Peter Eisentraut

professional automator

ccache and clang, part 3

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In part 1 and part 2 I investigated how to use ccache with clang. That was more than three years ago.

I got an email the other day that ccache bug 8118, which I filed while writing part 1, was closed, as ccache 3.2 was released. The release notes of ccache 3.2 contain several items related to clang. So it was time to give this another look.

Basically, the conclusions from part 2 still stand: You cannot use ccache with clang without using CCACHE_CPP2. And it is now becoming clear to me that this is an issue that is not going to go away, and it’s not really even Clang’s fault.


The problem is that clang’s -Wall can cause warnings when compiling the preprocessed version of otherwise harmless C code. This can be illustrated by this piece of C code:

        int *p, *q;

        p = q = 0;
        p = p;
        if (p == p)
                return 1;
        if ((p == q))
                return 2;
        return 0;

When compiled by gcc-4.9 -Wall, this gives no warnings. When compiled by clang-3.5 -Wall, this results in

test.c:7:4: warning: explicitly assigning value of variable of type 'int *' to itself [-Wself-assign]
test.c:8:8: warning: self-comparison always evaluates to true [-Wtautological-compare]
test.c:10:9: warning: equality comparison with extraneous parentheses [-Wparentheses-equality]
test.c:10:9: note: remove extraneous parentheses around the comparison to silence this warning
test1.c:10:9: note: use '=' to turn this equality comparison into an assignment

You wouldn’t normally write code like this, but the C preprocessor could create code with self-assignments, self-comparisons, extra parentheses, and so on.

This example represents the issues I saw when trying to compile PostgreSQL 9.4 with ccache and clang; there might be others.

You can address this issue in two ways:

  1. Use CCACHE_CPP2, as discussed in part 2. With ccache 3.2, you can now also put this into a configuration file: run_second_cpp = true in ~/.ccache/ccache.conf

  2. Turn off the warnings mentioned above: -Wno-parentheses-equality, -Wno-tautological-compare, -Wno-self-assign (and any others you might find). One might think that these are actually useful warnings that one might want to keep, but GCC doesn’t warn about them, and if you develop primarily with GCC, your code might contain these issues anyway. In particular, I have found that -Wno-tautological-compare is necessary for legitimate code.

I think CCACHE_CPP2 is the way to go, for two reasons. Firstly, having to add more and more options to turn off warnings is obviously somewhat stupid. Secondly and more importantly, there is nothing stopping GCC from adding warnings similar to Clang’s that would trigger on preprocessed versions of otherwise harmless C code. Unless they come up with a clever way to annotate the preprocessed code to the effect of “this code might look wrong to you, but it looked OK before preprocessing, so don’t warn about it”, in a way that creates no extra warnings and doesn’t lose any warnings, I don’t think this issue can be solved.


Now the question is, how much would globally setting CCACHE_CPP2 slow things down?

To test this, I have built PostgreSQL 9.4rc1 with clang-3.5 and gcc-4.8 (not gcc-4.9 because it creates some unrelated warnings that I don’t want to deal with here). I have set export CCACHE_RECACHE=true so that the cache is not read but new cache entries are computed. That way, the overhead of ccache on top of the compiler is measured.


  • clang-3.5
    • Using ccache is 10% slower than not using it at all.
    • Using ccache with CCACHE_CPP2 on is another 10% slower.
  • gcc-4.8
    • Using ccache is 19% slower than not using it at all.
    • Using ccache with CCACHE_CPP2 is another 9% slower.

(There different percentages between gcc and clang arise because gcc is faster than clang (yes, really, more on that in a future post), but the overhead of ccache doesn’t change.)

10% or so is not to be dismissed, but let’s remember that this applies only if there is a cache miss. If everything is cached, both methods do the same thing. Also, if you use parallel make, the overhead is divided by the number of parallel jobs.

With that in mind, I have decided to put the issue to rest for myself and have made myself a ~/.ccache/ccache.conf containing

run_second_cpp = true

Now Clang or any other compiler should run without problems through ccache.


There is one more piece of news in the new ccache release: Another thing I talked about in part 1 was that ccache will disable the colored output of clang, and I suggested workarounds. This was actually fixed in ccache 3.2, so the workarounds are no longer necessary, and the above configuration change is really the only thing to make Clang work smoothly with ccache.