C++ – When to use reinterpret_cast


I am little confused with the applicability of reinterpret_cast vs static_cast. From what I have read the general rules are to use static cast when the types can be interpreted at compile time hence the word static. This is the cast the C++ compiler uses internally for implicit casts also.

reinterpret_casts are applicable in two scenarios:

  • convert integer types to pointer types and vice versa
  • convert one pointer type to another. The general idea I get is this is unportable and should be avoided.

Where I am a little confused is one usage which I need, I am calling C++ from C and the C code needs to hold on to the C++ object so basically it holds a void*. What cast should be used to convert between the void * and the Class type?

I have seen usage of both static_cast and reinterpret_cast? Though from what I have been reading it appears static is better as the cast can happen at compile time? Though it says to use reinterpret_cast to convert from one pointer type to another?

Best Answer

The C++ standard guarantees the following:

static_casting a pointer to and from void* preserves the address. That is, in the following, a, b and c all point to the same address:

int* a = new int();
void* b = static_cast<void*>(a);
int* c = static_cast<int*>(b);

reinterpret_cast only guarantees that if you cast a pointer to a different type, and then reinterpret_cast it back to the original type, you get the original value. So in the following:

int* a = new int();
void* b = reinterpret_cast<void*>(a);
int* c = reinterpret_cast<int*>(b);

a and c contain the same value, but the value of b is unspecified. (in practice it will typically contain the same address as a and c, but that's not specified in the standard, and it may not be true on machines with more complex memory systems.)

For casting to and from void*, static_cast should be preferred.