/INCREMENTAL (Link incrementally)

Specifies whether to link incrementally or always perform a full link.




The /INCREMENTAL linker option controls how the linker handles incremental linking.

By default, the linker runs in incremental mode. To override a default incremental link, specify /INCREMENTAL:NO.

An incrementally linked program is functionally equivalent to a program that is non-incrementally linked. However, because it's prepared for subsequent incremental links, an incrementally linked executable, static library, or dynamic-link library file:

  • Is larger than a non-incrementally linked program because of padding of code and data. Padding enables the linker to increase the size of functions and data without recreating the file.

  • May contain jump thunks to handle relocation of functions to new addresses.


    To ensure that your final release build does not contain padding or thunks, link your program non-incrementally.

To link incrementally regardless of the default, specify /INCREMENTAL. When this option is selected, the linker issues a warning if it can't link incrementally, and then links the program non-incrementally. Certain options and situations override /INCREMENTAL.

Most programs can be linked incrementally. However, some changes are too great, and some options are incompatible with incremental linking. LINK performs a full link if any of the following options are specified:

  • Link Incrementally isn't selected (/INCREMENTAL:NO)

  • /OPT:REF is selected

  • /OPT:ICF is selected

  • /OPT:LBR is selected

  • /ORDER is selected

/INCREMENTAL is implied when /DEBUG is specified.

Additionally, LINK performs a full link if any of the following situations occur:

  • The incremental status (.ilk) file is missing. (LINK creates a new .ilk file in preparation for subsequent incremental linking.)

  • There's no write permission for the .ilk file. (LINK ignores the .ilk file and links non-incrementally.)

  • The .exe or .dll output file is missing.

  • The timestamp of the .ilk, .exe, or .dll is changed.

  • A LINK option is changed. Most LINK options, when changed between builds, cause a full link.

  • An object (.obj) file is added or omitted.

An incremental link creates or updates an incremental link database .ilk file. You can specify the name and location of this file by using the /ILK (Name incremental database file) linker option. For more information about the .ilk file, see .ilk files as linker input.

To set this linker option in the Visual Studio development environment

  1. Open the project's Property Pages dialog box. For details, see Set C++ compiler and build properties in Visual Studio.

  2. Select the Configuration Properties > Linker > General property page.

  3. Modify the Enable Incremental Linking property.

To set this linker option programmatically

  1. See LinkIncremental.

See also

MSVC linker reference
MSVC linker options
.ilk files as linker input