C to Rust translation, refactoring, and cross-checking
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What is C2Rust?

C2Rust helps you migrate C99-compliant code to Rust. It provides:

  • a C to Rust translator,
  • a Rust code refactoring tool, and
  • a way to cross-check the C code against the new Rust code.

The translator (or transpiler), produces unsafe Rust code that closely mirrors the input C code. The primary goal of the translator is to produce code that is functionally identical to the input C code. Generating safe or idomatic Rust is not a goal for the translator. Rather, we think the best approach is to gradually clean up the translator using dedicated refactoring tools. See the rust-refactor directory to learn about the idiomize tool that we are working on. Some refactoring will have to be done by hand which may introduce errors. We provide plugins for clang and rustc so you can compile and run two binaries and check that they behave identically (at the level of function calls). See details in the cross-checks directory and in the cross checking tutorial. Here's the big picture:

C2Rust overview

To learn more, check out our RustConf'18 talk on YouTube and try the C2Rust translator online at www.c2rust.com.

Setting up a development environment

There are three ways to build the C2Rust project:

The previous two options automatically install all prerequisites during provisioning. You can also provision a macOS or Linux system manually.

  • If you are on a Debian-based OS, you can run scripts/provision_deb.sh to do so.

  • If you are on macOS, install the Xcode command-line tools (e.g., xcode-select --install) and homebrew first. Then run scripts/provision_mac.sh.

  • If you prefer to install dependencies yourself, or are using a non Debian-based Linux OS, our dependencies are as follows:

    • cmake >= 3.9.1
    • dirmngr
    • curl
    • git
    • gnupg2
    • gperf
    • ninja
    • unzip
    • clang 5.0+
    • intercept-build or bear - see why here
    • python-dev
    • python 3.6+
    • python dependencies
    • rustc version
    • rustfmt-preview component for the above rustc version
    • libssl (development library, dependency of the refactoring tool)


Building from scratch takes a little while. The script has been tested on recent versions of macOS and Ubuntu.

$ ./scripts/build_translator.py

To use the cross checking functionality, add the following option.

$ ./scripts/build_translator.py --with-clang

Testing (Optional)

Tests are found in the tests folder. If you build the translator successfully, you should be able to run the tests with:

$ ./scripts/test_translator.py tests

This basically tests that the original C file and translated Rust file produce the same output when compiled and run. More details about tests are in this README.

Translating C to Rust

The translator is driven by a compile_commands.json file. This is a standard way to capture compiler invocations and is used by many other tools. The best way to generate compile_commands.json files depends on your build system.

$ ./scripts/transpile.py path/to/compile_commands.json

To generate a Cargo.toml template for a Rust library, add the -e option:

$ ./scripts/transpile.py -e path/to/compile_commands.json

To generate a Cargo.toml template for a Rust binary, do this:

$ ./scripts/transpile.py -m myprog path/to/compile_commands.json

Where -m myprog tells the transpiler to use the main method from myprog.rs as the entry point.

The translated Rust files will not depend directly on each other like normal Rust modules. They will export and import functions through the C API. These modules can be compiled together into a single static Rust library.

There are several known limitations in this translator. The translator will attempt to skip function definitions that use unsupported features.

Generating compile_commands.json files

The compile_commands.json file can be automatically created using either cmake, intercept-build, or bear (Linux only).

It may be a good idea to remove optimizations(-OX) from the compile commands file, as there are optimization builtins which we do not support translating.

... with cmake

When creating the initial build directory with cmake specify -DCMAKE_EXPORT_COMPILE_COMMANDS=1. This only works on projects configured to be built by cmake. This works on Linux and MacOS.

$ mkdir build
$ cd build

... with intercept-build

Intercept build is distributed with clang and recommended for makefile projects on macOS.

$ intercept-build make
$ intercept-build xcodebuild

... with bear

When building on Linux, Bear is automatically built by the build_translator.py script and installed into the dependencies directory.

$ ./configure CC=clang
$ bear make


Are there release binaries? Can I install C2Rust with Cargo?

We hope to release binaries that you can cargo install soon(tm).

I translated code on platform X but it didn't work correctly on platform Y

We run the C preprocessor before translation to Rust. This specializes the code to the host platform. For this reason, we do not support cross compiling translated code at the moment.

What platforms can C2Rust be run on?

The translator and refactoring tool support both macOS and Linux. Other features, such as cross checking the functionality between C and Rust code, are currently limited to Linux hosts.


To report issues with the translation, please use our Issue Tracker.

The development team can be reached by email at c2rust@immunant.com.

Acknowledgements and Licensing

This material is available under the BSD-3 style license as found in the LICENSE file.

The C2Rust translator is inspired by Jamey Sharp's Corrode translator. We rely on Emscripten's Relooper algorithm to translate arbitrary C control flows.

This material is based upon work supported by the United States Air Force and DARPA under Contract No. FA8750-15-C-0124. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Air Force and DARPA. Distribution Statement A, “Approved for Public Release, Distribution Unlimited.”