Setting up SDL2 in Windows (Visual Studio)

How can I troubleshoot unresolved external symbol linker errors?

I tried to set up SDL following the lesson, but I'm getting 'unresolved external symbol' errors when I try to compile. How can I troubleshoot this?

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"Unresolved external symbol" errors occur during the linking stage, when the linker can't find a definition for a symbol (function, variable, etc.) that your code references.

In the context of setting up SDL, this usually means that the linker can't find the SDL functions that your code is trying to use. There are a few common causes:

  1. SDL libraries are not linked: Make sure you've added the SDL .lib files to your project's "Additional Dependencies" setting, as shown in the lesson. For SDL2, you should have at least SDL2.lib and SDL2main.lib.
  2. SDL library directory is not correct: Check that the "Library Directories" setting in your project points to the directory where the SDL .lib files are located. It should be something like C:\SDL2\lib\x64.
  3. Using the wrong version of SDL: Make sure you're using the SDL2 libraries, not the older SDL1 versions. The SDL1 and SDL2 function names are similar, so it's an easy mistake to make.
  4. 32-bit vs 64-bit mismatch: If you're building a 64-bit application, make sure you're using the 64-bit versions of the SDL libraries (from the x64 directory). Similarly, use the 32-bit libraries for a 32-bit application.
  5. Incorrect #include statements: Make sure you're including the correct SDL headers in your code, and that the header names match the ones in the SDL include directory. For example:
// correct
#include <SDL.h>

// incorrect, unless you've set up your
// include paths this way
#include <SDL2/SDL.h>

If you're still getting unresolved external symbol errors after checking these points, try looking at the specific symbol names in the error messages. They will usually give a clue about what's missing. For example:

error LNK2019: unresolved external symbol _SDL_CreateWindow referenced in function _main

This error suggests that the linker can't find the SDL_CreateWindow function, which is part of the core SDL2 library. In this case, the likely cause is that SDL2.lib is not being linked correctly.

You can also try cleaning your project (Build > Clean Solution in Visual Studio) and then rebuilding. Sometimes leftover object files or cached settings can cause odd linker errors.

If you're still stuck, try creating a minimal example that reproduces the error - just a simple main function that calls one or two SDL functions. This can help isolate the problem.

And as a last resort, don't be afraid to uninstall and reinstall the SDL libraries, following the lesson steps carefully. Sometimes a fresh setup can resolve mysterious issues.

Remember, linker errors are often caused by project configuration issues, so double-check all your project settings against the lesson instructions. With a bit of methodical troubleshooting, you should be able to resolve the errors and get your SDL project up and running.

Answers to questions are automatically generated and may not have been reviewed.

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