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Building and Flashing


From here on, building and flashing ZMK should all be done from the app/ subdirectory of the ZMK checkout:

cd app

To build for your particular keyboard, the behavior varies slightly depending on if you are building for a keyboard with an onboard MCU, or one that uses an MCU board addon.

Keyboard (Shield) + MCU Board#

ZMK treats keyboards that take an MCU addon board as shields, and treats the smaller MCU board as the true board

Given the following:

  • MCU Board: Proton-C
  • Keyboard PCB: kyria_left
  • Keymap: default

You can build ZMK with the following:

west build -b proton_c -- -DSHIELD=kyria_left

Keyboard With Onboard MCU#

Keyboards with onboard MCU chips are simply treated as the board as far as Zephyr™ is concerned.

Given the following:

  • Keyboard: Planck (rev6)
  • Keymap: default

you can build ZMK with the following:

west build -b planck_rev6

Pristine Building#

When building for a new board and/or shield after having built one previously, you may need to enable the pristine build option. This option removes all existing files in the build directory before regenerating them, and can be enabled by adding either --pristine or -p to the command:

west build -p -b proton_c -- -DSHIELD=kyria_left

Building For Split Keyboards#


For split keyboards, you will have to build and flash each side separately the first time you install ZMK.

By default, the build command outputs a single .uf2 file named zmk.uf2 so building left and then right immediately after will overwrite your left firmware. In addition, you will need to pristine build each side to ensure the correct files are used. To avoid having to pristine build every time and separate the left and right build files, we recommend setting up separate build directories for each half. You can do this by using the -d parameter and first building left into build/left:

west build -d build/left -b nice_nano -- -DSHIELD=kyria_left

and then building right into build/right:

west build -d build/right -b nice_nano -- -DSHIELD=kyria_right

This produces left and right subfolders under the build directory and two separate .uf2 files. For future work on a specific half, use the -d parameter again to ensure you are building into the correct location.

Building from zmk-config Folder#

Instead of building .uf2 files using the default keymap and config files, you can build directly from your zmk-config folder by adding -DZMK_CONFIG="C:/the/absolute/path/config" to your west build command. Notice that this path should point to the folder labelled config within your zmk-config folder.

For instance, building kyria firmware from a user myUser's zmk-config folder on Windows 10 may look something like this:

west build -b nice_nano -- -DSHIELD=kyria_left -DZMK_CONFIG="C:/Users/myUser/Documents/Github/zmk-config/config"

The above command must still be invoked from the zmk/app directory as noted above, rather than the config directory. Otherwise, you will encounter errors such as ERROR: source directory "." does not contain a CMakeLists.txt; is this really what you want to build?. Alternatively you can add the -s /path/to/zmk/app flag to your west command.

In order to make your zmk-config folder available when building within the VSCode Remote Container, you need to create a docker volume named zmk-config by binding it to the full path of your config directory. If you have run the VSCode Remote Container before, it is likely that docker has created this volume automatically -- we need to delete the default volume before binding it to the correct path. Follow the following steps:

  1. Stop the container by exiting VSCode. You can verify no container is running via the command docker ps.
  2. Remove all the containers that are not running via the command docker container prune. We need to remove the ZMK container before we can delete the default zmk-config volume referenced by it. If you do not want to delete all the containers that are not running, you can find the id of the ZMK container and use docker rm to delete that one only.
  3. Remove the default volume via the command docker volume rm zmk-config.

Then you can bind the zmk-config volume to the correct path pointing to your local zmk-config folder:

docker volume create --driver local -o o=bind -o type=none -o \    device="/full/path/to/your/zmk-config/" zmk-config

Now start VSCode and rebuild the container after being prompted. You should be able to see your zmk-config mounted to /workspaces/zmk-config inside the container. So you can build your custom firmware with -DZMK_CONFIG="/workspaces/zmk-config/config".


The above build commands generate a UF2 file in build/zephyr (or build/left|right/zephyr if you followed the instructions for splits) and is by default named zmk.uf2. If your board supports USB Flashing Format (UF2), copy that file onto the root of the USB mass storage device for your board. The controller should flash your built firmware and automatically restart once flashing is complete.

Alternatively, if your board supports flashing and you're not developing from within a Dockerized environment, enable Device Firmware Upgrade (DFU) mode on your board and run the following command to flash:

west flash