Profiles provide a way to alter the compiler settings, influencing things like optimizations and debugging symbols.

Cargo has 4 built-in profiles: dev, release, test, and bench. The profile is automatically chosen based on which command is being run if a profile is not specified on the command-line. In addition to the built-in profiles, custom user-defined profiles can also be specified.

Profile settings can be changed in Cargo.toml with the [profile] table. Within each named profile, individual settings can be changed with key/value pairs like this:

opt-level = 1               # Use slightly better optimizations.
overflow-checks = false     # Disable integer overflow checks.

Cargo only looks at the profile settings in the Cargo.toml manifest at the root of the workspace. Profile settings defined in dependencies will be ignored.

Additionally, profiles can be overridden from a config definition. Specifying a profile in a config file or environment variable will override the settings from Cargo.toml.

Profile settings

The following is a list of settings that can be controlled in a profile.


The opt-level setting controls the -C opt-level flag which controls the level of optimization. Higher optimization levels may produce faster runtime code at the expense of longer compiler times. Higher levels may also change and rearrange the compiled code which may make it harder to use with a debugger.

The valid options are:

  • 0: no optimizations
  • 1: basic optimizations
  • 2: some optimizations
  • 3: all optimizations
  • "s": optimize for binary size
  • "z": optimize for binary size, but also turn off loop vectorization.

It is recommended to experiment with different levels to find the right balance for your project. There may be surprising results, such as level 3 being slower than 2, or the "s" and "z" levels not being necessarily smaller. You may also want to reevaluate your settings over time as newer versions of rustc change optimization behavior.

See also Profile Guided Optimization for more advanced optimization techniques.


The debug setting controls the -C debuginfo flag which controls the amount of debug information included in the compiled binary.

The valid options are:

  • 0, false, or "none": no debug info at all, default for release
  • "line-directives-only": line info directives only. For the nvptx* targets this enables profiling. For other use cases, line-tables-only is the better, more compatible choice.
  • "line-tables-only": line tables only. Generates the minimal amount of debug info for backtraces with filename/line number info, but not anything else, i.e. no variable or function parameter info.
  • 1 or "limited": debug info without type or variable-level information. Generates more detailed module-level info than line-tables-only.
  • 2, true, or "full": full debug info, default for dev

For more information on what each option does see rustc’s docs on debuginfo.

You may wish to also configure the split-debuginfo option depending on your needs as well.


The split-debuginfo setting controls the -C split-debuginfo flag which controls whether debug information, if generated, is either placed in the executable itself or adjacent to it.

This option is a string and acceptable values are the same as those the compiler accepts. The default value for this option is unpacked on macOS for profiles that have debug information otherwise enabled. Otherwise the default for this option is documented with rustc and is platform-specific. Some options are only available on the nightly channel. The Cargo default may change in the future once more testing has been performed, and support for DWARF is stabilized.

Be aware that Cargo and rustc have different defaults for this option. This option exists to allow Cargo to experiment on different combinations of flags thus providing better debugging and developer experience.


The strip option controls the -C strip flag, which directs rustc to strip either symbols or debuginfo from a binary. This can be enabled like so:

# ...

strip = "debuginfo"

Possible string values of strip are "none", "debuginfo", and "symbols". The default is "none".

You can also configure this option with the boolean values true or false. strip = true is equivalent to strip = "symbols". strip = false is equivalent to strip = "none" and disables strip completely.


The debug-assertions setting controls the -C debug-assertions flag which turns cfg(debug_assertions) conditional compilation on or off. Debug assertions are intended to include runtime validation which is only available in debug/development builds. These may be things that are too expensive or otherwise undesirable in a release build. Debug assertions enables the debug_assert! macro in the standard library.

The valid options are:

  • true: enabled
  • false: disabled


The overflow-checks setting controls the -C overflow-checks flag which controls the behavior of runtime integer overflow. When overflow-checks are enabled, a panic will occur on overflow.

The valid options are:

  • true: enabled
  • false: disabled


The lto setting controls rustc’s -C lto, -C linker-plugin-lto, and -C embed-bitcode options, which control LLVM’s link time optimizations. LTO can produce better optimized code, using whole-program analysis, at the cost of longer linking time.

The valid options are:

  • false: Performs “thin local LTO” which performs “thin” LTO on the local crate only across its codegen units. No LTO is performed if codegen units is 1 or opt-level is 0.
  • true or "fat": Performs “fat” LTO which attempts to perform optimizations across all crates within the dependency graph.
  • "thin": Performs “thin” LTO. This is similar to “fat”, but takes substantially less time to run while still achieving performance gains similar to “fat”.
  • "off": Disables LTO.

See the linker-plugin-lto chapter if you are interested in cross-language LTO. This is not yet supported natively in Cargo, but can be performed via RUSTFLAGS.


The panic setting controls the -C panic flag which controls which panic strategy to use.

The valid options are:

  • "unwind": Unwind the stack upon panic.
  • "abort": Terminate the process upon panic.

When set to "unwind", the actual value depends on the default of the target platform. For example, the NVPTX platform does not support unwinding, so it always uses "abort".

Tests, benchmarks, build scripts, and proc macros ignore the panic setting. The rustc test harness currently requires unwind behavior. See the panic-abort-tests unstable flag which enables abort behavior.

Additionally, when using the abort strategy and building a test, all of the dependencies will also be forced to build with the unwind strategy.


The incremental setting controls the -C incremental flag which controls whether or not incremental compilation is enabled. Incremental compilation causes rustc to save additional information to disk which will be reused when recompiling the crate, improving re-compile times. The additional information is stored in the target directory.

The valid options are:

  • true: enabled
  • false: disabled

Incremental compilation is only used for workspace members and “path” dependencies.

The incremental value can be overridden globally with the CARGO_INCREMENTAL environment variable or the build.incremental config variable.


The codegen-units setting controls the -C codegen-units flag which controls how many “code generation units” a crate will be split into. More code generation units allows more of a crate to be processed in parallel possibly reducing compile time, but may produce slower code.

This option takes an integer greater than 0.

The default is 256 for incremental builds, and 16 for non-incremental builds.


The rpath setting controls the -C rpath flag which controls whether or not rpath is enabled.

Default profiles


The dev profile is used for normal development and debugging. It is the default for build commands like cargo build, and is used for cargo install --debug.

The default settings for the dev profile are:

opt-level = 0
debug = true
split-debuginfo = '...'  # Platform-specific.
strip = "none"
debug-assertions = true
overflow-checks = true
lto = false
panic = 'unwind'
incremental = true
codegen-units = 256
rpath = false


The release profile is intended for optimized artifacts used for releases and in production. This profile is used when the --release flag is used, and is the default for cargo install.

The default settings for the release profile are:

opt-level = 3
debug = false
split-debuginfo = '...'  # Platform-specific.
strip = "none"
debug-assertions = false
overflow-checks = false
lto = false
panic = 'unwind'
incremental = false
codegen-units = 16
rpath = false


The test profile is the default profile used by cargo test. The test profile inherits the settings from the dev profile.


The bench profile is the default profile used by cargo bench. The bench profile inherits the settings from the release profile.

Build Dependencies

To compile quickly, all profiles, by default, do not optimize build dependencies (build scripts, proc macros, and their dependencies), and avoid computing debug info when a build dependency is not used as a runtime dependency. The default settings for build overrides are:

opt-level = 0
codegen-units = 256
debug = false # when possible

opt-level = 0
codegen-units = 256

However, if errors occur while running build dependencies, turning full debug info on will improve backtraces and debuggability when needed:

debug = true

Build dependencies otherwise inherit settings from the active profile in use, as described in Profile selection.

Custom profiles

In addition to the built-in profiles, additional custom profiles can be defined. These may be useful for setting up multiple workflows and build modes. When defining a custom profile, you must specify the inherits key to specify which profile the custom profile inherits settings from when the setting is not specified.

For example, let’s say you want to compare a normal release build with a release build with LTO optimizations, you can specify something like the following in Cargo.toml:

inherits = "release"
lto = true

The --profile flag can then be used to choose this custom profile:

cargo build --profile release-lto

The output for each profile will be placed in a directory of the same name as the profile in the target directory. As in the example above, the output would go into the target/release-lto directory.

Profile selection

The profile used depends on the command, the command-line flags like --release or --profile, and the package (in the case of overrides). The default profile if none is specified is:

You can switch to a different profile using the --profile=NAME option which will used the given profile. The --release flag is equivalent to --profile=release.

The selected profile applies to all Cargo targets, including library, binary, example, test, and benchmark.

The profile for specific packages can be specified with overrides, described below.


Profile settings can be overridden for specific packages and build-time crates. To override the settings for a specific package, use the package table to change the settings for the named package:

# The `foo` package will use the -Copt-level=3 flag.
opt-level = 3

The package name is actually a Package ID Spec, so you can target individual versions of a package with syntax such as ["foo:2.1.0"].

To override the settings for all dependencies (but not any workspace member), use the "*" package name:

# Set the default for dependencies.
opt-level = 2

To override the settings for build scripts, proc macros, and their dependencies, use the build-override table:

# Set the settings for build scripts and proc-macros.
opt-level = 3

Note: When a dependency is both a normal dependency and a build dependency, Cargo will try to only build it once when --target is not specified. When using build-override, the dependency may need to be built twice, once as a normal dependency and once with the overridden build settings. This may increase initial build times.

The precedence for which value is used is done in the following order (first match wins):

  1. [] — A named package.
  2. ["*"] — For any non-workspace member.
  3. [] — Only for build scripts, proc macros, and their dependencies.
  4. [] — Settings in Cargo.toml.
  5. Default values built-in to Cargo.

Overrides cannot specify the panic, lto, or rpath settings.

Overrides and generics

The location where generic code is instantiated will influence the optimization settings used for that generic code. This can cause subtle interactions when using profile overrides to change the optimization level of a specific crate. If you attempt to raise the optimization level of a dependency which defines generic functions, those generic functions may not be optimized when used in your local crate. This is because the code may be generated in the crate where it is instantiated, and thus may use the optimization settings of that crate.

For example, nalgebra is a library which defines vectors and matrices making heavy use of generic parameters. If your local code defines concrete nalgebra types like Vector4<f64> and uses their methods, the corresponding nalgebra code will be instantiated and built within your crate. Thus, if you attempt to increase the optimization level of nalgebra using a profile override, it may not result in faster performance.

Further complicating the issue, rustc has some optimizations where it will attempt to share monomorphized generics between crates. If the opt-level is 2 or 3, then a crate will not use monomorphized generics from other crates, nor will it export locally defined monomorphized items to be shared with other crates. When experimenting with optimizing dependencies for development, consider trying opt-level 1, which will apply some optimizations while still allowing monomorphized items to be shared.