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Building Boost on Windows

· 3 min read
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From time to time I find myself building Boost on Windows. There's a number of small things that need to be done to make that happen. Having had to "rediscover" the build process each time, I recently decided to create a small Windows command script to automate most of the process.

As I find the build script extremely useful, I figured it would be worth posting it here to inspire others in similar circumstances.

Process Overview

The overall build process is simple:

  1. Download and install the necessary tools.
  2. Download the sources.
  3. Download the build script.
  4. Update paths and version numbers in the build script, as necessary.
  5. Run the build script.

The build script itself will, for each build type (release / debug, 32-bit / 64-bit):

  1. Extract the Boost source to a build sub-directory.
  2. Configure the Windows SDK for the appropriate build type, if necessary.
  3. Configure and build Boost.

External Tools

The build script requires a valid Visual C++ installation - Express editions are fine. If using an Express edition prior to 2012, then you should also install a recent (eg 7.1) Windows SDK for 64-bit support.

For Boost's MPI support, install a Microsoft HPC Pack - not 2012 though, that version does not include the required headers / libraries.

For Python support, install the official Python Windows binaries - install both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

Oh, and the build script uses 7zip to extract the various sources, so install that too.


At the very least you need the relevant Boost source... naturally.

Additionally, you can (recommended) include bzip2 and zlib sources to enable Boost's support for those. Note, if downloading zlib, be sure to downoad the source, not the compiled DLL release for Windows - the latter is 32-bit only.

My Boost build script expects to find the above sources within a source directory in its current location. The directory layout should look like:

  • source
    • boost_?_??_?.7z
    • bzip2-?.?.?.tar.gz
    • zlib???.zip
  • build.cmd

Note, the following script has been moved to github:

So check there for the latest version.

The build script will create a build directory (if not already present) for the generated build files.


So, here's the build script:

@echo off
:: Script for building Boost C++ Libraries on Windows.
:: Writen by Paul Colby (, no rights reserved ;)
:: See

:: The following are all required; adjust to match your setup.
set BOOST_TOOLSET=msvc-11.0
set BOOST_VERSION=1_53_0
set ZIP7=%PROGRAMFILES%\7-zip\7z.exe

:: The following are all optional; comment out if not needed.
set BZIP_VERSION=1.0.6
set ZLIB_VERSION=1.2.7

:: Only define the Windows SDK version if standalone, ie for Express versions prior to 2012.
rem set WIN_SDK_VERSION=7.1
if "%WIN_SDK%" NEQ "" (
if exist "%WIN_SDK%\Bin\SetEnv.cmd" set SET_ENV=%WIN_SDK%\Bin\SetEnv.cmd
rem I like to copy %WIN_SDK%\Bin\SetEnv.cmd to %WIN_SDK%\Bin\SetEnvNc.cmd to
rem remove the two "COLOR 0x" calls and the CLS call - just for nicer output.
if exist "%WIN_SDK%\Bin\SetEnvNc.cmd" set SET_ENV=%WIN_SDK%\Bin\SetEnvNc.cmd
goto main

:: usage: call:extract input-file output-dir
@echo Extracting "%~1" to "%~2"
"%ZIP7%" x -o"%~2" "%~1" > nul
if errorlevel 1 (
echo Failed to extract "%~1"
exit errorlevel
goto :EOF

:: usage: call:configureWinSDK x86|x64|ia64 debug|release [/vista^|/xp^|/2003^|/2008^|/win7]
if "%WIN_SDK%" EQU "" goto :EOF
set MODE=/%2
if "%3" EQU "" ( set TARGET_OS=/xp ) else set TARGET_OS=%3
goto :EOF

:: usage: call:extractsource build_dir
set SOURCE_DIR=%~dp0source
if exist "%SOURCE_DIR%\boost_%BOOST_VERSION%.7z" (
if not exist "%~1" call:extract %SOURCE_FILE% %~1
goto :EOF

:: usage: call:bootstrap boost_dir
@echo Bootstrapping %~1
pushd "%~1"
call bootstrap.bat
set MPI_JAM=%~1\tools\build\v2\tools\mpi.jam
set MPI_TMP=%MPI_JAM%.tmp
if exist "%PROGRAMFILES%\Microsoft HPC Pack 2008 R2" (
powershell -Command "get-content %MPI_JAM% | ForEach-Object {$_ -replace \"Microsoft Compute Cluster Pack\",\"Microsoft HPC Pack 2008 R2\"} | set-content %MPI_TMP%" && move /y "%MPI_TMP%" "%MPI_JAM%"
if not exist "%PROGRAMFILES%\Microsoft HPC Pack 2008 R2\Include" (
if exist "%PROGRAMFILES%\Microsoft HPC Pack 2008 R2\Inc" (
powershell -Command "get-content %MPI_JAM% | ForEach-Object {$_ -replace '(cluster_pack_path.*Inc)lude', '$1'} | set-content %MPI_TMP%" && move /y "%MPI_TMP%" "%MPI_JAM%"
echo( >> "%~1\tools\build\v2\user-config.jam" && echo using mpi ; >> "%~1\tools\build\v2\user-config.jam"
goto :EOF

:: usage: call:buildBoost boost_dir install_dir x86|x64|ia64 debug|release
if /I "%~3" EQU "ia64" ( set BOOST_ARCH=ia64 ) else set BOOST_ARCH=x86
if /I "%~3" EQU "x86" ( set BOOST_ADDR=32 ) else set BOOST_ADDR=64
if "%BZIP_VERSION%" NEQ "" set sBZIP2=-sBZIP2_SOURCE="%~dp0source\bzip2-%BZIP_VERSION%"
if "%ZLIB_FILE_VERSION%" NEQ "" set sZLIB=-sZLIB_SOURCE="%~dp0source\zlib-%ZLIB_VERSION%"
pushd "%~1"
b2.exe --build-type=complete -d0 -j %NUMBER_OF_PROCESSORS% --prefix="%~2" -q %sBZIP2% %sZLIB% architecture=%BOOST_ARCH% address-model=%BOOST_ADDR% toolset=%BOOST_TOOLSET% variant=%~4 install
goto :EOF

:: usage: call:build x86|x64|ia64 debug|release
@echo ==== Building %~1 %~2 ====
call:configureWinSDK %~1 %~2
set BUILD_DIR=%~dp0build\boost_%BOOST_VERSION%-%~1-%~2
if not exist "%BUILD_DIR%" call:extractSource %BUILD_DIR%
if not exist "%BOOST_DIR%\b2.exe" call:bootstrap %BOOST_DIR%
if not exist "%INSTALL_DIR%" call:buildBoost %BOOST_DIR% %INSTALL_DIR% %~1 %~2
goto :EOF

if "%BZIP_VERSION%" NEQ "" (
if not exist "%~dp0source\bzip2-%BZIP_VERSION%.tar" call:extract %~dp0source\bzip2-%BZIP_VERSION%.tar.gz %~dp0source
if not exist "%~dp0source\bzip2-%BZIP_VERSION%" call:extract %~dp0source\bzip2-%BZIP_VERSION%.tar %~dp0source
if not exist "%~dp0source\zlib-%ZLIB_VERSION%" call:extract %~dp0source\ %~dp0source
if not exist "%~dp0build" md "%~dp0build"
call:build x64 debug
call:build x64 release
call:build x86 debug
call:build x86 release

I've tested this script with:

  • Boost 1.53.0
  • bzip2 1.0.6
  • HPC Pack 2008 R2 with Service Pack 4
  • Python 2.7.3
  • Python 3.3.0
  • Visual C++ 2010 Express with Windows SDK 7.1
  • Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop
  • zlib 1.0.6

These all build cleanly (actually some libs are skipped by Boost when using Python 3+), but I certainly haven't tested all of Boost's features, so there probably will be a few issues yet to be sorted out. And no doubt other versions of the tools / sources will bring their own issues too.

What's Next

The next step is packaging... I've already created a basic set of NSIS install scripts for generating installers for the generated Boost files. I'll finalise, and post those scripts in another blog post soon.

After that, I plan on putting together a short screencast to show the entire process, from a clean Windows install to a Boost Windows installer.

I might also look for somewhere to host the generated installers publically... if there's enough interest for that.