Compilation and Installation Using Meson

1. Introduction

For general information about Meson see the Meson website.

Mesa’s Meson build system is generally considered stable and ready for production.


Mesa requires Meson >= 0.52.0 to build.

If your distribution doesn’t have something recent enough in its repositories, you can try the methods suggested here to install the current version of Meson.

The Meson build of Mesa is tested on Linux, macOS, Windows, Cygwin, Haiku, FreeBSD, DragonflyBSD, NetBSD, and should work on OpenBSD.

Unix-like OSes

If Meson is not already installed on your system, you can typically install it with your package installer. For example:

sudo apt-get install meson   # Ubuntu


sudo dnf install meson   # Fedora

Some older versions of meson do not check that they are too old and will error out in odd ways.

You’ll also need Ninja. If it’s not already installed, use apt-get or dnf to install the ninja-build package.


You will need to install python3 and meson as a module using pip. This is because we use python for generating code, and rely on external modules (mako). You also need pkg-config (a hard dependency of meson), flex, and bison. The easiest way to install everything you need is with chocolatey.

choco install python3 winflexbison pkgconfiglite

You can even use chocolatey to install mingw and ninja (ninja can be used with MSVC as well)

choco install ninja mingw

Then install meson using pip

py -3 -m pip install meson mako

You may need to add the python3 scripts directory to your path for meson.

2. Basic Usage

The meson program is used to configure the source directory and generates either a ninja build file or Visual Studio® build files. The latter must be enabled via the --backend switch, as ninja is the default backend on all operating systems.

Meson only supports out-of-tree builds, and must be passed a directory to put built and generated sources into. We’ll call that directory “build” here. It’s recommended to create a separate build directory for each configuration you might want to use.

Basic configuration is done with:

meson build/

This will create the build directory. If any dependencies are missing, you can install them, or try to remove the dependency with a Meson configuration option (see below).

To review the options which Meson chose, run:

meson configure build/

Meson does not currently support listing configuration options before running “meson build/” but this feature is being discussed upstream. For now, we have a bin/ script that prints the options for you. If that script doesn’t work for some reason, you can always look in the meson_options.txt file at the root of the project.

With additional arguments meson configure can be used to change options for a previously configured build directory. All options passed to this command are in the form -D "option"="value". For example:

meson configure build/ -Dprefix=/tmp/install -Dglx=true

Note that options taking lists (such as platforms) are a bit more complicated, but the simplest form compatible with Mesa options is to use a comma to separate values (-D platforms=drm,wayland) and brackets to represent an empty list (-D platforms=[]).

Once you’ve run the initial meson command successfully you can use your configured backend to build the project in your build directory:

ninja -C build/

The next step is to install the Mesa libraries, drivers, etc. This also finishes up some final steps of the build process (such as creating symbolic links for drivers). To install:

ninja -C build/ install

Windows specific instructions

On windows you have a couple of choices for compilers. If you installed mingw with chocolatey and want to use ninja you should be able to open any shell and follow the instructions above. If you want to you MSVC, clang-cl, or ICL (the Intel Compiler), read on.

Both ICL and MSVC come with shell environments, the easiest way to use meson with these it to open a shell. For clang-cl you will need to open an MSVC shell, and then override the compilers, either using a native file, or with the CC and CXX environment variables.

All of these compilers are tested and work with ninja, but if you want visual studio integration or you just like msbuild, passing --backend=vs to meson will generate a visual studio solution. If you want to use ICL or clang-cl with the vsbackend you will need meson 0.52.0 or greater. Older versions always use the microsoft compiler.

3. Advanced Usage

Installation Location

Meson default to installing in your system’s main lib/ directory and DRI drivers to a dri/ subdirectory.

Developers will often want to install Mesa to a testing directory rather than the system library directory. This can be done with the –prefix option. For example:

meson --prefix="${PWD}/build/install" build/

will put the final libraries and drivers into the build/install/ directory. Then you can set LD_LIBRARY_PATH and LIBGL_DRIVERS_PATH to that location to run/test the driver.

Meson also honors DESTDIR for installs.

Compiler Options

Meson supports the common CFLAGS, CXXFLAGS, etc. environment variables but their use is discouraged because of the many caveats in using them.

Instead, it is recommended to use -D${lang}_args and -D${lang}_link_args. Among the benefits of these options is that they are guaranteed to persist across rebuilds and reconfigurations.

This example sets -fmax-errors for compiling C sources and -DMAGIC=123 for C++ sources:

meson builddir/ -Dc_args=-fmax-errors=10 -Dcpp_args=-DMAGIC=123

Compiler Specification

Meson supports the standard CC and CXX environment variables for changing the default compiler. Note that Meson does not allow changing the compilers in a configured builddir so you will need to create a new build dir for a different compiler.

This is an example of specifying the clang compilers and cleaning the build directory before reconfiguring with an extra C option:

CC=clang CXX=clang++ meson build-clang
ninja -C build-clang
ninja -C build-clang clean
meson configure build -Dc_args="-Wno-typedef-redefinition"
ninja -C build-clang

The default compilers depends on your operating system. Meson supports most of the popular compilers, a complete list is available here.


Meson includes upstream logic to wrap llvm-config using its standard dependency interface.

As of meson 0.51.0 meson can use cmake to find llvm (the cmake finder was added in meson 0.49.0, but LLVM cannot be found until 0.51) Due to the way LLVM implements its cmake finder it will only find static libraries, it will never find There is also a -Dcmake_module_path option in this meson version, which points to the root of an alternative installation (the prefix). For example:

meson builddir -Dcmake_module_path=/home/user/mycmake/prefix

As of meson 0.49.0 meson also has the concept of a “native file”, these files provide information about the native build environment (as opposed to a cross build environment). They are ini formatted and can override where to find llvm-config:


llvm-config = '/usr/local/bin/llvm/llvm-config'

Then configure meson:

meson builddir/ --native-file custom-llvm.ini

Meson < 0.49 doesn’t support native files, so to specify a custom llvm-config you need to modify your $PATH (or %PATH% on windows), which will be searched for llvm-config, llvm-config$version, and llvm-config-$version:

PATH=/path/to/folder/with/llvm-config:$PATH meson build

For selecting llvm-config for cross compiling a “cross file” should be used. It uses the same format as the native file above:


llvm-config = '/usr/lib/llvm-config-32'
cmake = '/usr/bin/cmake-for-my-arch'

Obviously, only cmake or llvm-config is required.

Then configure meson:

meson builddir/ --cross-file cross-llvm.ini

See the Cross Compilation section for more information.

On windows (and in other cases), using llvm-config or cmake may be either undesirable or impossible. Meson’s solution for this is a wrap, in this case a “binary wrap”. Follow the steps below:

  • Install the binaries and headers into the $mesa_src/subprojects/llvm

  • Add a meson file to that directory (more on that later)

The wrap file must define the following:

  • dep_llvm: a declare_dependency() object with include_directories, dependencies, and version set)

It may also define:

  • irbuilder_h: a files() object pointing to llvm/IR/IRBuilder.h (this is required for SWR)

  • has_rtti: a bool that declares whether LLVM was built with RTTI. Defaults to true

such a file might look like:

project('llvm', ['cpp'])

cpp = meson.get_compiler('cpp')

_deps = []
_search = join_paths(meson.current_source_dir(), 'lib')
foreach d : ['libLLVMCodeGen', 'libLLVMScalarOpts', 'libLLVMAnalysis',
             'libLLVMTransformUtils', 'libLLVMCore', 'libLLVMX86CodeGen',
             'libLLVMSelectionDAG', 'libLLVMipo', 'libLLVMAsmPrinter',
             'libLLVMInstCombine', 'libLLVMInstrumentation', 'libLLVMMC',
             'libLLVMGlobalISel', 'libLLVMObjectYAML', 'libLLVMDebugInfoPDB',
             'libLLVMVectorize', 'libLLVMPasses', 'libLLVMSupport',
             'libLLVMLTO', 'libLLVMObject', 'libLLVMDebugInfoCodeView',
             'libLLVMDebugInfoDWARF', 'libLLVMOrcJIT', 'libLLVMProfileData',
             'libLLVMObjCARCOpts', 'libLLVMBitReader', 'libLLVMCoroutines',
             'libLLVMBitWriter', 'libLLVMRuntimeDyld', 'libLLVMMIRParser',
             'libLLVMX86Desc', 'libLLVMAsmParser', 'libLLVMTableGen',
             'libLLVMFuzzMutate', 'libLLVMLinker', 'libLLVMMCParser',
             'libLLVMExecutionEngine', 'libLLVMCoverage', 'libLLVMInterpreter',
             'libLLVMTarget', 'libLLVMX86AsmParser', 'libLLVMSymbolize',
             'libLLVMDebugInfoMSF', 'libLLVMMCJIT', 'libLLVMXRay',
             'libLLVMX86AsmPrinter', 'libLLVMX86Disassembler',
             'libLLVMMCDisassembler', 'libLLVMOption', 'libLLVMIRReader',
             'libLLVMLibDriver', 'libLLVMDlltoolDriver', 'libLLVMDemangle',
             'libLLVMBinaryFormat', 'libLLVMLineEditor',
             'libLLVMWindowsManifest', 'libLLVMX86Info', 'libLLVMX86Utils']
  _deps += cpp.find_library(d, dirs : _search)

dep_llvm = declare_dependency(
  include_directories : include_directories('include'),
  dependencies : _deps,
  version : '6.0.0',

has_rtti = false
irbuilder_h = files('include/llvm/IR/IRBuilder.h')

It is very important that version is defined and is accurate, if it is not, workarounds for the wrong version of LLVM might be used resulting in build failures.


The pkg-config utility is a hard requirement for configuring and building Mesa on Unix-like systems. It is used to search for external libraries on the system. This environment variable is used to control the search path for pkg-config. For instance, setting PKG_CONFIG_PATH=/usr/X11R6/lib/pkgconfig will search for package metadata in /usr/X11R6 before the standard directories.


One of the oddities of meson is that some options are different when passed to the meson than to meson configure. These options are passed as –option=foo to meson, but -Doption=foo to meson configure. Mesa defined options are always passed as -Doption=foo.

For those coming from autotools be aware of the following:


This option will set the compiler debug/optimisation levels to aid debugging the Mesa libraries.

Note that in meson this defaults to debugoptimized, and not setting it to release will yield non-optimal performance and binary size. Not using debug may interfere with debugging as some code and validation will be optimized away.

For those wishing to pass their own optimization flags, use the plain buildtype, which causes meson to inject no additional compiler arguments, only those in the C/CXXFLAGS and those that mesa itself defines.


This option controls assertions in meson projects. When set to false (the default) assertions are enabled, when set to true they are disabled. This is unrelated to the buildtype; setting the latter to release will not turn off assertions.

4. Cross-compilation and 32-bit builds

Meson supports cross-compilation by specifying a number of binary paths and settings in a file and passing this file to meson or meson configure with the --cross-file parameter.

This file can live at any location, but you can use the bare filename (without the folder path) if you put it in $XDG_DATA_HOME/meson/cross or ~/.local/share/meson/cross

Below are a few example of cross files, but keep in mind that you will likely have to alter them for your system.

Those running on ArchLinux can use the AUR-maintained packages for some of those, as they’ll have the right values for your system:

32-bit build on x86 linux:

c = '/usr/bin/gcc'
cpp = '/usr/bin/g++'
ar = '/usr/bin/gcc-ar'
strip = '/usr/bin/strip'
pkgconfig = '/usr/bin/pkg-config-32'
llvm-config = '/usr/bin/llvm-config32'

c_args = ['-m32']
c_link_args = ['-m32']
cpp_args = ['-m32']
cpp_link_args = ['-m32']

system = 'linux'
cpu_family = 'x86'
cpu = 'i686'
endian = 'little'

64-bit build on ARM linux:

c = '/usr/bin/aarch64-linux-gnu-gcc'
cpp = '/usr/bin/aarch64-linux-gnu-g++'
ar = '/usr/bin/aarch64-linux-gnu-gcc-ar'
strip = '/usr/bin/aarch64-linux-gnu-strip'
pkgconfig = '/usr/bin/aarch64-linux-gnu-pkg-config'
exe_wrapper = '/usr/bin/qemu-aarch64-static'

system = 'linux'
cpu_family = 'aarch64'
cpu = 'aarch64'
endian = 'little'

64-bit build on x86 windows:

c = '/usr/bin/x86_64-w64-mingw32-gcc'
cpp = '/usr/bin/x86_64-w64-mingw32-g++'
ar = '/usr/bin/x86_64-w64-mingw32-ar'
strip = '/usr/bin/x86_64-w64-mingw32-strip'
pkgconfig = '/usr/bin/x86_64-w64-mingw32-pkg-config'
exe_wrapper = 'wine'

system = 'windows'
cpu_family = 'x86_64'
cpu = 'i686'
endian = 'little'