GitLab Runner commands

GitLab Runner contains a set of commands with which you register, manage and run your builds.

You can check a recent list of commands by executing:

gitlab-runner --help

Append --help after a command to see its specific help page:

gitlab-runner <command> --help

Using environment variables

Most of the commands support environment variables as a method to pass the configuration to the command.

You can see the name of the environment variable when invoking --help for a specific command. For example, you can see below the help message for the run command:

gitlab-runner run --help

The output would be similar to:

   gitlab-runner run - run multi runner service

   gitlab-runner run [command options] [arguments...]

   -c, --config "/Users/ayufan/.gitlab-runner/config.toml"      Config file [$CONFIG_FILE]

Running in debug mode

Debug mode is especially useful when looking for the cause of some undefined behavior or error.

To run a command in debug mode, prepend the command with --debug:

gitlab-runner --debug <command>

Super-user permission

Commands that access the configuration of GitLab Runner behave differently when executed as super-user (root). The file location depends on the user executing the command.

Be aware of the notice that is written when executing the commands that are used for running builds, registering services or managing registered runners:

$ gitlab-runner run

INFO[0000] Starting multi-runner from /Users/ayufan/.gitlab-runner/config.toml ...  builds=0
WARN[0000] Running in user-mode.
WARN[0000] Use sudo for system-mode:
WARN[0000] $ sudo gitlab-runner...

You should use user-mode if you are really sure that this is a mode that you want to work with. Otherwise, prefix your command with sudo:

$ sudo gitlab-runner run

INFO[0000] Starting multi-runner from /etc/gitlab-runner/config.toml ...  builds=0
INFO[0000] Running in system-mode.

In the case of Windows you may need to run the Command Prompt in Administrative Mode.

Configuration file

GitLab Runner configuration uses the TOML format.

The file to be edited can be found in:

  1. /etc/gitlab-runner/config.toml on *nix systems when GitLab Runner is executed as super-user (root)
  2. ~/.gitlab-runner/config.toml on *nix systems when GitLab Runner is executed as non-root
  3. ./config.toml on other systems

Most of the commands accept an argument to specify a custom configuration file, allowing you to have a multiple different configurations on a single machine. To specify a custom configuration file use the -c or --config flag, or use the CONFIG_FILE environment variable.


It is possible to use system signals to interact with GitLab Runner. The following commands support the following signals:

registerSIGINTCancel runner registration and delete if it was already registered
run, exec, run-singleSIGINT, SIGTERMAbort all running builds and exit as soon as possible. Use twice to exit now (forceful shutdown).
run, exec, run-singleSIGQUITStop accepting a new builds. Exit as soon as currently running builds do finish (graceful shutdown).
runSIGHUPForce to reload configuration file

For example, to force a reload of the Runner’s configuration file, run (all gitlab-runner processes will receive this signal):

sudo killall -SIGHUP gitlab-runner

If your operating system is configured to automatically restart the service if it fails (which is the default on some platforms) it may automatically restart the runner if it’s shut down by the signals above.

Commands overview

This is what you see if you run gitlab-runner without any arguments:

   gitlab-runner - a GitLab Runner

   gitlab-runner [global options] command [command options] [arguments...]

   1.0.0~beta.142.ga8d37f3 (a8d37f3)

   GitLab Inc. <>

   exec         execute a build locally
   run          run multi runner service
   register     register a new runner
   install      install service
   uninstall    uninstall service
   start        start service
   stop         stop service
   restart      restart service
   status       get status of a service
   run-single   start single runner
   unregister   unregister specific runner
   verify       verify all registered runners
   archive      find and archive files (internal)
   artifacts    upload build artifacts (internal)
   extract      extract files from an archive (internal)
   help, h      Shows a list of commands or help for one command

Below we will explain what each command does in detail.

The following commands allow you to register a new runner, or list and verify them if they are still registered.

The above commands support the following arguments:

--configSee the configuration file sectionSpecify a custom configuration file to be used

gitlab-runner register

This command registers your GitLab Runner in GitLab using the GitLab Runners API.

The registered runner is added to the configuration file. You can use multiple configurations in a single GitLab Runner. Executing gitlab-runner register adds a new configuration entry, it doesn’t remove the previous ones.

There are two options to register a Runner:

  • interactive.
  • non-interactive.
Note: Runners can be registered directly using the GitLab Runners API but configuration will not be generated automatically.

Interactive registration

This command is usually used in interactive mode (default). You will be asked multiple questions during a Runner’s registration.

This question can be pre-filled by adding arguments when invoking the registration command:

gitlab-runner register --name my-runner --url --registration-token my-registration-token

Or by configuring the environment variable before the register command:

export RUNNER_NAME=my-runner
export REGISTRATION_TOKEN=my-registration-token
gitlab-runner register

To check all possible arguments and environments execute:

gitlab-runner register --help

Non-interactive registration

It’s possible to use registration in non-interactive / unattended mode.

You can specify the arguments when invoking the registration command:

gitlab-runner register --non-interactive <other-arguments>

Or by configuring the environment variable before the register command:

gitlab-runner register

Note: Boolean parameters must be passed in the command line with --key={true|false}.

[[runners]] configuration template file

Introduced in GitLab Runner 12.2.

Additional options can be easily configured during Runner registration using the configuration template file feature.

gitlab-runner list

This command lists all runners saved in the configuration file.

gitlab-runner verify

This command checks if the registered runners can connect to GitLab, but it doesn’t verify if the runners are being used by the GitLab Runner service. An example output is:

Verifying runner... is alive                        runner=fee9938e
Verifying runner... is alive                        runner=0db52b31
Verifying runner... is alive                        runner=826f687f
Verifying runner... is alive                        runner=32773c0f

To delete the old and removed from GitLab runners, execute the following command.

Warning: This operation cannot be undone, it will update the configuration file, so make sure to have a backup of config.toml before executing it.

gitlab-runner verify --delete

gitlab-runner unregister

This command unregisters registered runners using the GitLab Runners API.

It expects either:

  • A full URL and the runner’s token.
  • The runner’s name.

With the --all-runners option, it will unregister all the attached runners.

Note: Runners can be unregistered directly using the GitLab Runners API but configuration will not be modified for the user.

To unregister a specific runner, first get the runner’s details by executing gitlab-runner list:

test-runner     Executor=shell Token=t0k3n URL=

Then use this information to unregister it, using one of the following commands.

Warning: This operation cannot be undone, it will update the configuration file, so make sure to have a backup of config.toml before executing it.

By URL and token

gitlab-runner unregister --url --token t0k3n

By name

Note: If there is more than one runner with the given name, only the first one will be removed

gitlab-runner unregister --name test-runner

All Runners

gitlab-runner unregister --all-runners

The following commands allow you to manage the runner as a system or user service. Use them to install, uninstall, start and stop the runner service.

All service related commands accept these arguments:

--servicegitlab-runnerSpecify custom service name
--configSee the configuration fileSpecify a custom configuration file to use

gitlab-runner install

This command installs GitLab Runner as a service. It accepts different sets of arguments depending on which system it’s run on.

When run on Windows or as super-user, it accepts the --user flag which allows you to drop privileges of builds run with the shell executor.

--servicegitlab-runnerSpecify service name to use
--configSee the configuration fileSpecify a custom configuration file to use
--syslogtrueSpecify if the service should integrate with system logging service
--working-directorythe current directorySpecify the root directory where all data will be stored when builds will be run with the shell executor
--userrootSpecify the user which will be used to execute builds
--passwordnoneSpecify the password for the user that will be used to execute the builds

gitlab-runner uninstall

This command stops and uninstalls the GitLab Runner from being run as an service.

gitlab-runner start

This command starts the GitLab Runner service.

gitlab-runner stop

This command stops the GitLab Runner service.

gitlab-runner restart

This command stops and then starts the GitLab Runner service.

gitlab-runner status

This command prints the status of the GitLab Runner service. The exit code is zero when the service is running and non-zero when the service is not running.

Multiple services

By specifying the --service flag, it is possible to have multiple GitLab Runner services installed, with multiple separate configurations.

This command allows to fetch and process builds from GitLab.

gitlab-runner run

This is main command that is executed when GitLab Runner is started as a service. It reads all defined Runners from config.toml and tries to run all of them.

The command is executed and works until it receives a signal.

It accepts the following parameters.

--configSee configuration-fileSpecify a custom configuration file to be used
--working-directorythe current directorySpecify the root directory where all data will be stored when builds will be run with the shell executor
--userthe current userSpecify the user that will be used to execute builds
--syslogfalseSend all logs to SysLog (Unix) or EventLog (Windows)
--listen-addressemptyAddress (<host>:<port>) on which the Prometheus metrics HTTP server should be listening

gitlab-runner run-single

This is a supplementary command that can be used to run only a single build from a single GitLab instance. It doesn’t use any configuration file and requires to pass all options either as parameters or environment variables. The GitLab URL and Runner token need to be specified too.

For example:

gitlab-runner run-single -u -t my-runner-token --executor docker --docker-image ruby:2.6

You can see all possible configuration options by using the --help flag:

gitlab-runner run-single --help

You can use the --max-builds option to control how many builds the runner will execute before exiting. The default of 0 means that the runner has no build limit and will run jobs forever.

You can also use the --wait-timeout option to control how long the runner will wait for a job before exiting. The default of 0 means that the runner has no timeout and will wait forever between jobs.

gitlab-runner exec

Notice: Not all features of .gitlab-ci.yml are supported by exec. Please check what exactly is supported in the limitations of gitlab-runner exec section.

This command allows you to run builds locally, trying to replicate the CI environment as much as possible. It doesn’t need to connect to GitLab, instead it reads the local .gitlab-ci.yml and creates a new build environment in which all the build steps are executed.

This command is useful for fast checking and verifying .gitlab-ci.yml as well as debugging broken builds since everything is run locally.

When executing exec you need to specify the executor and the job name that is present in .gitlab-ci.yml. The command should be executed from the root directory of your Git repository that contains .gitlab-ci.yml.

gitlab-runner exec will clone the current state of the local Git repository. Make sure you have committed any changes you want to test beforehand.

For example, the following command will execute the job named tests locally using a shell executor:

gitlab-runner exec shell tests

To see a list of available executors, run:

gitlab-runner exec

To see a list of all available options for the shell executor, run:

gitlab-runner exec shell

If you want to use the docker executor with the exec command, use that in context of docker-machine shell or boot2docker shell. This is required to properly map your local directory to the directory inside the Docker container.

Limitations of gitlab-runner exec

With current implementation of exec some of the features of GitLab CI will not work or may work partially.

We’re currently thinking about how to replace current exec implementation, to make fully compatible with all features. Please track the issue for more details.

Compatibility table - features based on .gitlab-ci.yml

GitLab CI featureAvailable with execComments
imageyesextended configuration (name, entrypoint) are also supported
servicesyesextended configuration (name, alias, entrypoint, command) are also supported
stagesnoexec can only run one job, independently from others
before_scriptyessupports both global and job-level before_script
after_scriptpartiallyglobal after_script is not supported, only job-level after_script; only commands are taken in consideration, when is hardcoded to always
variablesyesSupports default (partially), global and job-level variables; default variables are pre-set as can be seen in
cachepartiallyRegarding the specific configuration it may or may not work as expected
allow_failurenoexec just exits with the result of job; it’s callers responsibility to decide if failure is OK or not
hidden keysnoIf explicitly asked to run, exec will try to run such job
YAML featuresyesAnchors (&), aliases (*), map merging (<<) are part of YAML specification and are handled by the parser
pagespartiallyJob’s script will be executed if explicitly asked, but it doesn’t affect pages state, which is managed by GitLab

Compatibility table - features based on variables

GitLab CI featureAvailable with execComments
ARTIFACT_DOWNLOAD_ATTEMPTSnoartifacts are not supported

Compatibility table - other features

GitLab CI featureAvailable with execComments
Secret Variablesno 
job timeoutnohardcoded to 1 hour
[ci skip]no 

Other requirements and limitations

gitlab-runner exec docker can only be used when Docker is installed locally. This is needed because GitLab Runner is using host-bind volumes to access the Git sources.

Internal commands

GitLab Runner is distributed as a single binary and contains a few internal commands that are used during builds.

gitlab-runner artifacts-downloader

Download the artifacts archive from GitLab.

gitlab-runner artifacts-uploader

Upload the artifacts archive to GitLab.

gitlab-runner cache-archiver

Create a cache archive, store it locally or upload it to an external server.

gitlab-runner cache-extractor

Restore the cache archive from a locally or externally stored file.


Below are some common pitfalls.

Usually the service related commands require administrator privileges:

  • On Unix (Linux, macOS, FreeBSD) systems, prefix gitlab-runner with sudo
  • On Windows systems use the elevated command prompt. Run an Administrator command prompt. The simplest way is to write Command Prompt in the Windows search field, right click and select Run as administrator. You will be asked to confirm that you want to execute the elevated command prompt.