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Hello, friend

Did Google bring you here? Anyways, I'd like to inform you that this document is DEPRECATED, that doesn't mean that this information is wrong, but it could be; it means that this document won't receive updates or fixes in the case it has wrong information.

And, I'd like to point you to my new cross compilation guide: rust-cross. It's way more extensive than this document, contains several updates about recent and future improvements in tooling, and, most importantly, it's being maintained.

-- @japaric, 2016/02/05

You can see this document rendered at:

"Compiling 'Hello, world!' on my (single core) ARM device takes more than 5 seconds!"

If developing on your ARM device is intolerable due to the long compilation times, there's an alternative for you: cross compilation (which comes with its own set of problems, btw).

Cross compilation in Rust almost works out of the box, this how-to gives you the missing bits of information needed to make it work.

Note: In this how-to I'll use arm-unknown-linux-gnueabihf as the target triple (the cross compilation target), and x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu as the host triple (my PC, where everything is compiled). But, it should be possible to use different target/host triples with a little tweak of the instructions outlined here. For example, I've used these instruction to cross compile from x86_64 to i686 in Linux.

Cross compiling with rustc

First attempt

Cross compiling should be as easy as passing the --target=$TRIPLE flag to rustc, right?

#![crate_type = "lib"]
$ rustc --target=arm-unknown-linux-gnueabihf && echo OK

It worked! Because it has no dependencies, but that's not an interesting crate unless you want to build your own core crate. If you then try the classic "Hello, world!":

fn main() {
    println!("Hello, world!");
$ rustc --target=arm-unknown-linux-gnueabihf 1:1 error: can't find crate for `std` //

It doesn't work!

What the compiler really wants to say here is that there isn't a std crate for the arm-unknown-linux-gnueabihf triple. In other words, you need to have a std crate that was compiled for ARM installed somewhere in your system. But the nightly you have installed only comes with native crates.

Installing the ARM crates

You can cross compile the ARM version of std and friends from Rust's source code, you just need to pass an extra flag to the configure script:

$ ./configure --target=arm-unknown-linux-gnueabihf,x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu
$ make -j$(nproc)
$ sudo make install

If you don't feel like spending 1 hour or more bootstrapping the compiler, I got good news for you. My unofficial ARM nightlies contain the ARM crates you need. And the official i686 nightly contains the i686 crates needed to cross compile to i686, etc.

You only need to install the static (.rlib) libraries from the foreign nightly into your native installation:

$ tree /usr/local/lib
|-- bin
|   `-- rustc
`-- lib
    |-- (..)
    `-- rustlib
        |-- arm-unknown-linux-gnueabihf <-- Copy this folder from the foreign nightly
        |   `-- lib
        |       |-- libstd-deadbeef.rlib
        |       `-- (..)
        `-- x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu <-- This comes with the native nightly
            `-- lib
                |-- libstd-deadbeef.rlib
                `-- (..)

If you are using multirust, your toolchain is installed at: ~/.multirust/toolchains/nightly

Cross compiling a static library

Once you've installed the ARM crates, you can now cross compile static libraries:

#![crate_type = "lib"]

pub fn hello() {
    println!("Hello, world!");
$ rustc --target=arm-unknown-linux-gnueabihf && ls lib*

Cross compiling a binary

But, if you try the "Hello, world!" crate again:

$ rustc --target=arm-unknown-linux-gnueabihf
error: linking with `cc` failed: exit code: 1
note: "cc" '"-Wl,--as-needed"' (plus a bunch of other flags)
note: /usr/bin/ld: hello.o: Relocations in generic ELF (EM: 40)
/usr/bin/ld: hello.o: Relocations in generic ELF (EM: 40)
hello.o: error adding symbols: File in wrong format
collect2: error: ld returned 1 exit status

error: aborting due to previous error

It still doesn't work!

What went wrong this time is that rustc is using cc to link the binary, and this doesn't work because cc is a symlink to your native compiler (gcc). (See rust-lang/rust#9328)

The solution is to tell rustc to use the right linker:

# install an ARM cross-compiler, if you don't have one installed already
# this command is for Ubuntu/Debian, use whatever is appropiate for your OS
$ apt-get install gcc-arm-linux-gnueabihf

# tell rustc the name of the cross-compiler (which must be in your PATH)
$ rustc -C linker=arm-linux-gnueabihf-gcc-4.8 --target=arm-unknown-linux-gnueabihf

# check that the produced binary is really an ARM binary
$ file hello
hello: ELF 32-bit LSB  shared object, ARM, EABI5 version 1 (SYSV), (..)

# sanity check: the binary should work on an ARM device
$ scp hello me@arm:~
$ ssh me@arm ./hello
Hello, world!

Note: If you cross compiling to i686 on a x86_64 PC, then using the native compiler (cc) is OK, because the native compiler is also a cross compiler for i686. But chances are you'll get a different error due to missing 32bit libraries (e.g. ld cannot find crti.o), you'll need to install the libc6-dev-i386 package (Debian/Ubuntu) or equivalent to fix that error.

Cross compiling with cargo

To tell cargo to cross compile you also have to pass the --target flag to the build command. But, there is something you need to change before it will Just Work.

By default, cargo (just like rustc) will use cc as the default linker for native and cross compilation. You can override this behavior using Cargo's configuration file.

# you can set a different linker for each target
$ cat ~/.cargo/config
linker = "arm-linux-gnueabihf-gcc-4.8"

# sanity check
$ cargo new --bin hello
$ cd hello
$ cargo build --target=arm-unknown-linux-gnueabihf
$ file target/arm-unknown-linux-gnueabihf/hello
hello: ELF 32-bit LSB  shared object, ARM, EABI5 version 1 (SYSV), (..)