• Feature Name: exit
  • Start Date: 2015-03-24
  • RFC PR: rust-lang/rfcs#1011
  • Rust Issue: (leave this empty)


Add a function to the std::process module to exit the process immediately with a specified exit code.


Currently there is no stable method to exit a program in Rust with a nonzero exit code without panicking. The current unstable method for doing so is by using the exit_status feature with the std::env::set_exit_status function.

This function has not been stabilized as it diverges from the system APIs (there is no equivalent) and it represents an odd piece of global state for a Rust program to have. One example of odd behavior that may arise is that if a library calls env::set_exit_status, then the process is not guaranteed to exit with that status (e.g. Rust was called from C).

The purpose of this RFC is to provide at least one method on the path to stabilization which will provide a method to exit a process with an arbitrary exit code.

Detailed design

The following function will be added to the std::process module:

/// Terminates the current process with the specified exit code.
/// This function will never return and will immediately terminate the current
/// process. The exit code is passed through to the underlying OS and will be
/// available for consumption by another process.
/// Note that because this function never returns, and that it terminates the
/// process, no destructors on the current stack or any other thread's stack
/// will be run. If a clean shutdown is needed it is recommended to only call
/// this function at a known point where there are no more destructors left
/// to run.
pub fn exit(code: i32) -> !;

Implementation-wise this will correspond to the exit function on unix and the ExitProcess function on windows.

This function is also not marked unsafe, despite the risk of leaking allocated resources (e.g. destructors may not be run). It is already possible to safely create memory leaks in Rust, however, (with Rc + RefCell), so this is not considered a strong enough threshold to mark the function as unsafe.


  • This API does not solve all use cases of exiting with a nonzero exit status. It is sometimes more convenient to simply return a code from the main function instead of having to call a separate function in the standard library.


  • One alternative would be to stabilize set_exit_status as-is today. The semantics of the function would be clearly documented to prevent against surprises, but it would arguably not prevent all surprises from arising. Some reasons for not pursuing this route, however, have been outlined in the motivation.

  • The main function of binary programs could be altered to require an i32 return value. This would greatly lessen the need to stabilize this function as-is today as it would be possible to exit with a nonzero code by returning a nonzero value from main. This is a backwards-incompatible change, however.

  • The main function of binary programs could optionally be typed as fn() -> i32 instead of just fn(). This would be a backwards-compatible change, but does somewhat add complexity. It may strike some as odd to be able to define the main function with two different signatures in Rust. Additionally, it’s likely that the exit functionality proposed will be desired regardless of whether the main function can return a code or not.

Unresolved questions

  • To what degree should the documentation imply that rt::at_exit handlers are run? Implementation-wise their execution is guaranteed, but we may not wish for this to always be so.