Building Static Haskell binaries using Nix

Static binaries are useful to distribute Haskell applications without requiring the user to build it themselves. Fully static Haskell executables are mostly supported by Nix; see this issue for details on what’s left.

To get started quickly with building static binaries for your Haskell project,

  • Nixify your project: write a default.nix (See Nix recipes for Haskellers)
  • Switch to a fork of nixpkgs reverting 3c7ef6b. 1
  • Write a static.nix (see below), that invokes this default.nix, using musl to build your app with static linking
  • Run nix-build static.nix to produce a static binary under ./result/bin
    • Expect it to take a long time as it builds everything from source.
  # Assuming we pin nixpkgs using
  sources = import ./nix/sources.nix;
  # Your nixpkgs fork (see step 2 above)
  nixpkgs = import sources.nixpkgs-fork { };
  # Use `pkgsMusl` for static libraries to link against
  pkgs = nixpkgs.pkgsMusl;
  # This is your Haskell app compiled normally.
  # It's default.nix takes a `pkgs` argument which we override with `pkgsMusl`
  myapp = import ./default.nix { inherit pkgs; };
  inherit (pkgs.haskell.lib) appendConfigureFlags justStaticExecutables;
  # All that's left to do is call `justStaticExecutables` to configure Cabal to
  # produce a static executable, as well as add the necessary GHC configure
  # flags to link against static libraries.
  appendConfigureFlags (justStaticExecutables ka)
      "--extra-lib-dirs=${pkgs.gmp6.override { withStatic = true; }}/lib"
      "--extra-lib-dirs=${pkgs.libffi.overrideAttrs (old: { dontDisableStatic = true; })}/lib"
      "--extra-lib-dirs=${pkgs.ncurses.override { enableStatic = true; }}/lib"

Other changes you might need to make

More complex projects may require additional fixes and workarounds.

  • If you see the error crtbeginT.o: relocation R_X86_64_32 against hidden symbol '__TMC_END__', you might want to add "--disable-shared" to the configure flags (see above). 2
  • Some tests may fail on musl (eg: hslua); disable them using dontCheck

For Neuron in particular, see this PR for the actual changes to support building static binaries on Linux.


macOS does not support fully static binaries. And there is nothing in nixpkgs to build partially static binaries either.

See this recommendation by nh2 on IRC. Though, a better solution seems to be to make the GHC bootstrap binary use ncurses6. See issue #99.
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