Running YARA from the command-line

In order to invoke YARA you’ll need two things: a file with the rules you want to use and the target to be scanned. The target can be a file, a folder, or a process.


In YARA 3.8 and below RULES_FILE was allowed to be a file with rules in source form or in compiled form indistinctly. In YARA 3.9 you need to explicitly specify that RULES_FILE contains compiled rules by using the -C flag.


This is a security measure to prevent users from inadvertently using compiled rules coming from a third-party. Using compiled rules from untrusted sources can lead to the execution of malicious code in your computer.

For compiling rules beforehand you can use the yarac tool. This way can save time, because for YARA it is faster to load compiled rules than compiling the same rules over and over again.

You can also pass multiple source files to yara like in the following example:


Notice however that this only works for rules in source form. When invoking YARA with compiled rules a single file is accepted.

In the example above all rules share the same "default" namespace, which means that rule identifiers must be unique among all files. However you can specify a namespace for individual files. For example


In this case RULE_FILE_1 uses namespace1 while RULES_FILE_2 and RULES_FILE_3 share the default namespace.

In all cases rules will be applied to the target specified as the last argument to YARA, if it’s a path to a directory all the files contained in it will be scanned. By default YARA does not attempt to scan directories recursively, but you can use the -r option for that.

Available options are:

-C --compiled-rules

RULES_FILE contains rules already compiled with yarac.

-c --count

Print only number of matches.

-d <identifier>=<value> --define=identifier=value

Define external variable. This option can be used multiple times.

-q --disable-console-logs

Disable printing console log messages.


Treat warnings as errors. Has no effect if used with --no-warnings.

-f --fast-scan

Fast matching mode.

-h --help

Show help.

-i <identifier> --identifier=<identifier>

Print rules named <identifier> and ignore the rest.


When scanning process memory read the data in chunks of the given size.

-l <number> --max-rules=<number>

Abort scanning after matching a number of rules.


Set maximum number of strings per rule (default=10000). If a rule has more then the specified number of strings an error will occur.

New in version 3.7.0.

-x <module>=<file> --module-data=<module>=<file>

Pass the content of <file> as data to <module>. Example: -x cuckoo=/cuckoo_report.json.

-n --negate

Print not satisfied rules only (negate).

-N --no-follow-symlinks

Do not follow symlinks when scanning.

-w --no-warnings

Disable warnings.

-m --print-meta

Print metadata.

-D --print-module-data

Print module data.

-e --print-namespace

Print rules' namespace.

-S --print-stats

Print rules' statistics.

-s --print-strings

Print matching strings.

-L --print-string-length

Print length of matching strings.

-g --print-tags

Print tags.

-r --recursive

Recursively search for directories. It follows symlinks.


Scan files listed in FILE, one per line.

-z <size> --skip-larger=<size>

Skip files larger than the given <size> in bytes when scanning a directory.

New in version 4.2.0.

-k <slots> --stack-size=<slots>

Allocate a stack size of "slots" number of slots. Default: 16384. This will allow you to use larger rules, albeit with more memory overhead.

New in version 3.5.0.

-t <tag> --tag=<tag>

Print rules tagged as <tag> and ignore the rest.

-p <number> --threads=<number>

Use the specified <number> of threads to scan a directory.

-a <seconds> --timeout=<seconds>

Abort scanning after a number of seconds has elapsed.

-v --version

Show version information.

Here you have some examples:

  • Apply rule in /foo/bar/rules to all files in the current directory. Subdirectories are not scanned:

    yara /foo/bar/rules  .
  • Apply rules in /foo/bar/rules to bazfile. Only reports rules tagged as Packer or Compiler:

    yara -t Packer -t Compiler /foo/bar/rules bazfile
  • Scan all files in the /foo directory and its subdirectories:

    yara /foo/bar/rules -r /foo
  • Defines three external variables mybool, myint and mystring:

    yara -d mybool=true -d myint=5 -d mystring="my string" /foo/bar/rules bazfile
  • Apply rules in /foo/bar/rules to bazfile while passing the content of cuckoo_json_report to the cuckoo module:

    yara -x cuckoo=cuckoo_json_report /foo/bar/rules bazfile