Zig Makes Rust Cross-compilation Just Work

This post is a spiritual successor to Loris Cro’s Go cross-compilation.

The encounter

During a recent stage 2 meeting Jakub Konka wanted to demo his progress on WASM support, but ran into problems with screen-sharing on Linux. After switching to his Mac to run it there, he found out that Wasmtime (a WASM runtime) doesn’t ship aarch64-macos pre-built binaries.

But Wasmtime is an open-source Rust project, I should be able to clone the repo and build it for Jakub myself. The problem? I don’t have an M1 Mac on hand. I will have to cross-compile.

The idea

Rust has built-in cross-compilation support. All you have to do is install the target’s toolchain with rustup

rustup target add aarch64-apple-darwin

and build your program with --target.

cargo build --target aarch64-apple-darwin

The problems

The C dependencies

warning: cc: error: unrecognized command-line option `-arch`
error: failed to run custom build command for `wasmtime-fiber`
Caused by:
  ...
  running "cc" ...

Some Rust crates depend on C code, but the Rust toolchain does not include a C compiler. This is the same problem Loris encountered with CGO and, luckily for us, it has the same solution. Create a shell script which wraps Zig1

#!/bin/sh
/path-to-zig/zig cc -target aarch64-macos $@

and add it to env variables as CC when invoking cargo

CC="/path-to-wrapper/zcc" cargo build --target aarch64-apple-darwin

The linker

error: linking with `cc` failed: exit code: 1
  |
  = note: "cc" ...

We’re now successfully compiling Wasmtime’s objects, but we’re failing at the last step - linking the final binary.

The Rust toolchain includes the Rust standard library and a compiler to produce object files for the target, but it does not include a linker to link them into the final executable. Furthermore, the cargo documentation instructs us to provide it with a target linker in .cargo/config.toml. However, we can see that cargo is attempting to invoke cc like it did before with wasmtime-fiber. Can we reuse the same wrapper we used before?

Yes2.

[target.aarch64-apple-darwin]
linker = "/path-to-wrapper/zcc"

The result

wasmtime helloworld

Success! This is a WASM “Hello, World!” example running on Wasmtime on Jakub’s M1, but the Wasmtime binary was compiled inside WSL on my x86_64 PC3. Pretty wild.


  1. I’m using absolute paths to refer to zig because I don’t want to add nighlty binaries into $PATH. I recommend switching to system-wide install once the 0.8.0 branch gets released. ↩︎

  2. For aarch64-macos support we’re interested in Zig’s self-hosted linker, which is slated for release in 0.8.0. I’m using the latest build from Zig’s download section. Built on 2021-05-20. All newer builds should work. ↩︎

  3. This method of cross-compiling Rust is not limited to aarch64 MacOS from x86_64 Linux. If your host and target is supported by Rust and Zig, just change their target arguments and install Rust’s toolchain. You don’t have to install additional gcc toolchains for each target. ↩︎