzip — unzip command for distribution checking
  • zip — zip command for distribution generation

Host C++ Toolchain, both Compiler and Standard Library

LLVM is very demanding of the host C++ compiler, and as such tends to expose bugs in the compiler. We are also planning to follow improvements and developments in the C++ language and library reasonably closely. As such, we require a modern host C++ toolchain, both compiler and standard library, in order to build LLVM.

For the most popular host toolchains we check for specific minimum versions in our build systems:

  • Clang 3.1
  • GCC 4.7
  • Visual Studio 2012

Anything older than these toolchains may work, but will require forcing the build system with a special option and is not really a supported host platform. Also note that older versions of these compilers have often crashed or miscompiled LLVM.

For less widely used host toolchains such as ICC or xlC, be aware that a very recent version may be required to support all of the C++ features used in LLVM.

We track certain versions of software that are known to fail when used as part of the host toolchain. These even include linkers at times.

GCC 4.6.3 on ARM: Miscompiles llvm-readobj at -O3. A test failure in test/Object/readobj-shared-object.test is one symptom of the problem.

GNU ld 2.16.X. Some 2.16.X versions of the ld linker will produce very long warning messages complaining that some “.gnu.linkonce.t.*” symbol was defined in a discarded section. You can safely ignore these messages as they are erroneous and the linkage is correct. These messages disappear using ld 2.17.

GNU binutils 2.17: Binutils 2.17 contains a bug which causes huge link times (minutes instead of seconds) when building LLVM. We recommend upgrading to a newer version ( or later).

GNU Binutils 2.19.1 Gold: This version of Gold contained a bug which causes intermittent failures when building LLVM with position independent code. The symptom is an error about cyclic dependencies. We recommend upgrading to a newer version of Gold.

Clang 3.0 with libstdc++ 4.7.x: a few Linux distributions (Ubuntu 12.10, Fedora 17) have both Clang 3.0 and libstdc++ 4.7 in their repositories. Clang 3.0 does not implement a few builtins that are used in this library. We recommend using the system GCC to compile LLVM and Clang in this case.

Clang 3.0 on Mageia 2. There’s a packaging issue: Clang can not find at least some (cxxabi.h) libstdc++ headers.

Clang in C++11 mode and libstdc++ 4.7.2. This version of libstdc++ contained a bug which causes Clang to refuse to compile condition_variable header file. At the time of writing, this breaks LLD build.

Getting a Modern Host C++ Toolchain

This section mostly applies to Linux and older BSDs. On Mac OS X, you should have a sufficiently modern Xcode, or you will likely need to upgrade until you do. On Windows, just use Visual Studio 2012 as the host compiler, it is explicitly supported and widely available. FreeBSD 10.0 and newer have a modern Clang as the system compiler.

However, some Linux distributions and some other or older BSDs sometimes have extremely old versions of GCC. These steps attempt to help you upgrade you compiler even on such a system. However, if at all possible, we encourage you to use a recent version of a distribution with a modern system compiler that meets these requirements. Note that it is tempting to to install a prior version of Clang and libc++ to be the host compiler, however libc++ was not well tested or set up to build on Linux until relatively recently. As a consequence, this guide suggests just using libstdc++ and a modern GCC as the initial host in a bootstrap, and then using Clang (and potentially libc++).

The first step is to get a recent GCC toolchain installed. The most common distribution on which users have struggled with the version requirements is Ubuntu Precise, 12.04 LTS. For this distribution, one easy option is to install the toolchain testing PPA and use it to install a modern GCC. There is a really nice discussions of this on the ask ubuntu stack exchange. However, not all users can use PPAs and there are many other distributions, so it may be necessary (or just useful, if you’re here you are doing compiler development after all) to build and install GCC from source. It is also quite easy to do these days.

Easy steps for installing GCC 4.8.2:

% wget
% tar -xvjf gcc-4.8.2.tar.bz2
% cd gcc-4.8.2
% ./contrib/download_prerequisites
% cd ..
% mkdir gcc-4.8.2-build
% cd gcc-4.8.2-build
% $PWD/../gcc-4.8.2/configure --prefix=$HOME/toolchains --enable-languages=c,c++
% make -j$(nproc)
% make install

For more details, check out the excellent GCC wiki entry, where I got most of this information from.

Once you have a GCC toolchain, use it as your host compiler. Things should generally “just work”. You may need to pass a special linker flag, -Wl,-rpath,$HOME/toolchains/lib or some variant thereof to get things to find the libstdc++ DSO in this toolchain.

When you build Clang, you will need to give it access to modern C++11 standard library in order to use it as your new host in part of a bootstrap. There are two easy ways to do this, either build (and install) libc++ along with Clang and then use it with the -stdlib=libc++ compile and link flag, or install Clang into the same prefix ($HOME/toolchains above) as GCC. Clang will look within its own prefix for libstdc++ and use it if found. You can also add an explicit prefix for Clang to look in for a GCC toolchain with the --gcc-toolchain=/opt/my/gcc/prefix flag, passing it to both compile and link commands when using your just-built-Clang to bootstrap.

Getting Started with LLVM

The remainder of this guide is meant to get you up and running with LLVM and to give you some basic information about the LLVM environment.

The later sections of this guide describe the general layout of the LLVM source tree, a simple example using the LLVM tool chain, and links to find more information about LLVM or to get help via e-mail.

Terminology and Notation

Throughout this manual, the following names are used to denote paths specific to the local system and working environment. These are not environment variables you need to set but just strings used in the rest of this document below. In any of the examples below, simply replace each of these names with the appropriate pathname on your local system. All these paths are absolute:


This is the top level directory of the LLVM source tree.


This is the top level directory of the LLVM object tree (i.e. the tree where object files and compiled programs will be placed. It can be the same as SRC_ROOT).

Setting Up Your Environment

In order to compile and use LLVM, you may need to set some environment variables.


[Optional] This environment variable helps LLVM linking tools find the locations of your bitcode libraries. It is provided only as a convenience since you can specify the paths using the -L options of the tools and the C/C++ front-end will automatically use the bitcode files installed in its lib directory.

Unpacking the LLVM Archives

If you have the LLVM distribution, you will need to unpack it before you can begin to compile it. LLVM is distributed as a set of two files: the LLVM suite and the LLVM GCC front end compiled for your platform. There is an additional test suite that is optional. Each file is a TAR archive that is compressed with the gzip program.

The files are as follows, with x.y marking the version number:


Source release for the LLVM libraries and tools.


Source release for the LLVM test-suite.

Checkout LLVM from Subversion

If you have access to our Subversion repository, you can get a fresh copy of the entire source code. All you need to do is check it out from Subversion as follows:

  • cd where-you-want-llvm-to-live
  • Read-Only: svn co llvm
  • Read-Write:svn co llvm

This will create an ‘llvm‘ directory in the current directory and fully populate it with the LLVM source code, Makefiles, test directories, and local copies of documentation files.

If you want to get a specific release (as opposed to the most recent revision), you can checkout it from the ‘tags‘ directory (instead of ‘trunk‘). The following releases are located in the following subdirectories of the ‘tags‘ directory:

  • Release 3.4: RELEASE_34/final
  • Release 3.3: RELEASE_33/final
  • Release 3.2: RELEASE_32/final
  • Release 3.1: RELEASE_31/final
  • Release 3.0: RELEASE_30/final
  • Release 2.9: RELEASE_29/final
  • Release 2.8: RELEASE_28
  • Release 2.7: RELEASE_27
  • Release 2.6: RELEASE_26
  • Release 2.5: RELEASE_25
  • Release 2.4: RELEASE_24
  • Release 2.3: RELEASE_23
  • Release 2.2: RELEASE_22
  • Release 2.1: RELEASE_21
  • Release 2.0: RELEASE_20
  • Release 1.9: RELEASE_19
  • Release 1.8: RELEASE_18
  • Release 1.7: RELEASE_17
  • Release 1.6: RELEASE_16
  • Release 1.5: RELEASE_15
  • Release 1.4: RELEASE_14
  • Release 1.3: RELEASE_13
  • Release 1.2: RELEASE_12
  • Release 1.1: RELEASE_11
  • Release 1.0: RELEASE_1

If you would like to get the LLVM test suite (a separate package as of 1.4), you get it from the Subversion repository:

% cd llvm/projects
% svn co test-suite

By placing it in the llvm/projects, it will be automatically configured by the LLVM configure script as well as automatically updated when you run svn update.

Git Mirror

Git mirrors are available for a number of LLVM subprojects. These mirrors sync automatically with each Subversion commit and contain all necessary git-svn marks (so, you can recreate git-svn metadata locally). Note that right now mirrors reflect only trunk for each project. You can do the read-only Git clone of LLVM via:

% git clone

If you want to check out clang too, run:

% cd llvm/tools
% git clone

If you want to check out compiler-rt too, run:

% cd llvm/projects
% git clone

If you want to check out the Test Suite Source Code (optional), run:

% cd llvm/projects
% git clone

Since the upstream repository is in Subversion, you should use git pull --rebase instead of git pull to avoid generating a non-linear history in your clone. To configure git pull to pass --rebase by default on the master branch, run the following command:

% git config branch.master.rebase true

Sending patches with Git

Please read Developer Policy, too.

Assume master points the upstream and mybranch points your working branch, and mybranch is rebased onto master. At first you may check sanity of whitespaces:

% git diff --check master..mybranch

The easiest way to generate a patch is as below:

% git diff master..mybranch > /path/to/mybranch.diff

It is a little different from svn-generated diff. git-diff-generated diff has prefixes like a/ and b/. Don’t worry, most developers might know it could be accepted with patch -p1 -N.

But you may generate patchset with git-format-patch. It generates by-each-commit patchset. To generate patch files to attach to your article:

% git format-patch --no-attach master..mybranch -o /path/to/your/patchset

If you would like to send patches directly, you may use git-send-email or git-imap-send. Here is an example to generate the patchset in Gmail’s [Drafts].

% git format-patch --attach master..mybranch --stdout | git imap-send

Then, your .git/config should have [imap] sections.

      host = imaps://
      user =
      pass = himitsu!
      port = 993
      sslverify = false
; in English
      folder = "[Gmail]/Drafts"
; example for Japanese, "Modified UTF-7" encoded.
      folder = "[Gmail]/&Tgtm+DBN-"
; example for Traditional Chinese
      folder = "[Gmail]/&g0l6Pw-"

For developers to work with git-svn

To set up clone from which you can submit code using git-svn, run:

% git clone
% cd llvm
% git svn init --username=<username>
% git config svn-remote.svn.fetch :refs/remotes/origin/master
% git svn rebase -l  # -l avoids fetching ahead of the git mirror.

# If you have clang too:
% cd tools
% git clone
% cd clang
% git svn init --username=<username>
% git config svn-remote.svn.fetch :refs/remotes/origin/master
% git svn rebase -l

Likewise for compiler-rt and test-suite.

To update this clone without generating git-svn tags that conflict with the upstream Git repo, run:

% git fetch && (cd tools/clang && git fetch)  # Get matching revisions of both trees.
% git checkout master
% git svn rebase -l
% (cd tools/clang &&
   git checkout master &&
   git svn rebase -l)

Likewise for compiler-rt and test-suite.

This leaves your working directories on their master branches, so you’ll need to checkout each working branch individually and rebase it on top of its parent branch.

For those who wish to be able to update an llvm repo/revert patches easily using git-svn, please look in the directory for the scripts git-svnup and git-svnrevert.

To perform the aforementioned update steps go into your source directory and just type git-svnup or git svnup and everything will just work.

If one wishes to revert a commit with git-svn, but do not want the git hash to escape into the commit message, one can use the script git-svnrevert or git svnrevert which will take in the git hash for the commit you want to revert, look up the appropriate svn revision, and output a message where all references to the git hash have been replaced with the svn revision.

To commit back changes via git-svn, use git svn dcommit:

% git svn dcommit

Note that git-svn will create one SVN commit for each Git commit you have pending, so squash and edit each commit before executing dcommit to make sure they all conform to the coding standards and the developers’ policy.

On success, dcommit will rebase against the HEAD of SVN, so to avoid conflict, please make sure your current branch is up-to-date (via fetch/rebase) before proceeding.

The git-svn metadata can get out of sync after you mess around with branches and dcommit. When that happens, git svn dcommit stops working, complaining about files with uncommitted changes. The fix is to rebuild the metadata:

% rm -rf .git/svn
% git svn rebase -l

Please, refer to the Git-SVN manual (man git-svn) for more information.

Local LLVM Configuration

Once checked out from the Subversion repository, the LLVM suite source code must be configured via the configure script. This script sets variables in the various *.in files, most notably llvm/Makefile.config and llvm/include/Config/config.h. It also populates OBJ_ROOT with the Makefiles needed to begin building LLVM.

The following environment variables are used by the configure script to configure the build system:

Variable Purpose
CC Tells configure which C compiler to use. By default, configure will check PATH for clang and GCC C compilers (in this order). Use this variable to override configure‘s default behavior.
CXX Tells configure which C++ compiler to use. By default, configure will check PATH for clang++ and GCC C++ compilers (in this order). Use this variable to override configure‘s default behavior.

The following options can be used to set or enable LLVM specific options:


Enables optimized compilation (debugging symbols are removed and GCC optimization flags are enabled). Note that this is the default setting if you are using the LLVM distribution. The default behavior of a Subversion checkout is to use an unoptimized build (also known as a debug build).


Enables debug symbols in the runtime libraries. The default is to strip debug symbols from the runtime libraries.


Compile the Just In Time (JIT) compiler functionality. This is not available on all platforms. The default is dependent on platform, so it is best to explicitly enable it if you want it.


Controls which targets will be built and linked into llc. The default value for target_options is “all” which builds and links all available targets. The “host” target is selected as the target of the build host. You can also specify a comma separated list of target names that you want available in llc. The target names use all lower case. The current set of targets is:

aarch64, arm, arm64, cpp, hexagon, mips, mipsel, mips64, mips64el, msp430, powerpc, nvptx, r600, sparc, systemz, x86, x86_64, xcore.


Look for the doxygen program and enable construction of doxygen based documentation from the source code. This is disabled by default because generating the documentation can take a long time and producess 100s of megabytes of output.

To configure LLVM, follow these steps:

  1. Change directory into the object root directory:

    % cd OBJ_ROOT
  2. Run the configure script located in the LLVM source tree:

    % SRC_ROOT/configure --prefix=/install/path [other options]

Compiling the LLVM Suite Source Code

Once you have configured LLVM, you can build it. There are three types of builds:

Debug Builds

These builds are the default when one is using a Subversion checkout and types gmake (unless the --enable-optimized option was used during configuration). The build system will compile the tools and libraries with debugging information. To get a Debug Build using the LLVM distribution the --disable-optimized option must be passed to configure.

Release (Optimized) Builds

These builds are enabled with the --enable-optimized option to configure or by specifying ENABLE_OPTIMIZED=1 on the gmake command line. For these builds, the build system will compile the tools and libraries with GCC optimizations enabled and strip debugging information from the libraries and executables it generates. Note that Release Builds are default when using an LLVM distribution.

Profile Builds

These builds are for use with profiling. They compile profiling information into the code for use with programs like gprof. Profile builds must be started by specifying ENABLE_PROFILING=1 on the gmake command line.

Once you have LLVM configured, you can build it by entering the OBJ_ROOT directory and issuing the following command:

% gmake

If the build fails, please check here to see if you are using a version of GCC that is known not to compile LLVM.

If you have multiple processors in your machine, you may wish to use some of the parallel build options provided by GNU Make. For example, you could use the command:

% gmake -j2

There are several special targets which are useful when working with the LLVM source code:

gmake clean

Removes all files generated by the build. This includes object files, generated C/C++ files, libraries, and executables.

gmake dist-clean

Removes everything that gmake clean does, but also removes files generated by configure. It attempts to return the source tree to the original state in which it was shipped.

gmake install

Installs LLVM header files, libraries, tools, and documentation in a hierarchy under $PREFIX, specified with ./configure --prefix=[dir], which defaults to /usr/local.

gmake -C runtime install-bytecode

Assuming you built LLVM into $OBJDIR, when this command is run, it will install bitcode libraries into the GCC front end’s bitcode library directory. If you need to update your bitcode libraries, this is the target to use once you’ve built them.

Please see the Makefile Guide for further details on these make targets and descriptions of other targets available.

It is also possible to override default values from configure by declaring variables on the command line. The following are some examples:


Perform a Release (Optimized) build.


Perform a Release (Optimized) build without assertions enabled.


Perform a Debug build.


Perform a Profiling build.

gmake VERBOSE=1

Print what gmake is doing on standard output.


Ask each tool invoked by the makefiles to print out what it is doing on the standard output. This also implies VERBOSE=1.

Every directory in the LLVM object tree includes a Makefile to build it and any subdirectories that it contains. Entering any directory inside the LLVM object tree and typing gmake should rebuild anything in or below that directory that is out of date.

This does not apply to building the documentation. LLVM’s (non-Doxygen) documentation is produced with the Sphinx documentation generation system. There are some HTML documents that have not yet been converted to the new system (which uses the easy-to-read and easy-to-write reStructuredText plaintext markup language). The generated documentation is built in the SRC_ROOT/docs directory using a special makefile. For instructions on how to install Sphinx, see Sphinx Introduction for LLVM Developers. After following the instructions there for installing Sphinx, build the LLVM HTML documentation by doing the following:

$ cd SRC_ROOT/docs
$ make -f Makefile.sphinx

This creates a _build/html sub-directory with all of the HTML files, not just the generated ones. This directory corresponds to For example, _build/html/SphinxQuickstartTemplate.html corresponds to The Sphinx Quickstart Template is useful when creating a new document.

Cross-Compiling LLVM

It is possible to cross-compile LLVM itself. That is, you can create LLVM executables and libraries to be hosted on a platform different from the platform where they are built (a Canadian Cross build). To configure a cross-compile, supply the configure script with --build and --host options that are different. The values of these options must be legal target triples that your GCC compiler supports.

The result of such a build is executables that are not runnable on on the build host (–build option) but can be executed on the compile host (–host option).

Check How To Cross-Compile Clang/LLVM using Clang/LLVM and Clang docs on how to cross-compile in general for more information about cross-compiling.

The Location of LLVM Object Files

The LLVM build system is capable of sharing a single LLVM source tree among several LLVM builds. Hence, it is possible to build LLVM for several different platforms or configurations using the same source tree.

This is accomplished in the typical autoconf manner:

  • Change directory to where the LLVM object files should live:

    % cd OBJ_ROOT
  • Run the configure script found in the LLVM source directory:

    % SRC_ROOT/configure

The LLVM build will place files underneath OBJ_ROOT in directories named after the build type:

Debug Builds with assertions enabled (the default)





Release Builds





Profile Builds





Optional Configuration Items

If you’re running on a Linux system that supports the binfmt_misc module, and you have root access on the system, you can set your system up to execute LLVM bitcode files directly. To do this, use commands like this (the first command may not be required if you are already using the module):

% mount -t binfmt_misc none /proc/sys/fs/binfmt_misc
% echo ':llvm:M::BC::/path/to/lli:' > /proc/sys/fs/binfmt_misc/register
% chmod u+x hello.bc   (if needed)
% ./hello.bc

This allows you to execute LLVM bitcode files directly. On Debian, you can also use this command instead of the ‘echo’ command above:

% sudo update-binfmts --install llvm /path/to/lli --magic 'BC'

Program Layout

One useful source of information about the LLVM source base is the LLVM doxygen documentation available at The following is a brief introduction to code layout:


This directory contains some simple examples of how to use the LLVM IR and JIT.


This directory contains public header files exported from the LLVM library. The three main subdirectories of this directory are:


This directory contains all of the LLVM specific header files. This directory also has subdirectories for different portions of LLVM: Analysis, CodeGen, Target, Transforms, etc...


This directory contains generic support libraries that are provided with LLVM but not necessarily specific to LLVM. For example, some C++ STL utilities and a Command Line option processing library store their header files here.


This directory contains header files configured by the configure script. They wrap “standard” UNIX and C header files. Source code can include these header files which automatically take care of the conditional #includes that the configure script generates.


This directory contains most of the source files of the LLVM system. In LLVM, almost all code exists in libraries, making it very easy to share code among the different tools.


This directory holds the core LLVM source files that implement core classes like Instruction and BasicBlock.


This directory holds the source code for the LLVM assembly language parser library.


This directory holds code for reading and write LLVM bitcode.


This directory contains a variety of different program analyses, such as Dominator Information, Call Graphs, Induction Variables, Interval Identification, Natural Loop Identification, etc.


This directory contains the source code for the LLVM to LLVM program transformations, such as Aggressive Dead Code Elimination, Sparse Conditional Constant Propagation, Inlining, Loop Invariant Code Motion, Dead Global Elimination, and many others.


This directory contains files that describe various target architectures for code generation. For example, the llvm/lib/Target/X86 directory holds the X86 machine description while llvm/lib/Target/ARM implements the ARM backend.


This directory contains the major parts of the code generator: Instruction Selector, Instruction Scheduling, and Register Allocation.




This directory contains the source level debugger library that makes it possible to instrument LLVM programs so that a debugger could identify source code locations at which the program is executing.


This directory contains libraries for executing LLVM bitcode directly at runtime in both interpreted and JIT compiled fashions.


This directory contains the source code that corresponds to the header files located in llvm/include/ADT/ and llvm/include/Support/.


This directory contains projects that are not strictly part of LLVM but are shipped with LLVM. This is also the directory where you should create your own LLVM-based projects.


This directory contains libraries which are compiled into LLVM bitcode and used when linking programs with the Clang front end. Most of these libraries are skeleton versions of real libraries; for example, libc is a stripped down version of glibc.

Unlike the rest of the LLVM suite, this directory needs the LLVM GCC front end to compile.


This directory contains feature and regression tests and other basic sanity checks on the LLVM infrastructure. These are intended to run quickly and cover a lot of territory without being exhaustive.


This is not a directory in the normal llvm module; it is a separate Subversion module that must be checked out (usually to projects/test-suite). This module contains a comprehensive correctness, performance, and benchmarking test suite for LLVM. It is a separate Subversion module because not every LLVM user is interested in downloading or building such a comprehensive test suite. For further details on this test suite, please see the Testing Guide document.


The tools directory contains the executables built out of the libraries above, which form the main part of the user interface. You can always get help for a tool by typing tool_name -help. The following is a brief introduction to the most important tools. More detailed information is in the Command Guide.


bugpoint is used to debug optimization passes or code generation backends by narrowing down the given test case to the minimum number of passes and/or instructions that still cause a problem, whether it is a crash or miscompilation. See HowToSubmitABug.html for more information on using bugpoint.


The archiver produces an archive containing the given LLVM bitcode files, optionally with an index for faster lookup.


The assembler transforms the human readable LLVM assembly to LLVM bitcode.


The disassembler transforms the LLVM bitcode to human readable LLVM assembly.


llvm-link, not surprisingly, links multiple LLVM modules into a single program.


lli is the LLVM interpreter, which can directly execute LLVM bitcode (although very slowly...). For architectures that support it (currently x86, Sparc, and PowerPC), by default, lli will function as a Just-In-Time compiler (if the functionality was compiled in), and will execute the code much faster than the interpreter.


llc is the LLVM backend compiler, which translates LLVM bitcode to a native code assembly file or to C code (with the -march=c option).


opt reads LLVM bitcode, applies a series of LLVM to LLVM transformations (which are specified on the command line), and then outputs the resultant bitcode. The ‘opt -help‘ command is a good way to get a list of the program transformations available in LLVM.

opt can also be used to run a specific analysis on an input LLVM bitcode file and print out the results. It is primarily useful for debugging analyses, or familiarizing yourself with what an analysis does.


This directory contains utilities for working with LLVM source code, and some of the utilities are actually required as part of the build process because they are code generators for parts of LLVM infrastructure.


codegen-diff is a script that finds differences between code that LLC generates and code that LLI generates. This is a useful tool if you are debugging one of them, assuming that the other generates correct output. For the full user manual, run `perldoc codegen-diff'.


The emacs directory contains syntax-highlighting files which will work with Emacs and XEmacs editors, providing syntax highlighting support for LLVM assembly files and TableGen description files. For information on how to use the syntax files, consult the README file in that directory.

The script finds and outputs all non-generated source files, which is useful if one wishes to do a lot of development across directories and does not want to individually find each file. One way to use it is to run, for example: xemacs `utils/` from the top of your LLVM source tree.


This little tool performs an egrep -H -n on each source file in LLVM and passes to it a regular expression provided on llvmgrep‘s command line. This is a very efficient way of searching the source base for a particular regular expression.


The makellvm script compiles all files in the current directory and then compiles and links the tool that is the first argument. For example, assuming you are in the directory llvm/lib/Target/Sparc, if makellvm is in your path, simply running makellvm llc will make a build of the current directory, switch to directory llvm/tools/llc and build it, causing a re-linking of LLC.


The TableGen directory contains the tool used to generate register descriptions, instruction set descriptions, and even assemblers from common TableGen description files.


The vim directory contains syntax-highlighting files which will work with the VIM editor, providing syntax highlighting support for LLVM assembly files and TableGen description files. For information on how to use the syntax files, consult the README file in that directory.

An Example Using the LLVM Tool Chain

This section gives an example of using LLVM with the Clang front end.

Example with clang

  1. First, create a simple C file, name it ‘hello.c’:

    #include <stdio.h>
    int main() {
      printf("hello world\n");
      return 0;
  2. Next, compile the C file into a native executable:

    % clang hello.c -o hello


    Clang works just like GCC by default. The standard -S and -c arguments work as usual (producing a native .s or .o file, respectively).

  3. Next, compile the C file into an LLVM bitcode file:

    % clang -O3 -emit-llvm hello.c -c -o hello.bc

    The -emit-llvm option can be used with the -S or -c options to emit an LLVM .ll or .bc file (respectively) for the code. This allows you to use the standard LLVM tools on the bitcode file.

  4. Run the program in both forms. To run the program, use:

    % ./hello


    % lli hello.bc

    The second examples shows how to invoke the LLVM JIT, lli.

  5. Use the llvm-dis utility to take a look at the LLVM assembly code:

    % llvm-dis < hello.bc | less
  6. Compile the program to native assembly using the LLC code generator:

    % llc hello.bc -o hello.s
  7. Assemble the native assembly language file into a program:

    % /opt/SUNWspro/bin/cc -xarch=v9 hello.s -o hello.native   # On Solaris
    % gcc hello.s -o hello.native                              # On others
  8. Execute the native code program:

    % ./hello.native

    Note that using clang to compile directly to native code (i.e. when the -emit-llvm option is not present) does steps 6/7/8 for you.

Common Problems

If you are having problems building or using LLVM, or if you have any other general questions about LLVM, please consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.