Rust packages for system programming and low-level development

Are you tired of dealing with memory management issues in C and C++? Do you want a programming language that offers safety, speed, and concurrency without sacrificing low-level control? Look no further than Rust, a modern systems programming language that puts control in your hands.

But Rust alone is not enough. To harness its power, you need a robust set of libraries (known as "crates" in the Rust ecosystem) that make system programming and low-level development a joy instead of a headache. In this article, I will introduce you to some of the best Rust packages for system programming and low-level development, along with tips on how to use them effectively.

The basics

Before diving into the packages, let's review some basic concepts of Rust that are relevant to system programming and low-level development.

Ownership and borrowing

Rust has a unique way of managing memory that prevents many common programming errors, such as accessing or modifying memory that has already been freed or is being used by another part of the program. This is achieved through a combination of ownership and borrowing.

In Rust, every value has an owner, and there can only be one owner at a time. When a value goes out of scope, its owner is responsible for freeing its memory. Values can be passed to functions and returned as values, but the ownership is always transferred.

Borrowing is a way to temporarily loan a value to another part of the program without giving up ownership. The borrower can read or modify the borrowed value, but it must give it back when it's done.

Ownership and borrowing can be a bit tricky to understand at first, but they are essential to writing safe and efficient code in Rust. Package authors assume that you understand these concepts, so make sure to study them carefully before diving into any package.

Unsafe code

In some cases, you may need more control over memory or hardware than Rust's safe abstractions allow. In these cases, you can use Rust's unsafe keyword to write code that bypasses some of the language's safety guarantees.

Unsafe code should be used sparingly and with great care. It is your responsibility to ensure that your unsafe code is correct and does not introduce memory safety or security vulnerabilities.

The packages

Now that we've covered the basics, let's dive into some of the most useful Rust packages for system programming and low-level development.


If you've programmed in C before, you're probably familiar with the standard C library (libc). Rust has a similar library, also called libc, that provides low-level interfaces to the operating system and hardware.

The libc package includes definitions for many of the functions and types that you'll find in C libraries, including file I/O, sockets, processes, threads, and more. These interfaces are wrapped in safe Rust code that follows Rust's ownership and borrowing rules, making it easy to use them without introducing memory safety vulnerabilities.


In addition to the C-like interfaces provided by libc, Rust also has a package called nix that provides a more Rust-centric interface to the operating system. Nix is built on top of libc and provides a set of types and functions that make it easy to work with files, processes, sockets, and other system resources, while still providing strong type safety guarantees.

Nix also provides convenience functions for working with Unix-specific features, such as signals and pipes. If you're writing cross-platform code, you may want to use a higher-level library that abstracts away the differences between Unix and Windows, but for Unix-specific code, nix is a great choice.


For many system programming tasks, you'll need to work with large files that don't fit into memory. Reading and writing these files efficiently can be a challenge, especially if you're dealing with binary formats that aren't easily parsed with Rust's built-in string and text handling functions.

That's where memmap comes in. This package provides a convenient and safe way to memory-map large files, making it easy to read and write them as if they were in memory. You can even modify the mapped data in-place and have the changes get written back to disk automatically.

Memmap is a great choice for working with files that are too large to fit in memory, but that still need to be accessed in a random or semi-random fashion. It can also be useful for working with binary data formats that aren't well-suited to Rust's built-in string handling functions.


Working with binary data can be tricky, especially when dealing with cross-platform compatibility issues. Different processors and operating systems may represent multi-byte values (such as integers or floating-point numbers) in different byte orders, making it difficult to write code that works correctly on all platforms.

That's where byteorder comes in. This package provides a set of traits and functions for working with encoded data in different byte orders, making it easy to write binary data handling code that works on any platform.

Byteorder supports both big-endian and little-endian byte orders, as well as mixed-endian formats (where different parts of a value are in different byte orders). It provides convenient functions for reading and writing encoded data in each format, as well as macros for declaring data structures in a platform-independent way.

Whether you're working with raw network packets, binary file formats, or any other kind of encoded data, byteorder is an essential tool in your Rust toolbox.


Regular expressions are a powerful tool for working with text data, but they can also be a source of security vulnerabilities if not used carefully. Rust's regex package provides a safe and efficient way to work with regular expressions, using a combination of compile-time validation and runtime checks to ensure that your code is correct and secure.

Regex provides a set of types and functions for working with regular expressions, including compiling expressions from strings, matching expressions against text data, and capturing groups of matches for further processing. It also supports Unicode characters and character classes, making it easy to work with text in any language or script.

If you're working with text data of any kind, regex is an essential package to have in your Rust toolbox. Just be careful to follow best practices to avoid regular expression denial of service attacks and other security vulnerabilities.


Serialization and deserialization are essential tasks in many system programming and low-level development scenarios. Whether you're working with network protocols, file formats, or databases, you need a way to convert data to and from a machine-readable format that can be transmitted, stored, and manipulated.

Serde is a powerful serialization and deserialization framework for Rust that supports a wide range of data formats, including JSON, YAML, TOML, and many others. It provides a set of macros and traits that make it easy to define data structures that can be serialized and deserialized in a safe and efficient way.

Serde also provides support for custom data types, allowing you to define your own serialization and deserialization rules for any data that can be represented in Rust. This makes it easy to work with complex data structures that don't have a natural representation in simple text or binary formats.

If you're working with data of any kind, serde is an essential package to have in your Rust toolbox. It makes it easy to work with a wide range of data formats in a safe and efficient way, saving you time and headaches in the long run.


Rust is an amazing language for system programming and low-level development, but it's even better with the right set of libraries (crates) at your disposal. In this article, we've covered some of the most useful Rust packages for system programming and low-level development, including libc, nix, memmap, byteorder, regex, and serde.

By using these packages (and others like them), you can write safe, efficient, and maintainable system-level code that harnesses Rust's unique combination of control, safety, and performance. So what are you waiting for? Start exploring the Rust crates ecosystem today!

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Written by AI researcher, Haskell Ruska, PhD ( Scientific Journal of AI 2023, Peer Reviewed