Find memory leaks caused by smart pointers


Does anybody know a "technique" to discover memory leaks caused by smart pointers? I am currently working on a large project written in C++ that heavily uses smart pointers with reference counting. Obviously we have some memory leaks caused by smart pointers, that are still referenced somewhere in the code, so that their memory does not get free'd. It's very hard to find the line of code with the "needless" reference, that causes the corresponding object not to be free'd (although it's not of use any longer).

I found some advice in the web, that proposed to collect call stacks of the increment/decrement operations of the reference counter. This gives me a good hint, which piece of code has caused the reference counter to get increased or decreased.

But what I need is some kind of algorithm that groups the corresponding "increase/decrease call stacks" together. After removing these pairs of call stacks, I hopefully have (at least) one "increase call stack" left over, that shows me the piece of code with the "needless" reference, that caused the corresponding object not to be freed. Now it will be no big deal to fix the leak!

But has anybody an idea for an "algorithm" that does the grouping?

Development takes place under Windows XP.

(I hope someone understood, what I tried to explain ...)

EDIt: I am talking about leaks caused by circular references.


Since you said that you're using Windows, you may be able to take advantage of Microsoft's user-mode dump heap utility, UMDH, which comes with the Debugging Tools for Windows. UMDH makes snapshots of your application's memory usage, recording the stack used for each allocation, and lets you compare multiple snapshots to see which calls to the allocator "leaked" memory. It also translates the stack traces to symbols for you using dbghelp.dll.

There's also another Microsoft tool called "LeakDiag" that supports more memory allocators than UMDH, but it's a bit more difficult to find and doesn't seem to be actively maintained. The latest version is at least five years old, if I recall correctly.

By : bk1e

First step could be to know what class is leaking. Once you know it, you can find who is increasing the reference: 1. put a breakpoint on the constructor of class that is wrapped by shared_ptr. 2. step in with debugger inside shared_ptr when its increasing the reference count: look at variable pn->pi_->use_count_ Take the address of that variable by evaluating expression (something like this: &this->pn->pi_.use_count_), you will get an address 3. In visual studio debugger, go to Debug->New Breakpoint->New Data Breakpoint... Enter the address of the variable 4. Run the program. Your program will stop every time when some point in the code is increasing and decreasing the reference counter. Then you need to check if those are matching.

By : mariosoft

What I do is wrap the smart pointer with a class that takes FUNCTION and LINE parameters. Increment a count for that function and line every time the constructor is called, and decrement the count every time the destructor is called. then, write a function that dumps the function/line/count information. That tells you where all of your references were created

By : Joe

This video can help you solving your question :)
By: admin