If you regularly program in languages like Go, Ruby, Python, JavaScript, or other scripting and fast-to-build languages you probably live in a utopia of build time. Gone are the days of sitting around waiting for the computer to turn things I’ve typed into executable programs…or so I thought.

This year I started programming in Rust, and while the language is an amazing innovation in so many ways, it has felt like 10 steps backwards in developer experience. Specifically in terms of build times. Once again xkcd rang true.

After trying lots of different things people suggested for speeding up builds I’ve found the following two things are what make the biggest difference for my projects.

1. Buy a fast machine

When I compare the performance of an older Apple Intel with a newer Apple Silicon M1MAX, the difference is stark. It’s difficult to put a price on how much time I’ve saved just waiting for code to build, or time I’ve saved by not losing flow state from waiting.

2. Use sccache to cache build artifacts

It’s as easy as:

cargo install sccache


brew install sccache

Then place the following in your shell files:

export RUSTC_WRAPPER="$(which sccache)"

The next times you build, build artifacts will be cached in a single global cache, which means caching across projects.

There are some other things I’ve seen others recommend, like using RAM disk, or alternative linkers like zld. I’ve tried them, and I found no or minimal benefit in them on the projects I work on with the hardware I have. If you don’t have a fast SSD then a RAM disk might be an improvement. You might want to explore them, they just haven’t yielded a benefit for me.