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What is sizeof(&X) expression equal to, X being defined as "char *X[n];"?

, 9 Apr 2012
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Consider the following sample.

char *(X[64]);
cout << sizeof(&X) << endl;

The question is: what value will be printed? The right answer is "the pointer's size". In particular, it may be number 4 in a Win32 program or 8 in a Win64 program.

The answer above seems obvious, yet there are two subtleties which often cause confusion. Let's examine another sample:

char *(X[64]);
memset(&X, 0, sizeof(&X));

This code is incorrect: we empty only a part of the X array. There are two reasons for such errors.

Reason one

The VS 2005 compiler has an error that causes "sizeof(&X)" to return the array's size. As a result, this code, being built in VS 2005, will correctly empty the whole array. Accordingly, some programmers get misled and consider this code correct. The compiler's error disappears after installing SP1.

By the way, here you are an interesting test on the subject I encountered in the code of Google C++ Mocking Framework:

class TestForSP1 {
private: // GCC complains if x_ is used by sizeof before defining it.
  static char x_[100];
  // VS 2005 RTM incorrectly reports sizeof(&x) as 100, and that value
  // is used to trigger 'invalid negative array size' error. If you
  // see this error, upgrade to VS 2005 SP1 since Google Mock will not
  // compile in VS 2005 RTM.
  static char 
      sizeof(&x_) != 100 ? 1 : -1];

Reason two

The first function's argument is "&X". Actually taking of the address is not necessary here. We are handling the array all the same. That is, the following two records have the same correct result:

memset(&X, 0, sizeof(X));
memset(X, 0, sizeof(X));

This also confuses programmers and they think that sizeof(&X) and sizeof(X) will have the same result too. But it is a mistake.


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

About the Author

Karpov Andrey
Architect Program Verification Systems, Co Ltd
Russian Federation Russian Federation

Andrey Karpov is technical manager of the OOO "Program Verification Systems" (Co Ltd) company developing the PVS-Studio tool which is a package of static code analyzers integrating into the Visual Studio development environment.

PVS-Studio is a static analyzer that detects errors in source code of C/C++ applications. There are 3 sets of rules included into PVS-Studio:

  1. Diagnosis of 64-bit errors (Viva64)
  2. Diagnosis of parallel errors (VivaMP)
  3. General-purpose diagnosis

Awards: MVP, Intel Black Belt

Andrey Karpov is also the author of many articles on the topic of 64-bit and parallel software development. To learn more about the PVS-Studio tool and sources concerning 64-bit and parallel software development, please visit the site.

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E-mail: karpov@viva64(dot)com

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberAescleal17-Apr-12 13:25 
Questionchar *(X[64]); Pinmemberperilbrain10-Apr-12 0:31 
char *(X[64]);
Implies 64 pointer array.How in VS 2005 they were successfull to delete the data with mere
memset(&X, 0, sizeof(&X));
I am really amazed.Confused | :confused:

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