created_at2021-06-29 11:11:31.441472
updated_at2021-06-29 11:11:31.441472
description(Mostly) safe manually-freed shared pointers in Rust



AliasPtr – (mostly) safe shared pointers in Rust

The alias-ptr crate supplies the AliasPtr type, which allows safely creating multiple pointers to the same heap-allocated memory, and (unsafely) freeing the memory without reference counting overhead.

The AliasPtr type is a pointer whose API is modeled after Rc or Arc (providing shared Deref access to its target). Unlike them, AliasPtr expects the user to delete the target manually (an unsafe operation). This is designed to work like C++'s raw pointers, which allow aliased access to underlying data, as well as manually freeing/deleting memory.

This is not designed to replace usage of Rust's safe abstractions like Box, but to serve as a fallback where multiple ownership is necessary (and cannot be easily worked around) but the overhead of Rc or Arc is undesired. The intended use is to use AliasPtr within your data structures as if it were a Rc, carefully audit your unsafe Drop logic to ensure you never use-after-free, and expose a safe API to users.

For example, AliasPtr can be used to build a sound alternative to owning_ref::BoxRef's usage of a Box aliased with a *const (which is unsound under Stacked Borrows, fails Miri, and may miscompile once rustc enables noalias for mutable pointers). However, since BoxRef is merely a type alias of owning_ref::OwningRef, which is generic over the owning type (the reference is always a *const), changing BoxRef<T> to use an AliasPtr<T> rather than Box<T> breaks library users which expect BoxRef<T> to be the same type as OwningRef<Box<T>, T>.

Interestingly, owning-ref's VecRef type is not unsound because Vec is currently guaranteed to not invalidate references to its elements when moved (Vec will not use noalias). See "Aliasing rules for Vec<T> and other standard containers".


alias-ptr is planned to be published at

Docs will be located at


use alias_ptr::AliasPtr;
use std::cell::Cell;

struct AliasedPair(AliasPtr<Cell<i32>>, AliasPtr<Cell<i32>>);

impl AliasedPair {
    fn new(x: i32) -> AliasedPair {
        let x = AliasPtr::new(Cell::new(x));
        AliasedPair(x.copy(), x)

impl Drop for AliasedPair {
    fn drop(&mut self) {
        unsafe {

fn test_aliased_pair() {
    let pair = AliasedPair::new(1);
    assert_eq!(pair.1.get(), 42);


AliasPtr holds raw pointers rather than references (since Miri prohibits passing references into Box::from_raw()), and lends out shared references whenever dereferenced.


AliasPtr is designed to be sound under Stacked Borrows, pass Miri with Stacked Borrows enabled, and not miscompile once rustc enables mutable noalias.

To verify it passes Miri, run:

cargo +nightly miri test --target-dir miri

Note that this clobbers the "miri" subdirectory.

Commit count: 21

cargo fmt