Debugging and Testing Dependencies

Testing the dependency graph

There are various ways to write tests against the dependency graph. The simplest mechanisms are the #[rustc_if_this_changed] and #[rustc_then_this_would_need] annotations. These are used in compile-fail tests to test whether the expected set of paths exist in the dependency graph. As an example, see src/test/compile-fail/

The idea is that you can annotate a test like:

fn foo() { }

#[rustc_then_this_would_need(TypeckTables)] //~ ERROR OK
fn bar() { foo(); }

#[rustc_then_this_would_need(TypeckTables)] //~ ERROR no path
fn baz() { }

This will check whether there is a path in the dependency graph from Hir(foo) to TypeckTables(bar). An error is reported for each #[rustc_then_this_would_need] annotation that indicates whether a path exists. //~ ERROR annotations can then be used to test if a path is found (as demonstrated above).

Debugging the dependency graph

Dumping the graph

The compiler is also capable of dumping the dependency graph for your debugging pleasure. To do so, pass the -Z dump-dep-graph flag. The graph will be dumped to dep_graph.{txt,dot} in the current directory. You can override the filename with the RUST_DEP_GRAPH environment variable.

Frequently, though, the full dep graph is quite overwhelming and not particularly helpful. Therefore, the compiler also allows you to filter the graph. You can filter in three ways:

  1. All edges originating in a particular set of nodes (usually a single node).
  2. All edges reaching a particular set of nodes.
  3. All edges that lie between given start and end nodes.

To filter, use the RUST_DEP_GRAPH_FILTER environment variable, which should look like one of the following:

source_filter     // nodes originating from source_filter
-> target_filter  // nodes that can reach target_filter
source_filter -> target_filter // nodes in between source_filter and target_filter

source_filter and target_filter are a &-separated list of strings. A node is considered to match a filter if all of those strings appear in its label. So, for example:


would select the predecessors of all TypeckTables nodes. Usually though you want the TypeckTables node for some particular fn, so you might write:

RUST_DEP_GRAPH_FILTER='-> TypeckTables & bar'

This will select only the predecessors of TypeckTables nodes for functions with bar in their name.

Perhaps you are finding that when you change foo you need to re-type-check bar, but you don't think you should have to. In that case, you might do:

RUST_DEP_GRAPH_FILTER='Hir & foo -> TypeckTables & bar'

This will dump out all the nodes that lead from Hir(foo) to TypeckTables(bar), from which you can (hopefully) see the source of the erroneous edge.

Tracking down incorrect edges

Sometimes, after you dump the dependency graph, you will find some path that should not exist, but you will not be quite sure how it came to be. When the compiler is built with debug assertions, it can help you track that down. Simply set the RUST_FORBID_DEP_GRAPH_EDGE environment variable to a filter. Every edge created in the dep-graph will be tested against that filter – if it matches, a bug! is reported, so you can easily see the backtrace (RUST_BACKTRACE=1).

The syntax for these filters is the same as described in the previous section. However, note that this filter is applied to every edge and doesn't handle longer paths in the graph, unlike the previous section.


You find that there is a path from the Hir of foo to the type check of bar and you don't think there should be. You dump the dep-graph as described in the previous section and open dep-graph.txt to see something like:

Hir(foo) -> Collect(bar)
Collect(bar) -> TypeckTables(bar)

That first edge looks suspicious to you. So you set RUST_FORBID_DEP_GRAPH_EDGE to Hir&foo -> Collect&bar, re-run, and then observe the backtrace. Voila, bug fixed!