NetHack; the official development repository
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Copyright (c) NetHack Development Team 1990-2020
NetHack may be freely redistributed. See license for details.
Instructions for compiling and installing
NetHack 3.7 on a Windows system
(Windows 7/8.x/10 or later only)
Last revision: $NHDT-Date: 1594155895 2020/07/07 21:04:55 $
Credit for the porting of NetHack to the Win32 Console Subsystem goes to
the NT Porting Team started by Michael Allison.
Credit for the Win32 Graphical version of NetHack (aka "NetHack for
Windows" or NetHackW) goes to Alex Kompel who initially developed and
contributed the port.
Alex Kompel, Dion Nicolaas, Yitzhak Sapir, Derek S. Ray, Michael Allison,
Pasi Kallinen, Bart House, and Janet Walz contributed to the maintainance
of the tty and graphical windows versions of NetHack 3.7.0.
You can build a TTY version of NetHack and a Windows Graphical
version. You can use one of the following build environments:
o A copy of Microsoft Visual Studio 2017 Community Edition or
a copy of Microsoft Visual Studio 2019 Community Edition
o (Untested for 3.7) A copy of MinGW. MinGW is a collection of header
files and import libraries with which native Windows32 programs
can be built; the MinGW distribution contains the GNU Compiler
Collection. You can download MinGW at
Earlier versions of MinGW will not allow you to build the Windows
Graphical version.
| Directories for a Win32 NetHack build |
| | | | | | | |
util dat doc include src sys win lib (external)
| | |
+----+ +------+ +-----------+
| | | | | |
share winnt tty win32 Lua-5.4.3 pdcurses
| Building And Running Using Visual Studio 2017 or 2019 |
Before proceeding, please obtain the lua-5.4.3 sources and copy them to
the new directory lib\lua-5.4.3\src. This source can be obtained either from or from the git hub mirror using the tag 'v5.4.3'. The build expects
to find lua files such as 'lua.h' at 'lib\lua-5.4.3\src\lua.h'.
If you are NOT using Visual Studio 2017 or 2019 IDE, or you prefer to build
using a Make utility and a Makefile proceed to "Building Using Make".
When using either Visual Studio 2017 or 2019, you simply need to load the
solution file within the IDE, build the solution and run the version
of NetHack you wish to run.
The Visual Studio NetHack solution file can be found here:
Before executing the steps to build listed in the next paragraph,
decide if you want to include optional curses window-port. See
the note just below entitled "Optional curses window-port support."
So the steps are:
1. Launch the IDE.
2. Open the appropriate solution file.
3. Select the build configuration you wish to use (Release, Debug, etc.).
4. From the build menu, select build solution.
5. Type F5 to start debugging.
You can also build all the projects for all platforms and configurations
using a "build.bat" batch file found in the same directory as the solution.
Open a developer command prompt for the version of Visual Studio you are
using. Change to the directory win\win32\vs and run "build.bat".
* Optional curses window-port support *
Since 3.6.2, the community patch for a window-port that uses curses has been
incorporated into the NetHack source code tree. That window-port, which
evolved from work originally done by Karl Garrison, has been used in several
NetHack variants and on and on
If you want to include the curses window-port support in your Visual Studio
build, you will have to first obtain the PDCurses sources from
and have them available prior to building NetHack. There are two ways to
enable curses window-port support during the VS build: Either set the
environment variable PDCURSES to a folder containing a PDCurses
Place the PDCurses folder alongside the NetHack source repository prior
to proceeding with steps 1 through 5 above.
| Building From the Command Line Using Make |
-- Beginning of prerequisite step --
The first step in building either version of NetHack via Makefile is to
execute sys\winnt\nhsetup.bat to move some files to their required locations.
From the command prompt:
cd sys\winnt
From a Windows explorer window:
double-click on nhsetup.bat
If you wish to build from the command line, proceed to "BUILDING FROM
-- end of prerequisite step --
Two different versions of NetHack will be built for Windows from the
command line using the Makefile approach:
A tty port utilizing the Win32 Console I/O subsystem, Console
A Win32 native port built on the Windows API, Graphical NetHack or
The executable for Console NetHack will be named NetHack.exe. The
executable for Graphical NetHack will be named NetHackW.exe. The
Makefile configuration will build both; NetHackW.exe and NetHack.exe
will be able to use the same datafiles, save files and bones files.
Since the last official release of NetHack, compilers and computer
architectures have evolved and you can now choose whether to build
a 32-bit x86 version, or a 64-bit x64 version. The default Makefile
is set up for a 32-bit x86 version, but that's only because it will
run on the most number of existing Windows environments.
NetHack's save files and bones files in the 3.7.0 release have not yet
evolved enough to allow them to interchange between the 32-bit version
and the 64-bit version (or between different platforms). Hopefully
that will change in an upcoming release.
I. Dispelling the Myths:
Compiling NetHack for Windows is not as easy as it sounds, nor as hard
as it looks, however it will behoove you to read this entire section
through before beginning the task.
We have provided a Makefile for each of the following compilers:
o Microsoft Visual Studio 2017 or 2019 C++ Compiler
The Community Editions are fine and available at no cost
o MinGW 2.0 (with GCC 3.2)
The Microsoft Visual Studio makefile was created for use
with MS NMAKE which is provided with the Microsoft compiler.
The supplied Makefile may work with earlier versions of the Microsoft
compiler, but that has not been tested.
The GCC Makefile was created for use with GNU Make version 3.79.1,
which comes with the MinGW package.
You may find it useful to obtain copies of lex (flex) and yacc
(bison, or byacc). While not strictly necessary to compile nethack,
they are required should you desire to make any changes to the level
and dungeon compilers.
II. To compile your copy of NetHack on a Windows machine:
Setting Up
1. It almost goes without saying that you should make sure that your
tools are set up and running correctly. That includes ensuring that
all the necessary environment variables for the compiler environment
are set correctly.
Change your current directory to the src subfolder of the nethack
source tree.
cd src
For the GCC Makefile, add <mingw>\bin to your path, where <mingw>
is your MinGW root directory.).
Change your current directory to src subfolder of the nethack
source tree.
cd src
2. Since 3.6.2, the community patch for an optional curses window-port
has been incorporated into the NetHack source code tree. That
window-port, which evolved from work originally done by Karl Garrison,
has been used in several NetHack variants and on and
on The optional curses window-port is
available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Unix (and also DOS).
If you want to include the optional curses window-port support in your
command line Makefile build, you will have to first obtain the
PDCurses sources from
and have that source code tree available prior to building NetHack.
Edit your Makefile and in Question 4 of the four decisions you can
make in there, uncomment these two lines:
Adjust the PDCURSES_TOP macro so that it points to the correct
location for the top of the PDCurses source tree if it differs from
the path shown.
3. Make sure all the necessary files are in the appropriate directory
structure. You should have a main NetHack top directory with
subdirectories dat, doc, include, src, sys\share, sys\winnt,
win\tty, util.
If you are including the optional Curses window port into your
build,then you will need the top of the PDCurses sources in a
folder parallel to the top of the NetHack folder (or you will need
to change the value of the PDCURSES_TOP macro in the Makefile to
specify the appropriate location.
(You can check the file "Files" in your top level directory for a
more complete listing of what file is in which directory.)
If you downloaded or ftp'd the sources from a UNIX system, the lines
will probably end in UNIX-style newlines, instead of the carriage
return and line feed pairs used by Windows. Some programs have
trouble with them, so you may need to convert them. The compiler
should not have any problems with them however.
4. Edit your Makefile if you wish, but it is not required unless
you are altering the build options.
If you are recompiling after patching your sources, or if you got
your files from somewhere other than the official distribution,
"touch makedefs.c" to ensure that certain files (onames.h and pm.h)
are remade, lest potentially troublesome timestamps fool your make
(or nmake) utility.
5. Now that everything is set up...
For the Visual Studio compiler, as mentioned above, you should now be
at the command prompt to carry out the build and your current
directory should be the src subdirectory in the NetHack source tree.
In the src subdirectory, issue this command:
nmake install
For GCC:
Change your current directory to the NetHack src directory.
Issue this command:
mingw32-make -f Makefile.gcc install
If you get any errors along the way then something has not been set
up correctly. The time it takes to compile depends on your
particular machine of course, but you should be able to go for lunch
and return to find everything finished. The less memory, and slower
your machine, the longer the lunch you may take. :-)
In any case, it is likely that the command prompt window where you
are doing the compiling will be occupied for a while. If all goes
well, you will get an NetHack executable.
1. To install an update of NetHack after changing something, change
your current directory to src and issue the appropriate command for
your compiler:
For Microsoft compiler:
For GCC:
mingw32-make -f Makefile.gcc
If you add, delete, or reorder monsters or objects, or you change
the format of saved level files, delete any save and bones files.
(Trying to use such files sometimes produces amusing confusions on
the game's part, but usually crashes.)
If you made changes to any of the level compiler software, you may
have to delete dgn_flex.c, dgn_yacc.c, lev_flex.c, and lev_yacc.c
from the util directory to ensure that they are remade.
2. Depending on the build and compiler and tools used above, the
executable produced by the TTY build is either:
- a 32-bit (x86), flat-address space, non-overlayed .exe file,
which should run on any recent Win32 environment.
- a 64-bit (x64) .exe file,
which should run on any 64-bit Windows O/S.
Note that saved games are NOT compatible between the 32-bit and the
64-bit versions at this time.
NetHack.exe is the tty version. NetHackW.exe is the graphical version.
Play NetHack.
If you discover a bug and wish to report it, or if you have comments
or suggestions we recommend using our "Contact Us" web page at:
If you don't have access to the web, or you want to send us a patch
to the NetHack source code feel free to drop us a line c/o:
DevTeam (at)
Happy NetHacking!