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Python Multithreading without GIL

Copyright (c) 2001-2022 Python Software Foundation. All rights reserved.

See Doc/license.rst for copyright and license information.


This is a proof-of-concept implementation of CPython that supports multithreading without the global interpreter lock (GIL). An overview of the design is described in the Python Multithreading without GIL Google doc.


The proof-of-concept works best on Linux x86-64. It also builds on macOS, Linux ARM64, and Windows (64-bit), but you will have to recompile extension modules yourself for these platforms.

Install with pyenv

First you need to install pyenv on Linux or on macOS . To install the "nogil-3.9.10-1" version:

pyenv install nogil-3.9.10-1

You can make the nogil installation the default Python installation with:

pyenv global nogil-3.9.10-1


A pre-built Docker image nogil/python is available on Docker Hub. For CUDA support, use nogil/python-cuda.
For arm64 devices, use nogil/python-arm64.

For example:

docker run -it nogil/python

Build from source

The build process has not changed from upstream CPython. See for instructions on how to build from source, or follow the steps below.


./configure [--prefix=PREFIX] [--enable-optimizations]
make -j
make install

The optional --prefix=PREFIX specifies the destination directory for the Python installation. The optional --enable-optimizations enables profile guided optimizations (PGO). This slows down the build process, but makes the compiled Python a bit faster.


Use pip install <package> as usual to install packages. Please file an issue if you are unable to install a pip package you would like to use.

The proof-of-concept comes with a modified bundled "pip" that includes an alternative package index. The alternative package index includes C extensions that are either slow to build from source or require some modifications for compatibility.

GIL control

The GIL is disabled by default, but if you wish, you can enable it at runtime using the environment variable PYTHONGIL=1. You can check if the GIL is disabled from Python by accessing sys.flags.nogil:

python3 -c "import sys; print(sys.flags.nogil)"  # True
PYTHONGIL=1 python3 -c "import sys; print(sys.flags.nogil)"  # False


You can use the existing Python APIs, such as the threading module and the ThreadPoolExecutor class.

Here is an example based on Larry Hastings's Gilectomy benchmark:

import sys
from concurrent.futures import ThreadPoolExecutor

print(f"nogil={getattr(sys.flags, 'nogil', False)}")

def fib(n):
    if n < 2: return 1
    return fib(n-1) + fib(n-2)

threads = 8
if len(sys.argv) > 1:
    threads = int(sys.argv[1])

with ThreadPoolExecutor(max_workers=threads) as executor:
    for _ in range(threads):
        executor.submit(lambda: print(fib(34)))

Run it with, e.g.:

time python3 1   # 1 thread, 1x work
time python3 20  # 20 threads, 20x work

The program parallelizes well up to the number of available cores. On a 20 core Intel Xeon E5-2698 v4 one thread takes 1.50 seconds and 20 threads take 1.52 seconds [1].

[1] Turbo boost was disabled to measure the scaling of the program without the effects of CPU frequency scaling. Additionally, you may get more reliable measurements by using taskset to avoid virtual "hyperthreading" cores.