I am beginning to work with micro controllers and programming them using C language.

All my programming experience is with Python language.

I know that if I want to test a script I have written in python, I can simply launch terminal and type in “python” with the path of the file I want to run.

I tried a web search, but most didn’t seem to understand what I was asking.

How do I run c from terminal?

  • 2
    Related: Why can't I run this C program? Apr 22, 2018 at 23:04
  • 5
    compile it first. then run the resulting executable.
    – ivanivan
    Apr 22, 2018 at 23:11
  • 2
    @ivanivan Can an IDE like Eclipse do all this for me?
    – Iam Pyre
    Apr 22, 2018 at 23:13
  • 4
    Yes, but overkill for a single .c file.
    – ivanivan
    Apr 22, 2018 at 23:26
  • 3
    @ivanivan: Even overkill for moderate-sized projects. Just learn how to write a simple Makefile.
    – jamesqf
    Apr 23, 2018 at 4:42

4 Answers 4


C is not an interpreted language like Python or Perl. You cannot simply type C code and then tell the shell to execute the file. You need to compile the C file with a C compiler like gcc then execute the binary file it outputs.

For example, running gcc file.c will output a binary file with the name a.out. You can then tell the shell to execute the binary file by specifying the files full path ./a.out.

As some comments and other answers have stated, there are some C interpreters that exist. However, I would argue that C compilers are more popular.

  • Jeez, I remember reading the “c is not an interpreted language “ part in some comparison article I read, but didn’t realize what all that meant. Thanks!
    – Iam Pyre
    Apr 22, 2018 at 23:17
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    Or "gcc -o (name) file.c" if you like to give your programs meaningful names :-)
    – jamesqf
    Apr 23, 2018 at 4:46
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    Google could easily help you
    – Prvt_Yadav
    Apr 23, 2018 at 6:58
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    This answer is good because it does not try hard to answer the question literally. It understands the underlying issue.
    – pipe
    Apr 23, 2018 at 11:31
  • 1
    @Mawg GCC will invoke the linker automatically
    – pipe
    Apr 23, 2018 at 12:34

If you have a single foo.c, see if make can compile it for you:

make foo

No makefiles or anything needed.


tcc -run file.c will sometimes run a .c file. If the .c file needs additional libraries, tcc -llib1 -llib2 ... -run file.c will succeed. Sometimes it just won't work. tcc is not gcc.

Incidentally, you can put #!/usr/bin/tcc -run on the top of a .c file, chmod +x the file, and run it like any other script. When the .c file works in tcc, this behaves itself just fine.

Simple .c files from someone new to C will almost always work.

  • 1
    tcc is just compiling it for you then, right?
    – user253751
    Apr 23, 2018 at 3:57
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    @immibis: tcc compiles into RAM and runs immediately.
    – Joshua
    Apr 23, 2018 at 4:14

I am beginning to work with micro controllers and programming them using C language.

In practice, that is an important consideration. I'm guessing that your microcontroller is something like an Arduino (or perhaps a Raspberry Pi).

In general, you need some cross-compiler. You'll then cross-compile, on your desktop system (e.g. some Linux, which is very developer friendly; but you can find cross-compilers hosted on Windows or MacOSX, for Arduinos), your source code into an executable targetted for your microcontroller and later transmit the binary executable to your microcontroller.

C is a difficult programming language.

In many cases, you might compile directly your code on your desktop (don't forget to enable all warnings and debug info, e.g. gcc -Wall -Wextra -g with GCC), test most of it on your desktop, and later adapt it and port it for your Arduino. Debugging on your laptop or desktop some code is a lot easier than debugging on your Arduino.

You'll later cross-compile the same source code for your microcontroller.

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