Tier: 3

RISC Zero's Zero Knowledge Virtual Machine (zkVM) implementing the RV32IM instruction set.

Target maintainers

  • Frank Laub, frank@risczero.com, https://github.com/flaub
  • Jeremy Bruestle, jeremy@risczero.com, https://github.com/jbruestle
  • Erik Kaneda, erik@risczero.com, https://github.com/SchmErik


This target is an execution environment to produce a proof of execution of a RISC-V ELF binary and any output that the developer of the binary wishes to display publicly. In order to do this, the target will execute the ELF to generate a receipt containing the output of the computation along with a cryptographic seal. This receipt can be verified to ensure the integrity of the computation and its result. This target is implemented as software only; it has no hardware implementation.

We have a cargo extension called cargo-risczero that allow users to generate project templates, install tools for improved user experience, build the binary using a docker environment and test programs.


The target only supports cross compilation and no host tools. The target supports alloc with a default allocator and has experimental support for std. The target expects the binaries to be in ELF.

The target's execution environment is single threaded, non-preemptive, and does not support any privileged instructions, nor unaligned accesses. At the time of writing the VM has 192 MB of memory and text/data, heap, and stack need to be with in the address range 0x400 - 0x0C000000. The binaries themselves expect no operating system and can be thought of as running on bare-metal. The target does not use #[target_feature(...)] or -C target-feature= values.

Calling extern "C" on the target uses the C calling convention outlined in the RISC-V specification.

Building for the zkVM

Programs for the zkVM could be built by adding it to the target list in config.toml. However, we recommend building programs in our starter template generated by the cargo-risczero utility and the risc0-build crate. This crate calls rustc with -C "link-arg=-Ttext= so that it maps the text in the appropriate location as well as generating variables that represent the ELF and a unique ID associated with the ELF. The starter template provides developers with system calls that are useful to zero knowledge computing such as writing to the public output, hashing using sha256, and multiply big integers.

Building Rust programs

Rust does not yet ship pre-compiled artifacts for this target. To compile for this target, you will either need to build Rust with the target enabled (see "Building the target" above). We do not recommend using build-std as we have run into issues building core in the past on our starter template. An alternate solution is to download the risc0 tool chain by running cargo risczero install.


Note: the target is implemented as a software emulator called the zkVM and there is no hardware implementation of the target.

The most practical way to test the target program is to use our starter template that can be generated by using the cargo risczero new command. The template generates a sample "host" and "guest" code. The guest code compiled to the target (which is RV32IM) whereas the "host" code is compiled to run on the programmer's machine running either a Linux distribution or macOS. The host program is responsible for running the guest binary on the zkVM and retrieving its public output.

The target currently does not support running the Rust test suite.

Cross-compilation toolchains and C code

Compatible C code can be built for this target on any compiler that has a RV32IM target. On clang and ld.lld linker, it can be generated using the -march=rv32im, -mabi=ilp32 with llvm features flag features=+m and llvm target riscv32-unknown-none.