Electron Documentation


Chromium and Node.js both depend on V8, and Electron contains only a single copy of V8, so it's important to ensure that the version of V8 chosen is compatible with the build's version of Node.js and Chromium.

Upgrading Node is much easier than upgrading Chromium, so fewer conflicts arise if one upgrades Chromium first, then chooses the upstream Node release whose version of V8 is closest to the one Chromium contains.

Electron has its own Node fork with modifications for the V8 build details mentioned above and for exposing API needed by Electron. Once an upstream Node release is chosen, it's placed in a branch in Electron's Node fork and any Electron Node patches are applied there.

Another factor is that the Node project patches its version of V8. As mentioned above, Electron builds everything with a single copy of V8, so Node's V8 patches must be ported to that copy.

Once all of Electron's dependencies are building and using the same copy of V8, the next step is to fix any Electron code issues caused by the Node upgrade.

[FIXME] something about a Node debugger in Atom that we (e.g. deepak) use and need to confirm doesn't break with the Node upgrade?

So in short, the primary steps are:

  1. Update Electron's Node fork to the desired version
  2. Backport Node's V8 patches to our copy of V8
  3. Update the GN build files, porting changes from node's GYP files
  4. Update Electron's DEPS to use new version of Node

Updating Electron's Node fork

  1. Ensure that master on electron/node has updated release tags from nodejs/node
  2. Create a branch in https://github.com/electron/node: electron-node-vX.X.X where the base that you're branching from is the tag for the desired update
  • vX.X.X Must use a version of Node compatible with our current version of Chromium
  1. Re-apply our commits from the previous version of Node we were using (vY.Y.Y) to v.X.X.X
  • Check release tag and select the range of commits we need to re-apply
  • Cherry-pick commit range:
    1. Checkout both vY.Y.Y & v.X.X.X
    2. git cherry-pick FIRST_COMMIT_HASH..LAST_COMMIT_HASH
  • Resolve merge conflicts in each file encountered, then:
    1. git add <conflict-file>
    2. git cherry-pick --continue
    3. Repeat until finished

Updating V8 Patches

We need to generate a patch file from each patch that Node applies to V8.

$ cd third_party/electron_node
# Find the last commit with the message "deps: update V8 to <some version>"
# This commit corresponds to Node resetting V8 to its pristine upstream
# state at the stated version.
$ LAST_V8_UPDATE="$(git log --grep='^deps: update V8' --format='%H' -1 deps/v8)"
# This creates a patch file containing all changes in deps/v8 from
# $LAST_V8_UPDATE up to the current Node version, formatted in a way that
# it will apply cleanly to the V8 repository (i.e. with `deps/v8`
# stripped off the path and excluding the v8/gypfiles directory, which
# isn't present in V8.
$ git format-patch \
    --relative=deps/v8 \
    deps/v8 \
    ':(exclude)deps/v8/gypfiles' \
    --stdout \
    > ../../electron/common/patches/v8/node_v8_patches.patch

This list of patches will probably include one that claims to make the V8 API backwards-compatible with a previous version of V8. Unfortunately, those patches almost always change the V8 API in a way that is incompatible with Chromium.

It's usually easier to update Node to work without the compatibility patch than to update Chromium to work with the compatibility patch, so it's recommended to revert the compatibility patch and fix any errors that arise when compiling Node.

Update Electron's DEPS file

Update the DEPS file in the root of electron/electron to point to the git hash of the updated Node.


  • Node maintains its own fork of V8
    • They backport a small amount of things as needed
    • Documentation in Node about how they work with V8
  • We update code such that we only use one copy of V8 across all of Electron
    • E.g Electron, Chromium, and Node.js
  • We don’t track upstream closely due to logistics:
    • Upstream uses multiple repos and so merging into a single repo would result in lost history. So we only update when we’re planning a Node version bump in Electron.
  • Chromium is large and time-consuming to update, so we typically choose the Node version based on which of its releases has a version of V8 that’s closest to the version in Chromium that we’re using.
    • We sometimes have to wait for the next periodic Node release because it will sync more closely with the version of V8 in the new Chromium
  • Electron keeps all its patches in the repo because it’s simpler than maintaining different repos for patches for each upstream project.
    • Crashpad, Node.js, Chromium, Skia etc. patches are all kept in the same place
  • Building Node:
    • We maintain our own GN build files for Node.js to make it easier to ensure that eevrything is built with the same compiler flags. This means that every time we upgrade Node.js we have to do a modest amount of work to synchronize the GN files with the upstream GYP files.

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