#safe #pin #init #stack-overflow #smart-pointers #no-std

nightly no-std pinned-init

Library to facilitate safe pinned initialization

5 releases

0.0.7 Apr 9, 2024
0.0.6 Apr 8, 2023
0.0.5 Mar 27, 2023
0.0.3 Oct 16, 2022
0.0.0 Apr 18, 2022

#178 in Rust patterns

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Library to safely and fallibly initialize pinned structs using in-place constructors.

It also allows in-place initialization of big structs that would otherwise produce a stack overflow.

This library's main use-case is in Rust-for-Linux. Although this version can be used standalone.

There are cases when you want to in-place initialize a struct. For example when it is very big and moving it from the stack is not an option, because it is bigger than the stack itself. Another reason would be that you need the address of the object to initialize it. This stands in direct conflict with Rust's normal process of first initializing an object and then moving it into it's final memory location.

This library allows you to do in-place initialization safely.

Nightly only

This library requires unstable features and thus can only be used with a nightly compiler. The used features are:

  • allocator_api
  • new_uninit (only if the alloc or std features are enabled)
  • get_mut_unchecked (only if the alloc or std features are enabled)

The user will be required to activate these features:

  • allocator_api


To initialize a struct with an in-place constructor you will need two things:

  • an in-place constructor,
  • a memory location that can hold your struct (this can be the stack, an Arc<T>, Box<T> or any other smart pointer that implements InPlaceInit).

To get an in-place constructor there are generally three options:

  • directly creating an in-place constructor using the pin_init! macro,
  • a custom function/macro returning an in-place constructor provided by someone else,
  • using the unsafe function pin_init_from_closure() to manually create an initializer.

Aside from pinned initialization, this library also supports in-place construction without pinning, the macros/types/functions are generally named like the pinned variants without the pin prefix.


Throught some examples we will make use of the CMutex type which can be found in the examples directory of the repository. It is essentially a rebuild of the mutex from the Linux kernel in userland. So it also uses a wait list and a basic spinlock. Importantly it needs to be pinned to be locked and thus is a prime candidate for this library.

Using the pin_init! macro

If you want to use PinInit, then you will have to annotate your struct with #[pin_data]. It is a macro that uses #[pin] as a marker for structurally pinned fields. After doing this, you can then create an in-place constructor via pin_init!. The syntax is almost the same as normal struct initializers. The difference is that you need to write <- instead of : for fields that you want to initialize in-place.

use pinned_init::*;
struct Foo {
    a: CMutex<usize>,
    b: u32,

let foo = pin_init!(Foo {
    a <- CMutex::new(42),
    b: 24,

foo now is of the type impl PinInit<Foo>. We can now use any smart pointer that we like (or just the stack) to actually initialize a Foo:

let foo: Result<Pin<Box<Foo>>, core::alloc::AllocError> = Box::pin_init(foo);

For more information see the pin_init! macro.

Using a custom function/macro that returns an initializer

Many types that use this library supply a function/macro that returns an initializer, because the above method only works for types where you can access the fields.

let mtx: Result<Pin<Box<CMutex<usize>>>, AllocError> = Box::pin_init(CMutex::new(42));

To declare an init macro/function you just return an impl PinInit<T, E>:

use core::alloc::AllocError;
struct DriverData {
    status: CMutex<i32>,
    buffer: Box<[u8; 1_000_000]>,

struct DriverDataError;

impl DriverData {
    fn new() -> impl PinInit<Self, DriverDataError> {
        try_pin_init!(Self {
            status <- CMutex::new(0),
            buffer: Box::init(zeroed())?,
        }? DriverDataError)

Manual creation of an initializer

Often when working with primitives the previous approaches are not sufficient. That is where pin_init_from_closure() comes in. This unsafe function allows you to create a impl PinInit<T, E> directly from a closure. Of course you have to ensure that the closure actually does the initialization in the correct way. Here are the things to look out for (we are calling the parameter to the closure slot):

  • when the closure returns Ok(()), then it has completed the initialization successfully, so slot now contains a valid bit pattern for the type T,
  • when the closure returns Err(e), then the caller may deallocate the memory at slot, so you need to take care to clean up anything if your initialization fails mid-way,
  • you may assume that slot will stay pinned even after the closure returns until drop of slot gets called.
use pinned_init::*;
use core::{ptr::addr_of_mut, marker::PhantomPinned, cell::UnsafeCell, pin::Pin};
mod bindings {
    extern "C" {
        pub type foo;
        pub fn init_foo(ptr: *mut foo);
        pub fn destroy_foo(ptr: *mut foo);
        #[must_use = "you must check the error return code"]
        pub fn enable_foo(ptr: *mut foo, flags: u32) -> i32;

/// # Invariants
/// `foo` is always initialized
pub struct RawFoo {
    _p: PhantomPinned,
    foo: UnsafeCell<bindings::foo>,

impl RawFoo {
    pub fn new(flags: u32) -> impl PinInit<Self, i32> {
        // SAFETY:
        // - when the closure returns `Ok(())`, then it has successfully initialized and
        //   enabled `foo`,
        // - when it returns `Err(e)`, then it has cleaned up before
        unsafe {
            pin_init_from_closure(move |slot: *mut Self| {
                // `slot` contains uninit memory, avoid creating a reference.
                let foo = addr_of_mut!((*slot).foo);

                // Initialize the `foo`

                // Try to enable it.
                let err = bindings::enable_foo(UnsafeCell::raw_get(foo), flags);
                if err != 0 {
                    // Enabling has failed, first clean up the foo and then return the error.
                } else {
                    // All fields of `RawFoo` have been initialized, since `_p` is a ZST.

impl PinnedDrop for RawFoo {
    fn drop(self: Pin<&mut Self>) {
        // SAFETY: Since `foo` is initialized, destroying is safe.
        unsafe { bindings::destroy_foo(self.foo.get()) };

For more information on how to use pin_init_from_closure(), you can take a look at the uses inside the kernel crate from the Rust-for-Linux project. The sync module is a good starting point.