Major 64-Bit Changes

There are many differences between 32-bit and 64-bit environments in OS X, including tool usage changes, changes to the size and alignment of data types, alignment pragmas, and I/O Kit drivers. This chapter describes the main changes developers should be aware of when porting code to 64-bit. You should read this chapter if you've decided to port your code to 64-bit or if you are writing a new code from scratch.

Tools Changes

You'll find a number of issues when porting code to a 64-bit executable. You can address most of these issues with subtle tweaks to your code. However, before you touch the first line of code, there are a few broad issues you should be aware of:

Data Type Changes

This section describes the changes to data type sizes and alignment in 64-bit executables, and explains how these changes will impact your code.

Data Type Size and Alignment

OS X uses two data models: ILP32 (in which integers, long integers, and pointers are 32-bit quantities) and LP64 (in which integers are 32-bit quantities, and long integers and pointers are 64-bit quantities). Other types are equivalent to their 32-bit counterparts (except for size_t and a few others that are defined based on the size of long integers or pointers).

While almost all UNIX and Linux implementations use LP64, other operating systems use various data models. Windows, for example, uses LLP64, in which long long variables and pointers are 64-bit quantities, while long integers are 32-bit quantities. Cray, by contrast, uses ILP64, in which int variables are also 64-bit quantities.

In OS X, the default alignment used for data structure layout is natural alignment (with a few exceptions noted below). Natural alignment means that data elements within a structure are aligned at intervals corresponding to the width of the underlying data type. For example, an int variable, which is 4 bytes wide, would be aligned on a 4-byte boundary.

Table 2-1 shows the base (compiler-defined) data types and common cross-platform data types used in OS X, along with their size and alignment. LP64 differences are highlighted in bold.

Table 2-1  Size and alignment of base data types in OS X

Data type

ILP32 size

ILP32 alignment

LP64 size

LP64 alignment

char

1 byte

1 byte

1 byte

1 byte

short

2 bytes

2 bytes

2 bytes

2 bytes

int

4 bytes

4 bytes

4 bytes

4 bytes

long

4 bytes

4 bytes

8 bytes

8 bytes

pointer

4 bytes

4 bytes

8 bytes

8 bytes

size_t

4 bytes

4 bytes

8 bytes

8 bytes

long long

8 bytes

4 bytes

8 bytes

8 bytes

fpos_t

8 bytes

4 bytes

8 bytes

8 bytes

off_t

8 bytes

4 bytes

8 bytes

8 bytes

In addition to these changes to the base data types, various layers of OS X have other data types that change size or underlying type in a 64-bit environment. The most notable of these changes is that NSInteger and NSUInteger (Cocoa data types) are 64-bit in a 64-bit environment and 32-bit in a 32-bit environment. These changes are described in 64-Bit Guide for Carbon Developers, 64-Bit Transition Guide for Cocoa, and “Kernel Extensions and Drivers.”

Because changes in size and alignment can significantly affect the data size produced by your code, you should generally pack structures so that the largest data types appear first, followed by progressively smaller data types. In this way, you maximize the use of space.

If, for compatibility, you need to support on-disk or network data structures containing 64-bit values aligned on 4-byte boundaries, you can override the default alignment using pragmas. See “Making Code 64-Bit Clean” for more information.

Data Type Impact on Code

Data type and alignment changes impact developers in several broad areas.

  • Interprocess communication, networking, shared memory, and user-kernel boundary crossings

    If you need your 64-bit software to communicate with 32-bit software (whether over a network, through local IPC mechanisms, through shared memory, or through crossing the user-kernel boundary in any way), choose data types carefully. A good practice is to always use explicitly sized data types, such as uint32_t, rather than generic data types (such as long).

    You may find it hard to use some mechanisms of interprocess communication, such as shared memory, when sharing data between 32-bit and 64-bit code. In particular, you should avoid passing pointers into shared memory regions and instead use offsets into the shared buffer.

  • Files stored on disk

    If you need your application to write binary data in a file format that is shared between 64-bit and 32-bit versions, make sure that the size and alignment of data structures are the same in both versions. Specifically, these programs should avoid storing data of type long to disk.

    Alternatively, you can create a separate file format that is specific to the 64-bit version of your application. For some applications, creating a new format may be easier than maintaining a shared file format. This should be considered the exception rather than the rule, however.

    Finally, never underestimate the convenience of a generic exchange format such as XML.

  • Libraries

    All libraries used by 64-bit applications or kernel extensions must be recompiled with a 64-bit compiler. If these libraries are also needed for 32-bit applications or kernel extensions, you must use a dual-architecture library (or have multiple copies of the library).

  • Plug-ins

    Applications you compile as a 64-bit executable cannot load 32-bit plug-ins directly. Similarly, applications you compile as a 32-bit executable cannot load 64-bit plug-ins.

    If your application must support plug-ins compiled for multiple architectures, you should use a helper application and communicate with that helper using an interprocess communication mechanism. This is described further in “Cross-Architecture Plug-in Support.”

  • Graphical user interfaces

    Higher-level frameworks used for graphical user interfaces are available as 64-bit frameworks only in OS X v10.5 and later. Previous versions of OS X will automatically use the 32-bit version of your executable.

  • Data alignment differences

    When you are compiling code with a 64-bit target, keep in mind that the default alignment for 64-bit data types is 64-bit rather than the 32-bit alignment you may be used to. If you require interoperability with 32-bit software (file formats, network protocols, user-kernel boundary crossings, and so on), you must change the code.

    If you do not have to maintain format compatibility with existing data, to avoid wasting memory and storage, you should reorder the members of the structure so that the 64-bit data types fall on a 64-bit offset from the start of the structure. If such a change is not possible for compatibility reasons, you can override the alignment rules using a pragma. See “Making Code 64-Bit Clean” for details.

Security Changes

In 64-bit executables, executing code in data segments is not allowed. To achieve this, the NX (no execute) bit is set on the page table entries for the stack, heap, and initialized and uninitialized data segments.

In general, this should have no impact on developers unless you are doing something nonstandard such as writing self-modifying code. If you are writing code that requires execution on the stack or in the heap, you must explicitly mark the pages executable using mprotect or other similar calls.