This contract tells the compiler and macro certaing properties of the code it is applied to.


  • STATIC_CONTRACT_SO_TOLERANT It means that the function can cope with Stack Overflow exception. When the function is SO_TOLERANT SO_TOLERANT disables stack guard and stack probing this function doesnt generate any global state and can just die + we cant actually check if SO will be violated?

There are couple of cases when you code cannot tollerate stack overflow:

  • your code updates global state that neesd to be cleaned up

If you want to have a function that is SO Intollerant you need to use SO Probe to propely clean up resources generated by this function. SO probe is generated by using macto SO_INTOLERANT_XXX

SO probe - is a tool to identify if there is enough space on SO to do the operation. For instance during object allocation Stack Probe is used to determine if tthere is more than enough space on the Stack.

IF SO probing is disabled all the code is considere SO Intolerant. IF there is SO in intolerant code the proces is killed IF there is so in tolertant code and GC mode is preemptive the proces is killed If there is a SO in Cooperative mode the domain is unloaded (by GC) or the process is killed if this is a default domain

There are two types of SO - hard and soft (soft is when Stack Probe is acctive)

INTOLLERANT is the default state

  • STATIC_CONTRACT_GC_NOTRIGGER - this function cannot trigger Garbage Collection if this is also coop mode

Why you need to block GC?

  • STATIC_CONTRACT_THROWS - this function can throw Exception Why would you block exception throws?


GC MODE on Entry?


More on flags and basic CLR guidelines

    _ASSERTE(keys != NULL);

VALIDATEOBJECT is a diffferent FCALL - not sure what it does but I would assume that it is just a check if args and params are Valid somehow - maybe null check etc «EXPERT ADVICE NEEDED HERE»


   // <TODO>@TODO: Eventually, consider adding support for single dimension arrays with
    // non-zero lower bounds.  VB might care.  </TODO>
    if (keys->GetRank() != 1 || keys->GetLowerBoundsPtr()[0] != 0)

All right, now we are getting to something meaty. First thing to spot here - TODO mentioning that VB non zero based array support was not added and is not supported. If this is non zero based array we just return with False

TypeHandle keysTH = keys->GetArrayElementTypeHandle();
const CorElementType keysElType = keysTH.GetVerifierCorElementType();
if (!CorTypeInfo::IsPrimitiveType_NoThrow(keysElType))
if (items != NULL) {
    TypeHandle itemsTH = items->GetArrayElementTypeHandle();
    if (keysTH != itemsTH)

Another two preconditions which may force the code to end prematurely.

  • first checkin if the sorted array contain only primitive types
  • second type of key is verified if has the same type as the items… wait what? arent’t we sorting array? Sure we are and that is why items in this scenario is null thus we dont check the other preconditions. TrySZSort not only supports arrays with only items but also by SortedList that is implementation of IDictionary - has both keys and items. Entry point for this function is here,1855

public static void Sort<TKey, TValue>(TKey[] keys, TValue[] items, int index, int length
public SortedList(IDictionary d, IComparer comparer) 
    : this(comparer, (d != null ? d.Count : 0)) {
    if (d==null)
        throw new ArgumentNullException("d", Environment.GetResourceString("ArgumentNull_Dictionary"));
    d.Keys.CopyTo(keys, 0);
    d.Values.CopyTo(values, 0);
    Array.Sort(keys, values, comparer);
    _size = d.Count;

You cannot sort SortedList but when it is created it Uses Array.Sort to generate initial sorted state. When new items are inserted Binary Serach is used to idenfity the index and place to insert new item.

// Handle special case of a 0 element range to sort.
// Consider both Sort(array, x, x) and Sort(zeroLen, 0, zeroLen.Length-1);
if (left == right || right == 0xffffffff)

left == right - cover scenario when slice of arrays is being sorted that has a length of 0. left and right have the same value in that case.

But what is 0xfffffffff? and why right is checked for it?

0xfffffffff is a represantion of -1 in Two complement system. How is 0xffffffff -> -1.

To create value in two complement:

  • take one complement value
  • add + 1 if we take 32 bits values then 1 in Binary will be -> 0x00000001 = 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000001 -1 in the one complement is the opposite = 0xFFFFFFFE -> 11111111 11111111 11111111 1111110

to make it two complement we need to add +1 so


To check if that is the correct value we do arithmetic

1 + -1 = 0

  var minus_one =  (int)0xFFFFFFFF;
  var one =  (int)0x00000001;
  Console.WriteLine($"0xFFFFFFFF is '{minus_one}'");
  Console.WriteLine($"0x00000001 is '{one}'");
  Console.WriteLine($"0xFFFFFFFF + 0x00000001 is '{minus_one + one}'");
0xFFFFFFFF is '-1'
0x00000001 is '1'
0xFFFFFFFF + 0x00000001 is '0'

Why then use 0xfffffffff instead of -1. I got help from a friend krzaq with this one. right argument is of type UINT32. It is a unsiged value for which -1 doesn’t exist. But in order to still be able to check if it is -1 you have to use 0xfffffffff. Using -1 might work it would be depend on the compiler implementation how situation like that is handled. With 0xfffffffff you can be sure that code works correclty. more-details

I also checked how will compiler behave in scenario with 0xFFFFFFFF using Compiler Explorer

unsigned int test() {
    return 0xFFFFFFFF;

Gcc 7.3
  push rbp
  mov rbp, rsp
  mov eax, -1 <---- weee
  pop rbp

clang 6.0.0
test(): # @test()
  push rbp
  mov rbp, rsp
  mov eax, 4294967295 <----- nooooo
  pop rbp
switch(keysElType) {

This switch statement is used to check which generic implementation of IntrospectiveSort will be used.

To find what does ELEMENT_TYPE_I1 there are two resources.

First ENUM to hex - source then map decimal(hex) to type

Based on that we get this nice mapping

    ELEMENT_TYPE_BOOLEAN        = 0x2, = Bool
    ELEMENT_TYPE_CHAR           = 0x3, = Char
    ELEMENT_TYPE_I1             = 0x4, = SByte
    ELEMENT_TYPE_U1             = 0x5, = Byte
    ELEMENT_TYPE_I2             = 0x6, = Short
    ELEMENT_TYPE_U2             = 0x7, = UShort
    ELEMENT_TYPE_I4             = 0x8, = Int
    ELEMENT_TYPE_U4             = 0x9, = UInt
    ELEMENT_TYPE_I8             = 0xa, = Long
    ELEMENT_TYPE_U8             = 0xb, = ULong
    ELEMENT_TYPE_R4             = 0xc, = Float
    ELEMENT_TYPE_R8             = 0xd, = Double
    ELEMENT_TYPE_I              = 0x18, = IntPtr
    ELEMENT_TYPE_U              = 0x19, = UIntPtr

IntPTR and UINTPTr is not supported.

For Float and Double there is a special case.

    case ELEMENT_TYPE_R4:
        R4 * R4Keys = (R4*) keys->GetDataPtr();
        R4 * R4Items = (R4*) (items == NULL ? NULL : items->GetDataPtr());

        // Comparison to NaN is always false, so do a linear pass 
        // and swap all NaNs to the front of the array
        left = ArrayHelpers<R4>::NaNPrepass(R4Keys, R4Items, left, right);
        if(left != right) ArrayHelpers<R4>::IntrospectiveSort(R4Keys, R4Items, left, right);

Before doing any sorting there is a Function NanPrepass

    // For sorting, move all NaN instances to front of the input array
    template <class REAL>
    static unsigned int NaNPrepass(REAL keys[], REAL items[], unsigned int left, unsigned int right) {
        for (unsigned int i = left; i <= right; i++) {
            if (_isnan(keys[i])) {
                REAL temp = keys[left];
                keys[left] = keys[i];
                keys[i] = temp;
                if (items != NULL) {
                    temp = items[left];
                    items[left] = items[i];
                    items[i] = temp;
        return left;

This function in O(n) iterates through the list and moves all the NULL values to the left changing list start position to be the first element that is not NULL. Why not treating NULL as a value < 0 and just sort it with the rest of values? There is a crucial note for that.

Comparison to NaN is always false

Prepass is required to get rid of unspecified behaviour. If comparison to NaN always yields false then 1 >= Nan = false and Nan >= 1 = false. It makes it imossible to make ‘deterministic’ comparisons.

[1, NaN] -> Sort -> [1, NaN] or [Nan, 1]

This operation is O(n). Later on IntroSort (more on it soon) algorithm is used to sort. It has oworst and average O(nlogn) so the complexity of doing NaNPrepass and Sorting is O(nlogn) + O(n). nlogn is bigger than O(n) so the overall complexity is O(nlogn) as with Big O notation the most significant component is taking over.

We have covered special scenario of Double types.

When the primitive type is simple integer, IntrospectiveSort function is called without any other logic.

   case ELEMENT_TYPE_I1:
    ArrayHelpers<I1>::IntrospectiveSort((I1*) keys->GetDataPtr(), (I1*) (items == NULL ? NULL : items->GetDataPtr()), left, right);

Is it time to get to the sorting algorithm itself - yes it is.