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What are undefined reference/unresolved external symbol errors? What are common causes and how to fix/prevent them?

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Class members:

A pure virtual destructor needs an implementation.

Declaring a destructor pure still requires you to define it (unlike a regular function):

struct X
{
    virtual ~X() = 0;
};
struct Y : X
{
    ~Y() {}
};
int main()
{
    Y y;
}
//X::~X(){} //uncomment this line for successful definition

This happens because base class destructors are called when the object is destroyed implicitly, so a definition is required.

virtual methods must either be implemented or defined as pure.

This is similar to non-virtual methods with no definition, with the added reasoning that the pure declaration generates a dummy vtable and you might get the linker error without using the function:

struct X
{
    virtual void foo();
};
struct Y : X
{
   void foo() {}
};
int main()
{
   Y y; //linker error although there was no call to X::foo
}

For this to work, declare X::foo() as pure:

struct X
{
    virtual void foo() = 0;
};

Non-virtual class members

Some members need to be defined even if not used explicitly:

struct A
{ 
    ~A();
};

The following would yield the error:

A a;      //destructor undefined

The implementation can be inline, in the class definition itself:

struct A
{ 
    ~A() {}
};

or outside:

A::~A() {}

If the implementation is outside the class definition, but in a header, the methods have to be marked as inline to prevent a multiple definition.

All used member methods need to be defined if used.

A common mistake is forgetting to qualify the name:

struct A
{
   void foo();
};

void foo() {}

int main()
{
   A a;
   a.foo();
}

The definition should be

void A::foo() {}

static data members must be defined outside the class in a single translation unit:

struct X
{
    static int x;
};
int main()
{
    int x = X::x;
}
//int X::x; //uncomment this line to define X::x

An initializer can be provided for a static const data member of integral or enumeration type within the class definition; however, odr-use of this member will still require a namespace scope definition as described above. C++11 allows initialization inside the class for all static const data members.

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