View Source Installation

Nerves requires a number of programs on your system to work. These include Erlang, Elixir, and a few tools for packaging firmware images. Nerves is actively used on MacOS and various Linux distributions. For Windows users, some people have had success running Linux in a virtual machine or using the Windows Subsystem for Linux available in Windows 10. If you have issues with any of the tooling after following the steps below, we recommend you reach out to us in the #nerves channel on the Elixir Discord.

Nerves requires that the Erlang version running on your development host be compatible with the Erlang version on the embedded target and also depends on features added in recent versions of Elixir (~> 1.11). Because it can be hard to manage these tool versions with sufficient granularity using operating system packages, it is recommended that you use ASDF to manage Erlang and Elixir installations. This tool works the same on its supported platforms, so you'll find more details in the All Platforms section below.


The easiest installation route on MacOS is to use Homebrew. Just run the following:

brew update
brew install fwup squashfs coreutils xz pkg-config

If you've already installed Erlang & Elixir using Homebrew, you'll need to uninstall them to avoid clashes with the recommended ASDF installation.

brew uninstall elixir
brew uninstall erlang

Optionally, if you want to build custom Nerves systems, you'll also need to install Docker for Mac. After installing Docker for Mac, you will likely want to adjust the resource limits imposed on Docker, to allow it to successfully compile more complicated custom systems. Click the Docker icon in the top menu bar, then click Preferences > Advanced and allow Docker to use all of your CPUs and as much RAM as you think is reasonable for your machine (at least 6 GB). The more resources it has access to, the faster you can compile a custom Nerves system.

Now skip to the instructions for all platforms below.


Nerves on Windows 10 requires version 18917 (or later) with Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 (WSL2) installed. See the WSL2 install instructions for more information. Once you have WSL2 support enabled you will need to install an instance of Linux. We recommend installing Ubuntu.

Next, follow the instructions for Linux inside your WSL2 Linux installation to finish setting up the environment.

Finally, you'll need to install fwup using Chocolatey. See the chocolatey install guide for help installing Chocolatey on your system. With Chocolatey installed, run the following from a Powershell:

choco install fwup /y

When running on WSL2, Nerves uses the Linux version of fwup for building the firmware files and the Windows version of fwup for burning firmware to SD cards. It is important that you install fwup in both environments.


Package manager installs

First, install a few packages using your package manager.

On Debian-based systems

sudo apt install build-essential automake autoconf git squashfs-tools ssh-askpass pkg-config curl libmnl-dev

On Arch-based systems

yay -S base-devel ncurses5-compat-libs openssh-askpass git squashfs-tools curl

If you're curious, squashfs-tools will be used by Nerves to create root filesystems and ssh-askpass will be used to ask for passwords when writing to MicroSD cards. Some Fedora and Manjaro users have reported that they had to create a symlink from /usr/bin/ssh-askpass to /usr/bin/qt4-ssh-askpass.

On NixOS or with Nix package manager

Create a shell.nix file with the following contents:

{ pkgs ? import <nixpkgs> {} }:

with pkgs;

mkShell {
  name = "nervesShell";
  buildInputs = [
  shellHook = ''

Use nix-shell shell.nix to start a shell with all the Nerves dependencies needed for building firmware.

If instead, you'd like to install the dependencies on your host system, you can include the same packages listed under buildInputs in the environment.systemPackages section of your NixOS configuration.nix file.

Please notes that you may need to adjust the SUDO_ASKPASS environment variable to include the correct path to the askpass program of your choice. A known, working alternative to x11_ssh_askpass is lxqt.lxqt-openssh-askpass


Next, install the fwup utility. Nerves uses fwup to create, distribute, and install firmware images. You can install fwup using the instructions found at Installation Page. Installing the pre-built .deb or .rpm files is recommended.

Packages for building custom Nerves systems

If you want to build custom Nerves systems, you need a few more build tools. If you skip this step, you'll get an error message with instructions if you ever need to build a custom system. On Debian and Ubuntu, run the following:

sudo apt install libssl-dev libncurses5-dev bc m4 unzip cmake python3

Other Linux distributions

For other distributions, try adapting one of the sections above.

When you have it working, please consider sending us an improvement to this page.

All platforms

First, install the required versions of Erlang/OTP and Elixir. We highly recommend using ASDF since the versions in use will be under your control. See the ASDF docs for official documentation.

IMPORTANT: Elixir 1.11.0 and 1.11.1 do not work with Nerves. Elixir 1.11.2 and later are fine.

Here's a summary of the install process:

git clone ~/.asdf --branch v0.11.0

# The following steps are for bash. If you’re using something else, do the
# equivalent for your shell.
echo -e '\n. $HOME/.asdf/' >> ~/.bashrc
echo -e '\n. $HOME/.asdf/completions/asdf.bash' >> ~/.bashrc # optional
source ~/.bashrc

# For zsh based systems run the following
echo -e '\n. $HOME/.asdf/' >> ~/.zshrc
# Add complete command used by asdf.bash
echo -e 'autoload -U +X bashcompinit && bashcompinit' >> ~/.zshrc
echo -e 'autoload -U +X compinit && compinit' >> ~/.zshrc
echo -e '\n. $HOME/.asdf/completions/asdf.bash' >> ~/.zshrc
source ~/.zshrc

asdf plugin-add erlang
asdf plugin-add elixir

# Note #1:
# If on Debian or Ubuntu, you'll want to install wx before running the next line:
# For Ubuntu versions before 20.04 run the next line:
# sudo apt install libwxgtk3.0-dev
# For Ubuntu 20.04 and up run the next line:
# sudo apt install libwxgtk3.0-gtk3-dev
# for arch based systems run the next line:
# yay -S wxgtk2 fop jdk-openjdk unzip

# Note #2:
# It's possible to use different Erlang and Elixir versions with Nerves. The
# latest official Nerves systems are compatible with the versions below. In
# general, differences in patch releases are harmless. Nerves detects
# configurations that might not work at compile time.
asdf install erlang 26.0.2
asdf install elixir 1.15.4-otp-26
asdf global erlang 26.0.2
asdf global elixir 1.15.4-otp-26

It is important to update the versions of hex and rebar used by Elixir, even if you already had Elixir installed.

mix local.hex
mix local.rebar

If you have your own version of rebar in your path, be sure that it is up-to-date.

You can now add the nerves_bootstrap archive to your Mix environment. This archive allows Nerves to bootstrap the Mix environment, ensuring that your code is properly compiled using the right cross-compiler for the target. The nerves_bootstrap archive also includes a project generator, which you can use to create new Nerves projects. To install the nerves_bootstrap archive:

mix archive.install hex nerves_bootstrap