Building GCC ARM Toolchain Cross Compiler (Bare Metal)

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In this article we will about how to build GCC ARM Toolchain, which is a cross compiler to build ARM program. The built GCC can be used to compile application into ARM’s machine codes. The toolchain then reside on /usr/local path.

For this article, I use:

  1. Slackware64 14.0
  2. GCC 4.9.2
  3. GDB 7.8.1
  4. Binutils 2.24
  5. Newlib 2.1
  6. GMP 6.0.0
  7. MPFR 3.1.2
  8. MPC 1.0.2

Deciding the Target

In ARM, there is a naming convention which explain what toolchain will do. The target alias, or target, is the target of the toolchain. It’s more than just an architecture. The tools on this toolchain will have some profix, such as: arm-none-eabi-gcc, arm-linux-eabi-gcc, etc.

This distinguish one toolchain from native host compiler and have different purpose for each name.

Basically, “arm-none-eabi” is consist of three part:

  1. architecture / processor name. Which is ARM architecture (ARM, Thumb, Thumb-2, etc)
  2. something about OS/libraries. This part is varies. Some have none and other has linux, etc. The ‘none’ means that the toolchains are not targetting specific operating system (aka ‘bare-metal’). ‘unknown’ is the same as ‘none’ while ‘linux’ designed to be used to build programs with glibc under a Linux environment, usually for built for embedded linux ARM devices.
  3. ABIs. This part describes how binary files (libraries, etc) are stored (the actual file formats), and calling conventions, register usage, etc. Some common are gnuabi, eabi, etc.

In this article, we will build arm-none-eabi to make bare metal arm compiler.


We will need some disk space (~2GB should be enough). We also need root access to install it on “system-wide”.

Slackware64 14.0 is optional. You can use any linux distribution you like.

We will create a working directory. We will refer it as $ARMGCC, so $ARMGCC/src should really be something like ~/ARMGCC/src (the ~ means your home directory). So go ahead and create following directory structure:

# set aliases
export TARGET=arm-none-eabi
export PREFIX=/usr/local

export BINUTILS_BUILD=${ARMGCC}/build/binutils-build
export GCC_BUILD=${ARMGCC}/build/gcc-build
export GDB_BUILD=${ARMGCC}/build/gdb-build

export BINUTILS_SRC=${ARMGCC}/src/binutils-2.24
export GCC_SRC=${ARMGCC}/src/gcc-4.9.2
export GDB_SRC=${ARMGCC}/src/gdb-7.8.1
export NEWLIB_SRC=${ARMGCC}/src/newlib-2.1.0

# make base dir, original archives dir (orig), source code dir (src), 
# and working / building dir (build) 
mkdir ${ARMGCC}{,/{orig,src,build}}

# Make build directory for each component
mkdir ${ARMGCC}/build/{binutils,gcc,gdb}-build

Acquiring the Materials

Download latest packages of GCC, GDB, binutils, and Newlib.You can download it using wget or alternatively download via browser and move it to $ARMGCC/orig. The version we will use is GCC 4.9.0, GDB 7.7, binutils 2.24, and newlib 2.1.0.

cd ${ARMGCC}/orig


Then, extract them to src directory.

cd ${ARMGCC}/src

tar -jxf ${ARMGCC}/orig/gcc-4.9.2.tar.bz2
tar -Jxf ${ARMGCC}/orig/gdb-7.8.1.tar.xz
tar -jxf ${ARMGCC}/orig/binutils-2.24.tar.bz2
tar -zxf ${ARMGCC}/orig/newlib-2.1.0.tar.gz

Next we need to download some prerequisites, especially GMP (GNU Multiple Precision), MPC (Multiple-Precision Complex), and MPFR (Multiple-Precision Floating Point Reliably) which is used for computation. The prerequisites can be downloaded by invoking following command:

The MPFR, GMP, and MPC is not the latest version, but at least we can build GCC. Suppose your working directory at /home/xathrya/ARMGCC, to obtain MPDR, GMP, and MPC invoke following command:

cd ${GCC_SRC}

However, the version of GMP, MPC, MPFR, PPL, CLOOG, and ISL is not the latest version. We can switch to the latest version by download the latest version and create symbolic link to it.

cd ${GCC_SRC}

rm {gmp,mpc,mpfr}

tar -Jxf ${ARMGCC}/orig/gmp-6.0.0a.tar.xz
tar -zxf ${ARMGCC}/orig/mpc-1.0.2.tar.gz
tar -zxf ${ARMGCC}/orig/mpfr-3.1.2.tar.gz

ln -s gmp-6.0.0 gmp
ln -s mpc-1.0.2 mpc
ln -s mpfr-3.1.2 mpfr

Building the Toolchains

Building stage is pretty simple. Honestly speaking, the tricky part is about how GCC and built concept and ordering them in correct order.


First, built binutils. This will provide lots of useful tools in building ARM libraries and binaries (like objdump, ld, ranlib, etc). Invoke following commands:

${BINUTILS_SRC}/configure \
   --target=${TARGET} \
   --prefix=${PREFIX} \
   --enable-interwork \
   --enable-multilib \
   --with-gnu-as \
   --with-gnu-ld \
   --disable-werror \
make configure-host
make -j4 all
make install
make clean

You will notice a few configure options that are really critical for getting things to work properly.

  • –target=arm-none-eabi Says we want a compiler to generate binaries for the arm-none-eabi platform.
  • –enable-interwork This allows for assembling Thumb and ARM code mixed into the same binaries (for those chips that support that)
  • –enable-multilib Multilib allows the use of libraries that are compiled multiple times for different targets/build types
  • –enable-shared – enable the creation of the shared libraries.


Next we will build the GCC. But please note that we are only intereset on C and C++ so we will ignore other language. To built GCC, do this:

${GCC_SRC}/configure \
   --target=${TARGET} \
   --prefix=${PREFIX} \
   --enable-interwork \
   --enable-multilib \
   --enable-languages="c,c++" \
   --with-newlib \
   --without-headers \
   --disable-shared \
   --with-system-zlib \
   --with-gnu-as \
   --with-gnu-ld \
   --disable-nls \
   --enable-c99 \
   --enable-long-long \
make -j4 all-gcc install-gcc
make clean

Now, the important points are:

  • –enable-languages=”c,c++” – means build C and C++ only.
  • –with-newlib – use Newlib instead of the standard C libraries.
  • –with-headers – this adds a header inlude path during build time and will allow the build to find the newlib header files
  • –enable-__cxa_atexit – allows use of __cxa_atexit, rather than atexit, to register C++ destructors for local statics and global objects and is essential for fully standards-compliant handling of destructors. It also affects the C++ ABI and therefore results in C++ shared libraries and C++ programs that are interoperable with other Linux distributions.
  • –enable-c99 – enable C99 support for C programs.
  • –enable-long-long – enables long long support in the compiler.


Now build our newlib

${NEWLIB_SRC}/configure \
  --target=${TARGET} \
  --prefix=${PREFIX} \
  --enable-interwork \
  --enable-multilib \
  --with-gnu-as \
  --with-gnu-ld \
  --disable-nls \
  --enable-target-optspace \
  --enable-newlib-reent-small \
  --enable-newlib-io-c99-formats \
  --enable-newlib-io-long-long \
  --disable-newlib-multithread \
  --disable-newlib-supplied-syscalls \
make -j4 all
make install
make clean

GCC (again)

Now that we have our runtime libraries, go back and ginish the GCC build:

make all-install


Optionally you can build GDB. To do so, invoke following:

${GDB_SRC}/configure \
   --target=${TARGET} \
   --prefix=${PREFIX} \
   --enable-interwork \
make -j4 all 
make install

And that’s it. You should have them now.


The toolchain can be tested with the minimal code here:

int main()
   return 0;

void exit(int code)

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