CodeQL documentation

Setting up CodeQL in Visual Studio Code

You can install and configure the CodeQL extension in Visual Studio Code.

License notice

If you don’t have an Enterprise license then, by installing this product, you are agreeing to the GitHub CodeQL Terms and Conditions.

GitHub CodeQL is licensed on a per-user basis. Under the license restrictions, you can use CodeQL to perform the following tasks:

  • To perform academic research.
  • To demonstrate the software.
  • To test CodeQL queries that are released under an OSI-approved License to confirm that new versions of those queries continue to find the right vulnerabilities.

where “OSI-approved License” means an Open Source Initiative (OSI)-approved open source software license.

If you are working with an Open Source Codebase (that is, a codebase that is released under an OSI-approved License) you can also use CodeQL for the following tasks:

  • To perform analysis of the Open Source Codebase.
  • If the Open Source Codebase is hosted and maintained on, to generate CodeQL databases for or during automated analysis, continuous integration, or continuous delivery.

CodeQL can’t be used for automated analysis, continuous integration or continuous delivery, whether as part of normal software engineering processes or otherwise, except in the express cases set forth herein. For these uses, contact the sales team.


The CodeQL extension requires a minimum of Visual Studio Code 1.39. Older versions are not supported.

Installing the extension

You can install the CodeQL extension using any of the normal methods for installing a VS Code extension:

  • Go to the Visual Studio Code Marketplace in your browser and click Install.
  • In the Extensions view (Ctrl+Shift+X or Cmd+Shift+X), search for CodeQL, then select Install.
  • Download the CodeQL VSIX file. Then, in the Extensions view, click the ellipsis representing the Views and More Actions… menu, select Install from VSIX, then select the CodeQL VSIX file.

Configuring access to the CodeQL CLI

The extension uses the CodeQL CLI to compile and run queries.

If you already have the CLI installed and added to your PATH, the extension uses that version. This might be the case if you create your own CodeQL databases instead of downloading them from For more information, see CodeQL CLI.”

Otherwise, the extension automatically manages access to the executable of the CLI for you. This ensures that the CLI is compatible with the CodeQL extension. You can also check for updates with the CodeQL: Check for CLI Updates command.


The extension-managed CLI is not accessible from the terminal. If you intend to use the CLI outside of the extension (for example to create databases), we recommend that you install your own copy of the CLI. To avoid having two copies of the CLI on your machine, you can point the CodeQL CLI Executable Path setting to your existing copy of the CLI.

If you want the extension to use a specific version of the CLI, set the CodeQL CLI Executable Path to the location of the executable file for the CLI. That is, the file named codeql (Linux/Mac) or codeql.exe (Windows). For more information, see “Customizing settings.”

If you have any difficulty setting up access to the CodeQL CLI, check the CodeQL Extension Log for error messages. For more information, see “Troubleshooting CodeQL for Visual Studio Code.”

Setting up a CodeQL workspace

When you’re working with CodeQL, you need access to the standard CodeQL libraries. This also makes a wide variety of queries available to explore.

There are two ways to do this:

  • Recommended, use the “starter” workspace. This is maintained as a Git repository which makes it easy to keep up to date with changes to the libraries. For more information, see “Using the starter workspace” below.
  • More advanced, add the CodeQL libraries and queries to an existing workspace. For more information, see “Updating an existing workspace for CodeQL” below.


For CLI users there is a third option: If you have followed the instructions in “Getting started with the CodeQL CLI” to create a CodeQL directory (for example codeql-home) containing the CodeQL libraries, you can open this directory in VS Code. This also gives the extension access to the CodeQL libraries.

Using the starter workspace

The starter workspace is a Git repository. It contains:

  • The repository of CodeQL libraries and queries for all supported languages. This is included as a submodule, so it can be updated without affecting your custom queries.
  • A series of folders named codeql-custom-queries-<language>. These are ready for you to start developing your own custom queries for each language, using the standard libraries. There are some example queries to get you started.

To use the starter workspace:

  1. Clone the repository to your computer:
    • Make sure you include the submodules, either by using git clone --recursive, or using by git submodule update --init --remote after cloning.
    • Use git submodule update --remote regularly to keep the submodules up to date.
  2. In VS Code, use the File > Open Workspace option to open the vscode-codeql-starter.code-workspace file from your checkout of the workspace repository.

Remember to update the ql submodule in the starter workspace periodically to ensure that it remains compatible with newer versions of the VS Code extension and the CodeQL CLI.

Updating an existing workspace for CodeQL

You can add the CodeQL libraries to an existing workspace by making a local clone of the CodeQL repository directly:

To make the standard libraries available in your workspace:

  1. Select File > Add Folder to Workspace, and choose your local checkout of the github/codeql repository.
  2. Create one new folder per target language, using either the New Folder or Add Folder to Workspace options, to hold custom queries and libraries.
  3. Create a qlpack.yml file in each target language folder. This tells the CodeQL CLI the target language for that folder and what its dependencies are. (The main branch of github/codeql already has these files.) CodeQL will look for the dependencies in all the open workspace folders, or on the user’s search path.

For example, to make a custom CodeQL folder called my-custom-cpp-pack depend on the CodeQL standard library for C++, create a qlpack.yml file with the following contents:

name: my-custom-cpp-pack
version: 0.0.0
libraryPathDependencies: codeql/cpp-all

For more information about why you need to add a qlpack.yml file, see “About CodeQL packs.”

Further reading

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