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Revision as of 00:45, 4 November 2019 by Graysky (talk | contribs) (→‎Arch Linux ARM: a bit more detail)
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distcc is a program to distribute builds of C, C++, Objective C or Objective C++ code across several machines on a network to speed up building. It should always generate the same results as a local build, is simple to install and use, and is usually much faster than a local compile. Further, one can use it together with native Arch build tools such as makepkg.


The client is the computer initiating the compilation.
The volunteer is the computer accepting compilation requests send by the client. One can setup multiple volunteers or just a single one.

Getting started

Install the distcc package on all participating PCs in the distcc cluster. For other distros, or even operating systems including Windows through using Cygwin, refer to the distcc docs. Be sure to allow traffic on the port on which distcc runs (the default is 3632/tcp), see Category:Firewalls and distcc(1).



The configuration for the volunteer is stored in /etc/conf.d/distccd. At a minimum, configure the allowed address ranges in CIDR format:


A nice tool for converting address ranges to CIDR format can be found here: CIDR Utility Tool. Other commandline options can be defined as well. Refer to distcc(1).

Start distccd.service on every participating volunteer. To have distccd.service start at boot-up, enable it.


For use with makepkg

Edit /etc/makepkg.conf in the following sections:

  1. The BUILDENV array will need to have distcc unbanged i.e. list it without exclamation point.
  2. Uncomment the DISTCC_HOSTS line and add the host name or IP addresses of the volunteers. Optionally, follow this with a forward slash and the max number of threads they are to use. The subsequent nodes should be separated by a white space. This list should be ordered from most powerful to least powerful (processing power).
  3. Adjust the MAKEFLAGS variable to correspond to the number of sum of the number of individual values specified for the max threads per server. In the example below, this is 5+3+3=11.

Example using relevant lines:

BUILDENV=(distcc fakeroot color !ccache check !sign)
Warning: The -march=native flag cannot be used in the CFLAGS and CXXFLAGS variables, otherwise distccd will not distribute work to other machines.

For use without makepkg

The minimal configuration for distcc on the client includes the setting of the available volunteers. This can either be done by setting the addresses in the environment variable DISTCC_HOSTS or in either of the configuration files $DISTCC_HOSTS, $DISTCC_DIR/hosts, ~/.distcc/hosts or /etc/distcc/hosts.

Example for setting the volunteer address using DISTCC_HOSTS:

$ export DISTCC_HOSTS=",lzo,cpp,lzo,cpp"
Note: This is a white space separated list.

Example for setting the volunteer addresses in the hosts configuration file:


Instead of explicitly listing the server addresses one can also use the avahi zeroconf mode. To use this mode +zeroconf must be in place instead of the server addresses and the distcc daemons on the volunteers have to be started using the --zeroconf option. Note that this option does not support the pump mode!

The examples add the following options to the address:

  • lzo: Enables LZO compression for this TCP or SSH host (volunteer).
  • cpp: Enables distcc-pump mode for this host (volunteer). Note: the build command must be wrapped in the pump script in order to start the include server.

A description for the pump mode can be found here: distcc's pump mode: A New Design for Distributed C/C++ Compilation

To use distcc-pump mode for a volunteer, users must start the compilation using the pump script otherwise the compilation will fail.


With makepkg

Compile via makepkg as normal.

Without makepkg

To compile a source file using the distcc pump mode, use the following command:

$ pump distcc g++ -c hello_world.cpp

In this case the pump script will execute distcc which in turn calls g++ with "-c hello_world.cpp" as parameter.

To compile a Makefile project, first find out which variables are set by the compiler. For example in gzip-1.6, one can find the following line in the Makefile: CC = gcc -std=gnu99. Normally the variables are called CC for C projects and CXX for C++ projects. To compile the project using distcc it would look like this:

$ wget ftp://ftp.gnu.org/pub/gnu/gzip/gzip-1.6.tar.xz
$ tar xf gzip-1.6.tar.xz
$ cd gzip-1.6
$ ./configure
$ pump make -j2 CC="distcc gcc -std=gnu99"

This example would compile gzip using distcc's pump mode with two compile threads. For the correct -j setting have a look at What -j level to use?

With CMake

Use the following CMake options to build a CMake-based project with distcc:


To enable pump mode, use:


Monitoring progress

distcc ships with a cli monitor distccmon-text and a gtk monitor distccmon-gnome one can use to check on compilation status.

The cli monitor can run continuously by appending a space followed by integer to the command which corresponds to the number of sec to wait for a repeat query:

$ distccmon-text 3
29291 Preprocess  probe_64.c                       [0]
30954 Compile     apic_noop.c                      [0]
30932 Preprocess  kfifo.c                          [0]
30919 Compile     blk-core.c                       [1]
30969 Compile     i915_gem_debug.c                 [3]
30444 Compile     block_dev.c                      [1]
30904 Compile     compat.c                         [2]
30891 Compile     hugetlb.c                        [3]
30458 Compile     catalog.c                        [0]
30496 Compile     ulpqueue.c                       [2]
30506 Compile     alloc.c                          [0]

Cross Compiling with distcc

One can use distcc to help cross compile.

  • A machine running the target architecture should be used as the client.
  • Non-native architecture volunteers will help compile but they require the corresponding toolchain to be installed and their distcc to point to it.

Arch Linux ARM as Clients (x86_64 as volunteers)

This section details how to use x86_64 machine(s) to help an ARM device cross-compile.


The developers highly recommend using the official project toolchains which should be installed on the x86_64 volunteer(s). Rather than manually managing these, the AUR provides all four toolchains as well as simple systemd service units:

Setup on the volunteer containing the toolchain is identical to #Volunteers except that the name of the configuration and systemd service file matches that of the respective package. For example, for armv7h the config file is /etc/conf.d/distccd-armv7h and the systemd service unit is distccd-armv7h.service.

Note that each of the toolchains runs on a unique port thus allowing them to co-exist on the volunteer if needed. Be sure to allow traffic to the port on which distcc runs see Category:Firewalls and distcc(1).

Target architecture Distcc Port
armv5 3633
armv6h 3634
armv7h 3635
armv8h/aarch64 3636


Setup of the client is identical to #Client except, one needs to modify the following two files to define the now non-standard port the volunteers are expected to use. Refer to the table above if using the AUR package.

  1. /etc/conf.d/distcc: example on an armv7h machine: DISTCC_ARGS="--allow --allow --port 3635
  2. /etc/makepkg.conf: example on an armv7h machine: DISTCC_HOSTS=""

Alternatively, the distccd-arch-armAUR package will provide the needed systemd service files to enable distccd compilation.

Additional toolchains

  • EmbToolkit: Tool for creating cross compilation tool chain; supports ARM and MIPS architectures; supports building of an LLVM based tool chain
  • crosstool-ng: Similar to EmbToolkit; supports more architectures (see website for more information)
  • Linaro: Provides tool chains for ARM development

The EmbToolkit provides a nice graphical configuration menu (make xconfig) for configuring the tool chain.



Use journalctl to find out what was going wrong:

$ journalctl $(which distccd) -e --since "5 min ago"

Adjust log level

By default, distcc will log to /var/log/messages.log as it goes along. One trick (actually recommended in the distccd manpage) is to log to an alternative file directly. Again, one can locate this in RAM via /tmp. Another trick is to lower to log level of minimum severity of error that will be included in the log file. Useful if only wanting to see error messages rather than an entry for each connection. LEVEL can be any of the standard syslog levels, and in particular critical, error, warning, notice, info, or debug.

Either call distcc with the arguments mentioned here on the client or appended it to DISTCC_ARGS in /etc/conf.d/distccd on the volunteers:

DISTCC_ARGS="--allow --log-level error --log-file /tmp/distccd.log"

Limit HDD/SSD usage by relocating $HOME/.distcc

By default, distcc creates $HOME/.distcc which stores transient relevant info as it serves up work for nodes to compile. This will avoid needless HDD read/writes and is particularly important for SSDs.

$ export DISTCC_DIR=/tmp/distcc

For distccd-alarm

No such file or directory

Errors similar to the following indicate that the user is mistakenly running the distccd service provided by distcc and NOT provided by the distccd-alarm packages (ie distccd-alarm-armv5AUR, distccd-alarm-armv6hAUR, distccd-alarm-armv7hAUR, or distccd-alarm-armv8AUR.)

Be sure to start the correct service for the target architecture.

distcc[25479] (dcc_execvp) ERROR: failed to exec armv7l-unknown-linux-gnueabihf-g++: No such file or directory

Monitoring does not work

Since the distccd-alarm-arm* services use the nobody user, /usr/bin/distccmon-text does not work to monitor compilation. One can inspect the output of the actually distcc log to troubleshoot if needed, tail -f /tmp/distccd-armv7h.log for example.

See also

  • icecreamAUR - An easier to configure fork of distcc that some find brings notably better results and improved utilisation of available cores.