Building Firefox On Windows
Thank you for helping us build the world's best browser on the world's most popular OS. This document will help you get set up to build and hack on your own version of Firefox on your local machine.
Getting set up won't be difficult, but it can take a while - we need to download a lot of bytes! Even on a fast connection, this can take ten to fifteen minutes of work, spread out over an hour or two.
The details are further down this page, but this quick start guide should get you up and running:
To build Firefox on Windows, you need a 64-bit version of Windows 7 or later and about 40 GB of free space on your hard drive. You can make sure your version of Windows is 64-bit on Windows 7 by right-clicking on “Computer” in your “Start” menu, clicking “Properties” and then “System”. On Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, right-clicking the “Windows” menu button and choosing “System” will show you the same information. You can alternatively press the “Windows” and “Pause Break” buttons simultaneously on your keyboard on any version of Windows.
Next, we want to start on a solid foundation: make sure you’re up to date with Windows Update and then we’ll get moving.
Visual Studio 2019
Download and install the Community edition of Visual Studio 2019. Professional and Enterprise are also supported if you have either of those editions.
When installing, the following workloads must be checked:
- "Desktop development with C++" (under the Windows group)
- "Game development with C++" (under the Mobile & Gaming group)
In addition, go to the Individual Components tab and make sure the following components are selected under the "SDKs, libraries, and frameworks" group:
- "Windows 10 SDK" (at least version 10.0.17134.0)
- "C++ ATL for v142 build tools (x86 and x64)" (also select ARM64 if you'll be building for ARM64)
Make sure you run Visual Studio once after installing, so it finishes any first-run tasks and associates the installation with your account.
Finally, download the MozillaBuild Package from Mozilla. Accept the default settings, in particular the default installation directory:
c:\mozilla-build\. On some versions of Windows an error dialog will give you the option to ‘reinstall with the correct settings’ - you should agree and proceed.
Once this is done, creating a shortcut to
c:\mozilla-build\start-shell.bat on your desktop will make your life easier.
Getting the source
This is the last big step. Double-clicking start-shell.bat in
c:\mozilla-build (or the shortcut you’ve created above) will open a terminal window.
Start by creating a "mozilla-source" directory off of
C:\ and cd into it like so
cd c:/ mkdir mozilla-source cd mozilla-source
Next, you can get the Firefox source code with Mercurial. There is a wiki page on how to get the source using Mercurial but, in summary, if your network connection is good enough to download 1+ GB without interuption and you want the main development repository, then you can just use:
hg clone https://hg.mozilla.org/mozilla-central
While you’re waiting for that process to finish, take a look at our Mercurial documentation. It explains how we use version control at Mozilla to manage our code and land changes to our source tree.
Now we tie it all together. In your terminal window,
cd to your source directory as before and type
cd mozilla-central ./mach bootstrap ./mach build
./mach bootstrap step is a catch-all for any dependencies not covered in this documentation. Note that, bootstrap works only with the Mercuial repo of the source, not with source tar balls, nor the github mirror. If you are working on Firefox or Firefox for Android frontends or building Firefox without any changes, select artifact builds in the first question in
./mach bootstrap. Artifact builds will complete more quickly! Artifact builds are unsuitable for those working on C++ code.
You’re on your way. Don’t be discouraged if this takes a while; it takes some time even on the fastest modern machines and as much as two hours or more on older hardware. Firefox is pretty big, because the Web is big.
That last step can take some time. While it’s finishing you should take a moment to sign up for a Bugzilla account!
Bugzilla.mozilla.org is Mozilla’s issue tracker. To comment on a bug or submit a patch you’ll need a Bugzilla account; you can use your GitHub account if you have one, or sign up for a Bugzilla account directly.
As well as Bugzilla, much of Mozilla’s internal communication happens over Internet Relay Chat (IRC). You can learn how to connect to Mozilla with IRC here. If you’re just getting started or have questions about getting set up you can join us in the "#introduction channel", where some of our community members hang out to try and help new contributors get rolling.
When mach build completes, you'll have your own version of Firefox built from the source code on your hard drive, ready to run. You can run it with
Now you have your own home-built version of Firefox.
If you saw an error here, look further down in this document for the "Troubleshooting" section - some antivirus software quarantine some of our tests, so you need to create exceptions for the "mozilla-source" and "mozilla-build" directories. Don't turn your antivirus off! Just add the exceptions.
Now the fun starts
You have the code and you’ve compiled Firefox. Just fire it up with
./mach run and you’re ready to start hacking. The next steps are up to you: join us on IRC in the “#introduction channel”, follow StartMozilla on Twitter and find a bug to start working on.
Thank you for joining us and helping us make Firefox and the open Web better for everyone.
Details and troubleshooting
Hardware and software requirements
The Firefox build process is both I/O and CPU-intensive, and can take a long time to build even on modern hardware. The minimum and recommended hardware requirements for Mozilla development are:
- At least 4 GB of RAM. 8 GB or more is recommended, and more is always better.
- 35 GB free disk space. This amount of disk space accommodates Visual Studio 2019 Community Edition, the required SDKs, the MozillaBuild package, the Mercurial source repository and enough free disk space to compile. A solid-state hard disk is recommended as the Firefox build process is I/O-intensive.
- A 64-bit version of Windows 7 (Service Pack 1) or later. You can still build 32-bit Firefox on a 64-bit Windows installation.
The Mozilla build process requires many tools that are not pre-installed on most Windows systems. In addition to Visual Studio, install MozillaBuild - a software bundle that includes the required versions of bash, GNU make, autoconf, Mercurial, and much more.
Firefox 61+ require Visual Studio 2017 Update 6 or newer to build.
Firefox 48 to 60 build with Visual Studio 2015. Visual Studio 2017 also works for building Firefox 58 or newer.
Firefox 37 through to 47 build with Visual Studio 2013 (VC12) and possibly Visual Studio 2015 (although Visual Studio 2015 may not build every revision).
Earlier versions of Firefox build with older versions of Visual Studio.
Installing the build prerequisites
Complete each of these steps otherwise, you may not be able to build successfully. There are notes on these software requirements below.
- Make sure your system is up-to-date through Windows Update.
- Install Visual Studio Community 2019 (free). Alternatively, you can also use a paid version of Visual Studio. Some additional components may be required to build Firefox, as noted in the "Visual Studio 2019" section above. Earlier versions of Visual Studio are not supported; the Firefox codebase relies on C++ features that are not supported in earlier releases.
- Optionally, in addition to VS2019, you may want to install Visual C++ 2008 Express (free) to compile some Python extensions used in the build system as Python 2.7.x for Windows is built with that compiler by default. Note, if you want to use "mach resource-usage", "mach doctor", "mach android-emulator", or run talos tests locally, you should install it for building psutil.
- Download and install the MozillaBuild package, containing additional build tools. If you have Cygwin installed, read the note in the tips section. If you see a Windows error dialog giving you the option to re-install with the 'correct settings', after the MozillaBuild's installer exits, choose the option and after that all should be well. More information about MozillaBuild and links to newer versions are available at https://wiki.mozilla.org/MozillaBuild.
In some circumstances, the following problems can arise:
Some antivirus and system protection software can dramatically slow or break the build process
- Windows Defender and some scanning antivirus products are known to have a major impact on build times. For example, if you have cloned
./mach buildfails reporting a missing file, you are likely experiencing this problem. Our regression tests, for well-known security bugs, can include code samples that some antivirus software will identify as a threat, and will either quarantine or otherwise corrupt the files involved. To resolve this you will need to whitelist your source and object directories (the
mozilla-builddirectories) in Windows Defender or your antivirus software and if you're missing files, revert your source tree with the "
hg update -C"command. Once this is done your next
./mach buildshould complete successfully.
Installing Visual Studio in a different language than the system can cause issues
- For example, having Visual Studio in French when the system is in English causes the build to spew a lot of include errors and finishes with a link error.
Note: Mozilla will not build if the path to the installation tool folders contains spaces or other breaking characters such as pluses, quotation marks, or metacharacters. The Visual Studio tools and SDKs are an exception - they may be installed in a directory which contains spaces. It is strongly recommended that you accept the default settings for all installation locations.
The MozillaBuild package contains other software prerequisites necessary for building Mozilla, including the MSYS build environment, Mercurial, autoconf-2.13, CVS, Python, YASM, NSIS, and UPX, as well as optional but useful tools such as wget and emacs.
By default, the package installs to
c:\mozilla-build and it is recommended to use the default path. Don't use a path that contains spaces. The installer does not modify the Windows registry. Note that some binaries may require Visual C++ Redistributable package to run.
MozillaBuild command prompt expectation setting: Note that the "UNIX-like" environment provided by MozillaBuild is only really useful for building and committing to the Mozilla source. Most command line tools you would expect in a modern Linux distribution are not present, and those tools that are provided can be as much as a decade or so old (especially those provided by MSYS). It's the old tools in particular that can cause problems since they often don't behave as expected, are buggy, or don't support command line arguments that have been taken for granted for years. For example, copying a source tree using
cp -rf src1 src2 does not work correctly because of an old version of cp (it gives "cp: will not create hard link" errors for some files). In short, MozillaBuild supports essential developer interactions with the Mozilla code, but beyond that don't be surprised if it trips you up in all sorts of exciting and unexpected ways.
Opening a MozillaBuild command prompt
After the prerequisites are installed, launch the
start-shell.bat batch file using the Windows command prompt in the directory to which you installed MozillaBuild (
c:\mozilla-build by default). This will launch an MSYS/BASH command prompt properly configured to build Firefox. All further commands should be executed in this command prompt window. (Note that this is not the same as what you get with the Windows CMD.EXE shell.)
Note: This is not the same as what you get with the Windows CMD.EXE shell.
Create a directory for the source
It's a sensible idea to create a new shallow directory, like "c:/mozilla-source" or "c:/thunderbird-src" dedicated solely to the code:
cd c:/; mkdir mozilla-source; cd mozilla-source
Keeping in mind the diagnostic hints below should you have issues. You are now ready to get the Firefox source and build.
Command prompt tips and caveats
- To paste into this window, you must right-click on the window's title bar, move your cursor to the “Edit” menu, and click “Paste”. You can also set “Quick Edit Mode” in the “Properties” menu and right-click the window to paste your selection.
- If you have Cygwin installed, make sure that the MozillaBuild directories come before any Cygwin directories in the search path enhanced by
echo $PATHto see your search path).
- In the MSYS / BASH shell started by
start-shell-msvc2015.bat, UNIX-style forward slashes (/) are used as path separators instead of the Windows-style backward slashes (\). So if you want to change to the directory
c:\mydir, in the MSYS shell to improve clarity, you would use
cd /c/mydirthough both
- The MSYS root directory is located in
/c/mozilla-build/msysif you used the default installation directory. It's a good idea not to build anything under this directory. Instead use something like
Common problems, hints, and restrictions
- Debugging Mozilla on Windows FAQ: Tips on how to debug Mozilla on Windows.
- The build may fail if your machine is configured with the wrong architecture. If you want to build 64-bit Firefox, add the two lines below to your mozconfig file:
ac_add_options --target=x86_64-pc-mingw32 ac_add_options --host=x86_64-pc-mingw32
- The build may fail if your
PATHenvironment variable contains quotation marks("). Quotes are not properly translated when passed down to MozillaBuild sub-shells and they are usually not needed so they can be removed.
- The build may fail if you have a
PYTHONenvironment variable set. It displays an error almost immediately that says "
The system cannot find the file specified." Typing "
unset PYTHON" before running the Mozilla build tools in the same command shell should fix this. Make sure that
PYTHONis unset, rather than set to an empty value.
- The build may fail if you have Cygwin installed. Make sure that the MozillaBuild directories (
/c/mozilla-buildand subdirectories) come before any Cygwin directories in your PATH environment variable. If this does not help, remove the Cygwin directories from PATH, or try building on a clean PC with no Cygwin.
- Building with versions of NSIS other than the version that comes with the latest supported version of MozillaBuild is not supported and will likely fail.
- If you intend to distribute your build to others, set
WIN32_REDIST_DIR=$VCINSTALLDIR\redist\x86\Microsoft.VC80.CRTin your mozconfig to get the Microsoft CRT DLLs packaged along with the application.
- The Microsoft Antimalware service can interfere with compilation, often manifesting as an error related to
conftest.exeduring build. To remedy this, add at your object directory at least to the exclusion settings.
- Errors like "second C linkage of overloaded function '_interlockedbittestandset' not allowed", are encountered when intrin.h and windows.h are included together. Use a#define to redefine one instance of the function's name.
- Parallel builds (
-jN) do not work with GNU makes on Windows. You should use the
mozmakecommand included with current versions of MozillaBuild. Building with the
machcommand will always use the best available make command.
- If you encounter a build failure like "ERROR: Cannot find makecab.exe", try applying the patch from bug 1383578, i.e. change: