Crate mach_ports

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Mach ports are a powerful IPC mechanism used for most of the low-level communications between processes and kernel on Darwin. I/O Kit, largely the only way to communicate with kernel drivers on these platforms, and XPC, the most widespread userspace IPC mechanism, are both built using the Mach ports. Exposing low-level APIs on these systems in a safe way requires abstractions mach_ports_rs library aims to provide.

Mach port name wrappers

Mach ports are represented by handles called “names” in userspace. Unlike file descriptors, these refer to one or multiple “rights” on a port:

  • MACH_PORT_RIGHT_SEND: Allows to send Mach messages to the Mach port. Multiple send right references may be held at the same time allowing for multiple senders to exist.
  • MACH_PORT_RIGHT_RECEIVE: Allows to receive Mach messages from the port and to create send and send-once rights. Only one receive right reference may be held which limits the number of receivers to one.
  • MACH_PORT_RIGHT_SEND_ONCE: Allows to send a single Mach message to the port. After the message is sent, the right is destroyed. Multiple send rights may exist at the same time, however each right may only have one reference.
  • MACH_PORT_RIGHT_PORT_SET: Allows to receive messages from multiple ports in one call. Currently mach_ports_rs does not support port sets.
  • MACH_PORT_RIGHT_DEAD_NAME: Rights may be converted to dead names under certain conditions (e.g. when a receive right is destroyed, send rights become dead name rights). These may also be created manually.

While send and receive rights, for example, are referenced by the same name inside the same process (IPC space) the reference counts for the rights are managed separately. mach_ports_rs makes this distinction on the type level by providing 3 wrappers for Mach port names (there is no need to represent dead names separately):

  • SendRight wraps a name that holds a reference on a send right. These may be cloned by incrementing the send right’s reference count and decrement the latter when dropped.
  • RecvRight wraps a name that holds a reference on a receive right. These may not be cloned and destroy the receive right when dropped by decrementing its only reference.
  • SendOnceRight wraps a name that holds a reference on a send once right. These may not be cloned and destroy the send once right when dropped by decrementing its only reference.

Sending/Receiving Mach messages

Mach message format is quite non-trivial. All Mach messages start with a fixed-size header followed by optional descriptors, inline data and a trailer that is only present in received messages.

Complex Mach message format diagram

mach_ports_rs provides data structures that can be used to build and parse such messages. See docs for the msg module for more info.


Licensed under either of

  • Apache License, Version 2.0 (LICENSE-APACHE or
  • MIT license (LICENSE-MIT or

at your option.


Unless you explicitly state otherwise, any contribution intentionally submitted for inclusion in the work by you, as defined in the Apache-2.0 license, shall be dual licensed as above, without any additional terms or conditions.


  • Contains data structures and functions that may be used to build and send/receive Mach messages.
  • Provides wrappers for Mach port right names.
  • Contains traits for Mach port name wrappers.


  • Creates an OolVec from a list of elements and optionally a capacity value.