The tracking issue for this feature is: 40289.

The #[used] attribute can be applied to static variables to prevent the Rust compiler from optimizing them away even if they appear to be unused by the crate (appear to be "dead code").


static FOO: i32 = 1;

static BAR: i32 = 2;

fn main() {}

If you compile this program into an object file, you'll see that FOO makes it to the object file but BAR doesn't. Neither static variable is used by the program.

$ rustc -C opt-level=3 --emit=obj

$ nm -C used.o
0000000000000000 T main
                 U std::rt::lang_start
0000000000000000 r used::FOO
0000000000000000 t used::main

Note that the linker knows nothing about the #[used] attribute and will remove #[used] symbols if they are not referenced by other parts of the program:

$ rustc -C opt-level=3

$ nm -C used | grep FOO

"This doesn't sound too useful then!" you may think but keep reading.

To preserve the symbols all the way to the final binary, you'll need the cooperation of the linker. Here's one example:

The ELF standard defines two special sections, .init_array and .pre_init_array, that may contain function pointers which will be executed before the main function is invoked. The linker will preserve symbols placed in these sections (at least when linking programs that target the *-*-linux-* targets).


extern "C" fn before_main() {
    println!("Hello, world!");

#[link_section = ".init_array"]
static INIT_ARRAY: [extern "C" fn(); 1] = [before_main];

fn main() {}

So, #[used] and #[link_section] can be combined to obtain "life before main".

$ rustc -C opt-level=3

$ ./before-main
Hello, world!

Another example: ARM Cortex-M microcontrollers need their reset handler, a pointer to the function that will executed right after the microcontroller is turned on, to be placed near the start of their FLASH memory to boot properly.

This condition can be met using #[used] and #[link_section] plus a linker script.


extern "C" fn reset_handler() -> ! {
    loop {}

#[link_section = ".reset_handler"]
static RESET_HANDLER: extern "C" fn() -> ! = reset_handler;

#[lang = "panic_fmt"]
fn panic_fmt() {}
  FLASH : ORIGIN = 0x08000000, LENGTH = 128K
  RAM : ORIGIN = 0x20000000, LENGTH = 20K

  .text ORIGIN(FLASH) :
    /* Vector table */
    LONG(ORIGIN(RAM) + LENGTH(RAM)); /* initial SP value */

    /* Omitted: The rest of the vector table */

  } > FLASH

    /* Unused unwinding stuff */
$ xargo rustc --target thumbv7m-none-eabi --release -- \
    -C link-arg=-Tlink.x -C link-arg=-nostartfiles

$ arm-none-eabi-objdump -Cd target/thumbv7m-none-eabi/release/app
./target/thumbv7m-none-eabi/release/app:     file format elf32-littlearm

Disassembly of section .text:

08000000 <app::RESET_HANDLER-0x4>:
 8000000:       20005000        .word   0x20005000

08000004 <app::RESET_HANDLER>:
 8000004:       08000009                                ....

08000008 <app::reset_handler>:
 8000008:       e7fe            b.n     8000008 <app::reset_handler>