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Building tcpdump on Windows with Visual Studio

Unlike the UN*Xes on which libpcap can capture network traffic, Windows has no network traffic capture mechanism that libpcap can use. Therefore, libpcap requires a driver, and a library to access the driver, provided by the Npcap or WinPcap projects.

Those projects include versions of libpcap built to use that driver and library; these instructions are for people who want to build libpcap source releases, or libpcap from the Git repository, as a replacement for the version provided with Npcap or WinPcap.

Npcap and WinPcap SDK

In order to build tcpdump, you will need to download Npcap and its software development kit (SDK) or WinPcap and its software development kit.

Npcap is currently being developed and maintained, and offers many additional capabilities that WinPcap does not.

WinPcap is no longer being developed or maintained; it should be used only if there is some other requirement to use it rather than Npcap, such as a requirement to support versions of Windows earlier than Windows Vista, which is the earliest version supported by Npcap.

Npcap and its SDK can be downloaded from its home page:

https://npcap.org

The SDK is a ZIP archive; create a folder on your C: drive, e.g. C:-sdk, and put the contents of the ZIP archive into that folder.

The WinPcap installer can be downloaded from

https://www.winpcap.org/install/default.htm

and the WinPcap Developer’s Kit can be downloaded from

https://www.winpcap.org/devel.htm

Required build tools

The Developer’s Kit is a ZIP archive; it contains a folder named WpdPack, which you should place on your C: drive, e.g. C:.

Building tcpdump on Windows requires Visual Studio 2015 or later. The Community Edition of Visual Studio can be downloaded at no cost from

https://visualstudio.microsoft.com

Additional tools are also required. Chocolatey is a package manager for Windows with which those tools, and other tools, can be installed; it can be downloaded from

https://chocolatey.org

It is a command-line tool; a GUI tool, Chocolatey GUI, is provided as a Chocolatey package, which can be installed from the command line:

choco install chocolateygui

For convenience, the “choco install” command can be run with the “-y” flag, forcing it to automatically answer all questions asked of the user with “yes”:

choco install -y chocolateygui

The required tools are:

CMake

libpcap does not provide supported project files for Visual Studio (there are currently unsupported project files provided, but we do not guarantee that they will work or that we will continue to provide them). It does provide files for CMake, which is a cross-platform tool that runs on UNXes and on Windows and that can generate project files for UNX Make, the Ninja build system, and Visual Studio, among other build systems.

Visual Studio 2015 does not provide CMake; an installer can be downloaded from

https://cmake.org/download/

When you run the installer, you should choose to add CMake to the system PATH for all users and to create the desktop icon.

CMake can also be installed as the Chocolatey package “cmake”:

choco install -y cmake

Visual Studio 2017 and later provide CMake, so you will not need to install CMake if you have installed Visual Studio 2017 or later. They include built-in support for CMake-based projects:

https://devblogs.microsoft.com/cppblog/cmake-support-in-visual-studio/

For Visual Studio 2017, make sure “Visual C++ tools for CMake” is installed; for Visual Studio 2019, make sure “C++ CMake tools for Windows” is intalled.

Git

An optional tool, required only if you will be building from a Git repository rather than from a release source tarball, is Git. Git is provided as an optional installation component, “Git for Windows”, with Visual Studio 2017 and later.

Building from the Visual Studio GUI

Visual Studio 2017

Open the folder containing the libpcap source with Open > Folder. Visual Studio will run CMake; however, you will need to indicate where the Npcap or WinPcap SDK is installed.

To do this, go to Project > “Change CMake Settings” > tcpdump and:

Choose which configuration type to build, if you don’t want the default Debug build.

In the CMakeSettings.json tab, change cmakeCommandArgs to include

-DPacket_ROOT={path-to-sdk}

where {path-to-sdk} is the path of the directory containing the Npcap or WinPcap SDK. Note that backslashes in the path must be specified as two backslashes.

Save the configuration changes with File > “Save CMakeSettings.json” or with control-S.

Visual Studio will then re-run CMake. If that completes without errors, you can build with CMake > “Build All”.

Visual Studio 2019

Open the folder containing the libpcap source with Open > Folder. Visual Studio will run CMake; however, you will need to indicate where the Npcap or WinPcap SDK is installed.

To do this, go to Project > “CMake Settings for tcpdump” and:

Choose which configuration type to build, if you don’t want the default Debug build.

Scroll down to “Cmake variables and cache”, scroll through the list looking for the entry for Packet_ROOT, and either type in the path of the directory containing the Npcap or WinPcap SDK or use the “Browse…” button to browse for that directory.

Save the configuration changes with File > “Save CMakeSettings.json” or with control-S.

Visual Studio will then re-run CMake. If that completes without errors, you can build with Build > “Build All”.

Building from the command line

Start the appropriate Native Tools command line prompt.

Change to the directory into which you want to build tcpdump, possibly after creating it first. One choice is to create it as a subdirectory of the tcpdump source directory.

Run the command

cmake "-DPacket_ROOT={path-to-sdk}" -G {generator} {path-to-tcpdump-source}

{path-to-sdk} is the path of the directory containing the Npcap or WinPcap SDK.

{generator} is the string “Visual Studio N YYYY”, where “N” is the version of Visual Studio and “YYYY” is the year number for that version; if you are building a 64-bit version of tcpdump, YYYY must be followed by a space and “Win64”. For example, to build a 32-bit version of tcpdump with Visual Studio 2017, “{generator}” would be “Visual Studio 15 2017” and to build a 64-bit version of tcpdump with Visual Studio 2017, “{generator}” would be “Visual Studio 15 2017 Win64”.

{path-to-tcpdump-source} is the pathname of the top-level source directory for tcpdump.

Run the command

msbuild /m /nologo /p:Configuration={configuration} tcpdump.sln

where {configuration} can be “Release”, “Debug”, or “RelWithDebInfo”.

Building with MinGW

(XXX - this should be added)