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Embedded C++ output size minimization


Embedded software developers normally prefer to use a pure C, however in some cases and especially in complex projects using C++ gives a more clear structured implementation. Unfortunately, by default C++ compiler produces pretty big binaries. This can be acceptable in case of a normal OS with a big amount of memory, but things are getting complicated when it comes to microcontrollers. I played a bit with compiler and linker options and it seems that the most size-consuming options CPP features are RTTI (run-time type information) and exceptions. I strongly believe that these are not things you can’t live without. So, I came up with the following configuration (valid for GCC toolchain):

C++ compiler flags

Flag Description
-fno-rtti (Don’t generate run-time typed identification)
-fno-exceptions (Don’t catch exceptions)

Linker flags:

Flag Description
-flto (Use link time optimization)
-lstdc++ Use C++ libraries. You use them, right?

Resulting binary size is pretty small and comparable with the equivalent C compiler output. Of course, you can reduce the size even more, but flags above are the most effective.