Unstable Features

Experimental Cargo features are only available on the nightly channel. You typically use one of the -Z flags to enable them. Run cargo -Z help to see a list of flags available.

-Z unstable-options is a generic flag for enabling other unstable command-line flags. Options requiring this will be called out below.

Some unstable features will require you to specify the cargo-features key in Cargo.toml.


The -Z no-index-update flag ensures that Cargo does not attempt to update the registry index. This is intended for tools such as Crater that issue many Cargo commands, and you want to avoid the network latency for updating the index each time.


  • Original Issue: #4988
  • Stabilization Issue: #5133

When running commands such as cargo install or cargo build, Cargo currently requires dev-dependencies to be downloaded, even if they are not used. The -Z avoid-dev-deps flag allows Cargo to avoid downloading dev-dependencies if they are not needed. The Cargo.lock file will not be generated if dev-dependencies are skipped.


When a Cargo.lock file is generated, the -Z minimal-versions flag will resolve the dependencies to the minimum semver version that will satisfy the requirements (instead of the greatest version).

The intended use-case of this flag is to check, during continuous integration, that the versions specified in Cargo.toml are a correct reflection of the minimum versions that you are actually using. That is, if Cargo.toml says foo = "1.0.0" that you don’t accidentally depend on features added only in foo 1.5.0.


This feature allows you to specify the directory where artifacts will be copied to after they are built. Typically artifacts are only written to the target/release or target/debug directories. However, determining the exact filename can be tricky since you need to parse JSON output. The --out-dir flag makes it easier to predictably access the artifacts. Note that the artifacts are copied, so the originals are still in the target directory. Example:

cargo +nightly build --out-dir=out -Z unstable-options

Profile Overrides

Profiles can be overridden for specific packages and custom build scripts. The general format looks like this:

cargo-features = ["profile-overrides"]


opt-level = 0
debug = true

# the `image` crate will be compiled with -Copt-level=3
opt-level = 3

# All dependencies (but not this crate itself or any workspace member)
# will be compiled with -Copt-level=2 . This includes build dependencies.
opt-level = 2

# Build scripts or proc-macros and their dependencies will be compiled with
# `-Copt-level=3`. By default, they use the same rules as the rest of the
# profile.
opt-level = 3

Overrides can only be specified for dev and release profiles.

Config Profiles

Profiles can be specified in .cargo/config files. The -Z config-profile command-line flag is required to use this feature. The format is the same as in a Cargo.toml manifest. If found in multiple config files, settings will be merged using the regular config hierarchy. Config settings take precedence over manifest settings.

opt-level = 3
cargo +nightly build -Z config-profile

Namespaced features

Currently, it is not possible to have a feature and a dependency with the same name in the manifest. If you set namespaced-features to true, the namespaces for features and dependencies are separated. The effect of this is that, in the feature requirements, dependencies have to be prefixed with crate:. Like this:

namespaced-features = true

bar = ["crate:baz", "foo"]
foo = []

baz = { version = "0.1", optional = true }

To prevent unnecessary boilerplate from having to explicitly declare features for each optional dependency, implicit features get created for any optional dependencies where a feature of the same name is not defined. However, if a feature of the same name as a dependency is defined, that feature must include the dependency as a requirement, as foo = ["crate:foo"].


The --build-plan argument for the build command will output JSON with information about which commands would be run without actually executing anything. This can be useful when integrating with another build tool. Example:

cargo +nightly build --build-plan -Z unstable-options


Metabuild is a feature to have declarative build scripts. Instead of writing a build.rs script, you specify a list of build dependencies in the metabuild key in Cargo.toml. A build script is automatically generated that runs each build dependency in order. Metabuild packages can then read metadata from Cargo.toml to specify their behavior.

Include cargo-features at the top of Cargo.toml, a metabuild key in the package, list the dependencies in build-dependencies, and add any metadata that the metabuild packages require under package.metadata. Example:

cargo-features = ["metabuild"]

name = "mypackage"
version = "0.0.1"
metabuild = ["foo", "bar"]

foo = "1.0"
bar = "1.0"

extra-info = "qwerty"

Metabuild packages should have a public function called metabuild that performs the same actions as a regular build.rs script would perform.


The install-upgrade feature changes the behavior of cargo install so that it will reinstall a package if it is not “up-to-date”. If it is “up-to-date”, it will do nothing and exit with success instead of failing. Example:

cargo +nightly install foo -Z install-upgrade

Cargo tracks some information to determine if a package is “up-to-date”, including:

  • The package version and source.
  • The set of binary names installed.
  • The chosen features.
  • The release mode (--debug).
  • The target (--target).

If any of these values change, then Cargo will reinstall the package.

Installation will still fail if a different package installs a binary of the same name. --force may be used to unconditionally reinstall the package.

Installing with --path will always build and install, unless there are conflicting binaries from another package.

Additionally, a new flag --no-track is available to prevent cargo install from writing tracking information in $CARGO_HOME about which packages are installed.


The ‘public-dependency’ feature allows marking dependencies as ‘public’ or ‘private’. When this feature is enabled, additional information is passed to rustc to allow the ‘exported_private_dependencies’ lint to function properly.

This requires the appropriate key to be set in cargo-features:

cargo-features = ["public-dependency"]

my_dep = { version = "1.2.3", public = true }
private_dep = "2.0.0" # Will be 'private' by default


The cache-messages feature causes Cargo to cache the messages generated by the compiler. This is primarily useful if a crate compiles successfully with warnings. Previously, re-running Cargo would not display any output. With the cache-messages feature, it will quickly redisplay the previous warnings.

cargo +nightly check -Z cache-messages

This works with any command that runs the compiler (build, check, test, etc.).

This also changes the way Cargo interacts with the compiler, helping to prevent interleaved messages when multiple crates attempt to display a message at the same time.