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Xcodebuild Destination Cheatsheet

When using xcodebuild there are cases in which you want to use the -destination option to configure which device or Simulator will be used by the tool, for example when doing xcodebuild test.

If you are like me your brain cannot retain the syntax and options for -destination, so here's a cheatsheet.

Destination Specifier

The argument for -destination is called destination specifier, and its syntax is a list of comma separated key=value pairs.

The specifier platform key can be used to target one of the supported platforms. Each platform comes with its set of keys.

The supported platforms are:

  • OS X, your Mac
  • iOS, a connected iOS device
  • iOS Simulator
  • watchOS
  • watchOS Simulator
  • tvOS
  • tvOS Simulator


The Mac OS X platform accepts an arch keyword, which can be either x86_64 or i386. x86_64 is the default.

xcodebuild \
  -workspace MyMacApp.xcworkspace \
  -scheme MyMacApp \
  -destination 'platform=OS X,arch=x86_64' \
  clean test


The iOS platform should be used when you want to run tests on a connected device. It supports two keys, id and name. Either one of the two must be provided, but not both.

Use name to target a device using it's name, id to use its UUID.

xcodebuild \
  -workspace MyApp.xcworkspace \
  -scheme MyApp \
  -destination "platform=iOS,name=Gio's iPhone" \
  clean test
xcodebuild \
  -workspace MyApp.xcworkspace \
  -scheme MyApp \
  -destination 'platform=iOS,id=YOUR_PHONE_UUID' \
  clean test

iOS Simulator

iOS Simulator is the platform I use more often. It supports the same id and name mutually exclusive keys as iOS, plus an OS key. OS expects a target version number, like 9.1, or latest, which is the default.

xcodebuild \
  -workspace MyApp.xcworkspace \
  -scheme MyApp \
  -destination 'platform=iOS Simulator,name=iPhone 6,OS=9.1' \
  clean test

tvOS and tvOS Simulator

The tvOS and tvOS Simulator platforms expect the same parameters as their iOS counter parts.

watchOS and watchOS Simulator

watchOS and watchOS Simulator have a slightly different behaviour. Since a watchOS app is always build and deployed nested inside of an iOS app to use such a destination you will need to specify a scheme which is configured to run a WatchKit app, and specify the platform destination that is paired with the watchOS device you want to use.

xcodebuild \
  -workspace MyApp.xcworkspace \
  -scheme MyWatchKitApp
  -destination 'platform=iOS Simulator,name=iPhone 6,OS=9.1' \

Unable to find destination

When in doubt with the destination parameter a good trick is to write some nonsense in as the destination specifier. xcodebuild will fail and then list all the available destinations for the given scheme:

xcodebuild: error: Unable to find a destination matching the provided destination specifier:
        { platform:jibberish }

    The requested device could not be found because no available devices matched the request.

    Available destinations for the "MyApp" scheme:
        { platform:iOS Simulator, id:5BBA1401-0C74-47A7-8709-9F6C1D9C9CBB, OS:9.1, name:iPhone 6s }
        { platform:iOS Simulator, id:28FF0903-97D6-459B-8F34-D9436AEA3B87, OS:9.1, name:iPhone 6s Plus }

Generic Platform

There are some xcodebuild actions, like build, that may be performed without an actual device. To target a platform generically prefix the destination specifier with generic/.

-destination generic/platform=iOS

Multiple Destinations

You can specify multiple -destination options to make xcodebuild perform the action on multiple destinations.


The -destination-timeout option specifies the amount of time in seconds to wait before considering the specified destination unavailable. The default timeout is 30 seconds.

Default Destination

If -destination is omitted, xcodebuild defaults to a destination compatible with the selected scheme. But, do you really trust Xcode to do the right thing for you? 😕

List All Available Destinations

To list all the known destination you can use instruments -s devices. The output is a list in the format name (OS) [UUID].

Giovanni’s Retina MacBook Pro [37B86DB5-FB69-56F7-A023-ECC6B90C3486]
Apple TV 1080p (9.0) [BCFBA897-9E8D-43BA-9EE0-A93B39615ECA]
Apple Watch - 38mm (2.0) [9366B46E-EB1D-4CF3-B7EE-6E1BCEE0F89E]
iPhone 6s (9.1) [5BBA1401-0C74-47A7-8709-9F6C1D9C9CBB]
iPhone 6s (9.1) + Apple Watch - 38mm (2.0) [303CB525-E04F-463D-B0E5-22E19278E88C]

You can find more information about the -destination option and xcodebuild itself by reading the tool's manpage: man xcodebuild.

I hope you will find these tip useful. Have you got something else to add, or a correction? What's you favourite xcodebuild combo? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter @mokagio.

Happy coding, and leave the codebase better than you found it.

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