Relocations can be separated into two types dependent upon when the relocation is performed. This distinction arises due to the type of reference being made to the relocated offset.
An immediate reference refers to a relocation that must be determined immediately when an object is loaded. These references are typically to data items used by the object code, pointers to functions, and even calls to functions made from position-dependent shared objects. These relocations cannot provide the runtime linker with knowledge of when the relocated item is referenced. Therefore, all immediate relocations must be carried out when an object is loaded, and before the application gains, or regains, control.
A lazy reference refers to a relocation that can be determined as an object executes. These references are typically calls to global functions made from position-independent shared objects, or calls to external functions made from a dynamic executable. During the compilation and link-editing of any dynamic module that provide these references, the associated function calls become calls to a procedure linkage table entry. These entries make up the .plt section. Each procedure linkage table entry becomes a lazy reference with an associated relocation.
As part of the first call to a procedure linkage table entry, control is passed to the runtime linker. The runtime linker looks up the required symbol and rewrites the entry information in the associated object. Future calls to this procedure linkage table entry go directly to the function. This mechanism enables relocations of this type to be deferred until the first instance of a function is called. This process is sometimes referred to as lazy binding.
The runtime linker's default mode is to perform lazy binding whenever procedure linkage table relocations are provided. This default can be overridden by setting the environment variable LD_BIND_NOW to any non-null value. This environment variable setting causes the runtime linker to perform both immediate reference and lazy reference relocations when an object is loaded. These relocations are performed before the application gains, or regains, control. For example, all relocations within the file prog together within its dependencies are processed under the following environment variable. These relocations are processed before control is transferred to the application.
$ LD_BIND_NOW=1 prog
Objects can also be accessed with dlopen(3C) with the mode defined as RTLD_NOW. Objects can also be built using the link-editor's –z now option to indicate that the object requires complete relocation processing at the time the object is loaded. This relocation requirement is also propagated to any dependencies of the marked object at runtime.
However, a dynamic executable is typically created from position dependent code, which might not indicate that a procedure linkage table entry is required. Because a dynamic executable has a fixed location, the link-editor can create a procedure linkage table entry when a reference is bound to an external function definition. This procedure linkage table entry creation occurs regardless of the original relocation records.