13 Speeding Up a Build

Build time can be an issue. By default, the build system uses simple controls to try and maximize build efficiency. In general, the default settings for all the following variables result in the most efficient build times when dealing with single socket systems (i.e. a single CPU). If you have multiple CPUs, you might try increasing the default values to gain more speed. See the descriptions in the glossary for each variable for more information:

  • BB_NUMBER_THREADS: The maximum number of threads BitBake simultaneously executes.

  • BB_NUMBER_PARSE_THREADS: The number of threads BitBake uses during parsing.

  • PARALLEL_MAKE: Extra options passed to the make command during the do_compile task in order to specify parallel compilation on the local build host.

  • PARALLEL_MAKEINST: Extra options passed to the make command during the do_install task in order to specify parallel installation on the local build host.

As mentioned, these variables all scale to the number of processor cores available on the build system. For single socket systems, this auto-scaling ensures that the build system fundamentally takes advantage of potential parallel operations during the build based on the build machine’s capabilities.

Additional factors that can affect build speed are:

  • File system type: The file system type that the build is being performed on can also influence performance. Using ext4 is recommended as compared to ext2 and ext3 due to ext4 improved features such as extents.

  • Disabling the updating of access time using noatime: The noatime mount option prevents the build system from updating file and directory access times.

  • Setting a longer commit: Using the “commit=” mount option increases the interval in seconds between disk cache writes. Changing this interval from the five second default to something longer increases the risk of data loss but decreases the need to write to the disk, thus increasing the build performance.

  • Choosing the packaging backend: Of the available packaging backends, IPK is the fastest. Additionally, selecting a singular packaging backend also helps.

  • Using tmpfs for TMPDIR as a temporary file system: While this can help speed up the build, the benefits are limited due to the compiler using -pipe. The build system goes to some lengths to avoid sync() calls into the file system on the principle that if there was a significant failure, the Build Directory contents could easily be rebuilt.

  • Inheriting the rm_work class: Inheriting this class has shown to speed up builds due to significantly lower amounts of data stored in the data cache as well as on disk. Inheriting this class also makes cleanup of TMPDIR faster, at the expense of being easily able to dive into the source code. File system maintainers have recommended that the fastest way to clean up large numbers of files is to reformat partitions rather than delete files due to the linear nature of partitions. This, of course, assumes you structure the disk partitions and file systems in a way that this is practical.

Aside from the previous list, you should keep some trade offs in mind that can help you speed up the build:

  • Remove items from DISTRO_FEATURES that you might not need.

  • Exclude debug symbols and other debug information: If you do not need these symbols and other debug information, disabling the *-dbg package generation can speed up the build. You can disable this generation by setting the INHIBIT_PACKAGE_DEBUG_SPLIT variable to “1”.

  • Disable static library generation for recipes derived from autoconf or libtool: Here is an example showing how to disable static libraries and still provide an override to handle exceptions:

    STATICLIBCONF = "--disable-static"
    STATICLIBCONF:sqlite3-native = ""


    • Some recipes need static libraries in order to work correctly (e.g. pseudo-native needs sqlite3-native). Overrides, as in the previous example, account for these kinds of exceptions.

    • Some packages have packaging code that assumes the presence of the static libraries. If so, you might need to exclude them as well.