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5.51 Thread-Local Storage

Thread-local storage (TLS) is a mechanism by which variables are allocated such that there is one instance of the variable per extant thread. The run-time model GCC uses to implement this originates in the IA-64 processor-specific ABI, but has since been migrated to other processors as well. It requires significant support from the linker (ld), dynamic linker (, and system libraries ( and, so it is not available everywhere.

At the user level, the extension is visible with a new storage class keyword: __thread. For example:

     __thread int i;
     extern __thread struct state s;
     static __thread char *p;

The __thread specifier may be used alone, with the extern or static specifiers, but with no other storage class specifier. When used with extern or static, __thread must appear immediately after the other storage class specifier.

The __thread specifier may be applied to any global, file-scoped static, function-scoped static, or static data member of a class. It may not be applied to block-scoped automatic or non-static data member.

When the address-of operator is applied to a thread-local variable, it is evaluated at run-time and returns the address of the current thread's instance of that variable. An address so obtained may be used by any thread. When a thread terminates, any pointers to thread-local variables in that thread become invalid.

No static initialization may refer to the address of a thread-local variable.

In C++, if an initializer is present for a thread-local variable, it must be a constant-expression, as defined in 5.19.2 of the ANSI/ISO C++ standard.

See ELF Handling For Thread-Local Storage for a detailed explanation of the four thread-local storage addressing models, and how the run-time is expected to function.