Profile-guided optimization

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Profile-guided optimization (PGO) (sometimes pronounced as pogo,[1] also known as profile-directed feedback (PDF[2]) is a compiler optimization technique in computer programming that uses profiling to improve program runtime performance.


Optimization techniques based on analysis of the source code alone are based on general ideas as to possible improvements, often applied without much worry over whether or not the code section was going to be executed frequently though also recognising that code within looping statements is worth extra attention.

The first high-level compiler, introduced as the Fortran Automatic Coding System in 1957, broke the code into blocks and devised a table of the frequency each block is executed via a simulated execution of the code in a Monte Carlo fashion in which the outcome of conditional transfers (as via IF-type statements) is determined by a random number generator suitably weighted by whatever FREQUENCY statements were provided by the programmer. [3]

Rather than programmer-supplied frequency information, profile-guided optimisation uses the results of profiling test runs of the instrumented program to optimize the final generated code.[4][5] The compiler is used to access data from a sample run of the program across a representative input set. The results indicate which areas of the program are executed more frequently, and which areas are executed less frequently. All optimizations benefit from profile-guided feedback because they are less reliant on heuristics when making compilation decisions. The caveat, however, is that the sample of data fed to the program during the profiling stage must be statistically representative of the typical usage scenarios; otherwise, profile-guided feedback has the potential to harm the overall performance of the final build instead of improving it.


There is support for building Firefox using PGO.[6] Even though PGO is effective, it has not been widely adopted by software projects, due to its tedious dual-compilation model.[7] It is also possible to perform PGO without instrumentation by collecting a profile using hardware performance counters.[7] This sampling-based approach has a much lower overhead and does not require a special compilation.


Examples of compilers that implement PGO are:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Microsoft Visual C++ Team Blog". 
  2. ^ "Profile-directed feedback (PDF)". Retrieved 2013-11-23. 
  3. ^ J. W. Backus, R. J. Beeber, et al., The Fortran Automatic Coding System, Proceedings of the Western Joint Computer Conference, February 1957, p. 195
  4. ^ a b Optimization "Intel Fortran Compiler 10.1, Professional and Standard Editions, for Mac OS X" Check |url= value (help). 
  5. ^ "Profile-Guided Optimization (PGO) Quick Reference". 
  6. ^ Building with Profile-Guided Optimization,, Aug 13, 2013
  7. ^ a b Dehao Chen (2010), "Taming hardware event samples for fdo compilation", Proceedings of the 8th annual IEEE/ACM international symposium on Code generation and optimization, pp. 42–52.