Memory debugger

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A memory debugger is a programming tool for finding memory leaks and buffer overflows. These are due to bugs related to the allocation and deallocation of dynamic memory. Programs written in languages that have garbage collection, such as managed code, might also need memory debuggers, e.g. for memory leaks due to "living" references in collections.


Memory debuggers work by monitoring memory access, allocations, and deallocation of memory. Many memory debuggers require applications to be recompiled with special dynamic memory allocation libraries, whose APIs are mostly compatible with conventional dynamic memory allocation libraries, or else use dynamic linking. Electric Fence is such a debugger which debugs memory allocation with malloc. Some memory debuggers (e.g. Valgrind) work by running the executable in a virtual machine-like environment, monitoring memory access, allocation and deallocation so that no recompilation with special memory allocation libraries is required.

As abnormally high memory utilization can be a contributing factor in software aging, memory debuggers can help programmers to avoid software anomalies that would exhaust the computer system memory, thus ensuring high reliability of the software even for long runtimes.

List of memory debugging tools[edit]

This is a list of tools useful for memory debugging. A profiler can be used in conjunction with a memory debugger.

Name OS License Languages Technique
AddressSanitizer Linux, Mac OS Free/open source (LLVM) C, C++. Compile-time instrumentation (available in Clang and GCC) and specialized library
Allinea DDT Linux, Blue Gene Proprietary commercial C, C++ and F90. Also for parallel programs on supercomputers Runtime - through dynamic linking
AQtime Windows (Visual Studio, Embarcadero IDEs) Proprietary commercial .NET, C++, Java, Silverlight, JScript, VBScript[1] Runtime
Bcheck Solaris
BoundsChecker Windows (Visual Studio) Proprietary commercial C++ Runtime intercepts or compile-time
Daikon Unix, Windows, Mac OS X[2] Free/open source[3] Java, C/C++, Perl, and Eiffel[2] Runtime dynamic invariant detection
Debug_new (general technique) (general technique) C++ Compile-time override
dmalloc Any Free/open source C Compile-time override
Electric Fence Unix Free/open source (GPL) C, C++ Compile-time override
IBM Rational Purify Unix, Windows Proprietary commercial C++, Java, .NET Runtime
Insure++ Windows (Visual Studio plugin), Unix Proprietary commercial C, C++
Intel Parallel Inspector Windows (Visual Studio) Proprietary commercial C, C++
libcwd Linux (gcc) Free/open source C, C++ Compile-time override
libumem Solaris Bundled with Solaris Link-time override
Memwatch Any (programming library) Free/open source C Compile-time override
mtrace Various Free/open source (LGPL) GNU C library Built-in, outputs accesses
MTuner Various Free C, C++ Runtime intercepts, Link-time override (MSVC, Clang and GCC), Leak detection
Oracle Solaris Studio (formerly Sun Studio Runtime Checking) Linux, Solaris Proprietary freeware C, C++, Fortran
Splint Any Free/open source (GPL) C Static program analysis
TotalView Unix, Mac OS X Proprietary commercial C, C++, Fortran Runtime
Valgrind Linux, Mac OS, Android Free/open source (GPL) Any Runtime intercepts
WinDbg Windows Proprietary freeware C, C++, .NET, Python Runtime

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^

External links[edit]