Announcing Rust 1.52.1

May 10, 2021 · Felix Klock, Mark Rousskov on behalf of the compiler team

The Rust team has prepared a new release, 1.52.1, working around a bug in incremental compilation which was made into a compiler error in 1.52.0. We recommend all Rust users, including those currently using stable versions prior to 1.52.0, upgrade to 1.52.1 or disable incremental compilation. Guidance on how to do so is available below.

If you have a previous version of Rust installed via rustup, getting Rust 1.52.1 is as easy as:

$ rustup update stable

If you don't have it already, you can get rustup from the appropriate page on our website.


This release works around broken builds on 1.52.0, which are caused by newly added verification. The bugs this verification detects are present in all Rust versions1, and can trigger miscompilations in incremental builds, so downgrading to a prior stable version is not a fix.

Users are encouraged to upgrade to 1.52.1 or disable incremental in their local environment if on a prior version: please see the what you should do section for details on how to do so.

Incremental compilation is off by default for release builds, so few production builds should be affected (only for users who have opted in).

Miscompilations that can arise from the bugs in incremental compilation generate incorrect code in final artifacts, essentially producing malformed binaries, which means that in theory any behavior is possible. In practice we are currently only aware of one particular known miscompilation, but bugs due to incremental are notoriously hard to track down: users frequently simply rebuild after some light editing if they see unexpected results from their binaries, and this often causes sufficient recompilation to fix the bug(s).

This post is going to:

  1. Explain what the errors look like,
  2. Explain what the check does, at a high level,
  3. Explain how the check is presenting itself in the Rust 1.52.0 release,
  4. Tell you what you should do if you see an unstable fingerprint on your project,
  5. Describe our plans for how the Rust project will address the problems discussed here.

What does the error look like?

The error message looks something like this, with the key piece being the "found unstable fingerprints" text.

thread 'rustc' panicked at 'assertion failed: `(left == right)`
  left: `Some(Fingerprint(4565771098143344972, 7869445775526300234))`,
  right: `Some(Fingerprint(14934403843752251060, 623484215826468126))`: found unstable fingerprints for <massive text describing rustc internals elided>

error: internal compiler error: unexpected panic

note: the compiler unexpectedly panicked. this is a bug.

This is the error caused by the internal consistency check, and as stated in the diagnostic, it yields an "Internal Compiler Error" (or ICE). In other words, it represents a bug in the internals of the Rust compiler itself. In this case, the ICE is revealing a bug in incremental compilation that predates the 1.52.0 release and could result in miscompilation if it had not been caught.

What are fingerprints? Why are we checking them?

The Rust compiler has support for "incremental compilation", which has been described in a 2016 blog post. When incremental compilation is turned on, the compiler breaks the input source into pieces, and tracks how those input pieces influence the final build product. Then, when the inputs change, it detects this and reuses artifacts from previous builds, striving to expend effort solely on building the parts that need to respond to the changes to the input source code.

Fingerprints are part of our architecture for detecting when inputs change. More specifically, a fingerprint (along with some other state to establish context) is a 128-bit value intended to uniquely identify internal values used within the compiler. Some compiler-internal results are stored on disk ("cached") between runs. Fingerprints are used to validate that a newly computed result is unchanged from the cached result. (More details about this are available in the relevant chapter of the rustc dev guide.)

The fingerprint stability check is a safeguard asserting internal consistency of the fingerprints. Sometimes the compiler is forced to rerun a query, and expects that the output is the same as from a prior incremental compilation session. The newly enabled verification checks that the value is indeed as expected, rather than assuming so. In some cases, due to bugs in the compiler's implementation, this was not actually the case.


We initially added these fingerprint checks as a tool to use when developing rustc itself, back in 2017. It was solely provided via an unstable -Z flag, only available to nightly and development builds.

More recently, in March, we encountered a miscompilation that led us to turn on verify-ich by default. The Rust compiler team decided it was better to catch fingerprint problems and abort compilation, rather than allow for potential miscompilations (and subsequent misbehavior) to sneak into Rust programmer's binaries.

When we first turned on the fingerprint checks by default, there was a steady stream of issues filed by users of the nightly (and beta) toolchains, and steady progress has been made on identifying fixes, a number of which have already landed.

In the past week, we had started making plans to improve the user-experience, so that the diagnostic issued by the check would do a better job of telling the programmer what to do in response. Unfortunately, this was done under the assumption that the new verification would ship in 1.53, not 1.52.

It turns out verify-ich was turned on in version 1.52.0, which was released recently.

Today's new release, 1.52.1, works around the breakage caused by the newly added verification by temporarily changing the defaults in the Rust compiler to disable incremental unless the user knowingly opts in.

How does this show up

Essentially, for some crates, certain sequences of edit-compile cycles will cause rustc to hit the "unstable fingerprints" ICE. I showed one example at the start of this blog post.

Another recent example looks like this:

thread 'rustc' panicked at 'found unstable fingerprints for predicates_of(<massive text describing rustc internals elided>)', /rustc/.../compiler/rustc_query_system/src/query/

They all arise from inconsistencies when comparing the incremental-compilation cache stored on disk against the values computed during a current rustc invocation, which means they all arise from using incremental compilation.

There are several ways that you may have incremental compilation turned on:

  1. You may be building with the dev or test profiles which default to having incremental compilation enabled.
  2. You may have set the environment variable CARGO_INCREMENTAL=1
  3. You may have enabled the build.incremental setting in your Cargo config
  4. You may have enabled the incremental setting in your Cargo.toml for a given profile

If your project has not adjusted the defaults, then when running cargo build --release or otherwise in the release profile configuration incremental is disabled on all Rust versions1, and these issues should not affect your release builds.

What should a Rust programmer do in response

The Internal Compiler Error asks you to report a bug, and if you can do so, we still want that information. We want to know about the cases that are failing.

But regardless of whether or not you file a bug, the problem can be worked around on your end by either:

  1. upgrading to 1.52.1, if you have not yet done so (which will disable incremental for you), or
  2. deleting your incremental compilation cache (e.g. by running cargo clean), or
  3. forcing incremental compilation to be disabled, by setting CARGO_INCREMENTAL=0 in your environment or build.incremental to false in the config.toml.

We recommend that users of 1.52.0 upgrade to 1.52.1, which disables incremental compilation.

We do not recommend that users of 1.52.0 downgrade to an earlier version of Rust in response to this problem. As noted above, there is at least one instance of a silent miscompilation caused by incremental compilation that was not caught until we added the fingerprint checking.

If a user is willing to deal with the incremental verification ICE's, and wishes to opt back into the 1.52.0 behavior, they may set RUSTC_FORCE_INCREMENTAL to 1 in their environment. The Rust compiler will then respect the -Cincremental option passed by Cargo, and things will work as before, though with the added verification. Note that this flag does not enable incremental if it has not already been separately enabled (whether by Cargo or otherwise).

If you are currently using a toolchain prior to 1.52.0, and wish to continue doing so, we recommend that you disable incremental compilation to avoid hitting silent miscompilations.

On all Rust builds since incremental has landed, it has been a major improvement to compile times for many users, and has only improved over time. We acknowledge that the workarounds presented here and recommendations are painful, and will be working hard to ensure the situation is as temporary as possible.

What is the Rust project going to do to fix this

Short-term plan

We have issued 1.52.1 today which:

  • Disables incremental compilation in the Rust compiler (unless asked for by a new environment variable, RUSTC_FORCE_INCREMENTAL=1).
  • Improves diagnostic output for the new verification if incremental compilation is enabled, indicating how to work around the bugs by purging incremental state or disabling incremental.

This is intended to be a mitigation that helps the majority of Rust users have an upgrade path to a safe Rust compiler which does not have the risk of miscompiling their code, but also provide the option for users willing to deal with the errors to do so.

We expect to continue to actively invest in fixing the bugs, and depending on our confidence in the fixes, may issue a 1.52.2 point release which backports those fixes to the stable channel. Users wishing to help us test can use the nightly channel, and report bugs to rust-lang/rust with any ICEs they are seeing.

We are also currently not planning to disable incremental on the beta channel, but this decision has not been firmly committed to. A number of fixes are available on 1.53 beta today, so users who wish to continue using incremental may want to switch to that. Nightly will always have the latest in fixes, of course.

Long-term plan

The long-term plan is to fix the bugs! Incremental compilation is the only realistic way for the Rust compiler to be able to provide a fast edit-compile-run cycle for all of its programmers, and so we need to address all of the issues that have been identified thus far via verify-ich. (There are 32 such issues as of this writing, though many are duplicates.)

We are actively investing in this, and a number of bugs have already been identified and fixed. Depending on the state of the fixes, future stable releases (1.53 and onwards) will likely re-enable incremental compilation.

The Rust teams will also be developing plans to ensure we have better tracking systems in place in the future for bugs, both to prevent situations like this from arising again, but also to further increase the stability of our releases by tracking bugs more accurately as they propagate across channels.

  1. Since incremental was first enabled, which was in Rust 1.24. 2