Clang Migration Notes

NDK r17 was the last version to include GCC. If you're upgrading from an old NDK and need to migrate to Clang, this doc can help.

If you maintain a custom build system, see the Build System Maintainers documentation.

-Oz versus -Os

Clang Optimization Flags has the full details, but if you used -Os to optimize your code for size with GCC, you probably want -Oz when using Clang. Although -Os attempts to make code small, it still enables some optimizations that will increase code size (based on For the smallest possible code with Clang, prefer -Oz. With -Oz, Chromium actually saw both size and performance improvements when moving to Clang compared to -Os with GCC.


Normally the __aligned__ attribute is given an explicit alignment, but with no value means “maximum alignment”. The interpretation of “maximum” differs between GCC and Clang: Clang includes vector types too so for ARM GCC thinks the maximum alignment is 8 (for uint64_t), but Clang thinks it’s 16 (because there are NEON instructions that require 16-byte alignment). Normally this shouldn’t matter because malloc is always at least 16-byte aligned, and mmap regions are page (4096-byte) aligned. Most code should either specify an explicit alignment or use alignas instead.


When targeting Android (but no other platform), GCC passed -Bsymbolic to the linker by default. This is not a good default, so Clang does not do that. -Bsymbolic causes the following behavior change:

// foo.cpp
#include <iostream>

void foo() {
  std::cout << "Goodbye, world" << std::endl;

void bar() {
// main.cpp
#include <iostream>

extern void bar();

void foo() {
  std::cout << "Hello, world\n";

int main(int, char**) {
  foo(); // Prints “Hello, world!”
  bar(); // Without -Bsymbolic, prints “Hello, world!” With -Bsymbolic, prints “Goodbye, world!”

In addition to not being the “expected” default behavior on all other platforms, this prevents symbol interposition (used by tools such as asan).

You might however wish to add manually -Bsymbolic back because it can result in smaller ELF files because fewer relocations are needed. If you do want the non--Bsymbolic behavior but would like fewer relocations, that can be achieved via -fvisibility=hidden (and manually exporting the symbols you want to be public, using the JNI_EXPORT macro in JNI code or __attribute__ ((visibility("default"))) otherwise. Linker version scripts are an even more powerful mechanism for controlling exported symbols, but harder to use.

Assembler issues

For many years the problem of adjusting inline assembler to work with LLVM could be punted down the road by using -fno-integrated-as to fall back to the GNU Assembler (GAS). With the removal of GNU binutils from the NDK, such issues will now need to be addressed. We’ve collected some of the most common issues and their solutions/workarounds here.

.arch or .arch_extension scope with __asm__

GAS doesn’t scope .arch or .arch_extension, so you can have a global __asm__(".arch foo") that applies to the whole C/C++ source file, just like a bare .arch or .arch_extension directive would in a .S file. LLVM scopes these to the specific __asm__ in which it occurs, so you’ll need to adapt your inline assembler, or build the whole file for the relevant arch variant.


GAS lets you use the ADRL pseudoinstruction to get the address of something too far away for a regular ADR to reference. This means that it expands to two instructions, which LLVM doesn’t support, so you’ll need to use a macro something like this instead:

  .macro ADRL reg:req, label:req
  add \reg, pc, #((\label - .L_adrl_\@) & 0xff00)
  add \reg, \reg, #((\label - .L_adrl_\@) - ((\label - .L_adrl_\@) & 0xff00))

ARM assembler syntactical strictness

While GAS supports the older divided and newer unified syntax (selectable via .syntax unified and .syntax divided), LLVM only supports the newer unified syntax.

As an example of where this matters, LDR has an optional type and the optional condition code allowed on all instructions. GAS allows these to come in either order when using divided syntax, but LLVM only allows them in the canonical order given in the ARM instruction reference (which is what “unified” syntax means). So continuing this example, GAS accepts both LDRBEQ and LDREQB, but LLVM only accepts LDRBEQ (with the condition code at the end, as the instruction appears in the manual).

Most humans usually use this order anyway, but you’ll have to rearrange any instructions that don’t use the canonical order.

ARM assembler implicit operands

Some ARM instructions have restrictions that make some operands implicit. For example, the two target registers supplied to LDREXD must be consecutive. GAS would allow you to write LDREXD R1, [R4] because the other register must be R2, but LLVM requires both registers to be explicitly stated, in this case LDREXD R1, R2, [R4].

ARM .arm or .code 32 alignment

Switching from Thumb to ARM mode implicitly forces 4-byte alignment with GAS but doesn’t with LLVM. You may need to use an explicit .align/.balign/.p2align directive in such cases.

No --defsym command-line option

GAS and LLVM implement their own conditional assembly mechanism with .if....endif rather than the C preprocessor’s #if...#endif. The equivalent of -DA=B for .if is -Wa,-defsym,A=B, but GAS allowed --defsym instead of -defsym. LLVM requires -defsym.

You might also prefer to just use the C preprocessor. If your assembly is in a .S file it is already being preprocessed. If your assembly is in a file with any other extension (including .s --- this is the difference between .s and .S), you’ll need to either rename it to .S or use the -x assembler-with-cpp flag to the compiler to override the file extension-based guess.

No .func/.endfunc

GAS ignores a request for obsolete STABS debugging information to be emitted using .func and .endfunc. Neither GAS nor LLVM actually support STABS, but LLVM rejects these meaningless directives. The fix is simply to remove them.