Write bazelrc configuration files

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Bazel accepts many options. Some options are varied frequently (for example, --subcommands) while others stay the same across several builds (such as --package_path). To avoid specifying these unchanged options for every build (and other commands), you can specify options in a configuration file, called .bazelrc.

Where are the .bazelrc files?

Bazel looks for optional configuration files in the following locations, in the order shown below. The options are interpreted in this order, so options in later files can override a value from an earlier file if a conflict arises. All options that control which of these files are loaded are startup options, which means they must occur after bazel and before the command (build, test, etc).

  1. The system RC file, unless --nosystem_rc is present.


    • On Linux/macOS/Unixes: /etc/bazel.bazelrc
    • On Windows: %ProgramData%\bazel.bazelrc

    It is not an error if this file does not exist.

    If another system-specified location is required, you must build a custom Bazel binary, overriding the BAZEL_SYSTEM_BAZELRC_PATH value in //src/main/cpp:option_processor. The system-specified location may contain environment variable references, such as ${VAR_NAME} on Unix or %VAR_NAME% on Windows.

  2. The workspace RC file, unless --noworkspace_rc is present.

    Path: .bazelrc in your workspace directory (next to the main WORKSPACE file).

    It is not an error if this file does not exist.

  3. The home RC file, unless --nohome_rc is present.


    • On Linux/macOS/Unixes: $HOME/.bazelrc
    • On Windows: %USERPROFILE%\.bazelrc if exists, or %HOME%/.bazelrc

    It is not an error if this file does not exist.

  4. The user-specified RC file, if specified with --bazelrc=file

    This flag is optional but can also be specified multiple times.

    /dev/null indicates that all further --bazelrcs will be ignored, which is useful to disable the search for a user rc file, such as in release builds.

    For example:

    --bazelrc=x.rc --bazelrc=y.rc --bazelrc=/dev/null --bazelrc=z.rc
    • x.rc and y.rc are read.
    • z.rc is ignored due to the prior /dev/null.

In addition to this optional configuration file, Bazel looks for a global rc file. For more details, see the global bazelrc section.

.bazelrc syntax and semantics

Like all UNIX "rc" files, the .bazelrc file is a text file with a line-based grammar. Empty lines and lines starting with # (comments) are ignored. Each line contains a sequence of words, which are tokenized according to the same rules as the Bourne shell.


Lines that start with import or try-import are special: use these to load other "rc" files. To specify a path that is relative to the workspace root, write import %workspace%/path/to/bazelrc.

The difference between import and try-import is that Bazel fails if the import'ed file is missing (or can't be read), but not so for a try-import'ed file.

Import precedence:

  • Options in the imported file take precedence over options specified before the import statement.
  • Options specified after the import statement take precedence over the options in the imported file.
  • Options in files imported later take precedence over files imported earlier.

Option defaults

Most lines of a bazelrc define default option values. The first word on each line specifies when these defaults are applied:

  • startup: startup options, which go before the command, and are described in bazel help startup_options.
  • common: options that should be applied to all Bazel commands that support them. If a command does not support an option specified in this way, the option is ignored so long as it is valid for some other Bazel command. Note that this only applies to option names: If the current command accepts an option with the specified name, but doesn't support the specified value, it will fail.
  • always: options that apply to all Bazel commands. If a command does not support an option specified in this way, it will fail.
  • command: Bazel command, such as build or query to which the options apply. These options also apply to all commands that inherit from the specified command. (For example, test inherits from build.)

Each of these lines may be used more than once and the arguments that follow the first word are combined as if they had appeared on a single line. (Users of CVS, another tool with a "Swiss army knife" command-line interface, will find the syntax similar to that of .cvsrc.) For example, the lines:

build --test_tmpdir=/tmp/foo --verbose_failures
build --test_tmpdir=/tmp/bar

are combined as:

build --test_tmpdir=/tmp/foo --verbose_failures --test_tmpdir=/tmp/bar

so the effective flags are --verbose_failures and --test_tmpdir=/tmp/bar.

Option precedence:

  • Options on the command line always take precedence over those in rc files. For example, if a rc file says build -c opt but the command line flag is -c dbg, the command line flag takes precedence.
  • Within the rc file, precedence is governed by specificity: lines for a more specific command take precedence over lines for a less specific command.

    Specificity is defined by inheritance. Some commands inherit options from other commands, making the inheriting command more specific than the base command. For example test inherits from the build command, so all bazel build flags are valid for bazel test, and all build lines apply also to bazel test unless there's a test line for the same option. If the rc file says:

    test -c dbg --test_env=PATH
    build -c opt --verbose_failures

    then bazel build //foo will use -c opt --verbose_failures, and bazel test //foo will use --verbose_failures -c dbg --test_env=PATH.

    The inheritance (specificity) graph is:

    • Every command inherits from common
    • The following commands inherit from (and are more specific than) build: test, run, clean, mobile-install, info, print_action, config, cquery, and aquery
    • coverage inherits from test
  • Two lines specifying options for the same command at equal specificity are parsed in the order in which they appear within the file.

  • Because this precedence rule does not match the file order, it helps readability if you follow the precedence order within rc files: start with common options at the top, and end with the most-specific commands at the bottom of the file. This way, the order in which the options are read is the same as the order in which they are applied, which is more intuitive.

The arguments specified on a line of an rc file may include arguments that are not options, such as the names of build targets, and so on. These, like the options specified in the same files, have lower precedence than their siblings on the command line, and are always prepended to the explicit list of non- option arguments.


In addition to setting option defaults, the rc file can be used to group options and provide a shorthand for common groupings. This is done by adding a :name suffix to the command. These options are ignored by default, but will be included when the option --config=name is present, either on the command line or in a .bazelrc file, recursively, even inside of another config definition. The options specified by command:name will only be expanded for applicable commands, in the precedence order described above.

--config=foo expands to the options defined in the rc files "in-place" so that the options specified for the config have the same precedence that the --config=foo option had.

This syntax does not extend to the use of startup to set startup options. Setting startup:config-name --some_startup_option in the .bazelrc will be ignored.


Platform specific configs in the .bazelrc can be automatically enabled using --enable_platform_specific_config. For example, if the host OS is Linux and the build command is run, the build:linux configuration will be automatically enabled. Supported OS identifiers are linux, macos, windows, freebsd, and openbsd. Enabling this flag is equivalent to using --config=linux on Linux, --config=windows on Windows, and so on.

See --enable_platform_specific_config.


Here's an example ~/.bazelrc file:

# Bob's Bazel option defaults

startup --host_jvm_args=-XX:-UseParallelGC
import /home/bobs_project/bazelrc
build --show_timestamps --keep_going --jobs 600
build --color=yes
query --keep_going

# Definition of --config=memcheck
build:memcheck --strip=never --test_timeout=3600

Other files governing Bazel's behavior


You can specify directories within the workspace that you want Bazel to ignore, such as related projects that use other build systems. Place a file called .bazelignore at the root of the workspace and add the directories you want Bazel to ignore, one per line. Entries are relative to the workspace root.

The global bazelrc file

Bazel reads optional bazelrc files in this order:

  1. System rc-file located at etc/bazel.bazelrc.
  2. Workspace rc-file located at $workspace/tools/bazel.rc.
  3. Home rc-file located at $HOME/.bazelrc

Each bazelrc file listed here has a corresponding flag which can be used to disable them (e.g. --nosystem_rc, --noworkspace_rc, --nohome_rc). You can also make Bazel ignore all bazelrcs by passing the --ignore_all_rc_files startup option.