This directory contains CMake files that can be used to build protobuf with MSVC on Windows. You can build the project from Command Prompt and using an Visual Studio IDE.
You need to have CMake, Visual Studio and optionally Git installed on your computer before proceeding.
Most of the instructions will be given to the Сommand Prompt, but the same actions can be performed using appropriate GUI tools.
Open the appropriate Command Prompt from the Start menu.
For example x86 Native Tools Command Prompt for VS 2019:
C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2019\Professional>
Change to your working directory:
C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2019\Professional>cd C:\Path\to C:\Path\to>
Where C:\Path\to is path to your real working directory.
Create a folder where protobuf headers/libraries/binaries will be installed after built:
If cmake command is not available from Command Prompt, add it to system PATH variable:
C:\Path\to>set PATH=%PATH%;C:\Program Files (x86)\CMake\bin
If git command is not available from Command Prompt, add it to system PATH variable:
C:\Path\to>set PATH=%PATH%;C:\Program Files\Git\cmd
Optionally, you will want to download ninja and add it to your PATH variable.
Good. Now you are ready to continue.
You can get the latest stable source packages from the release page:
For example: if you only need C++, download
protobuf-cpp-[VERSION].tar.gz; if you need C++ and Java,
protobuf-java-[VERSION].tar.gz (every package
contains C++ source already); if you need C++ and multiple other
Or you can use git to clone from protobuf git repository.
C:\Path\to> mkdir src & cd src C:\Path\to\src> git clone -b [release_tag] https://github.com/protocolbuffers/protobuf.git
Where [release_tag] is a git tag like v3.0.0-beta-1 or a branch name like main if you want to get the latest code.
Go to the project folder:
C:\Path\to\src> cd protobuf C:\Path\to\src\protobuf>
Remember to update any submodules if you are using git clone (you can skip this step if you are using a release .tar.gz or .zip package):
C:\Path\to\src\protobuf> git submodule update --init --recursive
Good. Now you are ready for CMake configuration.
CMake supports a lot of different generators for various native build systems.
Of most interest to Windows programmers are the following:
Makefile. This generates NMake Makefiles for Visual Studio. These work, but they are rather slow.
Visual Studio This generates a Visual Studio solution for the project.
Note that as of Visual Studio 2015, Visual Studio includes support for opening directly CMake-based projects.
It is considered good practice not to build CMake projects in the source tree but in a separate folder.
Create a temporary build folder and change your working directory to it:
mkdir C:\Path\to\build\protobuf cd C:\Path\to\build\protobuf C:\Path\to\build\protobuf>
The Makefile and Ninja generators can build the project in only one configuration, so you need to build a separate folder for each configuration.
To start using a Release configuration via the NMmake generator:
C:\Path\to\build\protobuf>mkdir release & cd release C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\release>cmake -G "NMake Makefiles" ^ -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ^ -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=C:\Path\to\install ^ C:\Path\to\src\protobuf
It will generate a NMake Makefile in the current directory.
To use Debug configuration using Ninja:
C:\Path\to\build\protobuf>mkdir debug & cd debug C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\debug>cmake -G "Ninja" ^ -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Debug ^ -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=C:\Path\to\install ^ C:\Path\to\src\protobuf
It will generate Ninja build scripts in current directory.
The Visual Studio generator is multi-configuration: it will generate a single .sln file that can be used for both Debug and Release:
C:\Path\to\build\protobuf>mkdir solution & cd solution C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\solution>cmake -G "Visual Studio 16 2019" ^ -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=C:\Path\to\install ^ C:\Path\to\src\protobuf
It will generate Visual Studio solution file protobuf.sln in current directory.
Unit tests are being built along with the rest of protobuf. The unit tests require Google Mock (now a part of Google Test).
A copy of Google
Test is included as a Git submodule in the
third-party/googletest folder. (You do need to initialize
the Git submodules as explained above.)
Alternately, you may want to use protobuf in a larger set-up, you may want to use that standard CMake approach where you build and install a shared copy of Google Test.
After you've built and installed your Google Test copy, you need add
the following definition to your cmake command line during the
will cause the standard CMake
to be used.
will search in a default location, which on Windows is C:\Program
Files. This is most likely not what you want. You will want instead
to search for Google Test in your project's root directory (i.e. the
same directory you've passed to
building Google Test). For this, you need to set the
CMAKE_PREFIX_PATH CMake variable. (There are other ways in
CMake, see the manual
C:\Path\to\build\protobuf>mkdir solution & cd solution C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\solution>cmake -G "Visual Studio 16 2019" ^ -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=C:\Path\to\install ^ -DCMAKE_PREFIX_PATH=C:\Path\to\my_big_project ^ -Dprotobuf_USE_EXTERNAL_GTEST=ON ^ C:\Path\to\src\protobuf
In most cases,
CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX will point to the same directory.
To disable testing completely, you need to add the following argument
to you cmake command line:
C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\solution>cmake -G "Visual Studio 16 2019" ^ -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=C:\Path\to\install ^ -Dprotobuf_BUILD_TESTS=OFF ^ C:\Path\to\src\protobuf
The standard way to compile a CMake project is
cmake --build <directory>.
Note that if your generator supports multiple configurations, you will probably want to specify which one to build:
cmake --build C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\solution --config Release
You can also run directly the build tool you've configured:
And wait for the compilation to finish.
If you prefer to use the IDE:
And wait for the compilation to finish.
To run unit-tests, first you must compile protobuf as described above. Then run:
C:\Path\to\protobuf\cmake\build\release>ctest --progress --output-on-failure
You can also build the
check target (not idiomatic CMake
C:\Path\to\protobuf\cmake\build\release>cmake --build . --target check
You can also build project check from Visual Studio solution. Yes, it may sound strange, but it works.
You should see output similar to:
Running main() from gmock_main.cc [==========] Running 1546 tests from 165 test cases. ... [==========] 1546 tests from 165 test cases ran. (2529 ms total) [ PASSED ] 1546 tests.
To run specific tests, you need to pass some command line arguments to the test program itself:
C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\release>tests.exe --gtest_filter=AnyTest* Running main() from gmock_main.cc Note: Google Test filter = AnyTest* [==========] Running 3 tests from 1 test case. [----------] Global test environment set-up. [----------] 3 tests from AnyTest [ RUN ] AnyTest.TestPackAndUnpack [ OK ] AnyTest.TestPackAndUnpack (0 ms) [ RUN ] AnyTest.TestPackAndUnpackAny [ OK ] AnyTest.TestPackAndUnpackAny (0 ms) [ RUN ] AnyTest.TestIs [ OK ] AnyTest.TestIs (0 ms) [----------] 3 tests from AnyTest (1 ms total) [----------] Global test environment tear-down [==========] 3 tests from 1 test case ran. (2 ms total) [ PASSED ] 3 tests.
Note that the tests must be run from the source folder.
If all tests are passed, safely continue.
To install protobuf to the install folder you've specified
in the configuration step, you need to build the
cmake --build C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\solution --config Release --target install
Or if you prefer:
You can also build project INSTALL from Visual Studio solution. It sounds not so strange and it works.
This will create the following folders under the install location:
Now you can if needed:
To avoid conflicts between the MSVC debug and release runtime libraries, when compiling a debug build of your application, you may need to link against a debug build of libprotobufd.lib with "d" postfix. Similarly, release builds should link against release libprotobuf.lib library.
Static linking is now the default for the Protocol Buffer libraries. Due to issues with Win32's use of a separate heap for each DLL, as well as binary compatibility issues between different versions of MSVC's STL library, it is recommended that you use static linkage only. However, it is possible to build libprotobuf and libprotoc as DLLs if you really want. To do this, do the following:
-Dprotobuf_BUILD_SHARED_LIBS=ONwhen invoking cmake
When distributing your software to end users, we strongly recommend that you do NOT install libprotobuf.dll or libprotoc.dll to any shared location. Instead, keep these libraries next to your binaries, in your application's own install directory. C++ makes it very difficult to maintain binary compatibility between releases, so it is likely that future versions of these libraries will not be usable as drop-in replacements.
If your project is itself a DLL intended for use by third-party software, we recommend that you do NOT expose protocol buffer objects in your library's public interface, and that you statically link protocol buffers into your library.
If you want to include GzipInputStream and GzipOutputStream (google/protobuf/io/gzip_stream.h) in libprotobuf, you will need to do a few additional steps.
Obtain a copy of the zlib library. The pre-compiled DLL at zlib.net works. You need prepare it:
You can also compile it from source by yourself.
C:\Path\to\src>git clone -b v1.2.8 https://github.com/madler/zlib.git C:\Path\to\src>cd zlib
Compiling and Installing:
C:\Path\to\src\zlib>mkdir C:\Path\to\build\zlib & cd C:\Path\to\build\zlib C:\Path\to\build\zlib>mkdir release & cd release C:\Path\to\build\zlib\release>cmake -G "Ninja" -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ^ -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=C:\Path\to\install C:\Path\to\src\zlib C:\Path\to\src\zlib\build\release>cmake --build . --target install
You can make debug version or use Visual Studio generator also as before for the protobuf project.
Now add bin folder from install to system PATH:
You need reconfigure protobuf with flag
-Dprotobuf_WITH_ZLIB=ON when invoking cmake.
Note that if you have compiled ZLIB yourself, as stated above,
further disable the option
If it reports NOTFOUND for zlib_include or zlib_lib, you might haven't put the headers or the .lib file in the right directory.
If you already have ZLIB library and headers at some other location on your system then alternatively you can define following configuration flags to locate them:
-DZLIB_INCLUDE_DIR=<path to dir containing zlib headers> -DZLIB_LIB=<path to dir containing zlib>
Build and testing protobuf as usual.
The following warnings have been disabled while building the protobuf libraries and compiler. You may have to disable some of them in your own project as well, or live with them.
C4251 is of particular note, if you are compiling the Protocol Buffer library as a DLL (see previous section). The protocol buffer library uses templates in its public interfaces. MSVC does not provide any reasonable way to export template classes from a DLL. However, in practice, it appears that exporting templates is not necessary anyway. Since the complete definition of any template is available in the header files, anyone importing the DLL will just end up compiling instances of the templates into their own binary. The Protocol Buffer implementation does not rely on static template members being unique, so there should be no problem with this, but MSVC prints warning nevertheless. So, we disable it. Unfortunately, this warning will also be produced when compiling code which merely uses protocol buffers, meaning you may have to disable it in your code too.