OSX and the restFP/saveFP problem

Developers using both Fortran and C on OSX platforms often experience linking problems, referring to undefined symbols restFP and saveFP. There are numerous incomplete explanations of this problem on the web, along with various rather voodoo solutions. This page summarises a short discussion on fortran-dev@lists.apple.com, explaining the problem, and indicating and explaining the reasonably robust solutions which exist.

Comments and updates are appreciated

Persistent URL: http://purl.org/nxg/note/restfp

$Revision: 1.12 $ Creative Commons Licence

People using Fortran on OSX have a problem, since although Apple provides a variant of the GNU compiler collection, GCC, as the system compiler, they do not supply the Fortran front-end to this, g77. That can be obtained from either the DarwinPorts or Fink projects. However the problems do not end there.

The DarwinPorts and Fink g77 builds use the Free Software Foundation (FSF) GCC, while the Apple compilers use a GCC variant with OSX-specific modifications which have not, or not yet, been integrated with the FSF mainline. That means that the GCC back-ends -- that is, the parts which generate the object code which is linked to make libraries and executables -- produce object code which is slightly different, sometimes to the point of being incompatible. This incompatibility is a problem if and only if you are using both back-ends, that is, if you are mixing Fortran (from FSF g77) with code produced by Apple GCC.

In particular, the Apple GCC produces object code which includes references to the restFP and saveFP symbols, which refer to assembler routines which manipulate the floating-point state of the processor. The FSF GCC (that is, g77) does not produce these references, and as a result, when you link together your Fortran and C code using the Fortran compiler (as you must, in order to pick up the Fortran runtime support), the Fortran linker cannot find definitions of these symbols, and the link fails, with an error which looks like this:

/tmp/gcc/bin/gcc -g -O2 -o prog prog.o <blah blah blah>
/usr/bin/ld: Undefined symbols: 

So what can you do about this? The answer depends on what OS X version you have.

OS X 10.3

The restFP and saveFP functions are defined in Apple's libgcc, and so the fix is simply to include this library in your link line. The best way of doing this is to include the option


at the end of your link line (it has to come at the end, so that it comes after the modules which create the references to the restFP and saveFP symbols). You might be able to include that at the time you are configuring your software, with a command like:

% env LDFLAGS=-lcc_dynamic ./configure

or there may be some other way of configuring extra link flags in the build -- see the distribution's documentation for details.

This works because the only cc_dynamic library on the system (namely /usr/lib/libcc_dynamic.a) is a symlink to the libgcc.a static library appropriate to the Apple GCC. See Martin Costabel's message below for further discussion of this.

You must avoid including this library if your link line already includes -lgcc: that will pull in the dynamic libgcc with inconsistent results.

OS X 10.4

In a thread on the unix-porting list, Martin Costabel remarks that gfortran should just work, as it knows where to find the missing libraries, and that the Fink g95 has been similarly clued-in (though a built-from-source g95 might not).

Later in the same thread, Bill Northcott notes that g77 has to be matched with gcc 3.3, and gfortran with gcc4 (the compiler version is adjustable with the command gcc_select).

Autoconf test

The following is an autoconf macro which addresses this problem. If it detects it is running on OSX/Darwin, it checks that a fix is required, and adds the string -lcc_dynamic to the two substitution variables C_FC_FCLINK_MAGIC and C_FC_PPFC_FCLINK_MAGIC. This is useful behaviour in the context in which I developed it -- hack to your heart's content. Comments on the robustness and autoconf style of this are welcome.

This macro has been tested on 10.3; who knows what would happen on 10.4



The OS X 10.3 information on this page is a summary of explanations provided by Stan Shebs and Martin Costabel, after a query by me on fortran-dev@lists.apple.com. The original mail messages are below, archived locally and at lists.apple.com:

Initial query local apple.com
Martin Costabel local apple.com
Stan Shebs local apple.com

Note that the last message in that thread (from me: local, apple.com), in seeming to recommend -L/usr/lib -lgcc as the best solution, is rather a misunderstanding of Martin Costabel's message (blush). Also the autoconf test included in there has some flaws, fixed in the version above.

All the details are in the ld man page, though rather painfully compressed.

For fuller documentation on the OSX linker and its model, which is more discursive than the ld man page, see Apple's Introduction to Mach-O Runtime Architecture.

Thanks to Russell Edwards at CSIRO for comments.

Document history

$Log: index.xml,v $
Revision 1.12  2007/03/10 12:37:36  norman
Explain why the -lcc_dynamic has to come at the end (more use than
simply stating it...)

Revision 1.11  2007/03/10 12:30:48  norman
Note that the -lcc_dynamic option must come at the end of the link line

Revision 1.10  2006/11/29 21:15:06  norman
Break the autoconf macro into a separate file

Revision 1.9  2006/11/29 20:57:50  norman
Mild updates for 10.4

Revision 1.8  2006/05/26 14:00:21  norman
Remove DOCTYPE... references.  Not useful, and requires that xhtml1
DTDs be present, which is a useless fuss.

Revision 1.7  2006/04/03 15:14:50  norman
Add RDF info

Revision 1.6  2005/04/02 15:10:02  norman
Add pointers to fuller documentation on the OS X linker and linking model.

Revision 1.5  2004/12/09 11:17:22  norman
There's always one last typo, isn't there.

Revision 1.4  2004/12/09 10:53:49  norman
Add the (corrected) autoconf test
De-emphasised my last message in the thread -- it's a poor summary of
  Martin's and Stan's comments

2007 March 10