Dejan Levec

Compiling programs for OpenWRT

When I was trying to compile my first OpenWRT program I searched around the web, but didn’t found any useful (at least to me) tutorials/guides that would help me. After spending a few hours behind a computer and figuring out how to do this I found the easiest way to do it.

The are two ways of compiling:

  • simply compiling your application
  • building a package for it

Differences? If you have a package it’s easier to install and uninstall it, and probably easier to update it. However, in most of my cases I just simply want to compile my source code to a single executable and copy it to the device. Here I will show you the easiest way to do it and go from source code to final executable in a few minutes.

What you need?

  • Linux distribution
  • OpenWRT Toolchain for processor which is in the target device

I’m currently focused on tiny routers called TP-Link WR703n, so my toolchain is available at: For others please visit and search for toolchain for your device.

Create folder and put create Makefile similar to this:

all: clean program
cc: CC=$(STAGING_DIR)/bin/mips-openwrt-linux-gcc
cc: clean program deploy
scp program root@
program: main.o
$(CC) main.o -o program
$(CC) -c main.c
rm -rf *.o program

Change path to your toolchain, your device’s IP address, path to where you want to put your executable and name of your C file. If you want to include additional files just copy main.o to something.o, add it to program: section, and change the names accordingly.
If you need to link your program with additional library (e.g. pthread), you can add that to CC variable (e.g. gcc -lpthread).

What can I do with this Makefile?

  • command make – compile program for your PC (compile with the toolchain available on your computer and be able to test it out on it)
  • command make cc – compile program for OpenWRT device and deploy it to the device
  • command make deploy – deploy compiled application to your device

Example file from one of my projects:

export STAGING_DIR=/home/dean/Downloads/OpenWrt-Toolchain-ar71xx-for-mips_r2-gcc-4.6-linaro_uClibc-
CC=gcc -pthread
all: clean lightning-service
cc: CC=$(STAGING_DIR)/bin/mips-openwrt-linux-gcc -pthread
cc: clean lightning-service deploy
scp lightning-service root@
lightning-service: serial_port.o main.o
$(CC) serial_port.o main.o -o lightning-service
$(CC) -c main.c
$(CC) -c serial_port.c
rm -rf *.o lightning-service

This is an example of Makefile for a program that I use to control stairway lights at home. Lights are connected to my router via Launchpad MSP430 microcontroller, and I can communicate with them through TCP. I am also linking pthread library because I need threads (one for listening/communicating with serial port and one for TCP connections).

This is probably the simplest way you can compile your own programs without having to bother with creating your own packages.

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