Undefined reference to boost symbol


I was compiling code from someone using a Makefile. It gave this error:

/usr/bin/ld: main.o: undefined reference to symbol '_ZN5boost6system15system_categoryEv'


If you demangle the C++ symbol _ZN5boost6system15system_categoryEv using C++Filt you get the function boost::system::system_category(). So, the code was using this function, but was missing the library file. Adding the linker directive -lboost_system to include the library, fixed the error.

Tried with: Ubuntu 14.04

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How Boost automatically includes libraries

Boost is mostly a template based library, but using certain functionality requires linking with its libraries. On Windows, when you include a Boost header file in your code, it automatically generates a linking dependency on its corresponding library file. This library path is used by the linker to complete its linking operation.

For example, if I use the threading features of Boost, it generates a dependency on the library file: libboost_thread-vc110-mt-gd-1_53.lib.

This filename has various components: the Boost module, the Visual Studio version, the build type and the Boost version. These are obtained from various definitions in the boost/config/auto_link.hpp header file.

If you find that your code is looking for a Boost library filename that looks wrong in any way, then you might have to look into the above header file and configure some of the definitions.

For example, I built Boost 1.53 on Visual Studio 2013, even though it is not officially supported. When I used this Boost with my code, the linker complained that it was looking for libboost_thread-vc110-mt-gd-1_53.lib. This is strange, since I have built both Boost and my code using Visual Studio 2013 (vc120), but it is looking for Visual Studio 2012 (vc110). I found that the variable BOOST_LIB_TOOLSET was set to vc110 in auto_link.hpp. Changing this fixed the error.

Tried with: Boost 1.53, Visual Studio 2013 and Windows 7 x64

How to build Boost for Visual Studio 2013

If your code compiled with Visual Studio needs Boost, you can get prebuilt Boost libraries. However, if your code needs to link with Boost library files, then the Visual Studio version used for your code and used to build Boost has to match. If you cannot find a prebuilt Boost library matching your Visual Studio then you might have to build Boost by yourself.

I had this problem since my code was using C++11 features that required Visual Studio 2013, but the prebuilt Boost libraries were only available for Visual Studio 2012.

To build Boost for Visual Studio 2013, I followed these steps:

  • Download the source of Boost from here. Unzip it anywhere.

  • Open the Developer Command Prompt for VS2013. Go to the directory where Boost is unzipped.

  • Build the Boost.Build tool (b2.exe) using this command:

> bootstrap.bat
  • Build Boost using this compile invocation:
> b2 --toolset=msvc-12.0 --build-type=complete --abbreviate-paths architecture=x86 address-model=32 install -j4

In this compile string, msvc-12.0 is the Visual C++ compiler version for Visual Studio 2013 and -j4 means I want it to use 4 cores for parallel compilation.

  • This compilation took about 30 minutes and after it is done, the Boost header files and built libraries are dumped in C:\Boost.

Note: Detailed steps to build Boost for Visual Studio can be found in this StackOverflow post.

Tried with: Boost 1.53.0, Visual Studio Express 2013 and Windows 7 x64

Use of deleted function error with Boost


I was compiling C++ code that uses the Boost library when the compiler threw out this mysterious error:

/usr/include/boost/thread/pthread/thread_data.hpp: In constructor ‘boost::detail::tss_data_node::tss_data_node(boost::shared_ptr, void*)’:
/usr/include/boost/thread/pthread/thread_data.hpp:36:41: error: use of deleted function ‘boost::shared_ptr::shared_ptr(const boost::shared_ptr&)’


This type of error typically occurs when there is a feature mismatch between the C++ compiler and the library code. In this case, I was using the Boost library version 1.48.0, which is from Ubuntu 12.04. However, I was using a newer version of the g++ compiler since the code used C++11 features. The version that is in Ubuntu was 4.6, while I using a more recent version 4.8 compiler.

One solution is to go back and use an older version of the C++ compiler. The other solution is to upgrade the Boost library to a more recent version. I chose the second solution and upgraded Boost to version 1.54 and the code compiled without errors.

Tried with: Ubuntu 12.04

How to upgrade the Boost library on Ubuntu

If you use Ubuntu LTS, you are stuck with a pretty old version of the Boost library. You can upgrade to the latest version of Boost in a few steps:

  • First uninstall all the Boost library packages of the current version.

  • Next, add the PPA ppa:boost-latest/ppa and upgrade your installation:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:boost-latest/ppa
$ sudo apt-get update
  • Look at the latest version Boost library packages available to you and install those that you need:
$ aptitude search boost
$ sudo apt-get install libboost1.54-dev

Tried with: Ubuntu 12.04

BoostPro Binaries on 64-bit Computers

BoostPro Computing offers pre-compiled Boost library binaries for Windows here. This is the easiest way to install Boost on Windows, since compiling Boost source code can be quite painful. As of version 1.42.0, BoostPro only offers 32-bit binaries. It is important to note this since the BoostPro installer does not mention that it is 32-bit anywhere. Other 64-bit libraries and code compiled along with this Boost flavor will give strange linker errors like this:

Foobar.obj : error LNK2019: unresolved external symbol __imp____gmpq_clear referenced in function “public: __thiscall CGAL::Gmpq_rep::~Gmpq_rep(void)”

If you have to stick to BoostPro, then you might be forced to switch your other libraries or code to 32-bit mode.

CGAL: Syntax Errors on intmax_t and uintmax_t

Trying to compile CGAL 3.6.1 with Boost 1.42 on Windows generated a lot of errors of this form:

CGAL-3.6.1\auxiliary\gmp\include\mpfr.h(280) : error C2061: syntax error : identifier ‘intmax_t’
CGAL-3.6.1\auxiliary\gmp\include\mpfr.h(283) : error C2061: syntax error : identifier ‘uintmax_t’

The errors are related to the (missing) declaration of intmax_t and uintmax_t. According to this thread on the MPFR mailing list, these errors are caused due to changes in Boost 1.42 and later. So, until MPFR is updated to handle these Boost versions, the solution is to use older versions of Boost. I used Boost 1.41 and CGAL compiled successfully! :-)