Using self-hosted runners in a workflow

To use self-hosted runners in a workflow, you can use labels to specify the runner type for a job.

For information on creating custom and default labels, see "Using labels with self-hosted runners."

Using self-hosted runners in a workflow

Labels allow you to send workflow jobs to specific types of self-hosted runners, based on their shared characteristics. For example, if your job requires a particular hardware component or software package, you can assign a custom label to a runner and then configure your job to only execute on runners with that label.

To specify a self-hosted runner for your job, configure runs-on in your workflow file with self-hosted runner labels.

All self-hosted runners have the self-hosted label. Using only this label will select any self-hosted runner. To select runners that meet certain criteria, such as operating system or architecture, provide an array of labels that begins with self-hosted (this must be listed first) and then includes additional labels as needed.

For more information, see "Workflow syntax for GitHub Actions."

Using default labels to route jobs

A self-hosted runner automatically receives certain labels when it is added to GitHub Actions. These are used to indicate its operating system and hardware platform:

  • self-hosted: Default label applied to all self-hosted runners.
  • linux, windows, or macOS: Applied depending on operating system.
  • x64, ARM, or ARM64: Applied depending on hardware architecture.

You can use your workflow's YAML to send jobs to a combination of these labels. In this example, a self-hosted runner that matches all three labels will be eligible to run the job:

runs-on: [self-hosted, linux, ARM64]
  • self-hosted - Run this job on a self-hosted runner.
  • linux - Only use a Linux-based runner.
  • ARM64 - Only use a runner based on ARM64 hardware.

The default labels are fixed and cannot be changed or removed. Consider using custom labels if you need more control over job routing.

Using custom labels to route jobs

You can create custom labels and assign them to your self-hosted runners at any time. Custom labels let you send jobs to particular types of self-hosted runners, based on how they're labeled.

For example, if you have a job that requires a specific type of graphics hardware, you can create a custom label called gpu and assign it to the runners that have the hardware installed. A self-hosted runner that matches all the assigned labels will then be eligible to run the job.

This example shows a job that combines default and custom labels:

runs-on: [self-hosted, linux, x64, gpu]
  • self-hosted - Run this job on a self-hosted runner.
  • linux - Only use a Linux-based runner.
  • x64 - Only use a runner based on x64 hardware.
  • gpu - This custom label has been manually assigned to self-hosted runners with the GPU hardware installed.

These labels operate cumulatively, so a self-hosted runner’s labels must match all four to be eligible to process the job.

Routing precedence for self-hosted runners

When routing a job to a self-hosted runner, GitHub looks for a runner that matches the job's runs-on labels:

  • GitHub first searches for an online and idle runner at the repository level, then at the organization level, and if the organization is part of an enterprise, then at the enterprise level.
  • If GitHub finds an online and idle runner at a certain level that matches the job's runs-on labels, the job is then assigned and sent to the runner.
    • If the runner doesn't pick up the assigned job within 60 seconds, the job is queued at all levels and waits for a matching runner from any level to come online and pick up the job.
  • If GitHub doesn't find an online and idle runner at any level, the job is queued to all levels and waits for a matching runner from any level to come online and pick up the job.
  • If the job remains queued for more than 24 hours, the job will fail.

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