RISC-V: A Baremetal Introduction using C++. Development Environment


To setup a new project in Platform IO just select the board, framework, and path for the files. For this exercise, the choices are HiFive1 Rev B, Freedom E SDK, and a custom path. Customization can be done via the platformio.ini file. We need to do this to configure our C++ version and baremetal environment.

  • -nostartfiles is used as this example includes a custom startup routine,
  • -std=c++17 for all the needed modern C++ features, and
  • -fno-threadsafe-statics to prevent threadsafe code from being emitted (we have no threads and these ensure static declarations are initialized only once).
build_flags = 

Adding a Post Compile Action

For this exercise, we’ll want to check exactly how the compiler is transforming our C++ code. Disassembling the output will show us that.

extra_scripts = post_build.py
targets = disasm
def after_build(source, target, env): 
""" Run objdump on the target elf file and save the
output in the top dir.
cmd=" ".join([
objdump, "-SC","--file-start-context", "-w",
src_elf,">","${PROGNAME}.disasm"]) #
title="Disasm 2",
description="Generate a disassembly file on demand",

Other C++ Development Environments

PlaformIO as it’s a great way to get started with no messing around, but let’s explore a few other options that are available.

  • SiFive, like most processor vendors, has a GCC and Eclipse-based IDE, the Freedom Studio.
  • For a vendor-independent path GNU MCU Eclipse supports RISC-V compilation and debugging very well. I have personally used this to target proprietary RISC-V cores and simulators with success.

Other RISC-V Devices

These posts target SiFive’s HiFive1 Rev B as it’s easily available and easy to use. However, the point of programming RISC-V at this low level is to make use of the open architecture to build bigger custom systems. As I’ve been on the firmware side this list is not complete, but just a starting point:

  • Professionally my experience has been with IQonIC Works RISC-V IP. They provide a small RV32EC core targeted at deeply embedded applications, where stripped-down bare-metal programming is essential.
  • Many open-source options.



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Phil Mulholland

Phil Mulholland

Experienced in Distributed Systems, Event-Driven Systems, Firmware for SoC/MCU, Systems Simulation, Network Monitoring and Analysis, Automated Testing and RTL.