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November 5, 2022 13:04
November 5, 2022 13:04


This tool statically (AOT) translates (or raises) binaries to LLVM IR.

Current Status

Llvm-mctoll is capable of raising X86-64 and Arm32 Linux/ELF libraries and executables to LLVM IR. Raising Windows, OS X and C++ binaries needs to be added. At this time X86-64 support is more mature than Arm32.

Development and primary testing is being done on Ubuntu 22.04. Testing is also done on Ubuntu 20.04. The tool is expected to build and run on Ubuntu 18.04, 16.04, Ubuntu 17.04, Ubuntu 17.10, CentOS 7.5, Debian 10, Windows 10, and OS X to raise Linux/ELF binaries.

Triple VarArgs FuncProto StackFrame JumpTables SharedLibs C++
x86_64-linux X X X X X
arm-linux X X X X X
  • VarArgs: function calls with variable arguments (such as printf)
  • FuncProto: function prototype discovery
  • StackFrame: stack frame abstraction
  • JumpTables: switch statements with jump tables
  • SharedLibs: shared libraries
  • C++: vtables, name mangling and exception handling

Known Issues

SIMD instructions such as SSE, AVX, and Neon cannot be raised at this time. For X86-64 you can sometimes work around this issue by compiling the binary to raise with SSE disabled (clang -mno-sse).

Most testing is done using binaries compiled for Linux using LLVM. We have done only limited testing with GCC compiled code.

Getting Started

There are no dependencies outside of LLVM to build llvm-mctoll. The following instructions assume you will build LLVM with Ninja.

Support for raising X86-64 and Arm32 binaries is enabled by building LLVM's X86 and ARM targets. The tool is not built unless one of the X86 or ARM LLVM targets are built.

Building as part of the LLVM tree

  1. On Linux and OS X build from a command prompt such as a bash shell. On Windows build from an x64 Native Tools Command Prompt. See LLVM's Visual Studio guide.

  2. Clone the LLVM and mctoll git repositories

git clone
cd llvm-project && git clone -b master llvm/tools/llvm-mctoll
  1. The commit recorded in llvm-project-git-commit-to-use.txt is the tested version of LLVM to build against. If you use a different version LLVM you might encounter build errors.
git checkout <hash from llvm-project-git-commit-to-use.txt>
  1. Configure LLVM by enabling Clang and ld. See LLVM CMake Variables for more information on LLVM's cmake options.
cmake -S llvm -B <build-dir> -G "Ninja" \
  -DLLVM_ENABLE_PROJECTS="clang;lld" \

clang-tidy checks can be enabled for the llvm-mctoll project sources by using the additional cmake option -DMCTOLL_CLANG_TIDY.

  1. Build llvm-mctoll
cmake --build  <build-dir> -- llvm-mctoll
  1. Run the unit tests (Linux only)
ninja check-mctoll
  1. Building Release without assertions
cmake -S llvm -B <build-dir> -G "Ninja"  \
      -DLLVM_ENABLE_PROJECTS="clang;lld" \
      -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release         \


Command Description
-dh or --help Display available options
-d <binary> Generate LLVM IR for a binary and place the result in <binary>-dis.ll
--filter-functions-file=<file> Text file with C functions to exclude or include during raising
--include-files=[file1,file2,file3,...] or -I file1 -I file2 -I file3 Specify full path of one or more files with function prototypes to use
-debug Print all debug output
-debug-only=mctoll Print the LLVM IR after each pass of the raiser
-debug-only=prototypes Print ignored duplicate function prototypes in --include-files

Raising a binary to LLVM IR

This is what you came here for :-). Please file an issue if you find a problem.

llvm-mctoll -d a.out

See usage document for additional details of command-line options.

Checking correctness of translation

The easiest way to check the raised LLVM IR <binary>-dis.ll is correct is to compile the IR to an executable using clang and run the resulting executable. The tests in the repository follow this methodology.


Please use the following reference when citing this work Raising Binaries to LLVM IR with MCTOLL (WIP)

    author = {Yadavalli, S. Bharadwaj and Smith, Aaron},
    title = {Raising Binaries to LLVM IR with MCTOLL (WIP Paper)},
    year = {2019},
    isbn = {9781450367240},
    publisher = {Association for Computing Machinery},
    address = {New York, NY, USA},
    url = {},
    doi = {10.1145/3316482.3326354},
    booktitle = {Proceedings of the 20th ACM SIGPLAN/SIGBED International Conference on Languages, Compilers, and Tools for Embedded Systems},
    pages = {213–218},
    numpages = {6},
    keywords = {Code Generation, LLVM IR, Binary Translation},
    location = {Phoenix, AZ, USA},
    series = {LCTES 2019}


This project welcomes contributions and suggestions. Most contributions require you to agree to a Contributor License Agreement (CLA) declaring that you have the right to, and actually do, grant us the rights to use your contribution. For details, visit

When you submit a pull request, a CLA-bot will automatically determine whether you need to provide a CLA and decorate the PR appropriately (e.g., label, comment). Simply follow the instructions provided by the bot. You will only need to do this once across all repos using our CLA.

This project has adopted the Microsoft Open Source Code of Conduct. For more information see the Code of Conduct FAQ or contact with any additional questions or comments.