Using PyInstaller

The syntax of the pyinstaller command is:

pyinstaller [options] script [script ...] | specfile

In the most simple case, set the current directory to the location of your program and execute:


PyInstaller analyzes and:

  • Writes myscript.spec in the same folder as the script.
  • Creates a folder build in the same folder as the script if it does not exist.
  • Writes some log files and working files in the build folder.
  • Creates a folder dist in the same folder as the script if it does not exist.
  • Writes the myscript executable folder in the dist folder.

In the dist folder you find the bundled app you distribute to your users.

Normally you name one script on the command line. If you name more, all are analyzed and included in the output. However, the first script named supplies the name for the spec file and for the executable folder or file. Its code is the first to execute at run-time.

For certain uses you may edit the contents of myscript.spec (described under Using Spec Files). After you do this, you name the spec file to PyInstaller instead of the script:

pyinstaller myscript.spec

You may give a path to the script or spec file, for example

pyinstaller options... ~/myproject/source/

or, on Windows,

pyinstaller "C:\Documents and Settings\project\myscript.spec"


General Options

-h, --help show this help message and exit
-v, --version Show program version info and exit.
--distpath DIR Where to put the bundled app (default: ./dist)
--workpath WORKPATH
 Where to put all the temporary work files, .log, .pyz and etc. (default: ./build)
-y, --noconfirm
 Replace output directory (default: SPECPATH/dist/SPECNAME) without asking for confirmation
--upx-dir UPX_DIR
 Path to UPX utility (default: search the execution path)
-a, --ascii Do not include unicode encoding support (default: included if available)
--clean Clean PyInstaller cache and remove temporary files before building.
--log-level LEVEL
 Amount of detail in build-time console messages. LEVEL may be one of DEBUG, INFO, WARN, ERROR, CRITICAL (default: INFO).

What to generate

-D, --onedir Create a one-folder bundle containing an executable (default)
-F, --onefile Create a one-file bundled executable.
--specpath DIR Folder to store the generated spec file (default: current directory)
-n NAME, --name NAME
 Name to assign to the bundled app and spec file (default: first script’s basename)

How to generate

-d, --debug Tell the bootloader to issue progress messages while initializing and starting the bundled app. Used to diagnose problems with missing imports.
-s, --strip Apply a symbol-table strip to the executable and shared libs (not recommended for Windows)
--noupx Do not use UPX even if it is available (works differently between Windows and *nix)

Windows and Mac OS X specific options

-c, --console, --nowindowed
 Open a console window for standard i/o (default)
-w, --windowed, --noconsole
 Windows and Mac OS X: do not provide a console window for standard i/o. On Mac OS X this also triggers building an OS X .app bundle. This option is ignored in *NIX systems.
-i <FILE.ico or FILE.exe,ID or FILE.icns>, --icon <FILE.ico or FILE.exe,ID or FILE.icns>
 FILE.ico: apply that icon to a Windows executable. FILE.exe,ID, extract the icon with ID from an exe. FILE.icns: apply the icon to the .app bundle on Mac OS X

Windows specific options

--version-file FILE
 add a version resource from FILE to the exe
-m <FILE or XML>, --manifest <FILE or XML>
 add manifest FILE or XML to the exe
-r RESOURCE, --resource RESOURCE
 Add or update a resource to a Windows executable. The RESOURCE is one to four items, FILE[,TYPE[,NAME[,LANGUAGE]]]. FILE can be a data file or an exe/dll. For data files, at least TYPE and NAME must be specified. LANGUAGE defaults to 0 or may be specified as wildcard * to update all resources of the given TYPE and NAME. For exe/dll files, all resources from FILE will be added/updated to the final executable if TYPE, NAME and LANGUAGE are omitted or specified as wildcard *.This option can be used multiple times.
--uac-admin Using this option creates a Manifest which will request elevation upon application restart.
--uac-uiaccess Using this option allows an elevated application to work with Remote Desktop.

Windows Side-by-side Assembly searching options (advanced)

 Any Shared Assemblies bundled into the application will be changed into Private Assemblies. This means the exact versions of these assemblies will always be used, and any newer versions installed on user machines at the system level will be ignored.
 While searching for Shared or Private Assemblies to bundle into the application, PyInstaller will prefer not to follow policies that redirect to newer versions, and will try to bundle the exact versions of the assembly.

Mac OS X specific options

--osx-bundle-identifier BUNDLE_IDENTIFIER
 Mac OS X .app bundle identifier is used as the default unique program name for code signing purposes. The usual form is a hierarchical name in reverse DNS notation. For example: com.mycompany.department.appname (default: first script’s basename)

Shortening the Command

Because of its numerous options, a full pyinstaller command can become very long. You will run the same command again and again as you develop your script. You can put the command in a shell script or batch file, using line continuations to make it readable. For example, in Linux:

pyinstaller --noconfirm --log-level=WARN \
    --onefile --nowindow \
    --add-data="README:." \
    --add-data="image1.png:img" \
    --add-binary="" \
    --hidden-import=secret1 \
    --hidden-import=secret2 \
    --upx-dir=/usr/local/share/ \

Or in Windows, use the little-known BAT file line continuation:

pyinstaller --noconfirm --log-level=WARN ^
    --onefile --nowindow ^
    --add-data="README;." ^
    --add-data="image1.png;img" ^
    --add-binary=";lib" ^
    --hidden-import=secret1 ^
    --hidden-import=secret2 ^
    --icon=..\MLNMFLCN.ICO ^

Using UPX

UPX is a free utility available for most operating systems. UPX compresses executable files and libraries, making them smaller, sometimes much smaller. UPX is available for most operating systems and can compress a large number of executable file formats. See the UPX home page for downloads, and for the list of supported executable formats. Development of UPX appears to have ended in September 2013, at which time it supported most executable formats except for 64-bit binaries for Mac OS X. UPX has no effect on those.

A compressed executable program is wrapped in UPX startup code that dynamically decompresses the program when the program is launched. After it has been decompressed, the program runs normally. In the case of a PyInstaller one-file executable that has been UPX-compressed, the full execution sequence is:

  • The compressed program start up in the UPX decompressor code.
  • After decompression, the program executes the PyInstaller bootloader, which creates a temporary environment for Python.
  • The Python interpreter executes your script.

PyInstaller looks for UPX on the execution path or the path specified with the --upx-dir option. If UPX exists, PyInstaller applies it to the final executable, unless the --noupx option was given. UPX has been used with PyInstaller output often, usually with no problems.

Encrypting Python Bytecode

To encrypt the Python bytecode modules stored in the bundle, pass the --key=key-string argument on the command line.

For this to work, you must have the PyCrypto module installed. The key-string is a string of 16 characters which is used to encrypt each file of Python byte-code before it is stored in the archive inside the executable file.

Supporting Multiple Platforms

If you distribute your application for only one combination of OS and Python, just install PyInstaller like any other package and use it in your normal development setup.

Supporting Multiple Python Environments

When you need to bundle your application within one OS but for different versions of Python and support libraries – for example, a Python 3 version and a Python 2.7 version; or a supported version that uses Qt4 and a development version that uses Qt5 – we recommend you use virtualenv. With virtualenv you can maintain different combinations of Python and installed packages, and switch from one combination to another easily. (If you work only with Python 3.4 and later, the built-in script pyvenv does the same job.)

  • Use virtualenv to create as many different development environments as you need, each with its unique combination of Python and installed packages.
  • Install PyInstaller in each environment.
  • Use PyInstaller to build your application in each environment.

Note that when using virtualenv, the path to the PyInstaller commands is:

  • Windows: ENV_ROOT\Scripts
  • Others: ENV_ROOT/bin

Under Windows, the pip-Win package installs virtualenv and makes it especially easy to set up different environments and switch between them. Under Linux and Mac OS, you switch environments at the command line.

Supporting Multiple Operating Systems

If you need to distribute your application for more than one OS, for example both Windows and Mac OS X, you must install PyInstaller on each platform and bundle your app separately on each.

You can do this from a single machine using virtualization. The free virtualBox or the paid VMWare and Parallels allow you to run another complete operating system as a “guest”. You set up a virtual machine for each “guest” OS. In it you install Python, the support packages your application needs, and PyInstaller.

The Dropbox system is useful with virtual machines. Install a Dropbox client in each virtual machine, all linked to your Dropbox account. Keep a single copy of your script(s) in a Dropbox folder. Then on any virtual machine you can run PyInstaller thus:

cd ~/Dropbox/project_folder/src # Linux, Mac -- Windows similar
rm *.pyc # get rid of modules compiled by another Python
pyinstaller --workpath=path-to-local-temp-folder  \
            --distpath=path-to-local-dist-folder  \
            ...other options as required...       \

PyInstaller reads scripts from the common Dropbox folder, but writes its work files and the bundled app in folders that are local to the virtual machine.

If you share the same home directory on multiple platforms, for example Linux and OS X, you will need to set the PYINSTALLER_CONFIG_DIR environment variable to different values on each platform otherwise PyInstaller may cache files for one platform and use them on the other platform, as by default it uses a subdirectory of your home directory as its cache location.

It is said to be possible to cross-develop for Windows under Linux using the free Wine environment. Further details are needed, see How to Contribute.

Making Linux Apps Forward-Compatible

Under Linux, PyInstaller does not bundle libc (the C standard library, usually glibc, the Gnu version) with the app. Instead, the app expects to link dynamically to the libc from the local OS where it runs. The interface between any app and libc is forward compatible to newer releases, but it is not backward compatible to older releases.

For this reason, if you bundle your app on the current version of Linux, it may fail to execute (typically with a runtime dynamic link error) if it is executed on an older version of Linux.

The solution is to always build your app on the oldest version of Linux you mean to support. It should continue to work with the libc found on newer versions.

The Linux standard libraries such as glibc are distributed in 64-bit and 32-bit versions, and these are not compatible. As a result you cannot bundle your app on a 32-bit system and run it on a 64-bit installation, nor vice-versa. You must make a unique version of the app for each word-length supported.

Capturing Windows Version Data

A Windows app may require a Version resource file. A Version resource contains a group of data structures, some containing binary integers and some containing strings, that describe the properties of the executable. For details see the Microsoft Version Information Structures page.

Version resources are complex and some elements are optional, others required. When you view the version tab of a Properties dialog, there’s no simple relationship between the data displayed and the structure of the resource. For this reason PyInstaller includes the pyi-grab_version command. It is invoked with the full path name of any Windows executable that has a Version resource:

pyi-grab_version executable_with_version_resource

The command writes text that represents a Version resource in readable form to standard output. You can copy it from the console window or redirect it to a file. Then you can edit the version information to adapt it to your program. Using pyi-grab_version you can find an executable that displays the kind of information you want, copy its resource data, and modify it to suit your package.

The version text file is encoded UTF-8 and may contain non-ASCII characters. (Unicode characters are allowed in Version resource string fields.) Be sure to edit and save the text file in UTF-8 unless you are certain it contains only ASCII string values.

Your edited version text file can be given with the --version-file= option to pyinstaller or pyi-makespec. The text data is converted to a Version resource and installed in the bundled app.

In a Version resource there are two 64-bit binary values, FileVersion and ProductVersion. In the version text file these are given as four-element tuples, for example:

filevers=(2, 0, 4, 0),
prodvers=(2, 0, 4, 0),

The elements of each tuple represent 16-bit values from most-significant to least-significant. For example the value (2, 0, 4, 0) resolves to 0002000000040000 in hex.

You can also install a Version resource from a text file after the bundled app has been created, using the pyi-set_version command:

pyi-set_version version_text_file executable_file

The pyi-set_version utility reads a version text file as written by pyi-grab_version, converts it to a Version resource, and installs that resource in the executable_file specified.

For advanced uses, examine a version text file as written by pyi-grab_version. You find it is Python code that creates a VSVersionInfo object. The class definition for VSVersionInfo is found in utils/win32/ in the PyInstaller distribution folder. You can write a program that imports versioninfo. In that program you can eval the contents of a version info text file to produce a VSVersionInfo object. You can use the .toRaw() method of that object to produce a Version resource in binary form. Or you can apply the unicode() function to the object to reproduce the version text file.

Building Mac OS X App Bundles

If you specify only --onefile under Mac OS X, the output in dist is a UNIX executable myscript. It can be executed from a Terminal command line. Standard input and output work as normal through the Terminal window.

If you also specify --windowed, the dist folder contains two outputs: the UNIX executable myscript and also an OS X application named

As you probably know, an application is a special type of folder. The one built by PyInstaller contains a folder always named Contents. It contains:

  • A folder Frameworks which is empty.
  • A folder MacOS that contains a copy of the same myscript UNIX executable.
  • A folder Resources that contains an icon file.
  • A file Info.plist that describes the app.

PyInstaller builds minimal versions of these elements.

Use the osx-bundle-identifier= argument to add a bundle identifier. This becomes the CFBundleIdentifier used in code-signing (see the PyInstaller code signing recipe and for more detail, the Apple code signing overview technical note).

Use the icon= argument to specify a custom icon for the application. (If you do not specify an icon file, PyInstaller supplies a file icon-windowed.icns with the PyInstaller logo.)

You can add items to the Info.plist by editing the spec file; see Spec File Options for a Mac OS X Bundle below.

Making Mac OS X apps Forward-Compatible

In Mac OS X, components from one version of the OS are usually compatible with later versions, but they may not work with earlier versions.

The only way to be certain your app supports an older version of Mac OS X is to run PyInstaller in the oldest version of the OS you need to support.

For example, to be sure of compatibility with “Snow Leopard” (10.6) and later versions, you should execute PyInstaller in that environment. You would create a copy of Mac OS X 10.6, typically in a virtual machine. In it, install the desired level of Python (the default Python in Snow Leopard was 2.6, which PyInstaller no longer supports), and install PyInstaller, your source, and all its dependencies. Then build your app in that environment. It should be compatible with later versions of Mac OS X.

Building 32-bit Apps in Mac OS X

Older versions of Mac OS X supported both 32-bit and 64-bit executables. PyInstaller builds an app using the the word-length of the Python used to execute it. That will typically be a 64-bit version of Python, resulting in a 64-bit executable. To create a 32-bit executable, run PyInstaller under a 32-bit Python.

Python as installed in OS X will usually be executable in either 64- or 32-bit mode. To verify this, apply the file command to the Python executable:

$ file /usr/local/bin/python3
/usr/local/bin/python3: Mach-O universal binary with 2 architectures
/usr/local/bin/python3 (for architecture i386):     Mach-O executable i386
/usr/local/bin/python3 (for architecture x86_64):   Mach-O 64-bit executable x86_64

The OS chooses which architecture to run, and typically defaults to 64-bit. You can force the use of either architecture by name using the arch command:

$ /usr/local/bin/python3
Python 3.4.2 (v3.4.2:ab2c023a9432, Oct  5 2014, 20:42:22)
[GCC 4.2.1 (Apple Inc. build 5666) (dot 3)] on darwin
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import sys; sys.maxsize

$ arch -i386 /usr/local/bin/python3
Python 3.4.2 (v3.4.2:ab2c023a9432, Oct  5 2014, 20:42:22)
[GCC 4.2.1 (Apple Inc. build 5666) (dot 3)] on darwin
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import sys; sys.maxsize

Apple’s default /usr/bin/python may circumvent the arch specification and run 64-bit regardless. (That is not the case if you apply arch to a specific version such as /usr/bin/python2.7.) To make sure of running 32-bit in all cases, set the following environment variable:

arch -i386 /usr/bin/python pyinstaller --clean -F -w

Getting the Opened Document Names


Support for OpenDocument events is broken in PyInstaller 3.0 owing to code changes needed in the bootloader to support current versions of Mac OS X. Do not attempt to use this feature until it has been fixed. If this feature is important to you, follow and comment on the status of PyInstaller Issue #1309.

When a user double-clicks a document of a type your application supports, or when a user drags a document icon and drops it on your application’s icon, Mac OS X launches your application and provides the name(s) of the opened document(s) in the form of an OpenDocument AppleEvent. This AppleEvent is received by the bootloader before your code has started executing.

The bootloader gets the names of opened documents from the OpenDocument event and encodes them into the argv string before starting your code. Thus your code can query sys.argv to get the names of documents that should be opened at startup.

OpenDocument is the only AppleEvent the bootloader handles. If you want to handle other events, or events that are delivered after the program has launched, you must set up the appropriate handlers.