[c++] undefined reference to boost::system::system_category() when compiling

I'm trying to compile a program on Ubuntu 11.10 that uses the Boost libraries. I have the 1.46-dev Boost libraries from the Ubuntu Repository installed, but I get an error when compiling the program.

undefined reference to boost::system::system_category()

What is it that I do wrong?

This question is related to c++ boost

The answer is

...and in case you wanted to link your main statically, in your Jamfile add the following to requirements:


and perhaps also:


The above error is a linker error... the linker a program that takes one or more objects generated by a compiler and combines them into a single executable program.

You must add -lboost_system to you linker flags which indicates to the linker that it must look for symbols like boost::system::system_category() in the library libboost_system.so.

If you have main.cpp, either:

g++ main.cpp -o main -lboost_system


g++ -c -o main.o main.cpp
g++ main.o -lboost_system

in my case, adding -lboost_system was not enough, it still could not find it in my custom build environment. I had to use the advice at Get rid of "gcc - /usr/bin/ld: warning lib not found" and change my ./configure command to:

./configure CXXFLAGS="-I$HOME/include" LDFLAGS="-L$HOME/lib -Wl,-rpath-link,$HOME/lib" --with-boost-libdir=$HOME/lib --prefix=$HOME

for more details see Boost 1.51 : "error: could not link against boost_thread !"

When using CMAKE and find_package, make sure it is :

find_package(Boost COMPONENTS system ...)

and not

find_package(boost COMPONENTS system ...)

Some people may have lost hours for that ...

When I had this, problem, the cause was the ordering of the libraries. To fix it, I put libboost_system last:

g++ mingw/timer1.o -o mingw/timer1.exe  -L/usr/local/boost_1_61_0/stage/lib \
    -lboost_timer-mgw53-mt-1_61 \
    -lboost_chrono-mgw53-mt-1_61 \

This was on mingw with gcc 5.3 and boost 1.61.0 with a simple timer example.

Linking with a library that defines the missing symbol (-lboost_system) is the obvious solution, but in the particular case of Boost.System, a misfeature in the original design makes it use boost::system::generic_category() and boost::system::system_category() needlessly. Compiling with the flag -DBOOST_SYSTEM_NO_DEPRECATED disables that code and lets a number of programs compile without requiring -lboost_system (that link is of course still needed if you explicitly use some of the library's features).

Starting from Boost 1.66 and this commit, this behavior is now the default, so hopefully fewer and fewer users should need this answer.

As noticed by @AndrewMarshall, an alternative is to define BOOST_ERROR_CODE_HEADER_ONLY which enables a header-only version of the code. This was discouraged by Boost as it can break some functionality. However, since 1.69, header-only seems to have become the default, supposedly making this question obsolete.

I got the same Problem:

g++ -mconsole -Wl,--export-all-symbols -LC:/Programme/CPP-Entwicklung/MinGW-4.5.2/lib  -LD:/bfs_ENTW_deb/lib   -static-libgcc -static-libstdc++ -LC:/Programme/CPP-Entwicklung/boost_1_47_0/stage/lib   \
 D:/bfs_ENTW_deb/obj/test/main_filesystem.obj \
 -o D:/bfs_ENTW_deb/bin/filesystem.exe -lboost_system-mgw45-mt-1_47 -lboost_filesystem-mgw45-mt-1_47

D:/bfs_ENTW_deb/obj/test/main_filesystem.obj:main_filesystem.cpp:(.text+0x54): undefined reference to `boost::system::generic_category()

Solution was to use the debug-version of the system-lib:

g++ -mconsole -Wl,--export-all-symbols -LC:/Programme/CPP-Entwicklung/MinGW-4.5.2/lib  -LD:/bfs_ENTW_deb/lib   -static-libgcc -static-libstdc++ -LC:/Programme/CPP-Entwicklung/boost_1_47_0/stage/lib   \
 D:/bfs_ENTW_deb/obj/test/main_filesystem.obj \
 -o D:/bfs_ENTW_deb/bin/filesystem.exe -lboost_system-mgw45-mt-d-1_47 -lboost_filesystem-mgw45-mt-1_47

But why?

Another workaround for those who don't need the entire shebang: use the switch


If you use CMake, it's add_definitions(-DBOOST_ERROR_CODE_HEADER_ONLY).