5.4 Parallel Execution
GNU `make' knows how to execute several commands at once. Normally,
`make' will execute only one command at a time, waiting for it to
finish before executing the next. However, the `-j' or `--jobs' option
tells `make' to execute many commands simultaneously.
On MS-DOS, the `-j' option has no effect, since that system doesn't
If the `-j' option is followed by an integer, this is the number of
commands to execute at once; this is called the number of "job slots".
If there is nothing looking like an integer after the `-j' option,
there is no limit on the number of job slots. The default number of job
slots is one, which means serial execution (one thing at a time).
One unpleasant consequence of running several commands
simultaneously is that output generated by the commands appears
whenever each command sends it, so messages from different commands may
Another problem is that two processes cannot both take input from the
same device; so to make sure that only one command tries to take input
from the terminal at once, `make' will invalidate the standard input
streams of all but one running command. This means that attempting to
read from standard input will usually be a fatal error (a `Broken pipe'
signal) for most child processes if there are several.
It is unpredictable which command will have a valid standard input
stream (which will come from the terminal, or wherever you redirect the
standard input of `make'). The first command run will always get it
first, and the first command started after that one finishes will get
it next, and so on.
We will change how this aspect of `make' works if we find a better
alternative. In the mean time, you should not rely on any command using
standard input at all if you are using the parallel execution feature;
but if you are not using this feature, then standard input works
normally in all commands.
Finally, handling recursive `make' invocations raises issues. For
more information on this, see Communicating Options to a
If a command fails (is killed by a signal or exits with a nonzero
status), and errors are not ignored for that command ( Errors in
Commands Errors.), the remaining command lines to remake the same
target will not be run. If a command fails and the `-k' or
`--keep-going' option was not given ( Summary of Options Options
Summary.), `make' aborts execution. If make terminates for any reason
(including a signal) with child processes running, it waits for them to
finish before actually exiting.
When the system is heavily loaded, you will probably want to run
fewer jobs than when it is lightly loaded. You can use the `-l' option
to tell `make' to limit the number of jobs to run at once, based on the
load average. The `-l' or `--max-load' option is followed by a
floating-point number. For example,
will not let `make' start more than one job if the load average is
above 2.5. The `-l' option with no following number removes the load
limit, if one was given with a previous `-l' option.
More precisely, when `make' goes to start up a job, and it already
has at least one job running, it checks the current load average; if it
is not lower than the limit given with `-l', `make' waits until the load
average goes below that limit, or until all the other jobs finish.
By default, there is no load limit.
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