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A CTest script and platform configuration file can be used to simplify building with CMake. The following instructions are provided for this purpose.

If you need to build with more complex options, you may prefer to follow the instructions in the release_docs/ directory of the HDF5 source code.


  • The CMake HDF5 source release file (for either Unix or Windows) MUST have been downloaded.
  • CMake MUST be installed. The configuration scripts require a minimum CMake version 3.10.
  • Blank spaces MUST NOT be used in directory path names as this will cause the build to fail.
  • (Optional) On Windows, an NSIS or WiX should be installed in order to create an install image with CPack. NSIS will create a .exe installer. WiX will create a .msi installer.

Build Instructions

1. Create a working directory.

2. Uncompress the HDF5 CMake source code file into the working directory. It will contain a CMake-hdf5-N directory (where N is the release version).

3. From the command line, go into the CMake-hdf5-N directory, which contains:

build*.sh (.bat)Build Script(s)
CTestScript.cmakectest Command
hdf5-NHDF5 Source Code
HDF5config.cmakeConfiguration File
HDF5options.cmakeUser modifiable Options
SZip.tar.gzExternal Library for SZIP Compression
ZLib.tar.gzExternal Library for ZLIB Compression

4. By default, HDF5 will be built:

    • Without Fortran
    • With SZIP compression enabled
    • With ZLIB compression enabled
    • With static libraries enabled

Users can change the options that HDF5 is built with by adding options to the build command (see the batch files/test script below) or by modifying the HDF5options.cmake file. The HDF5options.cmake file will override any options set in the configuration file. For more information see the How to Change HDF5 CMake Build Options page.

REQUIRED: Visual Studio Express users must change the build options to turn off packaging or the build will fail.

5. Execute the batch file or shell script for your platform. It contains the ctest command that you need to run to build HDF5. (See Troubleshooting if you do not see your platform).

    Below are example build scripts that you may find:

PlatformBatch File or Shell ScriptContains following ctest command
Windows 64-bit VS 2015build-VS2015-64.batctest -S HDF5config.cmake,BUILD_GENERATOR=VS201564 -C Release -V -O hdf5.log
Windows 32-bit VS 2015build-VS2015-32.batctest -S HDF5config.cmake,BUILD_GENERATOR=VS2015 -C Release -V -O hdf5.log
Unixbuild-unix.shctest -S HDF5config.cmake,BUILD_GENERATOR=Unix -C Release -V -O hdf5.log

Where the ctest command is using these options:

      • The -S option uses the script version of ctest. HDF5config.cmake is the configuration file.
      • The -C option specifies the build configuration which matches CTEST_BUILD_CONFIGURATION in the configuration file.
      • The -V option indicates verbose. Using the -VV option indicates more verbose. If encountering problems, specify -VV for more verbose output.
      • The -O option saves the output to a log file, hdf5.log.

6. Locate the built binary.

The built binary will be in the bin directory and will also be copied to the CMake-hdf5-N directory if successful. It will have the format:

HDF5-N-<platform>.<zip or tar.gz>

On Unix, <platform> will be "Linux". A similar .sh file will also be created.

On Windows, <platform> will be "win64" or "win32". If you have an installer on your system, you will also see a similar file that ends in either .exe (NSIS) or .msi (WiX).

If the built binary is not there, then see Troubleshooting for help.

7. Check what is included with your built binaries.

You will find the libhdf5.settings file in the build directory. It contains information on how the binaries were built.

 If you uncompress the built binary, you will find the hdf5-config.cmake and hdf5-targets.cmake files (among others) in a cmakedirectory. This cmake directory can be found in the same location as the libinclude, and bin directories on Windows and under share/ on Unix. The options in the hdf5-config.cmake file match those in the libhdf5.settings file.

The binaries by default will include the static HDF5 C and C++ libraries, as well as the SZIP and ZLIB external libraries. Please NOTE that they will NOT include the HDF5 Fortran library. See the How to Change HDF5 CMake Build Options page for instructions on building with Fortran.

8. Follow the instructions below for compiling an application with the binaries that are built.

Compiling an Application

A framework for building applications is provided below:

Uncompress the file and follow the instructions in the USING_CMake_Scripts.txt file for building an application.

PLEASE note that the cacheinit.cmake file is missing from the multi-file build files. However, you can simply use the version provided with the single file build. Specifically, copy hdf5-app\app\config\cmake\cacheinit.cmake to the directory hdf5-app\mfapp\config\cmake\.

An example of building a multi-file application in C in debug mode is provided here:

    • Add your files to: hdf5-app\mfapp\C\
    • Edit hdf5-app\mfapp\C\C_sourcefiles.cmake and list your files. For example:

set (hdf5app_name "myapp")

set (hdf5app







    • Run the ctest command for your platform. For example:

ctest -S HDFconfig.cmake,BUILD_GENERATOR=VS201364,CTEST_SOURCE_NAME=mfapp,INSTALLDIR="C:/Program Files/HDF_Group/HDF5/1.10.2" -C Debug -VV -O test.log

    • Run your application. For a debug application, the executable will be here: hdf5-app\build\bin\Debug\

The HDF5 Examples that are used in software testing use the above framework. You can look at how the examples are compiled to see how to build your applications. The HDF5 Examples can be downloaded from here:

For building these or other applications, please refer to the instructions in the release_docs/ directory of the HDF5 source code:

In general, users must first set the HDF5_DIR environment variable to the installed location of the CMake configuration files for HDF5. For example, on Windows the following path might be set:

   HDF5_DIR=C:/Program Files/HDF_Group/HDF5/1.N.N/cmake

Look at find_package provided with the HDF5 examples for how to compile an application. Please be aware that FindHDF5.cmake is not provided by and cannot be fixed by The HDF Group.


I can build HDF5 successfully but the findHDF5.cmake package does not populate HDF5_LIBRARIES. How do you use the HDF5 libraries that you built?

The FindHDF5.cmake package is not supported or provided by The HDF Group. The HDF Group cannot change it. However, you can use find_package.

See the question below on how to use find_package.

How do you use find_package with HDF5?

To use find_package you will first need to make sure that HDF5_DIR is set correctly. For setting this environment variable see the Preconditions in the USING_HDF5_CMake.txt file in the source code.

See the CMakeLists.txt file provided with these examples for how to use find_package with HDF5.

Please note that the find_package invocation changed to require "shared" or "static":


Previously, the find_package invocation was: 


My platform/compiler is not included. Can I still use the configuration files?

Yes, you can but you will have to edit the HDF5config.cmake file and update the variable:


Other variables may be updated for informational purposes but are not required (for example, SITE_OS_BITS). 

The generators for your platform can be seen by typing:

   cmake --help

What do I do if the build fails?

I received an error during the build and the built and compressed HDF5 binary is not in the CMake-hdf5-N/build directory as I expected. How do I determine what the problem is?

If the error is not clear, then the first thing you may want to do is replace the -V (Dash Uppercase Vee) option for ctest in the build script to -VV (Dash Uppercase Vee Uppercase Vee). Then remove the build directory and re-run the build script. The output should be more verbose.

If the error is still not clear, then check the log files. You will find those in the build directory under CMake-hdf5-N. For example, on Unix the log files will be in:


There are log files for the configure, test, and build. 

What do I do if I need to rebuild the software?

If you have to rebuild HDF5, remove the build directory first. 

The library was built but there are no binaries. What do I do?

To install or package the binaries, run either make install or cpack in the build/ directory. 

--- Last Modified: June 28, 2018 | 12:01 PM