Behavior considered undefined

Rust code is incorrect if it exhibits any of the behaviors in the following list. This includes code within unsafe blocks and unsafe functions. unsafe only means that avoiding undefined behavior is on the programmer; it does not change anything about the fact that Rust programs must never cause undefined behavior.

It is the programmer’s responsibility when writing unsafe code to ensure that any safe code interacting with the unsafe code cannot trigger these behaviors. unsafe code that satisfies this property for any safe client is called sound; if unsafe code can be misused by safe code to exhibit undefined behavior, it is unsound.

Warning: The following list is not exhaustive; it may grow or shrink. There is no formal model of Rust’s semantics for what is and is not allowed in unsafe code, so there may be more behavior considered unsafe. We also reserve the right to make some of the behavior in that list defined in the future. In other words, this list does not say that anything will definitely always be undefined in all future Rust version (but we might make such commitments for some list items in the future).

Please read the Rustonomicon before writing unsafe code.

  • Data races.

  • Accessing (loading from or storing to) a place that is dangling or based on a misaligned pointer.

  • Performing a place projection that violates the requirements of in-bounds pointer arithmetic. A place projection is a field expression, a tuple index expression, or an array/slice index expression.

  • Breaking the pointer aliasing rules. Box<T>, &mut T and &T follow LLVM’s scoped noalias model, except if the &T contains an UnsafeCell<U>. References and boxes must not be dangling while they are live. The exact liveness duration is not specified, but some bounds exist:

    • For references, the liveness duration is upper-bounded by the syntactic lifetime assigned by the borrow checker; it cannot be live any longer than that lifetime.
    • Each time a reference or box is passed to or returned from a function, it is considered live.
    • When a reference (but not a Box!) is passed to a function, it is live at least as long as that function call, again except if the &T contains an UnsafeCell<U>.

    All this also applies when values of these types are passed in a (nested) field of a compound type, but not behind pointer indirections.

  • Mutating immutable bytes. All bytes inside a const item are immutable. The bytes owned by an immutable binding or immutable static are immutable, unless those bytes are part of an UnsafeCell<U>.

    Moreover, the bytes pointed to by a shared reference, including transitively through other references (both shared and mutable) and Boxes, are immutable; transitivity includes those references stored in fields of compound types.

    A mutation is any write of more than 0 bytes which overlaps with any of the relevant bytes (even if that write does not change the memory contents).

  • Invoking undefined behavior via compiler intrinsics.

  • Executing code compiled with platform features that the current platform does not support (see target_feature), except if the platform explicitly documents this to be safe.

  • Calling a function with the wrong call ABI or unwinding from a function with the wrong unwind ABI.

  • Producing an invalid value, even in private fields and locals. “Producing” a value happens any time a value is assigned to or read from a place, passed to a function/primitive operation or returned from a function/primitive operation. The following values are invalid (at their respective type):

    • A value other than false (0) or true (1) in a bool.

    • A discriminant in an enum not included in the type definition.

    • A null fn pointer.

    • A value in a char which is a surrogate or above char::MAX.

    • A ! (all values are invalid for this type).

    • An integer (i*/u*), floating point value (f*), or raw pointer obtained from uninitialized memory, or uninitialized memory in a str.

    • A reference or Box<T> that is dangling, misaligned, or points to an invalid value (in case of dynamically sized types, using the actual dynamic type of the pointee as determined by the metadata).

    • Invalid metadata in a wide reference, Box<T>, or raw pointer. The requirement for the metadata is determined by the type of the unsized tail:

      • dyn Trait metadata is invalid if it is not a pointer to a vtable for Trait.
      • Slice ([T]) metadata is invalid if the length is not a valid usize (i.e., it must not be read from uninitialized memory). Furthermore, for wide references and Box<T>, slice metadata is invalid if it makes the total size of the pointed-to value bigger than isize::MAX.
    • Invalid values for a type with a custom definition of invalid values. In the standard library, this affects NonNull<T> and NonZero*.

      Note: rustc achieves this with the unstable rustc_layout_scalar_valid_range_* attributes.

  • Incorrect use of inline assembly. For more details, refer to the rules to follow when writing code that uses inline assembly.

  • In const context: transmuting or otherwise reinterpreting a pointer (reference, raw pointer, or function pointer) into some allocated object as a non-pointer type (such as integers). ‘Reinterpreting’ refers to loading the pointer value at integer type without a cast, e.g. by doing raw pointer casts or using a union.

Note: Uninitialized memory is also implicitly invalid for any type that has a restricted set of valid values. In other words, the only cases in which reading uninitialized memory is permitted are inside unions and in “padding” (the gaps between the fields/elements of a type).

Note: Undefined behavior affects the entire program. For example, calling a function in C that exhibits undefined behavior of C means your entire program contains undefined behaviour that can also affect the Rust code. And vice versa, undefined behavior in Rust can cause adverse affects on code executed by any FFI calls to other languages.

Pointed-to bytes

The span of bytes a pointer or reference “points to” is determined by the pointer value and the size of the pointee type (using size_of_val).

Places based on misaligned pointers

A place is said to be “based on a misaligned pointer” if the last * projection during place computation was performed on a pointer that was not aligned for its type. (If there is no * projection in the place expression, then this is accessing the field of a local and rustc will guarantee proper alignment. If there are multiple * projection, then each of them incurs a load of the pointer-to-be-dereferenced itself from memory, and each of these loads is subject to the alignment constraint. Note that some * projections can be omitted in surface Rust syntax due to automatic dereferencing; we are considering the fully expanded place expression here.)

For instance, if ptr has type *const S where S has an alignment of 8, then ptr must be 8-aligned or else (*ptr).f is “based on an misaligned pointer”. This is true even if the type of the field f is u8 (i.e., a type with alignment 1). In other words, the alignment requirement derives from the type of the pointer that was dereferenced, not the type of the field that is being accessed.

Note that a place based on a misaligned pointer only leads to Undefined Behavior when it is loaded from or stored to. addr_of!/addr_of_mut! on such a place is allowed. &/&mut on a place requires the alignment of the field type (or else the program would be “producing an invalid value”), which generally is a less restrictive requirement than being based on an aligned pointer. Taking a reference will lead to a compiler error in cases where the field type might be more aligned than the type that contains it, i.e., repr(packed). This means that being based on an aligned pointer is always sufficient to ensure that the new reference is aligned, but it is not always necessary.

Dangling pointers

A reference/pointer is “dangling” if it is null or not all of the bytes it points to are part of the same live allocation (so in particular they all have to be part of some allocation).

If the size is 0, then the pointer must either point inside of a live allocation (including pointing just after the last byte of the allocation), or it must be directly constructed from a non-zero integer literal.

Note that dynamically sized types (such as slices and strings) point to their entire range, so it is important that the length metadata is never too large. In particular, the dynamic size of a Rust value (as determined by size_of_val) must never exceed isize::MAX.