@JohnKoepi backend system engineer

How to call private functions (bind to hidden symbols) in GoLang

Names are as important in Go as in any other language. They even have semantic effect: the visibility of a name outside a package is determined by whether its first character is upper case.

Sometimes its necessary to overcome this limitation in order to organize your code better, or access some hidden functions in foreign packages.

These techniques are heavily used in golang source code, and this is the primary source of where it comes from. Its distinguishable lack of information there are on the internet on this topic.

From the good old days, there are 2 ways of achieving this bypassing compiler check: cannot refer to unexported name pkg.symbol:

Using these techniques I have managed to bind to internal golang runtime schedule related functions to over use goroutines threads parking and internal locking mechanisms.

Using assembly stubs

Idea is simple - provide stubs in assembly with explicit JMPs to needed symbols. Linker does not know anything about which symbols are exported and which not.

i.e. old version of src/os/signal/sig.s:

// Assembly to get into package runtime without using exported symbols.

// +build amd64 amd64p32 arm arm64 386 ppc64 ppc64le

#include "textflag.h"

#ifdef GOARCH_arm
#define JMP B
#ifdef GOARCH_ppc64
#define JMP BR
#ifdef GOARCH_ppc64le
#define JMP BR

TEXT ·signal_disable(SB),NOSPLIT,$0
    JMP runtime·signal_disable(SB)

TEXT ·signal_enable(SB),NOSPLIT,$0
    JMP runtime·signal_enable(SB)

TEXT ·signal_ignore(SB),NOSPLIT,$0
    JMP runtime·signal_ignore(SB)

TEXT ·signal_recv(SB),NOSPLIT,$0
    JMP runtime·signal_recv(SB)

and signal_unix.go binding:

// +build darwin dragonfly freebsd linux nacl netbsd openbsd solaris windows

package signal

import (

// In assembly.
func signal_disable(uint32)
func signal_enable(uint32)
func signal_ignore(uint32)
func signal_recv() uint32

Using go:linkname

In order to use this, the source file have to import _ "unsafe" package. To overcome -complete go compiler limitations one of possible solutions is to put empty assembly stub file near by the main source to disable this check.

i.e. os/signal/sig.s:

// The runtime package uses //go:linkname to push a few functions into this
// package but we still need a .s file so the Go tool does not pass -complete
// to the go tool compile so the latter does not complain about Go functions
// with no bodies.

The format of this instruction is //go:linkname localname linkname. Using this its possible to introduce new symbols for linkage (export), or bind to existing symbols (import).

Export with go:linkname

A function implementation in runtime/proc.go


//go:linkname sync_runtime_doSpin sync.runtime_doSpin
func sync_runtime_doSpin() {

says explicitly to the compiler to add another name to the code which will be runtime_doSpin in sync package. And the sync reuses it in sync/runtime.go with simple:

package sync

import "unsafe"


// runtime_doSpin does active spinning.
func runtime_doSpin()

Import with go:linkname

A good example sits in net/parse.go:

package net

import (
    _ "unsafe" // For go:linkname


// byteIndex is strings.IndexByte. It returns the index of the
// first instance of c in s, or -1 if c is not present in s.
// strings.IndexByte is implemented in  runtime/asm_$GOARCH.s
//go:linkname byteIndex strings.IndexByte
func byteIndex(s string, c byte) int

In order to use this technique:

  1. Import _ "unsafe" package.
  2. Give function definition without body, i.e. func byteIndex(s string, c byte) int
  3. Put a //go:linkname instruction to the compiler right before the function definition, i.e. //go:linkname byteIndex strings.IndexByte, where byteIndex is the local name, and strings.IndexByte is remote name.
  4. Provide .s file stub to allow compiler to bypass -complete check to allow partially defined functions.

Example with goparkunlock

package main

import (
    _ "unsafe"

// Event types in the trace, args are given in square brackets.
const (
    traceEvGoBlock        = 20 // goroutine blocks [timestamp, stack]

type mutex struct {
    // Futex-based impl treats it as uint32 key,
    // while sema-based impl as M* waitm.
    // Used to be a union, but unions break precise GC.
    key uintptr

//go:linkname lock runtime.lock
func lock(l *mutex)

//go:linkname unlock runtime.unlock
func unlock(l *mutex)

//go:linkname goparkunlock runtime.goparkunlock
func goparkunlock(lock *mutex, reason string, traceEv byte, traceskip int)

func main() {
    l := &mutex{}
    go func() {
        goparkunlock(l, "xxx", traceEvGoBlock, 1)
    for {
        pprof.Lookup("goroutine").WriteTo(os.Stdout, 1)
        time.Sleep(time.Second * 1)


available at https://github.com/sitano/gsysint.

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