Setting Up a Development Environment

NOTE: This article describes setting up GRR development environment on Ubuntu 16 (Xenial) or Debian 9 (stretch). Most of the instructions below are applicable to other Linux distributions as well as to Mac OS X, although some details may differ from platform to platform.

Step 1. Checkout GRR sources.

Navigate to the root GRR directory (or clone the repository if you have not done it yet):

git clone
cd grr/

Step 2. Set up Virtual Python environment.

Make sure that you have virtualenv installed. It should be available in repositories of all popular Linux distributions. For example, to install it on Ubuntu-based distros, run:

sudo apt install virtualenv

To create a virtual environment you execute the virtualenv $DIR command where $DIR is the directory where you want it to be placed. The rest of the manual will assume that the environment is created in ~/.virtualenv/GRR like this:

virtualenv ~/.virtualenv/GRR --python=python3

After creating the environment you have to activate it:

source ~/.virtualenv/GRR/bin/activate

It is also advised to make sure that we are running a recent version of pip and have latest versions of a few related packages:

pip install --upgrade pip wheel setuptools six

For more information about creating and managing your virtual environments refer to the virtualenv documentation.

Step 3. Set up Node.js environment.

Because GRR offers a user interface component it also needs some JavaScript code to be built with Node.js. Fortunately, this can be done with pip inside our virtual environment so that your system remains uncluttered.

To install Node.js, execute:

pip install nodeenv
nodeenv -p --prebuilt --node=12.11.1

Because the nodeenv command modifies our virtual environment, we also need to reinitialize it with:

source ~/.virtualenv/GRR/bin/activate

Step 4. Install GRR dependencies.

GRR depends on a few libraries that have to be installed on a system. Run this command to ensure you have them:

sudo apt-get install libssl-dev python-dev python-pip wget openjdk-8-jdk zip dh-systemd libmysqlclient-dev
Depending on the distribution, the set of packages providing these functionalities can be a bit different—please, refer to your distribution package repository. Useful replacement suggestions are also often provided by package managers themselves.

Step 5. Install GRR packages.

GRR is split into multiple packages. For the development we recommend installing all components. Assuming that you are in the root GRR directory run the following commands:

NOTE: order of the commands is important. Running these commands in wrong order will lead to PIP fetching prebuilt GRR packages from PyPi. In such case, editing code in checked out GRR repository won’t have any effect.
pip install -e ./grr/proto
pip install -e ./grr/core
pip install -e ./grr/client
pip install -e ./api_client/python
pip install -e ./grr/client_builder
pip install -e ./grr/server/[mysqldatastore]
pip install -e ./colab
pip install -e ./grr/test

The -e (or --editable) flag passed to pip makes sure that the packages are installed in a “development” mode and any changes you make in your working directory are directly reflected in your virtual environment, no reinstalling is required.

If running pip install -e ./grr/server/[mysqldatastore] results in the following error: OSError: mysql_config not found, it means that the MySQL/MariaDB installation from Step 4 was incorrect. Make sure you are using the correct package, for example libmariadbclient-dev-compat instead of libmariadb-dev.
If running pip install -e ./grr/server/[mysqldatastore] results in an error caused by mysqlclient such as _mysql.c:1911:41: error: 'MYSQL' has no member named 'reconnect', try ommitting [mysqldatastore] and installing it manually with pip install mysqlclient.

Step 6. Install prebuilt GRR client templates.

If you want to repack GRR clients, you’ll need a prebuilt GRR client templates package with templates for Linux/Mac/Windows. This should be installed using the following command:

pip install --no-cache-dir -f grr-response-templates

Step 7: Install MySQL

The GRR server components need to connect to a running MySQL instance in order to run:

apt install -y mysql-server

Step 8. Initialize GRR.

To initialize the development GRR setup, run:

grr_config_updater initialize

Step 9. Run GRR components.

You can use one of the commands below to run specific GRR server components.

Admin UI: grr_admin_ui

Frontend: grr_frontend

Worker: grr_worker

You can also run a local GRR client by executing grr_client command.

Adding --verbose flag to any of these commands would force GRR components to output debug information to stderr.


Now you are ready to start the GRR development. To make sure that everything is set-up correctly follow the testing guide.