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Corrode: Automatic semantics-preserving translation from C to Rust

Build Status

This program reads a C source file and prints an equivalent module in Rust syntax. It's intended for partial automation of migrating legacy code that was implemented in C. This tool does not fully automate the job because its output is only as safe as the input was; you should clean up the output afterward to use Rust features and idioms where appropriate.

Quick Start

As of now, there are no pre-built binaries available, so you need to build the project yourself, but don't let that scare you away; clone the project, cd into it and follow along :)


If you're using Windows, start by running fixGitSymlinksForWindows.bat as admin (this is necessary for Git to create symlinks).


Ensure that you have GHC and the cabal-install tool installed by following the directions on You'll also need to have the happy and alex tools available in order to build corrode: you can install them with the cabal-install tool, as well. Once you have installed the cabal-install tool, you can build corrode by navigating to the corrode directory, installing the happy and alex tools, and then building and installing the corrode package:

cabal install happy
cabal install alex
cabal install

This puts the corrode executable in ~/.cabal/bin, so ensure that that location is in your $PATH.

Alternate instructions: Stack

Alternately, you can use the Haskell Stack tool for Haskell development. If you don't have it, head over to their website and follow the instructions for installing it on your machine.

Install the Glasgow Haskell Compiler using stack setup. You can skip this step if you already have a version of GHC installed on your system. You can then build and install corrode by navigating to the corrode directory and running:

stack install

Stack will build and install corrode to ~/.local/bin. For ease of use, make sure that directory is in your $PATH.

To experiment with the project itself, you can build it using

stack build

then run the executable:

stack exec -- corrode -Wall filename.c -I/usr/local/include -lm


There are two ways to use Corrode. You can simply generate a .rs file from the C source, or you can do this and compile in one step.

Generating Rust source

You can now run corrode, giving it any options that gcc would accept.

corrode -Wall filename.c -I/usr/local/include -lm

It will only use the options that are relevant to the C pre-processor, like -I or -D, but since it accepts and ignores any other options, you can usually get going just by changing gcc to corrode in the gcc invocation you've been using.

Unlike a real C compiler, Corrode does not produce an object file or executable! Instead, if you ask it to process filename.c, it generates equivalent Rust source code in If you do want object code, there is a script to help with that.

Codegen with compilation

You can either invoke rustc on Corrode's output yourself (or import it into a Rust project), or use the scripts/corrode-cc tool in place of gcc to compile and link. In many build systems, such as make, you can simply set CC=corrode-cc without modification.

Design principles

The overarching goal of Corrode is to preserve the original properties of the source program as much as possible: behavior, ABI compatibility, and maintainability. We expect the output of Corrode to be used to replace the original C, not just as an intermediate step in a compiler toolchain.

Corrode aims to produce Rust source code which behaves exactly the same way that the original C source behaved, if the input is free of undefined and implementation-defined behavior. In the presence of undefined behavior, we've tried to pick a behavior that isn't too surprising. For example, if a signed addition might overflow (which is undefined behavior in C), Corrode just translates it to Rust's + operator, which panics on overflow in debug builds.

The compiled Rust source in turn will be ABI-compatible with the original C. If you compile Corrode-generated Rust to a .o file, you can link to it exactly as if it were generated from the original C. Every function that Corrode generates with be annotated with the extern "C" modifier.

At the same time, Corrode should produce code which is recognizably structured like the original, so that the output is as maintainable as the original. Every statement and every expression should be represented in the output—in the same order, where possible. If a programmer went to the trouble to put something in, we usually want it in the translated output; if it's not necessary, we can let the Rust compiler warn about it.

If either behavior or ABI is not preserved, we consider that a bug in Corrode. However, it is not always possible to preserve the structure of the original code, so we do the best that we can.


So far, Corrode has primarily been tested by generating random C programs using csmith, fixing Corrode until it can handle all syntax used in that particular program, and verifying that the resulting Rust module compiles without errors.

Verifying that the translated output is equivalent to the input is not trivial. One approach I think is worth trying is to use the Galois Software Analysis Workbench to prove that the LLVM bitcode generated from clang on a C source file is equivalent to the LLVM bitcode generated from rustc on a Rust source file from Corrode. SAW uses a symbolic simulator over LLVM bitcode to extract logical formulas representing the behavior of each function, and then uses an SMT solver to prove equivalence between pairs of formulas. Generating large numbers of random C programs using csmith and then proving the translation results equivalent for each one should give pretty good confidence in the implementation.

Because the project is still in its early phases, it is not yet possible to translate most real C programs or libraries. But if you have one you particularly want to try out, I'd love to get pull requests implementing more of C!


If this seems cool and you'd like to help complete it, welcome! There are quite a few fundamental pieces of the C standard which are not yet implemented. I'd love to chat with you if you're not quite sure how to get started! You can e-mail me at

What Corrode is not

A Rust module that exactly captures the semantics of a C source file is a Rust module that doesn't look very much like Rust. ;-) I would like to build a companion tool which rewrites parts of a valid Rust program in ways that have the same result but make use of Rust idioms. I think it should be separate from this tool because I expect it to be useful for other folks, not just users of Corrode. I propose to call that program "idiomatic", and I think it should be written in Rust using the Rust AST from syntex_syntax.