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
Alloclave Windows Proprietary commercial C++ Compile-time
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
checker (deprecated in favor of valgrind) Linux, Solaris Free/open source (GPL) C Compile-time override
CodeDynamics Linux, Mac OS X Proprietary commercial C, C++, Fortran Runtime
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
Deleaker Windows (Visual Studio) Proprietary commercial C / C++ Runtime intercepts
Diagnostic Windows (Integrated or external) Free/open source C / C++ / C# Compile-time or run-time
dmalloc Any Free/open source C Compile-time override
dlmalloc[4] Any Free/open source (public domain) C Compile-time override
Dr Memory Windows, Linux Free/open source (LGPL) C, C++ Runtime
Duma (fork of Electric Fence) Unix, Windows Free/open source (GPL) C, C++ Compile-time override
Electric Fence Unix Free/open source (GPL) C, C++ Compile-time override
graprof GNU/Linux Free/open source (GPL) C, (C++) Link-time override
HP Wildebeest (WDB)[5] Based on gdb
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
MemCheck (Hal Duston)[6] Unix, Mac OS X Free/open source (GPL) C, C++ Compile-time override
Memcheck (Société Générale)[7][8] Windows (Borland Delphi) Free/open source C, C++ Compile-time override
DDDebug[9] Windows (Borland Delphi) Commercial Delphi (5 to XE7) Runtime
memleax[10] GNU/Linux, FreeBSD Free/open source (GPL) C, C++ attaching running process, without recompiling or restarting target
MemPro[11] Windows (Visual Studio) Free beta C++ Compile-time override, uses TCP connection to track memory events
Memwatch Any (programming library) Free/open source C Compile-time override
mpatrol[12] Unix, Windows Free/open source (LGPL) C, C++
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
ocp-memprof[13] Linux 64 Proprietary/open-source OCaml Compile-time
Oracle Solaris Studio (formerly Sun Studio Runtime Checking) Linux, Solaris Proprietary freeware C, C++, Fortran
OpenPAT[14][15] Any Free (requires registration) Any compilable language including C, C++, Java and Fortran Compile-time instrumentation, runtime intercepts
softwareverify[16] Windows Proprietary commercial .NET, C, C++, Java, JavaScript, Lua, Python, Ruby, VMs Runtime
Splint Any Free/open source (GPL) C Static program analysis
TotalView Linux, Unix, Mac OS X Proprietary commercial C, C++, Fortran Runtime
Valgrind Linux, Mac OS, Android Free/open source (GPL) Any Runtime intercepts
Visual Leak Detector[17] Windows (Visual Studio) Free/open source (LGPL) C, C++ Compile-time overrides, leak detection
WinDbg Windows Proprietary freeware C, C++, .NET, Python Runtime
D Profiler[18] Windows Free/open source C, C++ Runtime. Support allocation profiling, leak detection. Also support CPU, I/O and lock profiling.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^
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  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Denis Golovan Fork:
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "OpenPAT: The Open Performance Analysis Toolkit"
  15. ^ "OpenPAT: Analysing Programs the Easy Way" by Dr Simon Spacey
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^

External links[edit]