Optimization in GCC
In the second optimization level, we saw that a number of alignment optimizations were introduced that had the effect of increasing performance but also increasing the size of the resulting image. Three additional alignment optimizations specific to this architecture are available. The -malign-int option allows types to be aligned on 32-bit boundaries. If you're running on a 16-bit aligned target, -mno-align-int can be used. The -malign-double controls whether doubles, long doubles and long-longs are aligned on two-word boundaries (disabled with -mno-align-double). Aligning doubles provides better performance on Pentium architectures at the expense of additional memory.
Stacks also can be aligned by using the option -mpreferred-stack-boundary. The developer specifies a power of two for alignment. For example, if the developer specified -mpreferred-stack-boundary=4, the stack would be aligned on a 16-byte boundary (the default). On the Pentium and Pentium Pro targets, stack doubles should be aligned on 8-byte boundaries, but the Pentium III performs better with 16-byte alignment.
For applications that utilize standard functions, such as memset, memcpy or strlen, the -minline-all-stringops option can increase performance by inlining string operations. This has the side effect of increasing the size of the image.
Loop unrolling occurs in the process of minimizing the number of loops by doing more work per iteration. This process increases the size of the image, but it also can increase its performance. This option can be enabled using the -funroll-loops option. For cases in which it's difficult to understand the number of loop iterations, a prerequisite for -funroll-loops, all loops can be unrolled using the -funroll-all-loops optimization.
A useful option that has the disadvantage of making an image difficult to debug is -momit-leaf-frame-pointer. This option keeps the frame pointer out of a register, which means less setup and restore of this value. In addition, it makes the register available for the code to use. The optimization -fomit-frame-pointer also can be useful.
When operating at level -O3 or having -finline-functions specified, the size limit of the functions that may be inlined can be specified through a special parameter interface. The following command illustrates capping the size of the functions to inline at 40 instructions:
gcc -o sort sort.c --param max-inline-insns=40
This can be useful to control the size by which an image is increased using -finline-functions.
The default stack alignment is 4, or 16 words. For space-constrained systems, the default can be minimized to 8 bytes by using the option -mpreferred-stack-boundary=2. When constants are defined, such as strings or floating-point values, these independent values commonly occupy unique locations in memory. Rather than allow each to be unique, identical constants can be merged together to reduce the space that's required to hold them. This particular optimization can be enabled with -fmerge-constants.
Depending on the specified target architecture, certain other extensions are enabled. These also can be enabled or disabled explicitly. Options such as -mmmx and -m3dnow are enabled automatically for architectures that support them.
We've discussed many optimizations and compiler options that can increase performance or decrease size. Let's now look at some fringe optimizations that may provide a benefit to your application.
The -ffast-math optimization provides transformations likely to result in correct code but it may not adhere strictly to the IEEE standard. Use it, but test carefully.
When global common sub-expression elimination is enabled (-fgcse, level -O2 and above), two other options may be used to minimize load and store motions. Optimizations -fgcse-lm and -fgcse-sm can migrate loads and stores outside of loops to reduce the number of instructions executed within the loop, therefore increasing the performance of the loop. Both -fgcse-lm (load-motion) and -fgcse-sm (store-motion) should be specified together.
The -fforce-addr optimization forces the compiler to move addresses into registers before performing any arithmetic on them. This is similar to the -fforce-mem option, which is enabled automatically in optimization levels -O2, -Os and -O3.
A final fringe optimization is -fsched-spec-load, which works with the -fschedule-insns optimization, enabled at -O2 and above. This optimization permits the speculative motion of some load instructions to minimize execution stalls due to data dependencies.
Editorial Advisory Panel
Thank you to our 2014 Editorial Advisors!
- Jeff Parent
- Brad Baillio
- Nick Baronian
- Steve Case
- Chadalavada Kalyana
- Caleb Cullen
- Keir Davis
- Michael Eager
- Nick Faltys
- Dennis Frey
- Philip Jacob
- Jay Kruizenga
- Steve Marquez
- Dave McAllister
- Craig Oda
- Mike Roberts
- Chris Stark
- Patrick Swartz
- David Lynch
- Alicia Gibb
- Thomas Quinlan
- Carson McDonald
- Kristen Shoemaker
- Charnell Luchich
- James Walker
- Victor Gregorio
- Hari Boukis
- Brian Conner
- David Lane