Using libc++

Usually, libc++ is packaged and shipped by a vendor through some delivery vehicle (operating system distribution, SDK, toolchain, etc) and users don’t need to do anything special in order to use the library.

This page contains information about configuration knobs that can be used by users when they know libc++ is used by their toolchain, and how to use libc++ when it is not the default library used by their toolchain.

Using a different version of the C++ Standard

Libc++ implements the various versions of the C++ Standard. Changing the version of the standard can be done by passing -std=c++XY to the compiler. Libc++ will automatically detect what Standard is being used and will provide functionality that matches that Standard in the library.

$ clang++ -std=c++17 test.cpp


Using -std=c++XY with a version of the Standard that has not been ratified yet is considered unstable. Libc++ reserves the right to make breaking changes to the library until the standard has been ratified.

Using libc++experimental and <experimental/...>

Libc++ provides implementations of experimental technical specifications in a separate library, libc++experimental.a. Users of <experimental/...> headers may be required to link -lc++experimental. Note that not all vendors ship libc++experimental.a, and as a result, you may not be able to use those experimental features.

$ clang++ test.cpp -lc++experimental


Experimental libraries are Experimental.
  • The contents of the <experimental/...> headers and libc++experimental.a library will not remain compatible between versions.

  • No guarantees of API or ABI stability are provided.

  • When the standardized version of an experimental feature is implemented, the experimental feature is removed two releases after the non-experimental version has shipped. The full policy is explained here.

Using libc++ when it is not the system default

On systems where libc++ is provided but is not the default, Clang provides a flag called -stdlib= that can be used to decide which standard library is used. Using -stdlib=libc++ will select libc++:

$ clang++ -stdlib=libc++ test.cpp

On systems where libc++ is the library in use by default such as macOS and FreeBSD, this flag is not required.

Using a custom built libc++

Most compilers provide a way to disable the default behavior for finding the standard library and to override it with custom paths. With Clang, this can be done with:

$ clang++ -nostdinc++ -nostdlib++           \
          -isystem <install>/include/c++/v1 \
          -L <install>/lib                  \
          -Wl,-rpath,<install>/lib          \
          -lc++                             \

The option -Wl,-rpath,<install>/lib adds a runtime library search path, which causes the system’s dynamic linker to look for libc++ in <install>/lib whenever the program is loaded.

GCC does not support the -nostdlib++ flag, so one must use -nodefaultlibs instead. Since that removes all the standard system libraries and not just libc++, the system libraries must be re-added manually. For example:

$ g++ -nostdinc++ -nodefaultlibs           \
      -isystem <install>/include/c++/v1    \
      -L <install>/lib                     \
      -Wl,-rpath,<install>/lib             \
      -lc++ -lc++abi -lm -lc -lgcc_s -lgcc \

GDB Pretty printers for libc++

GDB does not support pretty-printing of libc++ symbols by default. However, libc++ does provide pretty-printers itself. Those can be used as:

$ gdb -ex "source <libcxx>/utils/gdb/libcxx/" \
      -ex "python register_libcxx_printer_loader()" \

Libc++ Configuration Macros

Libc++ provides a number of configuration macros which can be used to enable or disable extended libc++ behavior, including enabling “debug mode” or thread safety annotations.


See Using the debug mode for more information.


This macro is used to enable -Wthread-safety annotations on libc++’s std::mutex and std::lock_guard. By default, these annotations are disabled and must be manually enabled by the user.


This macro is used to disable all visibility annotations inside libc++. Defining this macro and then building libc++ with hidden visibility gives a build of libc++ which does not export any symbols, which can be useful when building statically for inclusion into another library.


This macro is used to disable extern template declarations in the libc++ headers. The intended use case is for clients who wish to use the libc++ headers without taking a dependency on the libc++ library itself.


This macro disables the additional diagnostics generated by libc++ using the diagnose_if attribute. These additional diagnostics include checks for:

  • Giving set, map, multiset, multimap and their unordered_ counterparts a comparator which is not const callable.

  • Giving an unordered associative container a hasher that is not const callable.


Microsoft’s C and C++ headers are fairly entangled, and some of their C++ headers are fairly hard to avoid. In particular, vcruntime_new.h gets pulled in from a lot of other headers and provides definitions which clash with libc++ headers, such as nothrow_t (note that nothrow_t is a struct, so there’s no way for libc++ to provide a compatible definition, since you can’t have multiple definitions).

By default, libc++ solves this problem by deferring to Microsoft’s vcruntime headers where needed. However, it may be undesirable to depend on vcruntime headers, since they may not always be available in cross-compilation setups, or they may clash with other headers. The _LIBCPP_NO_VCRUNTIME macro prevents libc++ from depending on vcruntime headers. Consequently, it also prevents libc++ headers from being interoperable with vcruntime headers (from the aforementioned clashes), so users of this macro are promising to not attempt to combine libc++ headers with the problematic vcruntime headers. This macro also currently prevents certain operator new/operator delete replacement scenarios from working, e.g. replacing operator new and expecting a non-replaced operator new[] to call the replaced operator new.


Allow the library to add [[nodiscard]] attributes to entities not specified as [[nodiscard]] by the current language dialect. This includes backporting applications of [[nodiscard]] from newer dialects and additional extended applications at the discretion of the library. All additional applications of [[nodiscard]] are disabled by default. See Extended Applications of [[nodiscard]] for more information.


This macro prevents the library from applying [[nodiscard]] to entities purely as an extension. See Extended Applications of [[nodiscard]] for more information.


This macro disables warnings when using deprecated components. For example, using std::auto_ptr when compiling in C++11 mode will normally trigger a warning saying that std::auto_ptr is deprecated. If the macro is defined, no warning will be emitted. By default, this macro is not defined.

C++17 Specific Configuration Macros


This macro is used to re-enable all the features removed in C++17. The effect is equivalent to manually defining each macro listed below.


This macro is used to re-enable auto_ptr.


This macro is used to re-enable the binder1st, binder2nd, pointer_to_unary_function, pointer_to_binary_function, mem_fun_t, mem_fun1_t, mem_fun_ref_t, mem_fun1_ref_t, const_mem_fun_t, const_mem_fun1_t, const_mem_fun_ref_t, and const_mem_fun1_ref_t class templates, and the bind1st, bind2nd, mem_fun, mem_fun_ref, and ptr_fun functions.


This macro is used to re-enable the random_shuffle algorithm.


This macro is used to re-enable set_unexpected, get_unexpected, and unexpected.

C++20 Specific Configuration Macros:


This macro can be used to disable diagnostics emitted from functions marked [[nodiscard]] in dialects after C++17. See Extended Applications of [[nodiscard]] for more information.


This macro is used to re-enable all the features removed in C++20. The effect is equivalent to manually defining each macro listed below.


This macro is used to re-enable redundant members of allocator<T>, including pointer, reference, rebind, address, max_size, construct, destroy, and the two-argument overload of allocate.


This macro is used to re-enable the argument_type, result_type, first_argument_type, and second_argument_type members of class templates such as plus, logical_not, hash, and owner_less.


This macro is used to re-enable not1, not2, unary_negate, and binary_negate.


This macro is used to re-enable raw_storage_iterator.


This macro is used to re-enable is_literal_type, is_literal_type_v, result_of and result_of_t.

Libc++ Extensions

This section documents various extensions provided by libc++, how they’re provided, and any information regarding how to use them.

Extended applications of [[nodiscard]]

The [[nodiscard]] attribute is intended to help users find bugs where function return values are ignored when they shouldn’t be. After C++17 the C++ standard has started to declared such library functions as [[nodiscard]]. However, this application is limited and applies only to dialects after C++17. Users who want help diagnosing misuses of STL functions may desire a more liberal application of [[nodiscard]].

For this reason libc++ provides an extension that does just that! The extension must be enabled by defining _LIBCPP_ENABLE_NODISCARD. The extended applications of [[nodiscard]] takes two forms:

  1. Backporting [[nodiscard]] to entities declared as such by the standard in newer dialects, but not in the present one.

  2. Extended applications of [[nodiscard]], at the library’s discretion, applied to entities never declared as such by the standard.

Users may also opt-out of additional applications [[nodiscard]] using additional macros.

Applications of the first form, which backport [[nodiscard]] from a newer dialect, may be disabled using macros specific to the dialect in which it was added. For example, _LIBCPP_DISABLE_NODISCARD_AFTER_CXX17.

Applications of the second form, which are pure extensions, may be disabled by defining _LIBCPP_DISABLE_NODISCARD_EXT.

Entities declared with _LIBCPP_NODISCARD_EXT

This section lists all extended applications of [[nodiscard]] to entities which no dialect declares as such (See the second form described above).

  • adjacent_find

  • all_of

  • any_of

  • binary_search

  • clamp

  • count_if

  • count

  • equal_range

  • equal

  • find_end

  • find_first_of

  • find_if_not

  • find_if

  • find

  • get_temporary_buffer

  • includes

  • is_heap_until

  • is_heap

  • is_partitioned

  • is_permutation

  • is_sorted_until

  • is_sorted

  • lexicographical_compare

  • lower_bound

  • max_element

  • max

  • min_element

  • min

  • minmax_element

  • minmax

  • mismatch

  • none_of

  • remove_if

  • remove

  • search_n

  • search

  • unique

  • upper_bound

  • lock_guard’s constructors

  • as_const

  • bit_cast

  • forward

  • move

  • move_if_noexcept

  • identity::operator()

  • to_integer

  • to_underlying