Building Python wheels with modern C++ standards (C++11 and later) requires a few tricks.

Python 2.7 and C++17

The Python 2.7 header files use the register keyword, which is reserved and unused from C+17 onwards. Compiling a wheel for Python 2.7 with the C++17 standard is still possible to allow usage of register using proper flag -Wno-register for gcc/clang and /wd5033 for MSVC.

manylinux1 and C++14

The default manylinux1 image (based on CentOS 5) contains a version of GCC and libstdc++ that only supports C++11 and earlier standards. There are however ways to compile wheels with the C++14 standard (and later): pypa/manylinux#118

manylinux2010 and manylinux2014 are newer and support all C++ standards (up to C++17).

macOS and deployment target versions

OS X/macOS allows you to specify a so-called "deployment target" version that will ensure backwards compatibility with older versions of macOS. One way to do this is by setting the MACOSX_DEPLOYMENT_TARGET environment variable.

However, to enable modern C++ standards, the deploment target needs to be set high enough (since older OS X/macOS versions did not have the necessary modern C++ standard library).

To get C++11 and C++14 support, MACOSX_DEPLOYMENT_TARGET needs to be set to (at least) "10.9". By default, cibuildwheel already does this, building 64-bit-only wheels for macOS 10.9 and later.

To get C++17 support, Xcode 9.3+ is needed, requiring at least macOS 10.13 on the build machine. To use C++17 library features and link against the C++ runtime library, set MACOSX_DEPLOYMENT_TARGET to "10.13" or "10.14" (or higher) - macOS 10.13 offers partial C++17 support (e.g., the filesystem header is in experimental, offering #include <experimental/filesystem> instead of #include <filesystem>); macOS 10.14 has full C++17 support.

However, if only C++17 compiler and standard template library (STL) features are used (not needing a C++17 runtime) it might be possible to set MACOSX_DEPLOYMENT_TARGET to a lower value, such as "10.9". To find out if this is the case, try compiling and running with a lower MACOSX_DEPLOYMENT_TARGET: if C++17 features are used that require a more recent deployment target, building the wheel should fail.

For more details see,, and Xcode 10 needs macOS 10.13 and Xcode 11 needs macOS 10.14.

Windows and Python 2.7

In previous years, Microsoft distributed a compiler toolchain called 'Visual C++ for Python 2.7', which was a distribution of MSVC 2008 that was created to make it easier to build Python 2.7 extensions on Windows, because it was fully compatible with the toolchain that built Python 2.7.

This toolchain does not support modern C++ standards (i.e., C++11 and later). And it is hard to find this toolchain these days, since Microsoft removed the download for the required Visual Studio 2008 needed to build a native extension in April, 2021. So, by default, cibuildwheel does not attempt to build Python 2.7 extensions on Windows.

There is an optional workaround, though: the pybind11 project argues and shows that it is possible to compile Python 2.7 extension with a newer compiler and has an example project showing how to do this: pybind/python_example. The main catch is that a user might need to install a newer "Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable", since the newer C++ standard library's binaries are not included by default with the Python 2.7 installation.

Forcing distutils or setuptools to use a more recent version of MSVC that supports modern C++ can be done in the following way:

  1. Set the environment variables DISTUTILS_USE_SDK=1 and MSSdk=1. These two environment variables will tell distutils/setuptools to not search and set up a build environment that uses Visual C++ for Python 2.7 (aka. MSVC 9).
  2. Set up the build Visual Studio build environment you want to use, making sure that e.g. PATH contains cl, link, etc.
    • Usually, this can be done through vcvarsall.bat x86 or vcvarsall.bat x64. The exact location of this file depends on the installation, but the default path for VS 2019 Community (e.g. used in AppVeyor's Visual Studio 2019 image) is C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2019\Community\VC\Auxiliary\Build\vcvarsall.bat. Note: vcvarsall.bat changes the environment variables, so this cannot be run in a subprocess/subshell and consequently running vsvarsall.bat in CIBW_BEFORE_BUILD does not have any effect.
    • In Azure Pipelines, a VSBuild task is available
    • In GitHub Actions, the default shell is powershell, so you'll need to use shell: cmd to source a .bat file, and the directory is "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2019\Enterprise\VC\Auxiliary\Build\vcvarsall.bat". Or you can use an action, such as the ilammy/msvc-dev-cmd@v1 action to setup the environment (see example below).
  3. Next, call cibuildwheel. Unfortunately, MSVC has separate toolchains for compiling 32-bit and 64-bit, so you will need to run cibuildwheel twice: once with CIBW_BUILD=*-win32 after setting up the x86 build environment, and once with CIBW_BUILD=*-win_amd64 in a x64 environment (see previous step).

GitHub Action example with ilammy/msvc-dev-cmd:

  - uses: ilammy/msvc-dev-cmd@v1

  - name: Build 64-bit wheel
    run: python -m cibuildwheel --output-dir wheelhouse
      CIBW_BUILD: cp27-win_amd64
      MSSdk: 1

  - uses: ilammy/msvc-dev-cmd@v1
      arch: x86

  - name: Build 32-bit wheel
    run: python -m cibuildwheel --output-dir wheelhouse
      CIBW_BUILD: cp27-win32
      MSSdk: 1