$ cargo watch
Cargo Watch watches over your project's source for changes, and runs Cargo commands when they occur.
- In the public domain / licensed with CC0.
- Uses Caretaker Maintainership.
- Website and more documentation: watchexec.github.io.
- Minimum Supported Rust Version: 1.51.0.
$ cargo install cargo-watch
$ cargo binstall cargo-watch
Or clone and build with
$ cargo build then place in your $PATH.
By default, it runs
check. You can easily override this, though:
$ cargo watch [-x command]...
A few examples:
# Run tests only $ cargo watch -x test # Run check then tests $ cargo watch -x check -x test # Run run with arguments $ cargo watch -x 'run -- --some-arg' # Run an arbitrary command $ cargo watch -- echo Hello world # Run with features passed to cargo $ cargo watch --features "foo,bar"
There's a lot more you can do! Here's a copy of the help:
USAGE: cargo watch [FLAGS] [OPTIONS] FLAGS: -c, --clear Clear the screen before each run -h, --help Display this message --ignore-nothing Ignore nothing, not even target/ and .git/ --debug Show debug output --why Show paths that changed -q, --quiet Suppress output from cargo-watch itself --no-gitignore Don’t use .gitignore files --no-ignore Don’t use .ignore files --no-restart Don’t restart command while it’s still running --poll Force use of polling for file changes --postpone Postpone first run until a file changes -V, --version Display version information --watch-when-idle Ignore events emitted while the commands run. Will become default behaviour in 8.0. OPTIONS: -x, --exec <cmd>... Cargo command(s) to execute on changes [default: check] -s, --shell <cmd>... Shell command(s) to execute on changes -d, --delay <delay> File updates debounce delay in seconds [default: 0.5] --features <features> List of features passed to cargo invocations -i, --ignore <pattern>... Ignore a glob/gitignore-style pattern --use-shell <use-shell> Use a different shell. E.g. --use-shell=bash. On Windows, try --use-shell=powershell, which will become the default in 8.0. -w, --watch <watch>... Watch specific file(s) or folder(s) [default: .] -C, --workdir <workdir> Change working directory before running command [default: crate root] ARGS: <cmd:trail>... Full command to run. -x and -s will be ignored! Cargo commands (-x) are always executed before shell commands (-s). You can use the `-- command` style instead, note you'll need to use full commands, it won't prefix `cargo` for you. By default, your entire project is watched, except for the target/ and .git/ folders, and your .ignore and .gitignore files are used to filter paths. On Windows, patterns given to -i have forward slashes (/) automatically converted to backward ones (\) to ease command portability.
.gitignore files are used by default to ignore paths to watch and trigger
runs. To stop honouring them, pass
.ignore files in the same syntax are also used by default. This file can be
used to specify files that should be ignored by cargo watch but checked into
git, without constantly adding
--ignore abc options on the command-line. Do
.ignore files may also be used by other programs, like
To stop honouring these, pass
Cargo watch also has an internal list of default ignores on top of those
specified in files, like
.git/ and various other common types
(logs, editor swap files, lockfiles, etc).
To skip absolutely all ignores, use the
.git/info/exclude and the global
$HOME/.gitignore and similar ignore files
are not supported yet.
See the Glob patterns page for a description of how they work in the
context of this tool. That’s the syntax used for the
Additionally, some specific quirks and behaviours:
On Windows, patterns should be specified with Windows-style (
\\) separators. Unix-style separators (
/) would not match Windows paths, which could be confusing and give the appearance of commandline ignores not working.
From Cargo Watch 7.0.0,
/in commandline ignores are automatically translated to
\\when running on Windows, but one should still try to write the correct patterns for the platform, as there may be more subtle differences.
From Cargo Watch 7.3.0,
--ignorepatterns were fixed to provide better experience with directory matching. Previously, ignoring a folder would need unyieldy
-i folder/**patterns; now that is handled internally, and only
-i folderis needed for the same effect.
Reloading servers seamlessly
Cargo Watch pairs very well with systemfd/Catflap, tools for Unixy platforms that lets one spawn a socket before the watcher runs that Rust servers can then bind to, avoiding request-dropping and the infamous ADDRINUSE error. For example:
$ systemfd --no-pid -s http::5000 -- cargo watch -x run
Of course, if you don't need to guard against these issues or don't want to modify your program to grab sockets instead of ports, you can use Cargo Watch as-is: it will happily just restart your server normally.
Restarting an application only if the build/check succeeds
Brought up by @LeDominik, here's a pattern that may be very useful: you're working on a server or app, but want it to keep running while you're writing a new feature or fixing a bug, potentially causing the code not to compile anymore in the meantime.
In this case, you can use this strategy: run a first
cargo watch with check,
build, test, or whatever you want, and append
-s 'touch .trigger (or equivalent
for your platform). Then, run a second
cargo watch simultaneously that only
.trigger file. For example:
$ cargo watch -x check -s 'touch .trigger'
$ cargo watch --no-gitignore -w .trigger -x run
--no-gitignore flag ensures that you can safely add
.trigger to your
.gitignore file to avoid mistakenly committing it.
In all cases, start by checking your version with
cargo watch --version and,
if necessary, upgrading to the latest one.
RLS is slow while using cargo watch, or vice versa, or it's waiting for the project lock a lot
Cargo builds (and checks, and clippy, and tests because the tests have to be built) take out a lock on the project so two cargo instances don't run at the same time.
However, Rust Analyzer is much better at this, so use that instead of RLS.
On Windows 7 (or lower): "failed to add to job object: Access denied (OS Error 5)"
Cargo Watch versions 5.0.0 and up (and Watchexec versions 1.3.0 and up) do not support Windows 7 or lower. Support will not be added. Issues for Windows <=7 will be closed. If it works, lucky you, but that is not intentional.
I want to run cargo-watch directly, without going through cargo
You can! But you'll have to specify the
watch subcommand as the first
argument, like so:
$ /path/to/cargo-watch watch -x build
I want to run cargo-watch outside of a Cargo project
That's not supported. If you have a good reason to use a Cargo-specific tool outside a Cargo project, please open an issue! Otherwise, you'll probably be best served with using Watchexec.
If file updates seems to never trigger
--poll to force the polling fallback.
If that still doesn't work, and you're using an editor that does "safe saving", like IntelliJ / PyCharm, you may have to disable "safe saving" as that may prevent file notifications from being generated properly.
Also try using the
--why option to see if the paths you expect are changing.
Linux: If it fails to watch some deep directories but not others / "No space left on device"
You may have hit the inotify watch limit. Here's a summary of what this means and how to increase it.
If you want to only recompile one Cargo workspace member crate
Watching one or more specific workspace member is not natively supported yet,
although you can use
-w folder to approximate it.
Watching the entire workspace and running a command in one member is done via
-p option on the child command:
$ cargo watch -x 'build -p subcrate'
If it runs repeatedly without touching anything
That can happen when watching files that are modified by the command you're running.
If you're only running compiles or checks (i.e. any command that only affects
the target/ folder) and you're using
-w, you might be confusing the
target-folder-ignorer. Check your options and paths.
You can also use the
--watch-when-idle flag to ignore any event that happens
while the command is running. This will become the default in 8.0.
If it runs repeatedly only touching ignored files
Make sure the files you ignored are the only ones being touched. Use the
--why option to see exactly which files were modified and triggered the
restart. Some programs and libraries create temporary files
that may not match a simple ignore pattern.
As above, you can also use the
--watch-when-idle flag to help.
I don't have colour in my cargo output / for cargo test
This sometimes happens on some terminal configurations or for test harnesses.
A quick workaround (instead of going down the rabbit hole of debugging your
console settings) is to pass
--color=always to the command. E.g.
$ cargo watch -x 'check --color=always'
For test (and bench) commands, you'll need to pass the flag to the underlying program instead of cargo:
$ cargo watch -x 'test -- --color=always'
I want to compile my build with additional features
$ cargo watch --features foo,bar
cargo check --features foo,bar on every watched change.
--features will be passed to every supported
$ cargo watch --features foo,bar -x build -x doc
will run both
doc with the
Something not covered above / I have a feature request
Please open an issue, or look through the existing ones. You may also want to look through issues for the Notify library this tool depends on, or the issues for the Watchexec tool that we use under the covers (where I am also a maintainer).
If you want more verbose output, try running with the
--debug flag. Note that
this will also enable debug mode for watchexec. When filing an issue, make
sure to include a log with
--debug enabled so problems can be diagnosed.
If your issue is a watchexec issue, open it there directly. If you're not sure, feel free to open it here, but if it is a watchexec issue, it will get closed in favour of the upstream issue.
I want to embed Cargo Watch in my own (Rust) tool
It is not recommended to do that directly. You may of course call
as any other program, and technically it exposes an (undocumented) library that
could be directly / statically embedded. If you have no other option, that may
be your best bet.
If you want to build a tool that runs, restarts, and otherwise manages commands in response to file changes, you'll most probably want to use Watchexec.
If you want to build a tool that responds to file changes, but does not need to run commands, or does so in a way that is not well-supported by Watchexec, then Notify is your ticket.
Wait, is this just a wrapper on top of watchexec?
Kind of! Watchexec does a really good job of watching files and running
commands and all the details that go with this. Cargo Watch uses the Watchexec
library interface and calls it with its own custom options, defaults, and
particularities, so you can just run
cargo-watch in your project and be in
When asking questions and/or filing bugs, keep in mind that Cargo Watch and Watchexec share the same maintainer at the moment (but Notify does not, anymore)!