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Project Notes

Linking C

All about compiling, linking, and debugging C with GCC.



gcc the GNU Compiler Collection includes front ends for C, C++, Objective-C, Fortran, Ada, Go, and D, as well as libraries for these languages.

Since I’m on MacOSX, gcc is actually linking to llvm’s clang:

$ gcc --version
Configured with: --prefix=/Applications/ --with-gxx-include-dir=/usr/include/c++/4.2.1
Apple LLVM version 10.0.0 (clang-1000.11.45.5)
Target: x86_64-apple-darwin17.7.0
Thread model: posix
InstalledDir: /Applications/

Compiling and link a single file:

$ gcc example.c -o example -lc -g -Wall -O0 -std=gnu11`
$ ./example
Hello, world.

Compiler options:

  • -lc instructs the linker to link the standard libc library. This is redundant and is assumed if not specified.
  • -g adds symbols for debugging
  • -std=gnu11 is gcc-specific, and specifies that gcc should allow code conforming to the C11 and POSIX standards
  • -O0 indicates optimization level zero, effectively turning off all funny business.
  • -Wall enables all compiler warnings


objdump displays object files on Unix-like operating systems.

Since I’m on MacOSX, objdump is actually linking to llvm’s objdump:

$ objdump --version
Apple LLVM version 10.0.0 (clang-1000.11.45.5)
  Optimized build.
  Default target: x86_64-apple-darwin17.7.0
  Host CPU: haswell

  Registered Targets:
    aarch64    - AArch64 (little endian)
    aarch64_be - AArch64 (big endian)
    arm        - ARM
    arm64      - ARM64 (little endian)
    armeb      - ARM (big endian)
    thumb      - Thumb
    thumbeb    - Thumb (big endian)
    x86        - 32-bit X86: Pentium-Pro and above
    x86-64     - 64-bit X86: EM64T and AMD64

Using GCC to compile to object file:

$ gcc -c example.c

Disassemble all text sections:

$ objdump -d example.o

example.o:  file format Mach-O 64-bit x86-64

Disassembly of section __TEXT,__text:
       0:   55    pushq %rbp
       1:   48 89 e5    movq  %rsp, %rbp
       4:   31 c0       xorl  %eax, %eax
       6:   5d    popq  %rbp
       7:   c3    retq
       8:   0f 1f 84 00 00 00 00 00       nopl  (%rax,%rax)

      10:   55    pushq %rbp
      11:   48 89 e5    movq  %rsp, %rbp
      14:   48 83 ec 10       subq  $16, %rsp
      18:   48 8d 3d 1c 00 00 00    leaq  28(%rip), %rdi
      1f:   c7 45 fc 00 00 00 00    movl  $0, -4(%rbp)
      26:   b0 00       movb  $0, %al
      28:   e8 00 00 00 00    callq 0 <_main+0x1d>
      2d:   89 45 f8    movl  %eax, -8(%rbp)
      30:   e8 00 00 00 00    callq 0 <_main+0x25>
      35:   48 83 c4 10       addq  $16, %rsp
      39:   5d    popq  %rbp
      3a:   c3    retq

Linking from Object Files

$ gcc -c example.c
$ gcc example.o -lc -o example
$ ./example
Hello, world.

Credits and References

About LCK#108 C
Project Source on GitHub Return to the Project Catalog

This page is a web-friendly rendering of my project notes shared in the LittleCodingKata GitHub repository.

LittleCodingKata is my collection of programming exercises, research and code toys broadly spanning things that relate to programming and software development (languages, frameworks and tools).

These range from the trivial to the complex and serious. Many are inspired by existing work and I'll note credits and references where applicable. The focus is quite scattered, as I variously work on things new and important in the moment, or go back to revisit things from the past.

This is primarily a personal collection for my own edification and learning, but anyone who stumbles by is welcome to borrow, steal or reference the work here. And if you spot errors or issues I'd really appreciate some feedback - create an issue, send me an email or even send a pull-request.