Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Visual Studio 2015, ICU, and error LNK2005

I'll begin by saying that I'm just going to ignore the fact that I haven't written anything in nearly nine months.


While building ICU 56.1 with VS 2015, I was greeted with thousands of errors like this (also described here by someone who came across the same problem):

error LNK2005: "public: static bool const
std::numeric_limits<unsigned short>::is_signed"
(?is_signed@?$numeric_limits@...@std@@2_NB) already defined in

This is defined in <limits>, in a statement like this:

_STCONS(bool, is_signed, false);

Looking at the pre-processor output, we can see its actual definition:

static constexpr bool is_signed = (bool)(false);

If I understood the Standard correctly, this should be OK, and there should be no duplicate symbols during linking. So, I was still missing a logical cause for this.

The usual internet search for «ICU LNK2005» didn't bring anything useful, except for the link above.

Then, as I concentrated my search on LNK2005, I came across this post. The same mysterious behaviour, but now there was a plausible explanation, in a comment by MS's Stephan T. Lavavej, in a quoted post from an MSDN blog:

We recommend against using /Za, which is best thought of as "enable extra conformance and extra compiler bugs", because it activates rarely-used and rarely-tested codepaths. I stopped testing the STL with /Za years ago, when it broke perfectly conformant code like vector<unique_ptr<T>>.  
That compiler bug was later fixed, but I haven't found the time to go re-enable that /Za test coverage. Implementing missing features and fixing bugs affecting all users has been higher priority than supporting this discouraged and rarely-used compiler option.

So, after removing /Za from all projects in ICU's allinone VS Solution (Project Properties -> Configuration Properties -> C/C++ -> Language -> Disable Language Exceptions -> No), I was able to build it with no errors, on all configurations (x86/x64, debug/release).

Apparently, it's one of those rare cases where the error is actually in the compiler, not in the code.