The new "--as-needed" option to the GNU linker

Recently I upgraded one of my machines to a version of the GNU linker which by default uses the "--as-needed" option.

This option allows the linker to ignore, i.e., not link against, some of the libraries supplied on its command line if they are not actually used by the shared library that is being created. For example, if you supply the -lm option on the command line to the linker but do not actually use any maths functions then the ''libm.so'' library will not be linked against.

I think it is an excellent idea to introduce this option as it will eventually force developers to think more carefully about their library dependencies. The introduction of this option as a default can, however, break quite a few builds.

The best course of action is of course to fix the inherent flaws in the builds that this option is exposing. I've found that two additional linker options can help immensely with this:

  • --no-undefined, which checks that the shared library being compiled will not end up with symbols that are not resolved by any by its dependencies
  • --no-allow-shlib-undefined, which checks that none of the depend shared libraries supplied to the linker have themselves unresolved symbols

To use these options from the gcc command line remember to use the -Wl, prefix. So for example, use -Wl,--no-allow-shlib-undefined

Here are some link with useful information: