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GitLab Runner implements a number of executors that can be used to run your builds in different environments.

If you are not sure about which executor to select, see Selecting the executor.

For more information about features supported by each executor, see the compatibility chart.

GitLab Runner provides the following executors:

These executors are locked and we are no longer developing or accepting new ones. For more information, see Contributing new executors.

Prerequisites for non-Docker executors

Executors that do not rely on a helper image require a Git installation on the target machine and in the PATH. Always use the latest available version of Git.

GitLab Runner uses the git lfs command if Git LFS is installed on the target machine. Ensure Git LFS is up to date on any systems where GitLab Runner uses these executors.

Be sure to initialize Git LFS for the user that executes GitLab Runner commands with git lfs install. You can initialize Git LFS on an entire system with git lfs install --system.

Selecting the executor

The executors support different platforms and methodologies for building a project. The table below shows the key facts for each executor which will help you decide which executor to use.

Executor SSH Shell VirtualBox Parallels Docker Kubernetes Custom
Clean build environment for every build conditional (4)
Reuse previous clone if it exists conditional (4)
Runner file system access protected (5) conditional
Migrate runner machine partial partial
Zero-configuration support for concurrent builds ✗ (1) conditional (4)
Complicated build environments ✗ (2) ✓ (3) ✓ (3)
Debugging build problems easy easy hard hard medium medium medium
  1. It’s possible, but in most cases it is problematic if the build uses services installed on the build machine.
  2. Requires manual dependency installation.
  3. For example using Vagrant.
  4. Dependent on what kind of environment you are provisioning. It can be completely isolated or shared between each build.
  5. When a runner’s file system access is not protected, jobs can access the entire system, which includes the runner’s token, and the cache and code of other jobs. Executors marked ✓ don’t allow the runner to access the file system by default. However, security flaws or certain configurations could allow jobs to break out of their container and access the file system hosting the runner.

Shell executor

Shell is the simplest executor to configure. All required dependencies for your builds need to be installed manually on the same machine that GitLab Runner is installed on.

Virtual Machine executor (VirtualBox / Parallels)

You can use this executor to use an already created virtual machine, which is cloned and used to run your build. GitLab Runner provides two full system virtualization options: VirtualBox and Parallels that you can use to run your builds on Windows, Linux, macOS, or FreeBSD operating systems. GitLab Runner connects to the virtual machine and runs the build on it. The Virtual Machine executor can also be used to reduce infrastructure costs.

Docker executor

You can use Docker for a clean build environment. All dependencies for building the project can be put in the Docker image, which makes dependency management more straight-forward. You can use the Docker executor to create a build environment with dependent services, like MySQL.

Docker Machine executor

The Docker Machine is a special version of the Docker executor with support for auto-scaling. It works like the typical Docker executor but with build hosts created on demand by Docker Machine.

Kubernetes executor

You can use the Kubernetes executor to use an existing Kubernetes cluster for your builds. The executor calls the Kubernetes cluster API and creates a new Pod (with a build container and services containers) for each GitLab CI job.

SSH executor

The SSH executor is added for completeness, but it’s the least supported executors. When you use the SSH executor, GitLab Runner connects to an external server and runs the builds there. We have some success stories from organizations using this executor, but usually we recommend using one of the other types.

Custom executor

You can use the Custom executor to specify your own execution environments. When GitLab Runner does not provide an executor (for example, LXC containers), you can provide your own executables to GitLab Runner to provision and clean up any environment you want to use.

Compatibility chart

Supported features by different executors:

Executor SSH Shell VirtualBox Parallels Docker Kubernetes Custom
Secure Variables
.gitlab-ci.yml: image ✓ (1) ✓ (1) ✓ (via $CUSTOM_ENV_CI_JOB_IMAGE)
.gitlab-ci.yml: services
.gitlab-ci.yml: cache
.gitlab-ci.yml: artifacts
Passing artifacts between stages
Use GitLab Container Registry private images n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Interactive Web terminal ✓ (UNIX)
  1. Support added in GitLab Runner 14.2. Refer to the Overriding the base VM image section for further details.

Supported systems by different shells:

Shells Bash PowerShell Desktop PowerShell Core Windows Batch (deprecated)
Windows ✗ (4) ✓ (3) ✓ (2)
Linux ✓ (1)
macOS ✓ (1)
FreeBSD ✓ (1)
  1. Default shell.
  2. Deprecated. Default shell if no shell is specified.
  3. Default shell when a new runner is registered.
  4. Bash shell on Windows is not supported.

Supported systems for interactive web terminals by different shells:

Shells Bash PowerShell Desktop PowerShell Core Windows Batch (deprecated)