Get Started (Legacy GNU Make)¶
Since ESP-IDF V4.0, the default build system is based on CMake. This documentation is for the legacy build system based on GNU Make. Support for this build system may be removed in future major releases.
This document is intended to help you set up the software development environment for the hardware based on Espressif ESP32.
After that, a simple example will show you how to use ESP-IDF (Espressif IoT Development Framework) for menu configuration, then how to build and flash firmware onto an ESP32 board.
This is documentation for branch
release/v4.1 of ESP-IDF. Other ESP-IDF Versions are also available.
ESP32 is a system on a chip that integrates the following features:
Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz band)
Dual high performance cores
Ultra Low Power co-processor
Powered by 40 nm technology, ESP32 provides a robust, highly integrated platform, which helps meet the continuous demands for efficient power usage, compact design, security, high performance, and reliability.
Espressif provides basic hardware and software resources to help application developers realize their ideas using the ESP32 series hardware. The software development framework by Espressif is intended for development of Internet-of-Things (IoT) applications with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, power management and several other system features.
What You Need¶
An ESP32 board
USB cable - USB A / micro USB B
Computer running Windows, Linux, or macOS
Toolchain to build the Application for ESP32
ESP-IDF that essentially contains API (software libraries and source code) for ESP32 and scripts to operate the Toolchain
Text editor to write programs (Projects) in C, e.g., Eclipse
Development Board Overviews¶
If you have one of ESP32 development boards listed below, you can click on the link to learn more about its hardware.
Installation Step by Step¶
This is a detailed roadmap to walk you through the installation process.
Setting up Development Environment¶
Step 1. Set up the Toolchain¶
The toolchain is a set of programs for compiling code and building applications.
The quickest way to start development with ESP32 is by installing a prebuilt toolchain. Pick up your OS below and follow the provided instructions.
This guide uses the directory
~/esp on Linux and macOS or
%userprofile%\esp on Windows as an installation folder for ESP-IDF. You can use any directory, but you will need to adjust paths for the commands respectively. Keep in mind that ESP-IDF does not support spaces in paths.
Depending on your experience and preferences, you may want to customize your environment instead of using a prebuilt toolchain. To set up the system your own way go to Section Customized Setup of Toolchain (Legacy GNU Make).
Step 2. Get ESP-IDF¶
Besides the toolchain, you also need ESP32-specific API (software libraries and source code). They are provided by Espressif in ESP-IDF repository.
To get a local copy of ESP-IDF, navigate to your installation directory and clone the repository with
Open Terminal, and run the following commands:
cd ~/esp git clone -b release/v4.1 --recursive https://github.com/espressif/esp-idf.git
ESP-IDF will be downloaded into
Consult ESP-IDF Versions for information about which ESP-IDF version to use in a given situation.
git clone option
-b release/v4.1 tells git to clone the branch in the ESP-IDF repository
git clone corresponding to this version of the documentation.
GitHub’s “Download zip file” feature does not work with ESP-IDF, a
git clone is required. As a fallback, Stable version can be installed without Git.
Do not miss the
--recursive option. If you have already cloned ESP-IDF without this option, run another command to get all the submodules:
cd esp-idf git submodule update --init
Step 3. Set Environment Variables¶
The toolchain uses the environment variable
IDF_PATH to access the ESP-IDF directory. This variable should be set up on your computer, otherwise projects will not build.
Step 4. Install the Required Python Packages¶
The python packages required by ESP-IDF are located in
IDF_PATH/requirements.txt. You can install them by running:
python -m pip install --user -r $IDF_PATH/requirements.txt
Please check the version of the Python interpreter that you will be using with ESP-IDF. For this, run
python --version and depending on the result, you might want to use
or similar instead of just
python3 -m pip install --user -r $IDF_PATH/requirements.txt
Step 5. Start a Project¶
Copy get-started/hello_world to the
Linux and macOS¶
cd ~/esp cp -r $IDF_PATH/examples/get-started/hello_world .
cd %userprofile%\esp xcopy /e /i %IDF_PATH%\examples\get-started\hello_world hello_world
There is a range of example projects in the examples directory in ESP-IDF. You can copy any project in the same way as presented above and run it.
It is also possible to build examples in-place, without copying them first.
The esp-idf build system does not support spaces in the paths to either esp-idf or to projects.
Step 6. Connect Your Device¶
Now connect your ESP32 board to the computer and check under what serial port the board is visible.
Serial ports have the following patterns in their names:
Windows: names like
Linux: starting with
macOS: starting with
If you are not sure how to check the serial port name, please refer to Establish Serial Connection with ESP32 (Legacy GNU Make) for full details.
Keep the port name handy as you will need it in the next steps.
Step 7. Configure¶
Navigate to your
hello_world directory from Step 5. Start a Project and run the project configuration utility
Linux and macOS¶
cd ~/esp/hello_world make menuconfig
cd %userprofile%\esp\hello_world make menuconfig
If the previous steps have been done correctly, the following menu appears:
In the menu, navigate to
Serial flasher config >
Default serial port to configure the serial port, where project will be loaded to. Confirm selection by pressing enter, save configuration by selecting
< Save > and then exit
menuconfig by selecting
< Exit >.
To navigate and use
menuconfig, press the following keys:
Arrow keys for navigation
Enterto go into a submenu
Escto go up one level or exit
?to see a help screen. Enter key exits the help screen
Nkeys to enable (Yes) and disable (No) configuration items with checkboxes “
?while highlighting a configuration item to display help about that item
/to find configuration items
If you use ESP32-DevKitC board with the ESP32-SOLO-1 module, enable single core mode (CONFIG_FREERTOS_UNICORE) in menuconfig before flashing examples.
Step 8. Build and Flash¶
Build and flash the project by running:
This command will compile the application and all ESP-IDF components, then it will generate the bootloader, partition table, and application binaries. After that, these binaries will be flashed onto your ESP32 board.
If there are no issues by the end of the flash process, you will see messages (below) describing progress of the loading process. Then the board will be reset and the “hello_world” application will start up.
esptool.py v2.0-beta2 Flashing binaries to serial port /dev/ttyUSB0 (app at offset 0x10000)... esptool.py v2.0-beta2 Connecting........___ Uploading stub... Running stub... Stub running... Changing baud rate to 921600 Changed. Attaching SPI flash... Configuring flash size... Auto-detected Flash size: 4MB Flash params set to 0x0220 Compressed 11616 bytes to 6695... Wrote 11616 bytes (6695 compressed) at 0x00001000 in 0.1 seconds (effective 920.5 kbit/s)... Hash of data verified. Compressed 408096 bytes to 171625... Wrote 408096 bytes (171625 compressed) at 0x00010000 in 3.9 seconds (effective 847.3 kbit/s)... Hash of data verified. Compressed 3072 bytes to 82... Wrote 3072 bytes (82 compressed) at 0x00008000 in 0.0 seconds (effective 8297.4 kbit/s)... Hash of data verified. Leaving... Hard resetting...
If you’d like to use the Eclipse IDE instead of running
make, check out the Eclipse guide.
Step 9. Monitor¶
To check if “hello_world” is indeed running, type
This command launches the IDF Monitor application:
$ make monitor MONITOR --- idf_monitor on /dev/ttyUSB0 115200 --- --- Quit: Ctrl+] | Menu: Ctrl+T | Help: Ctrl+T followed by Ctrl+H --- ets Jun 8 2016 00:22:57 rst:0x1 (POWERON_RESET),boot:0x13 (SPI_FAST_FLASH_BOOT) ets Jun 8 2016 00:22:57 ...
After startup and diagnostic logs scroll up, you should see “Hello world!” printed out by the application.
... Hello world! Restarting in 10 seconds... I (211) cpu_start: Starting scheduler on APP CPU. Restarting in 9 seconds... Restarting in 8 seconds... Restarting in 7 seconds...
To exit IDF monitor use the shortcut
If IDF monitor fails shortly after the upload, or if instead of the messages above you see a random garbage similar to what is given below, your board is likely using a 26MHz crystal. Most development board designs use 40MHz, so ESP-IDF uses this frequency as a default value.
If you have such a problem, do the following:
Exit the monitor.
Go back to menuconfig.
Go to Component config –> ESP32-specific –> Main XTAL frequency, then change CONFIG_ESP32_XTAL_FREQ_SEL to 26MHz.
After that, build and flash the application again.
You can combine building, flashing and monitoring into one step by running:
make flash monitor
See also IDF Monitor for handy shortcuts and more details on using IDF monitor.
That’s all that you need to get started with ESP32!
Now you are ready to try some other examples, or go straight to developing your own applications.
Some environment variables can be specified whilst calling
make allowing users to override arguments without the need to reconfigure them using
Description & Usage
Overrides the serial port used in
Overrides the serial baud rate when flashing the ESP32.
Overrides the serial baud rate used when monitoring.
You can export environment variables (e.g.
All subsequent calls of
make within the same terminal session will use
the exported value given that the variable is not simultaneously overridden.
You should update ESP-IDF from time to time, as newer versions fix bugs and provide new features. The simplest way to do the update is to delete the existing
esp-idf folder and clone it again, as if performing the initial installation described in Step 2. Get ESP-IDF.
If downloading to a new path, remember to Add IDF_PATH to User Profile (Legacy GNU Make) so that the toolchain scripts can find ESP-IDF in its release specific location.
Another solution is to update only what has changed. The update procedure depends on the version of ESP-IDF you are using.