Sometimes one wants to override parts of nixpkgs, e.g. derivation attributes, the results of derivations.

These functions are used to make changes to packages, returning only single packages. Overlays, on the other hand, can be used to combine the overridden packages across the entire package set of Nixpkgs.


The function override is usually available for all the derivations in the nixpkgs expression (pkgs).

It is used to override the arguments passed to a function.

Example usages:

pkgs.foo.override { arg1 = val1; arg2 = val2; ... }

It's also possible to access the previous arguments.

pkgs.foo.override (previous: { arg1 = previous.arg1; ... })
import pkgs.path { overlays = [ (self: super: {
  foo = super.foo.override { barSupport = true ; };
mypkg = pkgs.callPackage ./mypkg.nix {
  mydep = pkgs.mydep.override { ... };

In the first example, pkgs.foo is the result of a function call with some default arguments, usually a derivation. Using pkgs.foo.override will call the same function with the given new arguments.


The function overrideAttrs allows overriding the attribute set passed to a stdenv.mkDerivation call, producing a new derivation based on the original one. This function is available on all derivations produced by the stdenv.mkDerivation function, which is most packages in the nixpkgs expression pkgs.

Example usages:

helloBar = pkgs.hello.overrideAttrs (finalAttrs: previousAttrs: {
  pname = previousAttrs.pname + "-bar";

In the above example, "-bar" is appended to the pname attribute, while all other attributes will be retained from the original hello package.

The argument previousAttrs is conventionally used to refer to the attr set originally passed to stdenv.mkDerivation.

The argument finalAttrs refers to the final attributes passed to mkDerivation, plus the finalPackage attribute which is equal to the result of mkDerivation or subsequent overrideAttrs calls.

If only a one-argument function is written, the argument has the meaning of previousAttrs.

Function arguments can be omitted entirely if there is no need to access previousAttrs or finalAttrs.

helloWithDebug = pkgs.hello.overrideAttrs {
  separateDebugInfo = true;

In the above example, the separateDebugInfo attribute is overridden to be true, thus building debug info for helloWithDebug.


Note that separateDebugInfo is processed only by the stdenv.mkDerivation function, not the generated, raw Nix derivation. Thus, using overrideDerivation will not work in this case, as it overrides only the attributes of the final derivation. It is for this reason that overrideAttrs should be preferred in (almost) all cases to overrideDerivation, i.e. to allow using stdenv.mkDerivation to process input arguments, as well as the fact that it is easier to use (you can use the same attribute names you see in your Nix code, instead of the ones generated (e.g. buildInputs vs nativeBuildInputs), and it involves less typing).



You should prefer overrideAttrs in almost all cases, see its documentation for the reasons why. overrideDerivation is not deprecated and will continue to work, but is less nice to use and does not have as many abilities as overrideAttrs.


Do not use this function in Nixpkgs as it evaluates a derivation before modifying it, which breaks package abstraction. In addition, this evaluation-per-function application incurs a performance penalty, which can become a problem if many overrides are used. It is only intended for ad-hoc customisation, such as in ~/.config/nixpkgs/config.nix.

The function overrideDerivation creates a new derivation based on an existing one by overriding the original's attributes with the attribute set produced by the specified function. This function is available on all derivations defined using the makeOverridable function. Most standard derivation-producing functions, such as stdenv.mkDerivation, are defined using this function, which means most packages in the nixpkgs expression, pkgs, have this function.

Example usage:

mySed = pkgs.gnused.overrideDerivation (oldAttrs: {
  name = "sed-4.2.2-pre";
  src = fetchurl {
    url = "ftp://alpha.gnu.org/gnu/sed/sed-4.2.2-pre.tar.bz2";
    hash = "sha256-MxBJRcM2rYzQYwJ5XKxhXTQByvSg5jZc5cSHEZoB2IY=";
  patches = [];

In the above example, the name, src, and patches of the derivation will be overridden, while all other attributes will be retained from the original derivation.

The argument oldAttrs is used to refer to the attribute set of the original derivation.


A package's attributes are evaluated before being modified by the overrideDerivation function. For example, the name attribute reference in url = "mirror://gnu/hello/${name}.tar.gz"; is filled-in before the overrideDerivation function modifies the attribute set. This means that overriding the name attribute, in this example, will not change the value of the url attribute. Instead, we need to override both the name and url attributes.


The function lib.makeOverridable is used to make the result of a function easily customizable. This utility only makes sense for functions that accept an argument set and return an attribute set.

Example usage:

f = { a, b }: { result = a+b; };
c = lib.makeOverridable f { a = 1; b = 2; };

The variable c is the value of the f function applied with some default arguments. Hence the value of c.result is 3, in this example.

The variable c however also has some additional functions, like c.override which can be used to override the default arguments. In this example the value of (c.override { a = 4; }).result is 6.