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Troubleshooting Semgrep

Troubleshooting Semgrep CIโ€‹

If you're seeing results reported on files that have not changed since the last scan, GitHub Actions timing out, or anything else related to running semgrep in CI, see instructions in sections below on your CI provider.


The first piece of information r2c uses are the GitHub Actions logs. You can send them to r2c by clicking the settings button next to search logs and then download log archive.

If this does not have the information you need, save the logs that Semgrep CI produces. On each run, Semgrep CI creates a .semgrep_logs folder with the following information:

  • The debug logs
  • The output collected from Semgrep (including the timing data described below).
  • If a run used a Semgrep configuration, the flat list of rules run is listed.

To collect these logs, you need to upload them as an artifact. Modify your workflow to match the following:

name: semgrep with managed policy
runs-on: ubuntu-20.04
image: returntocorp/semgrep
- uses: actions/checkout@v3
- run: semgrep ci
- name: package-logs
if: always()
run: tar czf logs.tgz ~/.semgrep/last.log
- name: upload-logs
if: always()
uses: actions/upload-artifact@v3
name: logs.tgz
path: logs.tgz
retention-days: 1

Retrieving Semgrep CI logsโ€‹

When you run semgrep ci --config p/ci logs are saved in ~/.semgrep/last.log.

Reproducing the run locallyโ€‹

It is possible to reproduce some parts of Semgrep CI locally to aid in debugging through the following steps:

  1. Go to the API token page and create a new API token.
  2. Run the following command, and then paste in your API key when prompted:
    semgrep login
  3. Run the following code:
    SEMGREP_REPO_NAME=your-organization/repository-name semgrep ci
    For example, SEMGREP_REPO_NAME=returntocorp/semgrep semgrep ci would be used for the GitHub repository returntocorp/semgrep. As a result, Semgrep fetches the rules configured on all Semgrep App policies for this repository and run a local Semgrep scan using those rules.

Troubleshooting Semgrep CLIโ€‹

Semgrep exited with code -11 (or -9)โ€‹

This can happen when Semgrep crashes, usually as a result of memory exhaustion. -11 and -9 are the POSIX signals raised to cause the crash. Try increasing your stack limit, as suggested (ulimit -s [limit]). If you are working in a container where you can set the memory you are working with, you can also try increasing this limit. Alternatively, you can add --max-memory [limit] to your Semgrep run, which will stop a rule/file scan if it reaches the limit.

Additionally, you can run Semgrep in single-threaded mode with --jobs 1.

When reporting these errors, please include the rule it failed on, the total size of the files (or the files themselves if possible!), the maximum memory used by Semgrep (an estimate from top is fine), and your system specifications.

Semgrep is too slowโ€‹

We record Semgrep runtimes for each file and rule. This information is displayed when you include --time. How you choose to interact with the --time output depends on your goals.

I am a user who just wants to run fasterโ€‹

Just run Semgrep with --time and not --json. This will output a list of the rules and files that took the longest. Oftentimes, users find that those files shouldn't have been scanned in the first place.

The first step to improving Semgrep's speed is limiting its run to only the files you care about. You can do this by adding a .semgrepignore file. See how to ignore files & directories in Semgrep CI.

If you're still slow, you may want to examine the slowest rules. You may find that some of them don't apply to your codebase and can be skipped.

I am a contributor who wants to improve Semgrep's engineโ€‹

Interpreting the result objectโ€‹

For full timing information, run Semgrep with --time and --json. In addition, you will want to time the entire command to get the true wall time. Here is an example result object.

"errors": [],
"results": [],
"time": {
"profiling_times": {
"config_time": 0.10301780700683594,
"core_time": 0.0883018970489502,
"ignores_time": 2.7894973754882812e-05,
"total_time": 0.1915416717529297
"rule_parse_info": [
"rules": [
"id": "Users.emma.workspace.testing.error_configs.use-sys-exit"
"targets": [
"match_times": [
"num_bytes": 444,
"parse_times": [
"path": "/Users/emma/workspace/testing/situations_test/",
"run_times": [
"total_bytes": 444

All the information about timing is contained under time.

The first section is profiling_times. This contains wall time durations of various steps we consider interesting: getting the rule config files (config_time), running the main engine (core_time), and processing the ignores (ignores_time). The total_time field represents the sum of these steps.

The remaining fields report engine performance. Together, rule_parse_info and targets should capture all the time spent running semgrep-core.

rule_parse_info is straightfoward. It records the time spent parsing each rule.

targets poses more difficulty. Since files are run in parallel, the amount of time spent parsing (parse_times) and matching (match_times) will inevitably be meaningless compared against total_time or core_time. Therefore, the total run time (run_times) of each target for each rule is taken within the parallel run. This helps contextualize the time spent parsing and matching each target. The sum of the run times thus can (and usually should) be longer than the total time.

The lists rule_parse_info, match_times, parse_times, and run_times are all in the same order as rules. That is, the parse time of rule rules[0] is rule_parse_info[0].

Note that parse_times is given for each rule, but a file should only be parsed once (the first number). Afterwards, the parse time represents the time spent retrieving the file's AST from the cache.

Negative values in the metricsโ€‹

When a time is not measured, by default it has the value -1. It is common to a have a normal runtime but -1 for the parse time or match time; this indicates an error in parsing.

Tips for exploring semgrep resultsโ€‹

There are several scripts already written to analyze and summarize these timing data. Find them in scripts/processing-output. If you have a timing file, you will probably want to run

python [your_timing_file]

You may need to adjust the line result_times = results based on whether you have a timing file or the full results (in which case this should be result_times = results["time"])

How to get helpโ€‹

Please check the Support page to get help from the Semgrep maintainers & community, via Slack, GitHub, email, or phone.

Find what you needed in this doc? Join the Slack group to ask the maintainers and the community if you need help.