% Advanced Linking

The common cases of linking with Rust have been covered earlier in this book, but supporting the range of linking possibilities made available by other languages is important for Rust to achieve seamless interaction with native libraries.

Link args

There is one other way to tell rustc how to customize linking, and that is via the link_args attribute. This attribute is applied to extern blocks and specifies raw flags which need to get passed to the linker when producing an artifact. An example usage would be:


#[link_args = "-foo -bar -baz"]
extern {}
# fn main() {}

Note that this feature is currently hidden behind the feature(link_args) gate because this is not a sanctioned way of performing linking. Right now rustc shells out to the system linker (gcc on most systems, link.exe on MSVC), so it makes sense to provide extra command line arguments, but this will not always be the case. In the future rustc may use LLVM directly to link native libraries, in which case link_args will have no meaning. You can achieve the same effect as the link_args attribute with the -C link-args argument to rustc.

It is highly recommended to not use this attribute, and rather use the more formal #[link(...)] attribute on extern blocks instead.

Static linking

Static linking refers to the process of creating output that contains all required libraries and so doesn't need libraries installed on every system where you want to use your compiled project. Pure-Rust dependencies are statically linked by default so you can use created binaries and libraries without installing Rust everywhere. By contrast, native libraries (e.g. libc and libm) are usually dynamically linked, but it is possible to change this and statically link them as well.

Linking is a very platform-dependent topic, and static linking may not even be possible on some platforms! This section assumes some basic familiarity with linking on your platform of choice.


By default, all Rust programs on Linux will link to the system libc along with a number of other libraries. Let's look at an example on a 64-bit Linux machine with GCC and glibc (by far the most common libc on Linux):

$ cat example.rs
fn main() {}
$ rustc example.rs
$ ldd example
        linux-vdso.so.1 =>  (0x00007ffd565fd000)
        libdl.so.2 => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libdl.so.2 (0x00007fa81889c000)
        libpthread.so.0 => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libpthread.so.0 (0x00007fa81867e000)
        librt.so.1 => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/librt.so.1 (0x00007fa818475000)
        libgcc_s.so.1 => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libgcc_s.so.1 (0x00007fa81825f000)
        libc.so.6 => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libc.so.6 (0x00007fa817e9a000)
        /lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 (0x00007fa818cf9000)
        libm.so.6 => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libm.so.6 (0x00007fa817b93000)

Dynamic linking on Linux can be undesirable if you wish to use new library features on old systems or target systems which do not have the required dependencies for your program to run.

Static linking is supported via an alternative libc, [musl](http://www.musl-libc.org). You can compile your own version of Rust with musl enabled and install it into a custom directory with the instructions below:

$ mkdir musldist
$ PREFIX=$(pwd)/musldist
$ # Build musl
$ curl -O http://www.musl-libc.org/releases/musl-1.1.10.tar.gz
$ tar xf musl-1.1.10.tar.gz
$ cd musl-1.1.10/
musl-1.1.10 $ ./configure --disable-shared --prefix=$PREFIX
musl-1.1.10 $ make
musl-1.1.10 $ make install
musl-1.1.10 $ cd ..
$ du -h musldist/lib/libc.a
2.2M    musldist/lib/libc.a
$ # Build libunwind.a
$ curl -O http://llvm.org/releases/3.7.0/llvm-3.7.0.src.tar.xz
$ tar xf llvm-3.7.0.src.tar.xz
$ cd llvm-3.7.0.src/projects/
llvm-3.7.0.src/projects $ curl http://llvm.org/releases/3.7.0/libunwind-3.7.0.src.tar.xz | tar xJf -
llvm-3.7.0.src/projects $ mv libunwind-3.7.0.src libunwind
llvm-3.7.0.src/projects $ mkdir libunwind/build
llvm-3.7.0.src/projects $ cd libunwind/build
llvm-3.7.0.src/projects/libunwind/build $ cmake -DLLVM_PATH=../../.. -DLIBUNWIND_ENABLE_SHARED=0 ..
llvm-3.7.0.src/projects/libunwind/build $ make
llvm-3.7.0.src/projects/libunwind/build $ cp lib/libunwind.a $PREFIX/lib/
llvm-3.7.0.src/projects/libunwind/build $ cd ../../../../
$ du -h musldist/lib/libunwind.a
164K    musldist/lib/libunwind.a
$ # Build musl-enabled rust
$ git clone https://github.com/rust-lang/rust.git muslrust
$ cd muslrust
muslrust $ ./configure --target=x86_64-unknown-linux-musl --musl-root=$PREFIX --prefix=$PREFIX
muslrust $ make
muslrust $ make install
muslrust $ cd ..
$ du -h musldist/bin/rustc
12K     musldist/bin/rustc

You now have a build of a musl-enabled Rust! Because we've installed it to a custom prefix we need to make sure our system can find the binaries and appropriate libraries when we try and run it:

$ export PATH=$PREFIX/bin:$PATH

Let's try it out!

$ echo 'fn main() { println!("hi!"); panic!("failed"); }' > example.rs
$ rustc --target=x86_64-unknown-linux-musl example.rs
$ ldd example
        not a dynamic executable
$ ./example
thread '<main>' panicked at 'failed', example.rs:1

Success! This binary can be copied to almost any Linux machine with the same machine architecture and run without issues.

cargo build also permits the --target option so you should be able to build your crates as normal. However, you may need to recompile your native libraries against musl before they can be linked against.

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