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Part 5: Windows Debugging Techniques - Debugging Memory Leaks (CRT APIs)

By , 13 Feb 2014
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Introduction

This article explains debugging Memory Leaks in an easy and simpler way for Windows Applications. The scope of this article is limited to user-mode debugging. This article covers debugging technique using CRT APIs.

Note:This is series of articles divided into 5 parts
Part 1: Windows Debugging Techniques - Debugging Application Crash (Windbg)
Part 2: Windows Debugging Techniques - Debugging Application Crash (DebugDiag, AppVerifier)
Part 3: Windows Debugging Techniques - Debugging Application Crash (Self Dump Generation)
Part 4: Windows Debugging Techniques - Debugging Memory Leaks (Perfmon)
Part 5: Windows Debugging Techniques - Debugging Memory Leaks (CRT APIs)

Background

As observed in Part 4, it can be difficult to trace the issue with just the help of perfmon tool. It would be so easy if someone could actually point where the precise location of the leak is and we all we have to do is fix it. There are CRT APIs available which does this for us and makes life easier.

Definition

We all know when we allocate memory dynamically using new/malloc/calloc/realloc it actually goes to the heap memory. Debugging Memory Leak issues means debugging the heap memory and checking to see if there is a problem there. CRT Debug Heap provides this arrangement by providing a set of APIs which allocate more memory than actually requested to track the memory details and dump the same on application exit.

So if we allocate 10 bytes in release mode using malloc, then only 10 bytes will get allocated. But once we enable debugging using CRT APIs close to 46 bytes will get allocated. This extra 36 bytes are there for tracing the memory leaks.

Apart from this, instead of malloc, debug version i.e "_malloc_dbg" will be called. For more information on this please refer to: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/974tc9t1.aspx

Debugging Techniques

Let's go Step-by-Step in using the CRT APIs

Step 1: Add the Includes for CRT Debug API

Add the below code as part of the application after all other includes are completed.

#define _CRTDBG_MAP_ALLOC
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <crtdbg.h>

Macro _CRTDBG_MAP_ALLOC informs the compiler to map the heap functions to their debug version i.e. malloc should get mapped to _malloc_dbg

Step 2: Map new operator to its debug version

By default, new does not get mapped to its debug version, we need to forcefully do it. To do this add the below code to the application. By default, malloc/calloc/realloc gets mapped to their debug version. New needs to be done explicitly.

This step can be avoided if you do not have the usage of the new operator in your code.

#ifdef _DEBUG   
#ifndef DBG_NEW      
#define DBG_NEW new ( _NORMAL_BLOCK , __FILE__ , __LINE__ )     
#define new DBG_NEW   
#endif
#endif

Step 3: Set the Debug Flag and Set the report mode

Debug flags needs to be set, which defines what we want to debug. Report Mode needs to be set to define if the output needs to be redirected to the debug window like DebugView or needs to be sent to a file.

_CrtSetDbgFlag ( _CRTDBG_ALLOC_MEM_DF | _CRTDBG_LEAK_CHECK_DF );
_CrtSetReportMode(_CRT_WARN, _CRTDBG_MODE_DEBUG);

Let's understand the above code.

  • _CRTDBG_ALLOC_MEM_DF turns on debug allocations
  • _CRTDBG_LEAK_CHECK_DF will cause memory leak checking to be performed on application exit.
  • _CRTDBG_MODE_DEBUG will cause the output to be redirected to a debug window like DebugView or Output Window in Visual Studio.

There are a lot more options available for debugging. Please refer to: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/974tc9t1.aspx

After the above steps the code mentioned in part 4 would become like this.

#include <iostream>
#include <Windows.h>
#include <tchar.h>
#include <string>
#define _CRTDBG_MAP_ALLOC
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <crtdbg.h>

#ifdef _DEBUG   
#ifndef DBG_NEW      
#define DBG_NEW new ( _NORMAL_BLOCK , __FILE__ , __LINE__ )     
#define new DBG_NEW   
#endif
#endif  // _DEBUG

using namespace std;

bool GetComputerName(wstring& wstrCompName);
bool fileread(const wstring& filepath);
bool GetUserName(wstring& wstrUserName);

int main()
{
	_CrtSetDbgFlag ( _CRTDBG_ALLOC_MEM_DF | _CRTDBG_LEAK_CHECK_DF );
	_CrtSetReportMode(_CRT_WARN, _CRTDBG_MODE_DEBUG);

	int nChoice = 0;
	wstring wstrCompName;
	wstring wstrUserName;
	char ccontinue = '\0'; 

	do
	{
		wcout<<L"Enter your choice"<<endl;
		wcout<<L"1.Read Computer name"<<endl;
		wcout<<L"2.Read User Name"<<endl;
		cin>>nChoice;

		switch(nChoice)
		{
		case 1:
			GetComputerName(wstrCompName);	
			wcout<<L"Computer name read is"<<wstrCompName.c_str()<<endl;
			break;
		case 2:
			GetUserName(wstrUserName);
			wcout<<L"user name read is"<<wstrUserName.c_str()<<endl;
			break;
		default:
			wcout<<L"Invalid option";
		}
		wcout<<"Do you want to continue Y or N";
		cin>>ccontinue;
	}while(ccontinue == 'y' || ccontinue == 'Y');
	return 0;
}

bool GetComputerName(wstring& wstrCompName)
{
	wchar_t* pwszCompName = NULL;
	DWORD dwSize = 0;
	bool bRet = false;

	if (!GetComputerNameEx(ComputerNameDnsHostname, pwszCompName, &dwSize))
	{
		if(GetLastError() != ERROR_MORE_DATA)
		{
			wcout<<L"GetComputerNameEx Failed with Error Code"<<GetLastError();
			return false;
		}
		pwszCompName = new wchar_t[dwSize + 1];
		if(pwszCompName == NULL)
		{
			wcout<<L"unable to allocate memory"<<endl;
			return false;
		}
		memset(pwszCompName, L'\0', dwSize + 1);
		if (!GetComputerNameEx(ComputerNameDnsHostname, pwszCompName, &dwSize))
		{	
			wcout<<L"GetComputerNameEx Failed with Error Code"<<GetLastError();
			return false;
		}
	}
	char* test = new char[1024*1024];
	wstrCompName.assign(pwszCompName);
	return true;			
}


bool GetUserName(wstring& wstrUserName)
{
	wchar_t* pwszUserName = NULL;
	DWORD dwSize = 0;

	if(!GetUserName(pwszUserName, &dwSize))
	{
		if(GetLastError() != ERROR_INSUFFICIENT_BUFFER)		
		{
			wcout<<"GetUserName returned with Error"<<GetLastError();
			return false;
		}
		pwszUserName = new wchar_t[dwSize + 1]();
		if(pwszUserName == NULL)
		{
			return false;
		}
		if(!GetUserName(pwszUserName, &dwSize))
		{
			if(pwszUserName)
			{
				delete [] pwszUserName;
				pwszUserName = NULL;
			}
			wcout<<"GetUserName returned with Error"<<GetLastError();
			return false;
		}
	}
	wstrUserName.assign(pwszUserName);
	if(pwszUserName)
	{
		delete [] pwszUserName;
		pwszUserName = NULL;
	}
	return true;
}

Step 4: Rebuild the Project in the Debug Mode

One drawback of this approach is it requires code to be rebuilt in debug mode without which it cannot report memory leaks. So rebuild the source in the Debug Mode.

Step 5: Launch the DebugView, Run the use case and see the output

Launch the DebugView. If not available, download it from: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-in/sysinternals/bb896647.aspx

In the current case, build the above mentioned code in Debug Mode, Run the Application, select option 1, and then select y. Repeat this three to four times, and press n and exit the application. Observe the debugView output. It will look something like this:

With this now we get exactly which file and which line of code is causing the memory and how much leak. When it says source.cpp line no 73, it is actually pwszCompName = new wchar_t[dwSize + 1];. Similarly, line no 86 points to char* test = new char[1024*1024];. Now it is very clear where the problem is and we can fix the issue easily.

Summary

The above mentioned technique is one of the easiest and most effective ways to debug the memory leak. There are lot more different options in CRT Debug APIs, which should be used to understand other ways to debug. This approach is limited to heap memory leaks. This does not cover handle leaks or growth in the number of threads. For this we still have to rely on perfmon and trace the code based on use case and fix them.

References

History

  • 2014-02-10: Article upload

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

About the Author

shailesh91082
Software Developer (Senior)
India India
I have been doing software development since 8yrs, i am crazy about coding,designing,architecting systems
i love programming in C/C++ thats my hot favourite!!!
In my free time i like to travel a lot, see new places, meet new people, explore the world Smile | :)

Comments and Discussions

 
QuestionDoesn't compile when I tried this PinmemberRon Anders13-Feb-14 17:36 
AnswerRe: Doesn't compile when I tried this Pinmembershailesh9108213-Feb-14 17:45 
AnswerRe: Doesn't compile when I tried this [modified] PinmemberMember 3186843-Mar-14 10:23 
GeneralRe: Doesn't compile when I tried this Pinmembershailesh910823-Mar-14 17:59 

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