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<chapter id="mc-manual" xreflabel="Memcheck: a memory error detector">
<title>Memcheck: a memory error detector</title>
<para>To use this tool, you may specify <option>--tool=memcheck</option>
on the Valgrind command line. You don't have to, though, since Memcheck
is the default tool.</para>
<sect1 id="mc-manual.overview" xreflabel="Overview">
<para>Memcheck is a memory error detector. It can detect the following
problems that are common in C and C++ programs.</para>
<para>Accessing memory you shouldn't, e.g. overrunning and underrunning
heap blocks, overrunning the top of the stack, and accessing memory after
it has been freed.</para>
<para>Using undefined values, i.e. values that have not been initialised,
or that have been derived from other undefined values.</para>
<para>Incorrect freeing of heap memory, such as double-freeing heap
blocks, or mismatched use of
<para>Overlapping <computeroutput>src</computeroutput> and
<computeroutput>dst</computeroutput> pointers in
<computeroutput>memcpy</computeroutput> and related
<para>Passing a fishy (presumably negative) value to the
<computeroutput>size</computeroutput> parameter of a memory
allocation function.</para>
<para>Memory leaks.</para>
<para>Problems like these can be difficult to find by other means,
often remaining undetected for long periods, then causing occasional,
difficult-to-diagnose crashes.</para>
<sect1 id="mc-manual.errormsgs"
xreflabel="Explanation of error messages from Memcheck">
<title>Explanation of error messages from Memcheck</title>
<para>Memcheck issues a range of error messages. This section presents a
quick summary of what error messages mean. The precise behaviour of the
error-checking machinery is described in <xref
<sect2 id="mc-manual.badrw"
xreflabel="Illegal read / Illegal write errors">
<title>Illegal read / Illegal write errors</title>
<para>For example:</para>
Invalid read of size 4
at 0x40F6BBCC: (within /usr/lib/
by 0x40F6B804: (within /usr/lib/
by 0x40B07FF4: read_png_image(QImageIO *) (kernel/qpngio.cpp:326)
by 0x40AC751B: QImageIO::read() (kernel/qimage.cpp:3621)
Address 0xBFFFF0E0 is not stack'd, malloc'd or free'd
<para>This happens when your program reads or writes memory at a place
which Memcheck reckons it shouldn't. In this example, the program did a
4-byte read at address 0xBFFFF0E0, somewhere within the system-supplied
library, which was called from somewhere else in the
same library, called from line 326 of <filename>qpngio.cpp</filename>,
and so on.</para>
<para>Memcheck tries to establish what the illegal address might relate
to, since that's often useful. So, if it points into a block of memory
which has already been freed, you'll be informed of this, and also where
the block was freed. Likewise, if it should turn out to be just off
the end of a heap block, a common result of off-by-one-errors in
array subscripting, you'll be informed of this fact, and also where the
block was allocated. If you use the <option><xref
linkend=""/></option> option Memcheck will run more slowly
but may give a more detailed description of any illegal address.</para>
<para>In this example, Memcheck can't identify the address. Actually
the address is on the stack, but, for some reason, this is not a valid
stack address -- it is below the stack pointer and that isn't allowed.
In this particular case it's probably caused by GCC generating invalid
code, a known bug in some ancient versions of GCC.</para>
<para>Note that Memcheck only tells you that your program is about to
access memory at an illegal address. It can't stop the access from
happening. So, if your program makes an access which normally would
result in a segmentation fault, you program will still suffer the same
fate -- but you will get a message from Memcheck immediately prior to
this. In this particular example, reading junk on the stack is
non-fatal, and the program stays alive.</para>
<sect2 id="mc-manual.uninitvals"
xreflabel="Use of uninitialised values">
<title>Use of uninitialised values</title>
<para>For example:</para>
Conditional jump or move depends on uninitialised value(s)
at 0x402DFA94: _IO_vfprintf (_itoa.h:49)
by 0x402E8476: _IO_printf (printf.c:36)
by 0x8048472: main (tests/manuel1.c:8)
<para>An uninitialised-value use error is reported when your program
uses a value which hasn't been initialised -- in other words, is
undefined. Here, the undefined value is used somewhere inside the
<function>printf</function> machinery of the C library. This error was
reported when running the following small program:</para>
int main()
int x;
printf ("x = %d\n", x);
<para>It is important to understand that your program can copy around
junk (uninitialised) data as much as it likes. Memcheck observes this
and keeps track of the data, but does not complain. A complaint is
issued only when your program attempts to make use of uninitialised
data in a way that might affect your program's externally-visible behaviour.
In this example, <varname>x</varname> is uninitialised. Memcheck observes
the value being passed to <function>_IO_printf</function> and thence to
<function>_IO_vfprintf</function>, but makes no comment. However,
<function>_IO_vfprintf</function> has to examine the value of
<varname>x</varname> so it can turn it into the corresponding ASCII string,
and it is at this point that Memcheck complains.</para>
<para>Sources of uninitialised data tend to be:</para>
<para>Local variables in procedures which have not been initialised,
as in the example above.</para>
<para>The contents of heap blocks (allocated with
<function>malloc</function>, <function>new</function>, or a similar
function) before you (or a constructor) write something there.
<para>To see information on the sources of uninitialised data in your
program, use the <option>--track-origins=yes</option> option. This
makes Memcheck run more slowly, but can make it much easier to track down
the root causes of uninitialised value errors.</para>
<sect2 id="mc-manual.bad-syscall-args"
xreflabel="Use of uninitialised or unaddressable values in system
<title>Use of uninitialised or unaddressable values in system
<para>Memcheck checks all parameters to system calls:
<para>It checks all the direct parameters themselves, whether they are
<para>Also, if a system call needs to read from a buffer provided by
your program, Memcheck checks that the entire buffer is addressable
and its contents are initialised.</para>
<para>Also, if the system call needs to write to a user-supplied
buffer, Memcheck checks that the buffer is addressable.</para>
<para>After the system call, Memcheck updates its tracked information to
precisely reflect any changes in memory state caused by the system
<para>Here's an example of two system calls with invalid parameters:</para>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <unistd.h>
int main( void )
char* arr = malloc(10);
int* arr2 = malloc(sizeof(int));
write( 1 /* stdout */, arr, 10 );
<para>You get these complaints ...</para>
Syscall param write(buf) points to uninitialised byte(s)
at 0x25A48723: __write_nocancel (in /lib/tls/
by 0x259AFAD3: __libc_start_main (in /lib/tls/
by 0x8048348: (within /auto/homes/njn25/grind/head4/a.out)
Address 0x25AB8028 is 0 bytes inside a block of size 10 alloc'd
at 0x259852B0: malloc (vg_replace_malloc.c:130)
by 0x80483F1: main (a.c:5)
Syscall param exit(error_code) contains uninitialised byte(s)
at 0x25A21B44: __GI__exit (in /lib/tls/
by 0x8048426: main (a.c:8)
<para>... because the program has (a) written uninitialised junk
from the heap block to the standard output, and (b) passed an
uninitialised value to <function>exit</function>. Note that the first
error refers to the memory pointed to by
<computeroutput>buf</computeroutput> (not
<computeroutput>buf</computeroutput> itself), but the second error
refers directly to <computeroutput>exit</computeroutput>'s argument
<sect2 id="mc-manual.badfrees" xreflabel="Illegal frees">
<title>Illegal frees</title>
<para>For example:</para>
Invalid free()
at 0x4004FFDF: free (vg_clientmalloc.c:577)
by 0x80484C7: main (tests/doublefree.c:10)
Address 0x3807F7B4 is 0 bytes inside a block of size 177 free'd
at 0x4004FFDF: free (vg_clientmalloc.c:577)
by 0x80484C7: main (tests/doublefree.c:10)
<para>Memcheck keeps track of the blocks allocated by your program
with <function>malloc</function>/<computeroutput>new</computeroutput>,
so it can know exactly whether or not the argument to
<function>free</function>/<computeroutput>delete</computeroutput> is
legitimate or not. Here, this test program has freed the same block
twice. As with the illegal read/write errors, Memcheck attempts to
make sense of the address freed. If, as here, the address is one
which has previously been freed, you wil be told that -- making
duplicate frees of the same block easy to spot. You will also get this
message if you try to free a pointer that doesn't point to the start of a
heap block.</para>
<sect2 id="mc-manual.rudefn"
xreflabel="When a heap block is freed with an inappropriate deallocation
<title>When a heap block is freed with an inappropriate deallocation
<para>In the following example, a block allocated with
<function>new[]</function> has wrongly been deallocated with
Mismatched free() / delete / delete []
at 0x40043249: free (vg_clientfuncs.c:171)
by 0x4102BB4E: QGArray::~QGArray(void) (tools/qgarray.cpp:149)
by 0x4C261C41: PptDoc::~PptDoc(void) (include/qmemarray.h:60)
by 0x4C261F0E: PptXml::~PptXml(void) (
Address 0x4BB292A8 is 0 bytes inside a block of size 64 alloc'd
at 0x4004318C: operator new[](unsigned int) (vg_clientfuncs.c:152)
by 0x4C21BC15: KLaola::readSBStream(int) const (
by 0x4C21C155: KLaola::stream(KLaola::OLENode const *) (
by 0x4C21788F: OLEFilter::convert(QCString const &) (
<para>In <literal>C++</literal> it's important to deallocate memory in a
way compatible with how it was allocated. The deal is:</para>
<para>If allocated with
<function>valloc</function> or
<function>memalign</function>, you must
deallocate with <function>free</function>.</para>
<para>If allocated with <function>new</function>, you must deallocate
with <function>delete</function>.</para>
<para>If allocated with <function>new[]</function>, you must
deallocate with <function>delete[]</function>.</para>
<para>The worst thing is that on Linux apparently it doesn't matter if
you do mix these up, but the same program may then crash on a
different platform, Solaris for example. So it's best to fix it
properly. According to the KDE folks "it's amazing how many C++
programmers don't know this".</para>
<para>The reason behind the requirement is as follows. In some C++
implementations, <function>delete[]</function> must be used for
objects allocated by <function>new[]</function> because the compiler
stores the size of the array and the pointer-to-member to the
destructor of the array's content just before the pointer actually
returned. <function>delete</function> doesn't account for this and will get
confused, possibly corrupting the heap.</para>
<sect2 id="mc-manual.overlap"
xreflabel="Overlapping source and destination blocks">
<title>Overlapping source and destination blocks</title>
<para>The following C library functions copy some data from one
memory block to another (or something similar):
The blocks pointed to by their <computeroutput>src</computeroutput> and
<computeroutput>dst</computeroutput> pointers aren't allowed to overlap.
The POSIX standards have wording along the lines "If copying takes place
between objects that overlap, the behavior is undefined." Therefore,
Memcheck checks for this.
<para>For example:</para>
==27492== Source and destination overlap in memcpy(0xbffff294, 0xbffff280, 21)
==27492== at 0x40026CDC: memcpy (mc_replace_strmem.c:71)
==27492== by 0x804865A: main (overlap.c:40)
<para>You don't want the two blocks to overlap because one of them could
get partially overwritten by the copying.</para>
<para>You might think that Memcheck is being overly pedantic reporting
this in the case where <computeroutput>dst</computeroutput> is less than
<computeroutput>src</computeroutput>. For example, the obvious way to
implement <function>memcpy</function> is by copying from the first
byte to the last. However, the optimisation guides of some
architectures recommend copying from the last byte down to the first.
Also, some implementations of <function>memcpy</function> zero
<computeroutput>dst</computeroutput> before copying, because zeroing the
destination's cache line(s) can improve performance.</para>
<para>The moral of the story is: if you want to write truly portable
code, don't make any assumptions about the language
<sect2 id="mc-manual.fishyvalue"
xreflabel="Fishy argument values">
<title>Fishy argument values</title>
<para>All memory allocation functions take an argument specifying the
size of the memory block that should be allocated. Clearly, the requested
size should be a non-negative value and is typically not excessively large.
For instance, it is extremely unlikly that the size of an allocation
request exceeds 2**63 bytes on a 64-bit machine. It is much more likely that
such a value is the result of an erroneous size calculation and is in effect
a negative value (that just happens to appear excessively large because
the bit pattern is interpreted as an unsigned integer).
Such a value is called a "fishy value".
The <varname>size</varname> argument of the following allocation functions
is checked for being fishy:
<function>new []</function>.
For <function>calloc</function> both arguments are being checked.
<para>For example:</para>
==32233== Argument 'size' of function malloc has a fishy (possibly negative) value: -3
==32233== at 0x4C2CFA7: malloc (vg_replace_malloc.c:298)
==32233== by 0x400555: foo (fishy.c:15)
==32233== by 0x400583: main (fishy.c:23)
<para>In earlier Valgrind versions those values were being referred to
as "silly arguments" and no back-trace was included.
<sect2 id="mc-manual.leaks" xreflabel="Memory leak detection">
<title>Memory leak detection</title>
<para>Memcheck keeps track of all heap blocks issued in response to
calls to
<function>malloc</function>/<function>new</function> et al.
So when the program exits, it knows which blocks have not been freed.
<para>If <option>--leak-check</option> is set appropriately, for each
remaining block, Memcheck determines if the block is reachable from pointers
within the root-set. The root-set consists of (a) general purpose registers
of all threads, and (b) initialised, aligned, pointer-sized data words in
accessible client memory, including stacks.</para>
<para>There are two ways a block can be reached. The first is with a
"start-pointer", i.e. a pointer to the start of the block. The second is with
an "interior-pointer", i.e. a pointer to the middle of the block. There are
several ways we know of that an interior-pointer can occur:</para>
<para>The pointer might have originally been a start-pointer and have been
moved along deliberately (or not deliberately) by the program. In
particular, this can happen if your program uses tagged pointers, i.e.
if it uses the bottom one, two or three bits of a pointer, which are
normally always zero due to alignment, in order to store extra
<para>It might be a random junk value in memory, entirely unrelated, just
a coincidence.</para>
<para>It might be a pointer to the inner char array of a C++
<computeroutput>std::string</computeroutput>. For example, some
compilers add 3 words at the beginning of the std::string to
store the length, the capacity and a reference count before the
memory containing the array of characters. They return a pointer
just after these 3 words, pointing at the char array.</para>
<para>Some code might allocate a block of memory, and use the first 8
bytes to store (block size - 8) as a 64bit number.
<computeroutput>sqlite3MemMalloc</computeroutput> does this.</para>
<para>It might be a pointer to an array of C++ objects (which possess
destructors) allocated with <computeroutput>new[]</computeroutput>. In
this case, some compilers store a "magic cookie" containing the array
length at the start of the allocated block, and return a pointer to just
past that magic cookie, i.e. an interior-pointer.
See <ulink url="">this
page</ulink> for more information.</para>
<para>It might be a pointer to an inner part of a C++ object using
multiple inheritance. </para>
<para>You can optionally activate heuristics to use during the leak
search to detect the interior pointers corresponding to
the <computeroutput>stdstring</computeroutput>,
and <computeroutput>multipleinheritance</computeroutput> cases. If the
heuristic detects that an interior pointer corresponds to such a case,
the block will be considered as reachable by the interior
pointer. In other words, the interior pointer will be treated
as if it were a start pointer.</para>
<para>With that in mind, consider the nine possible cases described by the
following figure.</para>
Pointer chain AAA Leak Case BBB Leak Case
------------- ------------- -------------
(1) RRR ------------> BBB DR
(2) RRR ---> AAA ---> BBB DR IR
(4) RRR AAA ---> BBB DL IL
(5) RRR ------?-----> BBB (y)DR, (n)DL
(6) RRR ---> AAA -?-> BBB DR (y)IR, (n)DL
(7) RRR -?-> AAA ---> BBB (y)DR, (n)DL (y)IR, (n)IL
(8) RRR -?-> AAA -?-> BBB (y)DR, (n)DL (y,y)IR, (n,y)IL, (_,n)DL
(9) RRR AAA -?-> BBB DL (y)IL, (n)DL
Pointer chain legend:
- RRR: a root set node or DR block
- AAA, BBB: heap blocks
- --->: a start-pointer
- -?->: an interior-pointer
Leak Case legend:
- DR: Directly reachable
- IR: Indirectly reachable
- DL: Directly lost
- IL: Indirectly lost
- (y)XY: it's XY if the interior-pointer is a real pointer
- (n)XY: it's XY if the interior-pointer is not a real pointer
- (_)XY: it's XY in either case
<para>Every possible case can be reduced to one of the above nine. Memcheck
merges some of these cases in its output, resulting in the following four
leak kinds.</para>
<para>"Still reachable". This covers cases 1 and 2 (for the BBB blocks)
above. A start-pointer or chain of start-pointers to the block is
found. Since the block is still pointed at, the programmer could, at
least in principle, have freed it before program exit. "Still reachable"
blocks are very common and arguably not a problem. So, by default,
Memcheck won't report such blocks individually.</para>
<para>"Definitely lost". This covers case 3 (for the BBB blocks) above.
This means that no pointer to the block can be found. The block is
classified as "lost", because the programmer could not possibly have
freed it at program exit, since no pointer to it exists. This is likely
a symptom of having lost the pointer at some earlier point in the
program. Such cases should be fixed by the programmer.</para>
<para>"Indirectly lost". This covers cases 4 and 9 (for the BBB blocks)
above. This means that the block is lost, not because there are no
pointers to it, but rather because all the blocks that point to it are
themselves lost. For example, if you have a binary tree and the root
node is lost, all its children nodes will be indirectly lost. Because
the problem will disappear if the definitely lost block that caused the
indirect leak is fixed, Memcheck won't report such blocks individually
by default.</para>
<para>"Possibly lost". This covers cases 5--8 (for the BBB blocks)
above. This means that a chain of one or more pointers to the block has
been found, but at least one of the pointers is an interior-pointer.
This could just be a random value in memory that happens to point into a
block, and so you shouldn't consider this ok unless you know you have
<para>(Note: This mapping of the nine possible cases onto four leak kinds is
not necessarily the best way that leaks could be reported; in particular,
interior-pointers are treated inconsistently. It is possible the
categorisation may be improved in the future.)</para>
<para>Furthermore, if suppressions exists for a block, it will be reported
as "suppressed" no matter what which of the above four kinds it belongs
<para>The following is an example leak summary.</para>
definitely lost: 48 bytes in 3 blocks.
indirectly lost: 32 bytes in 2 blocks.
possibly lost: 96 bytes in 6 blocks.
still reachable: 64 bytes in 4 blocks.
suppressed: 0 bytes in 0 blocks.
<para>If heuristics have been used to consider some blocks as
reachable, the leak summary details the heuristically reachable subset
of 'still reachable:' per heuristic. In the below example, of the 95
bytes still reachable, 87 bytes (56+7+8+16) have been considered
heuristically reachable.
definitely lost: 4 bytes in 1 blocks
indirectly lost: 0 bytes in 0 blocks
possibly lost: 0 bytes in 0 blocks
still reachable: 95 bytes in 6 blocks
of which reachable via heuristic:
stdstring : 56 bytes in 2 blocks
length64 : 16 bytes in 1 blocks
newarray : 7 bytes in 1 blocks
multipleinheritance: 8 bytes in 1 blocks
suppressed: 0 bytes in 0 blocks
<para>If <option>--leak-check=full</option> is specified,
Memcheck will give details for each definitely lost or possibly lost block,
including where it was allocated. (Actually, it merges results for all
blocks that have the same leak kind and sufficiently similar stack traces
into a single "loss record". The
<option>--leak-resolution</option> lets you control the
meaning of "sufficiently similar".) It cannot tell you when or how or why
the pointer to a leaked block was lost; you have to work that out for
yourself. In general, you should attempt to ensure your programs do not
have any definitely lost or possibly lost blocks at exit.</para>
<para>For example:</para>
8 bytes in 1 blocks are definitely lost in loss record 1 of 14
at 0x........: malloc (vg_replace_malloc.c:...)
by 0x........: mk (leak-tree.c:11)
by 0x........: main (leak-tree.c:39)
88 (8 direct, 80 indirect) bytes in 1 blocks are definitely lost in loss record 13 of 14
at 0x........: malloc (vg_replace_malloc.c:...)
by 0x........: mk (leak-tree.c:11)
by 0x........: main (leak-tree.c:25)
<para>The first message describes a simple case of a single 8 byte block
that has been definitely lost. The second case mentions another 8 byte
block that has been definitely lost; the difference is that a further 80
bytes in other blocks are indirectly lost because of this lost block.
The loss records are not presented in any notable order, so the loss record
numbers aren't particularly meaningful. The loss record numbers can be used
in the Valgrind gdbserver to list the addresses of the leaked blocks and/or give
more details about how a block is still reachable.</para>
<para>The option <option>--show-leak-kinds=&lt;set&gt;</option>
controls the set of leak kinds to show
when <option>--leak-check=full</option> is specified. </para>
<para>The <option>&lt;set&gt;</option> of leak kinds is specified
in one of the following ways:
<listitem><para>a comma separated list of one or more of
<option>definite indirect possible reachable</option>.</para>
<listitem><para><option>all</option> to specify the complete set (all leak kinds).</para>
<listitem><para><option>none</option> for the empty set.</para>
<para> The default value for the leak kinds to show is
<para>To also show the reachable and indirectly lost blocks in
addition to the definitely and possibly lost blocks, you can
use <option>--show-leak-kinds=all</option>. To only show the
reachable and indirectly lost blocks, use
<option>--show-leak-kinds=indirect,reachable</option>. The reachable
and indirectly lost blocks will then be presented as shown in
the following two examples.</para>
64 bytes in 4 blocks are still reachable in loss record 2 of 4
at 0x........: malloc (vg_replace_malloc.c:177)
by 0x........: mk (leak-cases.c:52)
by 0x........: main (leak-cases.c:74)
32 bytes in 2 blocks are indirectly lost in loss record 1 of 4
at 0x........: malloc (vg_replace_malloc.c:177)
by 0x........: mk (leak-cases.c:52)
by 0x........: main (leak-cases.c:80)
<para>Because there are different kinds of leaks with different
severities, an interesting question is: which leaks should be
counted as true "errors" and which should not?
<para> The answer to this question affects the numbers printed in
the <computeroutput>ERROR SUMMARY</computeroutput> line, and also the
effect of the <option>--error-exitcode</option> option. First, a leak
is only counted as a true "error"
if <option>--leak-check=full</option> is specified. Then, the
option <option>--errors-for-leak-kinds=&lt;set&gt;</option> controls
the set of leak kinds to consider as errors. The default value
is <option>--errors-for-leak-kinds=definite,possible</option>
<sect1 id="mc-manual.options"
xreflabel="Memcheck Command-Line Options">
<title>Memcheck Command-Line Options</title>
<!-- start of xi:include in the manpage -->
<variablelist id="mc.opts.list">
<varlistentry id="opt.leak-check" xreflabel="--leak-check">
<option><![CDATA[--leak-check=<no|summary|yes|full> [default: summary] ]]></option>
<para>When enabled, search for memory leaks when the client
program finishes. If set to <varname>summary</varname>, it says how
many leaks occurred. If set to <varname>full</varname> or
<varname>yes</varname>, it also gives details of each individual
<varlistentry id="opt.leak-resolution" xreflabel="--leak-resolution">
<option><![CDATA[--leak-resolution=<low|med|high> [default: high] ]]></option>
<para>When doing leak checking, determines how willing
Memcheck is to consider different backtraces to
be the same for the purposes of merging multiple leaks into a single
leak report. When set to <varname>low</varname>, only the first
two entries need match. When <varname>med</varname>, four entries
have to match. When <varname>high</varname>, all entries need to
<para>For hardcore leak debugging, you probably want to use
<option>--leak-resolution=high</option> together with
<option>--num-callers=40</option> or some such large number.
<para>Note that the <option>--leak-resolution</option> setting
does not affect Memcheck's ability to find
leaks. It only changes how the results are presented.</para>
<varlistentry id="" xreflabel="--show-leak-kinds">
<option><![CDATA[--show-leak-kinds=<set> [default: definite,possible] ]]></option>
<para>Specifies the leak kinds to show in a full leak search, in
one of the following ways: </para>
<listitem><para>a comma separated list of one or more of
<option>definite indirect possible reachable</option>.</para>
<listitem><para><option>all</option> to specify the complete set (all leak kinds).
It is equivalent to
<listitem><para><option>none</option> for the empty set.</para>
<varlistentry id="opt.errors-for-leak-kinds" xreflabel="--errors-for-leak-kinds">
<option><![CDATA[--errors-for-leak-kinds=<set> [default: definite,possible] ]]></option>
<para>Specifies the leak kinds to count as errors in a full leak search. The
<option><![CDATA[<set>]]></option> is specified similarly to
<varlistentry id="opt.leak-check-heuristics" xreflabel="--leak-check-heuristics">
<option><![CDATA[--leak-check-heuristics=<set> [default: none] ]]></option>
<para>Specifies the set of leak check heuristics to be used
during leak searches. The heuristics control which interior pointers
to a block cause it to be considered as reachable.
The heuristic set is specified in one of the following ways:</para>
<listitem><para>a comma separated list of one or more of
<option>stdstring length64 newarray multipleinheritance</option>.</para>
<listitem><para><option>all</option> to activate the complete set of
It is equivalent to
<listitem><para><option>none</option> for the empty set.</para>
<para>Note that these heuristics are dependent on the layout of the objects
produced by the C++ compiler. They have been tested with some gcc versions
(e.g. 4.4 and 4.7). They might not work properly with other C++ compilers.
<varlistentry id="" xreflabel="--show-reachable">
<option><![CDATA[--show-reachable=<yes|no> ]]></option>
<option><![CDATA[--show-possibly-lost=<yes|no> ]]></option>
<para>These options provide an alternative way to specify the leak kinds to show:
<option>--show-reachable=no --show-possibly-lost=yes</option> is equivalent to
<option>--show-reachable=no --show-possibly-lost=no</option> is equivalent to
<option>--show-reachable=yes</option> is equivalent to
<para> Note that <option>--show-possibly-lost=no</option> has no effect
if <option>--show-reachable=yes</option> is specified.</para>
<varlistentry id="opt.undef-value-errors" xreflabel="--undef-value-errors">
<option><![CDATA[--undef-value-errors=<yes|no> [default: yes] ]]></option>
<para>Controls whether Memcheck reports
uses of undefined value errors. Set this to
<varname>no</varname> if you don't want to see undefined value
errors. It also has the side effect of speeding up
Memcheck somewhat.
<varlistentry id="opt.track-origins" xreflabel="--track-origins">
<option><![CDATA[--track-origins=<yes|no> [default: no] ]]></option>
<para>Controls whether Memcheck tracks
the origin of uninitialised values. By default, it does not,
which means that although it can tell you that an
uninitialised value is being used in a dangerous way, it
cannot tell you where the uninitialised value came from. This
often makes it difficult to track down the root problem.
<para>When set
to <varname>yes</varname>, Memcheck keeps
track of the origins of all uninitialised values. Then, when
an uninitialised value error is
reported, Memcheck will try to show the
origin of the value. An origin can be one of the following
four places: a heap block, a stack allocation, a client
request, or miscellaneous other sources (eg, a call
to <varname>brk</varname>).
<para>For uninitialised values originating from a heap
block, Memcheck shows where the block was
allocated. For uninitialised values originating from a stack
allocation, Memcheck can tell you which
function allocated the value, but no more than that -- typically
it shows you the source location of the opening brace of the
function. So you should carefully check that all of the
function's local variables are initialised properly.
<para>Performance overhead: origin tracking is expensive. It
halves Memcheck's speed and increases
memory use by a minimum of 100MB, and possibly more.
Nevertheless it can drastically reduce the effort required to
identify the root cause of uninitialised value errors, and so
is often a programmer productivity win, despite running
more slowly.
<para>Accuracy: Memcheck tracks origins
quite accurately. To avoid very large space and time
overheads, some approximations are made. It is possible,
although unlikely, that Memcheck will report an incorrect origin, or
not be able to identify any origin.
<para>Note that the combination
and <option>--undef-value-errors=no</option> is
nonsensical. Memcheck checks for and
rejects this combination at startup.
<varlistentry id="opt.partial-loads-ok" xreflabel="--partial-loads-ok">
<option><![CDATA[--partial-loads-ok=<yes|no> [default: no] ]]></option>
<para>Controls how Memcheck handles 32-, 64-, 128- and 256-bit
naturally aligned loads from addresses for which some bytes are
addressable and others are not. When <varname>yes</varname>, such
loads do not produce an address error. Instead, loaded bytes
originating from illegal addresses are marked as uninitialised, and
those corresponding to legal addresses are handled in the normal
<para>When <varname>no</varname>, loads from partially invalid
addresses are treated the same as loads from completely invalid
addresses: an illegal-address error is issued, and the resulting
bytes are marked as initialised.</para>
<para>Note that code that behaves in this way is in violation of
the ISO C/C++ standards, and should be considered broken. If
at all possible, such code should be fixed. This option should be
used only as a last resort.</para>
<varlistentry id="opt.keep-stacktraces" xreflabel="--keep-stacktraces">
<option><![CDATA[--keep-stacktraces=alloc|free|alloc-and-free|alloc-then-free|none [default: alloc-then-free] ]]></option>
<para>Controls which stack trace(s) to keep for malloc'd and/or
free'd blocks.
<para>With <varname>alloc-then-free</varname>, a stack trace is
recorded at allocation time, and is associated with the block.
When the block is freed, a second stack trace is recorded, and
this replaces the allocation stack trace. As a result, any "use
after free" errors relating to this block can only show a stack
trace for where the block was freed.
<para>With <varname>alloc-and-free</varname>, both allocation
and the deallocation stack traces for the block are stored.
Hence a "use after free" error will
show both, which may make the error easier to diagnose.
Compared to <varname>alloc-then-free</varname>, this setting
slightly increases Valgrind's memory use as the block contains two
references instead of one.
<para>With <varname>alloc</varname>, only the allocation stack
trace is recorded (and reported). With <varname>free</varname>,
only the deallocation stack trace is recorded (and reported).
These values somewhat decrease Valgrind's memory and cpu usage.
They can be useful depending on the error types you are
searching for and the level of detail you need to analyse
them. For example, if you are only interested in memory leak
errors, it is sufficient to record the allocation stack traces.
<para>With <varname>none</varname>, no stack traces are recorded
for malloc and free operations. If your program allocates a lot
of blocks and/or allocates/frees from many different stack
traces, this can significantly decrease cpu and/or memory
required. Of course, few details will be reported for errors
related to heap blocks.
<para>Note that once a stack trace is recorded, Valgrind keeps
the stack trace in memory even if it is not referenced by any
block. Some programs (for example, recursive algorithms) can
generate a huge number of stack traces. If Valgrind uses too
much memory in such circumstances, you can reduce the memory
required with the options <varname>--keep-stacktraces</varname>
and/or by using a smaller value for the
option <varname>--num-callers</varname>.
<varlistentry id="opt.freelist-vol" xreflabel="--freelist-vol">
<option><![CDATA[--freelist-vol=<number> [default: 20000000] ]]></option>
<para>When the client program releases memory using
<function>free</function> (in <literal>C</literal>) or
(<literal>C++</literal>), that memory is not immediately made
available for re-allocation. Instead, it is marked inaccessible
and placed in a queue of freed blocks. The purpose is to defer as
long as possible the point at which freed-up memory comes back
into circulation. This increases the chance that
Memcheck will be able to detect invalid
accesses to blocks for some significant period of time after they
have been freed.</para>
<para>This option specifies the maximum total size, in bytes, of the
blocks in the queue. The default value is twenty million bytes.
Increasing this increases the total amount of memory used by
Memcheck but may detect invalid uses of freed
blocks which would otherwise go undetected.</para>
<varlistentry id="opt.freelist-big-blocks" xreflabel="--freelist-big-blocks">
<option><![CDATA[--freelist-big-blocks=<number> [default: 1000000] ]]></option>
<para>When making blocks from the queue of freed blocks available
for re-allocation, Memcheck will in priority re-circulate the blocks
with a size greater or equal to <option>--freelist-big-blocks</option>.
This ensures that freeing big blocks (in particular freeing blocks bigger than
<option>--freelist-vol</option>) does not immediately lead to a re-circulation
of all (or a lot of) the small blocks in the free list. In other words,
this option increases the likelihood to discover dangling pointers
for the "small" blocks, even when big blocks are freed.</para>
<para>Setting a value of 0 means that all the blocks are re-circulated
in a FIFO order. </para>
<varlistentry id="opt.workaround-gcc296-bugs" xreflabel="--workaround-gcc296-bugs">
<option><![CDATA[--workaround-gcc296-bugs=<yes|no> [default: no] ]]></option>
<para>When enabled, assume that reads and writes some small
distance below the stack pointer are due to bugs in GCC 2.96, and
does not report them. The "small distance" is 256 bytes by
default. Note that GCC 2.96 is the default compiler on some ancient
Linux distributions (RedHat 7.X) and so you may need to use this
option. Do not use it if you do not have to, as it can cause real
errors to be overlooked. A better alternative is to use a more
recent GCC in which this bug is fixed.</para>
<para>You may also need to use this option when working with
GCC 3.X or 4.X on 32-bit PowerPC Linux. This is because
GCC generates code which occasionally accesses below the
stack pointer, particularly for floating-point to/from integer
conversions. This is in violation of the 32-bit PowerPC ELF
specification, which makes no provision for locations below the
stack pointer to be accessible.</para>
<varlistentry id=""
<option><![CDATA[--show-mismatched-frees=<yes|no> [default: yes] ]]></option>
<para>When enabled, Memcheck checks that heap blocks are
deallocated using a function that matches the allocating
function. That is, it expects <varname>free</varname> to be
used to deallocate blocks allocated
by <varname>malloc</varname>, <varname>delete</varname> for
blocks allocated by <varname>new</varname>,
and <varname>delete[]</varname> for blocks allocated
by <varname>new[]</varname>. If a mismatch is detected, an
error is reported. This is in general important because in some
environments, freeing with a non-matching function can cause
<para>There is however a scenario where such mismatches cannot
be avoided. That is when the user provides implementations of
<varname>new</varname>/<varname>new[]</varname> that
call <varname>malloc</varname> and
of <varname>delete</varname>/<varname>delete[]</varname> that
call <varname>free</varname>, and these functions are
asymmetrically inlined. For example, imagine
that <varname>delete[]</varname> is inlined
but <varname>new[]</varname> is not. The result is that
Memcheck "sees" all <varname>delete[]</varname> calls as direct
calls to <varname>free</varname>, even when the program source
contains no mismatched calls.</para>
<para>This causes a lot of confusing and irrelevant error
reports. <varname>--show-mismatched-frees=no</varname> disables
these checks. It is not generally advisable to disable them,
though, because you may miss real errors as a result.</para>
<varlistentry id="opt.ignore-ranges" xreflabel="--ignore-ranges">
<option><![CDATA[--ignore-ranges=0xPP-0xQQ[,0xRR-0xSS] ]]></option>
<para>Any ranges listed in this option (and multiple ranges can be
specified, separated by commas) will be ignored by Memcheck's
addressability checking.</para>
<varlistentry id="opt.malloc-fill" xreflabel="--malloc-fill">
<option><![CDATA[--malloc-fill=<hexnumber> ]]></option>
<para>Fills blocks allocated
by <computeroutput>malloc</computeroutput>,
<computeroutput>new</computeroutput>, etc, but not
by <computeroutput>calloc</computeroutput>, with the specified
byte. This can be useful when trying to shake out obscure
memory corruption problems. The allocated area is still
regarded by Memcheck as undefined -- this option only affects its
contents. Note that <option>--malloc-fill</option> does not
affect a block of memory when it is used as argument
to client requests VALGRIND_MEMPOOL_ALLOC or
<varlistentry id="" xreflabel="--free-fill">
<option><![CDATA[--free-fill=<hexnumber> ]]></option>
<para>Fills blocks freed
by <computeroutput>free</computeroutput>,
<computeroutput>delete</computeroutput>, etc, with the
specified byte value. This can be useful when trying to shake out
obscure memory corruption problems. The freed area is still
regarded by Memcheck as not valid for access -- this option only
affects its contents. Note that <option>--free-fill</option> does not
affect a block of memory when it is used as argument to
<!-- end of xi:include in the manpage -->
<sect1 id="mc-manual.suppfiles" xreflabel="Writing suppression files">
<title>Writing suppression files</title>
<para>The basic suppression format is described in
<xref linkend="manual-core.suppress"/>.</para>
<para>The suppression-type (second) line should have the form:</para>
<para>The Memcheck suppression types are as follows:</para>
meaning an uninitialised-value error when
using a value of 1, 2, 4, 8 or 16 bytes.</para>
<para><varname>Cond</varname> (or its old
name, <varname>Value0</varname>), meaning use
of an uninitialised CPU condition code.</para>
meaning an invalid address during a
memory access of 1, 2, 4, 8 or 16 bytes respectively.</para>
<para><varname>Jump</varname>, meaning an
jump to an unaddressable location error.</para>
<para><varname>Param</varname>, meaning an
invalid system call parameter error.</para>
<para><varname>Free</varname>, meaning an
invalid or mismatching free.</para>
<para><varname>Overlap</varname>, meaning a
<computeroutput>src</computeroutput> /
<computeroutput>dst</computeroutput> overlap in
<function>memcpy</function> or a similar function.</para>
<para><varname>Leak</varname>, meaning
a memory leak.</para>
<para><computeroutput>Param</computeroutput> errors have a mandatory extra
information line at this point, which is the name of the offending
system call parameter. </para>
<para><computeroutput>Leak</computeroutput> errors have an optional
extra information line, with the following format:</para>
<para>where <computeroutput>&lt;set&gt;</computeroutput> specifies which
leak kinds are matched by this suppression entry.
<computeroutput>&lt;set&gt;</computeroutput> is specified in the
same way as with the option <option>--show-leak-kinds</option>, that is,
one of the following:</para>
<listitem>a comma separated list of one or more of
<option>definite indirect possible reachable</option>.
<listitem><option>all</option> to specify the complete set (all leak kinds).
<listitem><option>none</option> for the empty set.
<para>If this optional extra line is not present, the suppression
entry will match all leak kinds.</para>
<para>Be aware that leak suppressions that are created using
<option>--gen-suppressions</option> will contain this optional extra
line, and therefore may match fewer leaks than you expect. You may
want to remove the line before using the generated
<para>The other Memcheck error kinds do not have extra lines.</para>
If you give the <option>-v</option> option, Valgrind will print
the list of used suppressions at the end of execution.
For a leak suppression, this output gives the number of different
loss records that match the suppression, and the number of bytes
and blocks suppressed by the suppression.
If the run contains multiple leak checks, the number of bytes and blocks
are reset to zero before each new leak check. Note that the number of different
loss records is not reset to zero.</para>
<para>In the example below, in the last leak search, 7 blocks and 96 bytes have
been suppressed by a suppression with the name
--21041-- used_suppression: 10 some_other_leak_suppression s.supp:14 suppressed: 12,400 bytes in 1 blocks
--21041-- used_suppression: 39 some_leak_suppression s.supp:2 suppressed: 96 bytes in 7 blocks
<para>For <varname>ValueN</varname> and <varname>AddrN</varname>
errors, the first line of the calling context is either the name of
the function in which the error occurred, or, failing that, the full
path of the <filename>.so</filename> file or executable containing the
error location. For <varname>Free</varname> errors, the first line is
the name of the function doing the freeing (eg,
<function>free</function>, <function>__builtin_vec_delete</function>,
etc). For <varname>Overlap</varname> errors, the first line is the name of the
function with the overlapping arguments (eg.
<function>memcpy</function>, <function>strcpy</function>, etc).</para>
<para>The last part of any suppression specifies the rest of the
calling context that needs to be matched.</para>
<sect1 id="mc-manual.machine"
xreflabel="Details of Memcheck's checking machinery">
<title>Details of Memcheck's checking machinery</title>
<para>Read this section if you want to know, in detail, exactly
what and how Memcheck is checking.</para>
<sect2 id="mc-manual.value" xreflabel="Valid-value (V) bit">
<title>Valid-value (V) bits</title>
<para>It is simplest to think of Memcheck implementing a synthetic CPU
which is identical to a real CPU, except for one crucial detail. Every
bit (literally) of data processed, stored and handled by the real CPU
has, in the synthetic CPU, an associated "valid-value" bit, which says
whether or not the accompanying bit has a legitimate value. In the
discussions which follow, this bit is referred to as the V (valid-value)
<para>Each byte in the system therefore has a 8 V bits which follow it
wherever it goes. For example, when the CPU loads a word-size item (4
bytes) from memory, it also loads the corresponding 32 V bits from a
bitmap which stores the V bits for the process' entire address space.
If the CPU should later write the whole or some part of that value to
memory at a different address, the relevant V bits will be stored back
in the V-bit bitmap.</para>
<para>In short, each bit in the system has (conceptually) an associated V
bit, which follows it around everywhere, even inside the CPU. Yes, all the
CPU's registers (integer, floating point, vector and condition registers)
have their own V bit vectors. For this to work, Memcheck uses a great deal
of compression to represent the V bits compactly.</para>
<para>Copying values around does not cause Memcheck to check for, or
report on, errors. However, when a value is used in a way which might
conceivably affect your program's externally-visible behaviour,
the associated V bits are immediately checked. If any of these indicate
that the value is undefined (even partially), an error is reported.</para>
<para>Here's an (admittedly nonsensical) example:</para>
int i, j;
int a[10], b[10];
for ( i = 0; i < 10; i++ ) {
j = a[i];
b[i] = j;
<para>Memcheck emits no complaints about this, since it merely copies
uninitialised values from <varname>a[]</varname> into
<varname>b[]</varname>, and doesn't use them in a way which could
affect the behaviour of the program. However, if
the loop is changed to:</para>
for ( i = 0; i < 10; i++ ) {
j += a[i];
if ( j == 77 )
printf("hello there\n");
<para>then Memcheck will complain, at the
<computeroutput>if</computeroutput>, that the condition depends on
uninitialised values. Note that it <command>doesn't</command> complain
at the <varname>j += a[i];</varname>, since at that point the
undefinedness is not "observable". It's only when a decision has to be
made as to whether or not to do the <function>printf</function> -- an
observable action of your program -- that Memcheck complains.</para>
<para>Most low level operations, such as adds, cause Memcheck to use the
V bits for the operands to calculate the V bits for the result. Even if
the result is partially or wholly undefined, it does not
<para>Checks on definedness only occur in three places: when a value is
used to generate a memory address, when control flow decision needs to
be made, and when a system call is detected, Memcheck checks definedness
of parameters as required.</para>
<para>If a check should detect undefinedness, an error message is
issued. The resulting value is subsequently regarded as well-defined.
To do otherwise would give long chains of error messages. In other
words, once Memcheck reports an undefined value error, it tries to
avoid reporting further errors derived from that same undefined
<para>This sounds overcomplicated. Why not just check all reads from
memory, and complain if an undefined value is loaded into a CPU
register? Well, that doesn't work well, because perfectly legitimate C
programs routinely copy uninitialised values around in memory, and we
don't want endless complaints about that. Here's the canonical example.
Consider a struct like this:</para>
struct S { int x; char c; };
struct S s1, s2;
s1.x = 42;
s1.c = 'z';
s2 = s1;
<para>The question to ask is: how large is <varname>struct S</varname>,
in bytes? An <varname>int</varname> is 4 bytes and a
<varname>char</varname> one byte, so perhaps a <varname>struct
S</varname> occupies 5 bytes? Wrong. All non-toy compilers we know
of will round the size of <varname>struct S</varname> up to a whole
number of words, in this case 8 bytes. Not doing this forces compilers
to generate truly appalling code for accessing arrays of
<varname>struct S</varname>'s on some architectures.</para>
<para>So <varname>s1</varname> occupies 8 bytes, yet only 5 of them will
be initialised. For the assignment <varname>s2 = s1</varname>, GCC
generates code to copy all 8 bytes wholesale into <varname>s2</varname>
without regard for their meaning. If Memcheck simply checked values as
they came out of memory, it would yelp every time a structure assignment
like this happened. So the more complicated behaviour described above
is necessary. This allows GCC to copy
<varname>s1</varname> into <varname>s2</varname> any way it likes, and a
warning will only be emitted if the uninitialised values are later
<sect2 id="mc-manual.vaddress" xreflabel=" Valid-address (A) bits">
<title>Valid-address (A) bits</title>
<para>Notice that the previous subsection describes how the validity of
values is established and maintained without having to say whether the
program does or does not have the right to access any particular memory
location. We now consider the latter question.</para>
<para>As described above, every bit in memory or in the CPU has an
associated valid-value (V) bit. In addition, all bytes in memory, but
not in the CPU, have an associated valid-address (A) bit. This
indicates whether or not the program can legitimately read or write that
location. It does not give any indication of the validity of the data
at that location -- that's the job of the V bits -- only whether or not
the location may be accessed.</para>
<para>Every time your program reads or writes memory, Memcheck checks
the A bits associated with the address. If any of them indicate an
invalid address, an error is emitted. Note that the reads and writes
themselves do not change the A bits, only consult them.</para>
<para>So how do the A bits get set/cleared? Like this:</para>
<para>When the program starts, all the global data areas are
marked as accessible.</para>
<para>When the program does
the A bits for exactly the area allocated, and not a byte more,
are marked as accessible. Upon freeing the area the A bits are
changed to indicate inaccessibility.</para>
<para>When the stack pointer register (<literal>SP</literal>) moves
up or down, A bits are set. The rule is that the area from
<literal>SP</literal> up to the base of the stack is marked as
accessible, and below <literal>SP</literal> is inaccessible. (If
that sounds illogical, bear in mind that the stack grows down, not
up, on almost all Unix systems, including GNU/Linux.) Tracking
<literal>SP</literal> like this has the useful side-effect that the
section of stack used by a function for local variables etc is
automatically marked accessible on function entry and inaccessible
on exit.</para>
<para>When doing system calls, A bits are changed appropriately.
For example, <literal>mmap</literal>
magically makes files appear in the process'
address space, so the A bits must be updated if <literal>mmap</literal>
<para>Optionally, your program can tell Memcheck about such changes
explicitly, using the client request mechanism described
<sect2 id="mc-manual.together" xreflabel="Putting it all together">
<title>Putting it all together</title>
<para>Memcheck's checking machinery can be summarised as
<para>Each byte in memory has 8 associated V (valid-value) bits,
saying whether or not the byte has a defined value, and a single A
(valid-address) bit, saying whether or not the program currently has
the right to read/write that address. As mentioned above, heavy
use of compression means the overhead is typically around 25%.</para>
<para>When memory is read or written, the relevant A bits are
consulted. If they indicate an invalid address, Memcheck emits an
Invalid read or Invalid write error.</para>
<para>When memory is read into the CPU's registers, the relevant V
bits are fetched from memory and stored in the simulated CPU. They
are not consulted.</para>
<para>When a register is written out to memory, the V bits for that
register are written back to memory too.</para>
<para>When values in CPU registers are used to generate a memory
address, or to determine the outcome of a conditional branch, the V
bits for those values are checked, and an error emitted if any of
them are undefined.</para>
<para>When values in CPU registers are used for any other purpose,
Memcheck computes the V bits for the result, but does not check
<para>Once the V bits for a value in the CPU have been checked, they
are then set to indicate validity. This avoids long chains of
<para>When values are loaded from memory, Memcheck checks the A bits
for that location and issues an illegal-address warning if needed.
In that case, the V bits loaded are forced to indicate Valid,
despite the location being invalid.</para>
<para>This apparently strange choice reduces the amount of confusing
information presented to the user. It avoids the unpleasant
phenomenon in which memory is read from a place which is both
unaddressable and contains invalid values, and, as a result, you get
not only an invalid-address (read/write) error, but also a
potentially large set of uninitialised-value errors, one for every
time the value is used.</para>
<para>There is a hazy boundary case to do with multi-byte loads from
addresses which are partially valid and partially invalid. See
details of the option <option>--partial-loads-ok</option> for details.
<para>Memcheck intercepts calls to <function>malloc</function>,
<function>calloc</function>, <function>realloc</function>,
<function>valloc</function>, <function>memalign</function>,
<function>free</function>, <computeroutput>new</computeroutput>,
<computeroutput>delete</computeroutput> and
<computeroutput>delete[]</computeroutput>. The behaviour you get
the returned memory is marked as addressable but not having valid
values. This means you have to write to it before you can read
<para><function>calloc</function>: returned memory is marked both
addressable and valid, since <function>calloc</function> clears
the area to zero.</para>
<para><function>realloc</function>: if the new size is larger than
the old, the new section is addressable but invalid, as with
<function>malloc</function>. If the new size is smaller, the
dropped-off section is marked as unaddressable. You may only pass to
<function>realloc</function> a pointer previously issued to you by
you may only pass to these functions a pointer previously issued
to you by the corresponding allocation function. Otherwise,
Memcheck complains. If the pointer is indeed valid, Memcheck
marks the entire area it points at as unaddressable, and places
the block in the freed-blocks-queue. The aim is to defer as long
as possible reallocation of this block. Until that happens, all
attempts to access it will elicit an invalid-address error, as you
would hope.</para>
<sect1 id="mc-manual.monitor-commands" xreflabel="Memcheck Monitor Commands">
<title>Memcheck Monitor Commands</title>
<para>The Memcheck tool provides monitor commands handled by Valgrind's
built-in gdbserver (see <xref linkend="manual-core-adv.gdbserver-commandhandling"/>).
<para><varname>get_vbits &lt;addr&gt; [&lt;len&gt;]</varname>
shows the definedness (V) bits for &lt;len&gt; (default 1) bytes
starting at &lt;addr&gt;. The definedness of each byte in the
range is given using two hexadecimal digits. These hexadecimal
digits encode the validity of each bit of the corresponding byte,
using 0 if the bit is defined and 1 if the bit is undefined.
If a byte is not addressable, its validity bits are replaced
by <varname>__</varname> (a double underscore).
In the following example, <varname>string10</varname> is an array
of 10 characters, in which the even numbered bytes are
undefined. In the below example, the byte corresponding
to <varname>string10[5]</varname> is not addressable.
(gdb) p &string10
$4 = (char (*)[10]) 0x8049e28
(gdb) monitor get_vbits 0x8049e28 10
ff00ff00 ff__ff00 ff00
<para> The command get_vbits cannot be used with registers. To get
the validity bits of a register, you must start Valgrind with the
option <option>--vgdb-shadow-registers=yes</option>. The validity
bits of a register can be obtained by printing the 'shadow 1'
corresponding register. In the below x86 example, the register
eax has all its bits undefined, while the register ebx is fully
(gdb) p /x $eaxs1
$9 = 0xffffffff
(gdb) p /x $ebxs1
$10 = 0x0
[noaccess|undefined|defined|Definedifaddressable] &lt;addr&gt;
[&lt;len&gt;]</varname> marks the range of &lt;len&gt; (default 1)
bytes at &lt;addr&gt; as having the given status. Parameter
<varname>noaccess</varname> marks the range as non-accessible, so
Memcheck will report an error on any access to it.
<varname>undefined</varname> or <varname>defined</varname> mark
the area as accessible, but Memcheck regards the bytes in it
respectively as having undefined or defined values.
<varname>Definedifaddressable</varname> marks as defined, bytes in
the range which are already addressible, but makes no change to
the status of bytes in the range which are not addressible. Note
that the first letter of <varname>Definedifaddressable</varname>
is an uppercase D to avoid confusion with <varname>defined</varname>.
In the following example, the first byte of the
<varname>string10</varname> is marked as defined:
(gdb) monitor make_memory defined 0x8049e28 1
(gdb) monitor get_vbits 0x8049e28 10
0000ff00 ff00ff00 ff00
<para><varname>check_memory [addressable|defined] &lt;addr&gt;
[&lt;len&gt;]</varname> checks that the range of &lt;len&gt;
(default 1) bytes at &lt;addr&gt; has the specified accessibility.
It then outputs a description of &lt;addr&gt;. In the following
example, a detailed description is available because the
option <option>--read-var-info=yes</option> was given at Valgrind
(gdb) monitor check_memory defined 0x8049e28 1
Address 0x8049E28 len 1 defined
==14698== Location 0x8049e28 is 0 bytes inside string10[0],
==14698== declared at prog.c:10, in frame #0 of thread 1
<para><varname>leak_check [full*|summary]
[kinds &lt;set&gt;|reachable|possibleleak*|definiteleak]
[heuristics heur1,heur2,...]
[unlimited*|limited &lt;max_loss_records_output&gt;]
performs a leak check. The <varname>*</varname> in the arguments
indicates the default values. </para>
<para> If the <varname>[full*|summary]</varname> argument is
<varname>summary</varname>, only a summary of the leak search is given;
otherwise a full leak report is produced. A full leak report gives
detailed information for each leak: the stack trace where the leaked blocks
were allocated, the number of blocks leaked and their total size. When a
full report is requested, the next two arguments further specify what
kind of leaks to report. A leak's details are shown if they match
both the second and third argument. A full leak report might
output detailed information for many leaks. The nr of leaks for
which information is output can be controlled using
the <varname>limited</varname> argument followed by the maximum nr
of leak records to output. If this maximum is reached, the leak
search outputs the records with the biggest number of bytes.
<para>The <varname>kinds</varname> argument controls what kind of blocks
are shown for a <varname>full</varname> leak search. The set of leak kinds
to show can be specified using a <varname>&lt;set&gt;</varname> similarly
to the command line option <option>--show-leak-kinds</option>.
Alternatively, the value <varname>definiteleak</varname>
is equivalent to <varname>kinds definite</varname>, the
value <varname>possibleleak</varname> is equivalent to
<varname>kinds definite,possible</varname> : it will also show
possibly leaked blocks, .i.e those for which only an interior
pointer was found. The value <varname>reachable</varname> will
show all block categories (i.e. is equivalent to <varname>kinds
<para>The <varname>heuristics</varname> argument controls the heuristics
used during the leak search. The set of heuristics to use can be specified
using a <varname>&lt;set&gt;</varname> similarly
to the command line option <option>--leak-check-heuristics</option>.
The default value for the <varname>heuristics</varname> argument is
<varname>heuristics none</varname>.
<para>The <varname>[increased*|changed|any]</varname> argument controls what
kinds of changes are shown for a <varname>full</varname> leak search. The
value <varname>increased</varname> specifies that only block
allocation stacks with an increased number of leaked bytes or
blocks since the previous leak check should be shown. The
value <varname>changed</varname> specifies that allocation stacks
with any change since the previous leak check should be shown.
The value <varname>any</varname> specifies that all leak entries
should be shown, regardless of any increase or decrease. When
If <varname>increased</varname> or <varname>changed</varname> are
specified, the leak report entries will show the delta relative to
the previous leak report.
<para>The following example shows usage of the
<varname>leak_check</varname> monitor command on
the <varname>memcheck/tests/leak-cases.c</varname> regression
test. The first command outputs one entry having an increase in
the leaked bytes. The second command is the same as the first
command, but uses the abbreviated forms accepted by GDB and the
Valgrind gdbserver. It only outputs the summary information, as
there was no increase since the previous leak search.</para>
(gdb) monitor leak_check full possibleleak increased
==19520== 16 (+16) bytes in 1 (+1) blocks are possibly lost in loss record 9 of 12
==19520== at 0x40070B4: malloc (vg_replace_malloc.c:263)
==19520== by 0x80484D5: mk (leak-cases.c:52)
==19520== by 0x804855F: f (leak-cases.c:81)
==19520== by 0x80488E0: main (leak-cases.c:107)
==19520== LEAK SUMMARY:
==19520== definitely lost: 32 (+0) bytes in 2 (+0) blocks
==19520== indirectly lost: 16 (+0) bytes in 1 (+0) blocks
==19520== possibly lost: 32 (+16) bytes in 2 (+1) blocks
==19520== still reachable: 96 (+16) bytes in 6 (+1) blocks
==19520== suppressed: 0 (+0) bytes in 0 (+0) blocks
==19520== Reachable blocks (those to which a pointer was found) are not shown.
==19520== To see them, add 'reachable any' args to leak_check
(gdb) mo l
==19520== LEAK SUMMARY:
==19520== definitely lost: 32 (+0) bytes in 2 (+0) blocks
==19520== indirectly lost: 16 (+0) bytes in 1 (+0) blocks
==19520== possibly lost: 32 (+0) bytes in 2 (+0) blocks
==19520== still reachable: 96 (+0) bytes in 6 (+0) blocks
==19520== suppressed: 0 (+0) bytes in 0 (+0) blocks
==19520== Reachable blocks (those to which a pointer was found) are not shown.
==19520== To see them, add 'reachable any' args to leak_check
<para>Note that when using Valgrind's gdbserver, it is not
necessary to rerun
with <option>--leak-check=full</option>
<option>--show-reachable=yes</option> to see the reachable
blocks. You can obtain the same information without rerunning by
using the GDB command <computeroutput>monitor leak_check full
reachable any</computeroutput> (or, using
abbreviation: <computeroutput>mo l f r a</computeroutput>).
<para><varname>block_list &lt;loss_record_nr&gt; </varname>
shows the list of blocks belonging to &lt;loss_record_nr&gt;.
<para> A leak search merges the allocated blocks in loss records :
a loss record re-groups all blocks having the same state (for
example, Definitely Lost) and the same allocation backtrace.
Each loss record is identified in the leak search result
by a loss record number.
The <varname>block_list</varname> command shows the loss record information
followed by the addresses and sizes of the blocks which have been
merged in the loss record.
<para> If a directly lost block causes some other blocks to be indirectly
lost, the block_list command will also show these indirectly lost blocks.
The indirectly lost blocks will be indented according to the level of indirection
between the directly lost block and the indirectly lost block(s).
Each indirectly lost block is followed by the reference of its loss record.
<para> The block_list command can be used on the results of a leak search as long
as no block has been freed after this leak search: as soon as the program frees
a block, a new leak search is needed before block_list can be used again.
In the below example, the program leaks a tree structure by losing the pointer to
the block A (top of the tree).
So, the block A is directly lost, causing an indirect
loss of blocks B to G. The first block_list command shows the loss record of A
(a definitely lost block with address 0x4028028, size 16). The addresses and sizes
of the indirectly lost blocks due to block A are shown below the block A.
The second command shows the details of one of the indirect loss records output
by the first command.
/ \
/ \ / \
(gdb) bt
#0 main () at leak-tree.c:69
(gdb) monitor leak_check full any
==19552== 112 (16 direct, 96 indirect) bytes in 1 blocks are definitely lost in loss record 7 of 7
==19552== at 0x40070B4: malloc (vg_replace_malloc.c:263)
==19552== by 0x80484D5: mk (leak-tree.c:28)
==19552== by 0x80484FC: f (leak-tree.c:41)
==19552== by 0x8048856: main (leak-tree.c:63)
==19552== LEAK SUMMARY:
==19552== definitely lost: 16 bytes in 1 blocks
==19552== indirectly lost: 96 bytes in 6 blocks
==19552== possibly lost: 0 bytes in 0 blocks
==19552== still reachable: 0 bytes in 0 blocks
==19552== suppressed: 0 bytes in 0 blocks
(gdb) monitor block_list 7
==19552== 112 (16 direct, 96 indirect) bytes in 1 blocks are definitely lost in loss record 7 of 7
==19552== at 0x40070B4: malloc (vg_replace_malloc.c:263)
==19552== by 0x80484D5: mk (leak-tree.c:28)
==19552== by 0x80484FC: f (leak-tree.c:41)
==19552== by 0x8048856: main (leak-tree.c:63)
==19552== 0x4028028[16]
==19552== 0x4028068[16] indirect loss record 1
==19552== 0x40280E8[16] indirect loss record 3
==19552== 0x4028128[16] indirect loss record 4
==19552== 0x40280A8[16] indirect loss record 2
==19552== 0x4028168[16] indirect loss record 5
==19552== 0x40281A8[16] indirect loss record 6
(gdb) mo b 2
==19552== 16 bytes in 1 blocks are indirectly lost in loss record 2 of 7
==19552== at 0x40070B4: malloc (vg_replace_malloc.c:263)
==19552== by 0x80484D5: mk (leak-tree.c:28)
==19552== by 0x8048519: f (leak-tree.c:43)
==19552== by 0x8048856: main (leak-tree.c:63)
==19552== 0x40280A8[16]
==19552== 0x4028168[16] indirect loss record 5
==19552== 0x40281A8[16] indirect loss record 6
<para><varname>who_points_at &lt;addr&gt; [&lt;len&gt;]</varname>
shows all the locations where a pointer to addr is found.
If len is equal to 1, the command only shows the locations pointing
exactly at addr (i.e. the "start pointers" to addr).
If len is &gt; 1, "interior pointers" pointing at the len first bytes
will also be shown.
<para>The locations searched for are the same as the locations
used in the leak search. So, <varname>who_points_at</varname> can a.o.
be used to show why the leak search still can reach a block, or can
search for dangling pointers to a freed block.
Each location pointing at addr (or pointing inside addr if interior pointers
are being searched for) will be described.
<para>In the below example, the pointers to the 'tree block A' (see example
in command <varname>block_list</varname>) is shown before the tree was leaked.
The descriptions are detailed as the option <option>--read-var-info=yes</option>
was given at Valgrind startup. The second call shows the pointers (start and interior
pointers) to block G. The block G (0x40281A8) is reachable via block C (0x40280a8)
and register ECX of tid 1 (tid is the Valgrind thread id).
It is "interior reachable" via the register EBX.
(gdb) monitor who_points_at 0x4028028
==20852== Searching for pointers to 0x4028028
==20852== *0x8049e20 points at 0x4028028
==20852== Location 0x8049e20 is 0 bytes inside global var "t"
==20852== declared at leak-tree.c:35
(gdb) monitor who_points_at 0x40281A8 16
==20852== Searching for pointers pointing in 16 bytes from 0x40281a8
==20852== *0x40280ac points at 0x40281a8
==20852== Address 0x40280ac is 4 bytes inside a block of size 16 alloc'd
==20852== at 0x40070B4: malloc (vg_replace_malloc.c:263)
==20852== by 0x80484D5: mk (leak-tree.c:28)
==20852== by 0x8048519: f (leak-tree.c:43)
==20852== by 0x8048856: main (leak-tree.c:63)
==20852== tid 1 register ECX points at 0x40281a8
==20852== tid 1 register EBX interior points at 2 bytes inside 0x40281a8
<para> When <varname>who_points_at</varname> finds an interior pointer,
it will report the heuristic(s) with which this interior pointer
will be considered as reachable. Note that this is done independently
of the value of the option <option>--leak-check-heuristics</option>.
In the below example, the loss record 6 indicates a possibly lost
block. <varname>who_points_at</varname> reports that there is an interior
pointer pointing in this block, and that the block can be considered
reachable using the heuristic
(gdb) monitor block_list 6
==3748== 8 bytes in 1 blocks are possibly lost in loss record 6 of 7
==3748== at 0x4007D77: operator new(unsigned int) (vg_replace_malloc.c:313)
==3748== by 0x8048954: main (leak_cpp_interior.cpp:43)
==3748== 0x402A0E0[8]
(gdb) monitor who_points_at 0x402A0E0 8
==3748== Searching for pointers pointing in 8 bytes from 0x402a0e0
==3748== *0xbe8ee078 interior points at 4 bytes inside 0x402a0e0
==3748== Address 0xbe8ee078 is on thread 1's stack
==3748== block at 0x402a0e0 considered reachable by ptr 0x402a0e4 using multipleinheritance heuristic
<sect1 id="mc-manual.clientreqs" xreflabel="Client requests">
<title>Client Requests</title>
<para>The following client requests are defined in
See <filename>memcheck.h</filename> for exact details of their
<varname>VALGRIND_MAKE_MEM_UNDEFINED</varname> and
These mark address ranges as completely inaccessible,
accessible but containing undefined data, and accessible and
containing defined data, respectively. They return -1, when
run on Valgrind and 0 otherwise.</para>
This is just like <varname>VALGRIND_MAKE_MEM_DEFINED</varname> but only
affects those bytes that are already addressable.</para>
<para><varname>VALGRIND_CHECK_MEM_IS_ADDRESSABLE</varname> and
<varname>VALGRIND_CHECK_MEM_IS_DEFINED</varname>: check immediately
whether or not the given address range has the relevant property,
and if not, print an error message. Also, for the convenience of
the client, returns zero if the relevant property holds; otherwise,
the returned value is the address of the first byte for which the
property is not true. Always returns 0 when not run on
<para><varname>VALGRIND_CHECK_VALUE_IS_DEFINED</varname>: a quick and easy
way to find out whether Valgrind thinks a particular value
(lvalue, to be precise) is addressable and defined. Prints an error
message if not. It has no return value.</para>
<para><varname>VALGRIND_DO_LEAK_CHECK</varname>: does a full memory leak
check (like <option>--leak-check=full</option>) right now.
This is useful for incrementally checking for leaks between arbitrary
places in the program's execution. It has no return value.</para>
<para><varname>VALGRIND_DO_ADDED_LEAK_CHECK</varname>: same as
<varname> VALGRIND_DO_LEAK_CHECK</varname> but only shows the
entries for which there was an increase in leaked bytes or leaked
number of blocks since the previous leak search. It has no return
<para><varname>VALGRIND_DO_CHANGED_LEAK_CHECK</varname>: same as
<varname>VALGRIND_DO_LEAK_CHECK</varname> but only shows the
entries for which there was an increase or decrease in leaked
bytes or leaked number of blocks since the previous leak search. It
has no return value.</para>
<para><varname>VALGRIND_DO_QUICK_LEAK_CHECK</varname>: like
<varname>VALGRIND_DO_LEAK_CHECK</varname>, except it produces only a leak
summary (like <option>--leak-check=summary</option>).
It has no return value.</para>
<para><varname>VALGRIND_COUNT_LEAKS</varname>: fills in the four
arguments with the number of bytes of memory found by the previous
leak check to be leaked (i.e. the sum of direct leaks and indirect leaks),
dubious, reachable and suppressed. This is useful in test harness code,
after calling <varname>VALGRIND_DO_LEAK_CHECK</varname> or
<para><varname>VALGRIND_COUNT_LEAK_BLOCKS</varname>: identical to
<varname>VALGRIND_COUNT_LEAKS</varname> except that it returns the
number of blocks rather than the number of bytes in each
<para><varname>VALGRIND_GET_VBITS</varname> and
<varname>VALGRIND_SET_VBITS</varname>: allow you to get and set the
V (validity) bits for an address range. You should probably only
set V bits that you have got with
<varname>VALGRIND_GET_VBITS</varname>. Only for those who really
know what they are doing.</para>
<para><varname>VALGRIND_CREATE_BLOCK</varname> and
<varname>VALGRIND_DISCARD</varname>. <varname>VALGRIND_CREATE_BLOCK</varname>
takes an address, a number of bytes and a character string. The
specified address range is then associated with that string. When
Memcheck reports an invalid access to an address in the range, it
will describe it in terms of this block rather than in terms of
any other block it knows about. Note that the use of this macro
does not actually change the state of memory in any way -- it
merely gives a name for the range.
<para>At some point you may want Memcheck to stop reporting errors
in terms of the block named
by <varname>VALGRIND_CREATE_BLOCK</varname>. To make this
possible, <varname>VALGRIND_CREATE_BLOCK</varname> returns a
"block handle", which is a C <varname>int</varname> value. You
can pass this block handle to <varname>VALGRIND_DISCARD</varname>.
After doing so, Valgrind will no longer relate addressing errors
in the specified range to the block. Passing invalid handles to
<varname>VALGRIND_DISCARD</varname> is harmless.
<sect1 id="mc-manual.mempools" xreflabel="Memory Pools">
<title>Memory Pools: describing and working with custom allocators</title>
<para>Some programs use custom memory allocators, often for performance
reasons. Left to itself, Memcheck is unable to understand the
behaviour of custom allocation schemes as well as it understands the
standard allocators, and so may miss errors and leaks in your program. What
this section describes is a way to give Memcheck enough of a description of
your custom allocator that it can make at least some sense of what is
<para>There are many different sorts of custom allocator, so Memcheck
attempts to reason about them using a loose, abstract model. We
use the following terminology when describing custom allocation
<para>Custom allocation involves a set of independent "memory pools".
<para>Memcheck's notion of a a memory pool consists of a single "anchor
address" and a set of non-overlapping "chunks" associated with the
anchor address.</para>
<para>Typically a pool's anchor address is the address of a
book-keeping "header" structure.</para>
<para>Typically the pool's chunks are drawn from a contiguous
"superblock" acquired through the system
<function>malloc</function> or
<para>Keep in mind that the last two points above say "typically": the
Valgrind mempool client request API is intentionally vague about the
exact structure of a mempool. There is no specific mention made of
headers or superblocks. Nevertheless, the following picture may help
elucidate the intention of the terms in the API:</para>
(anchor address)
| header | o |
v superblock
| |rzB| allocation |rzB| |
^ ^
| |
"addr" "addr"+"size"
Note that the header and the superblock may be contiguous or
discontiguous, and there may be multiple superblocks associated with a
single header; such variations are opaque to Memcheck. The API
only requires that your allocation scheme can present sensible values
of "pool", "addr" and "size".</para>
Typically, before making client requests related to mempools, a client
program will have allocated such a header and superblock for their
mempool, and marked the superblock NOACCESS using the
<varname>VALGRIND_MAKE_MEM_NOACCESS</varname> client request.</para>
When dealing with mempools, the goal is to maintain a particular
invariant condition: that Memcheck believes the unallocated portions
of the pool's superblock (including redzones) are NOACCESS. To
maintain this invariant, the client program must ensure that the
superblock starts out in that state; Memcheck cannot make it so, since
Memcheck never explicitly learns about the superblock of a pool, only
the allocated chunks within the pool.</para>
Once the header and superblock for a pool are established and properly
marked, there are a number of client requests programs can use to
inform Memcheck about changes to the state of a mempool:</para>
<varname>VALGRIND_CREATE_MEMPOOL(pool, rzB, is_zeroed)</varname>:
This request registers the address <varname>pool</varname> as the anchor
address for a memory pool. It also provides a size
<varname>rzB</varname>, specifying how large the redzones placed around
chunks allocated from the pool should be. Finally, it provides an
<varname>is_zeroed</varname> argument that specifies whether the pool's
chunks are zeroed (more precisely: defined) when allocated.
Upon completion of this request, no chunks are associated with the
pool. The request simply tells Memcheck that the pool exists, so that
subsequent calls can refer to it as a pool.
This request tells Memcheck that a pool is being torn down. Memcheck
then removes all records of chunks associated with the pool, as well
as its record of the pool's existence. While destroying its records of
a mempool, Memcheck resets the redzones of any live chunks in the pool
<para><varname>VALGRIND_MEMPOOL_ALLOC(pool, addr, size)</varname>:
This request informs Memcheck that a <varname>size</varname>-byte chunk
has been allocated at <varname>addr</varname>, and associates the chunk with the
<varname>pool</varname>. If the pool was created with nonzero
<varname>rzB</varname> redzones, Memcheck will mark the
<varname>rzB</varname> bytes before and after the chunk as NOACCESS. If
the pool was created with the <varname>is_zeroed</varname> argument set,
Memcheck will mark the chunk as DEFINED, otherwise Memcheck will mark
the chunk as UNDEFINED.
<para><varname>VALGRIND_MEMPOOL_FREE(pool, addr)</varname>:
This request informs Memcheck that the chunk at <varname>addr</varname>
should no longer be considered allocated. Memcheck will mark the chunk
associated with <varname>addr</varname> as NOACCESS, and delete its
record of the chunk's existence.
<para><varname>VALGRIND_MEMPOOL_TRIM(pool, addr, size)</varname>:
This request trims the chunks associated with <varname>pool</varname>.
The request only operates on chunks associated with
<varname>pool</varname>. Trimming is formally defined as:</para>
<para> All chunks entirely inside the range
<varname>addr..(addr+size-1)</varname> are preserved.</para>
<para>All chunks entirely outside the range
<varname>addr..(addr+size-1)</varname> are discarded, as though
<varname>VALGRIND_MEMPOOL_FREE</varname> was called on them. </para>
<para>All other chunks must intersect with the range
<varname>addr..(addr+size-1)</varname>; areas outside the
intersection are marked as NOACCESS, as though they had been
independently freed with
<para>This is a somewhat rare request, but can be useful in
implementing the type of mass-free operations common in custom
LIFO allocators.</para>
<para><varname>VALGRIND_MOVE_MEMPOOL(poolA, poolB)</varname>: This
request informs Memcheck that the pool previously anchored at
address <varname>poolA</varname> has moved to anchor address
<varname>poolB</varname>. This is a rare request, typically only needed
if you <function>realloc</function> the header of a mempool.</para>
<para>No memory-status bits are altered by this request.</para>
<varname>VALGRIND_MEMPOOL_CHANGE(pool, addrA, addrB,
size)</varname>: This request informs Memcheck that the chunk
previously allocated at address <varname>addrA</varname> within
<varname>pool</varname> has been moved and/or resized, and should be
changed to cover the region <varname>addrB..(addrB+size-1)</varname>. This
is a rare request, typically only needed if you
<function>realloc</function> a superblock or wish to extend a chunk
without changing its memory-status bits.
<para>No memory-status bits are altered by this request.
This request informs the caller whether or not Memcheck is currently
tracking a mempool at anchor address <varname>pool</varname>. It
evaluates to 1 when there is a mempool associated with that address, 0
otherwise. This is a rare request, only useful in circumstances when
client code might have lost track of the set of active mempools.
<sect1 id="mc-manual.mpiwrap" xreflabel="MPI Wrappers">
<title>Debugging MPI Parallel Programs with Valgrind</title>
<para>Memcheck supports debugging of distributed-memory applications
which use the MPI message passing standard. This support consists of a
library of wrapper functions for the
<computeroutput>PMPI_*</computeroutput> interface. When incorporated
into the application's address space, either by direct linking or by
<computeroutput>LD_PRELOAD</computeroutput>, the wrappers intercept
calls to <computeroutput>PMPI_Send</computeroutput>,
<computeroutput>PMPI_Recv</computeroutput>, etc. They then
use client requests to inform Memcheck of memory state changes caused
by the function being wrapped. This reduces the number of false
positives that Memcheck otherwise typically reports for MPI
<para>The wrappers also take the opportunity to carefully check
size and definedness of buffers passed as arguments to MPI functions, hence
detecting errors such as passing undefined data to
<computeroutput>PMPI_Send</computeroutput>, or receiving data into a
buffer which is too small.</para>
<para>Unlike most of the rest of Valgrind, the wrapper library is subject to a
BSD-style license, so you can link it into any code base you like.
See the top of <computeroutput>mpi/libmpiwrap.c</computeroutput>
for license details.</para>
<sect2 id="" xreflabel="Building MPI Wrappers">
<title>Building and installing the wrappers</title>
<para> The wrapper library will be built automatically if possible.
Valgrind's configure script will look for a suitable
<computeroutput>mpicc</computeroutput> to build it with. This must be
the same <computeroutput>mpicc</computeroutput> you use to build the
MPI application you want to debug. By default, Valgrind tries
<computeroutput>mpicc</computeroutput>, but you can specify a
different one by using the configure-time option
<option>--with-mpicc</option>. Currently the
wrappers are only buildable with
<computeroutput>mpicc</computeroutput>s which are based on GNU
GCC or Intel's C++ Compiler.</para>
<para>Check that the configure script prints a line like this:</para>
checking for usable MPI2-compliant mpicc and mpi.h... yes, mpicc
<para>If it says <computeroutput>... no</computeroutput>, your
<computeroutput>mpicc</computeroutput> has failed to compile and link
a test MPI2 program.</para>
<para>If the configure test succeeds, continue in the usual way with
<computeroutput>make</computeroutput> and <computeroutput>make
install</computeroutput>. The final install tree should then contain
<para>Compile up a test MPI program (eg, MPI hello-world) and try
LD_PRELOAD=$prefix/lib/valgrind/libmpiwrap-<platform>.so \
mpirun [args] $prefix/bin/valgrind ./hello
<para>You should see something similar to the following</para>
valgrind MPI wrappers 31901: Active for pid 31901
valgrind MPI wrappers 31901: Try MPIWRAP_DEBUG=help for possible options
<para>repeated for every process in the group. If you do not see
these, there is an build/installation problem of some kind.</para>
<para> The MPI functions to be wrapped are assumed to be in an ELF
shared object with soname matching
<computeroutput>*</computeroutput>. This is known to be
correct at least for Open MPI and Quadrics MPI, and can easily be
changed if required.</para>
<sect2 id="mc-manual.mpiwrap.gettingstarted"
xreflabel="Getting started with MPI Wrappers">
<title>Getting started</title>
<para>Compile your MPI application as usual, taking care to link it
using the same <computeroutput>mpicc</computeroutput> that your
Valgrind build was configured with.</para>
Use the following basic scheme to run your application on Valgrind with
the wrappers engaged:</para>
MPIWRAP_DEBUG=[wrapper-args] \
LD_PRELOAD=$prefix/lib/valgrind/libmpiwrap-<platform>.so \
mpirun [mpirun-args] \
$prefix/bin/valgrind [valgrind-args] \
[application] [app-args]
<para>As an alternative to
<computeroutput>libmpiwrap-&lt;platform&gt;.so</computeroutput>, you can
simply link it to your application if desired. This should not disturb
native behaviour of your application in any way.</para>
<sect2 id="mc-manual.mpiwrap.controlling"
xreflabel="Controlling the MPI Wrappers">
<title>Controlling the wrapper library</title>
<para>Environment variable
<computeroutput>MPIWRAP_DEBUG</computeroutput> is consulted at
startup. The default behaviour is to print a starting banner</para>
valgrind MPI wrappers 16386: Active for pid 16386
valgrind MPI wrappers 16386: Try MPIWRAP_DEBUG=help for possible options
<para> and then be relatively quiet.</para>
<para>You can give a list of comma-separated options in
<computeroutput>MPIWRAP_DEBUG</computeroutput>. These are</para>
show entries/exits of all wrappers. Also show extra
debugging info, such as the status of outstanding
<computeroutput>MPI_Request</computeroutput>s resulting
from uncompleted <computeroutput>MPI_Irecv</computeroutput>s.</para>
opposite of <computeroutput>verbose</computeroutput>, only print
anything when the wrappers want
to report a detected programming error, or in case of catastrophic
failure of the wrappers.</para>
by default, functions which lack proper wrappers
are not commented on, just silently
ignored. This causes a warning to be printed for each unwrapped
function used, up to a maximum of three warnings per function.</para>
print an error message and abort the program if
a function lacking a wrapper is used.</para>
<para> If you want to use Valgrind's XML output facility
(<option>--xml=yes</option>), you should pass
<computeroutput>quiet</computeroutput> in
<computeroutput>MPIWRAP_DEBUG</computeroutput> so as to get rid of any
extraneous printing from the wrappers.</para>
<sect2 id="mc-manual.mpiwrap.limitations.functions"
xreflabel="Functions: Abilities and Limitations">
<para>All MPI2 functions except
<computeroutput>MPI_Wtime</computeroutput> and
<computeroutput>MPI_Pcontrol</computeroutput> have wrappers. The
first two are not wrapped because they return a
<computeroutput>double</computeroutput>, which Valgrind's
function-wrap mechanism cannot handle (but it could easily be
extended to do so). <computeroutput>MPI_Pcontrol</computeroutput> cannot be
wrapped as it has variable arity:
<computeroutput>int MPI_Pcontrol(const int level, ...)</computeroutput></para>
<para>Most functions are wrapped with a default wrapper which does
nothing except complain or abort if it is called, depending on
settings in <computeroutput>MPIWRAP_DEBUG</computeroutput> listed
above. The following functions have "real", do-something-useful
PMPI_Send PMPI_Bsend PMPI_Ssend PMPI_Rsend
PMPI_Recv PMPI_Get_count
PMPI_Isend PMPI_Ibsend PMPI_Issend PMPI_Irsend
PMPI_Wait PMPI_Waitall
PMPI_Test PMPI_Testall
PMPI_Iprobe PMPI_Probe
PMPI_Type_commit PMPI_Type_free
PMPI_Pack PMPI_Unpack
PMPI_Bcast PMPI_Gather PMPI_Scatter PMPI_Alltoall
PMPI_Reduce PMPI_Allreduce PMPI_Op_create
PMPI_Comm_create PMPI_Comm_dup PMPI_Comm_free PMPI_Comm_rank PMPI_Comm_size
PMPI_Init PMPI_Initialized PMPI_Finalize
<para> A few functions such as
<computeroutput>PMPI_Address</computeroutput> are listed as
<computeroutput>HAS_NO_WRAPPER</computeroutput>. They have no wrapper
at all as there is nothing worth checking, and giving a no-op wrapper
would reduce performance for no reason.</para>
<para> Note that the wrapper library itself can itself generate large
numbers of calls to the MPI implementation, especially when walking
complex types. The most common functions called are
<computeroutput>PMPI_Type_get_contents</computeroutput>, and
<computeroutput>PMPI_Type_free</computeroutput>. </para>
<sect2 id="mc-manual.mpiwrap.limitations.types"
xreflabel="Types: Abilities and Limitations">
<para> MPI-1.1 structured types are supported, and walked exactly.
The currently supported combiners are
<computeroutput>MPI_COMBINER_HINDEXED</computeroutput> and
<computeroutput>MPI_COMBINER_STRUCT</computeroutput>. This should
cover all MPI-1.1 types. The mechanism (function
<computeroutput>walk_type</computeroutput>) should extend easily to
cover MPI2 combiners.</para>
<para>MPI defines some named structured types
<computeroutput>MPI_LONG_DOUBLE_INT</computeroutput>) which are pairs
of some basic type and a C <computeroutput>int</computeroutput>.
Unfortunately the MPI specification makes it impossible to look inside
these types and see where the fields are. Therefore these wrappers
assume the types are laid out as <computeroutput>struct { float val;
int loc; }</computeroutput> (for
<computeroutput>MPI_FLOAT_INT</computeroutput>), etc, and act
accordingly. This appears to be correct at least for Open MPI 1.0.2
and for Quadrics MPI.</para>
<para>If <computeroutput>strict</computeroutput> is an option specified
in <computeroutput>MPIWRAP_DEBUG</computeroutput>, the application
will abort if an unhandled type is encountered. Otherwise, the
application will print a warning message and continue.</para>
<para>Some effort is made to mark/check memory ranges corresponding to
arrays of values in a single pass. This is important for performance
since asking Valgrind to mark/check any range, no matter how small,
carries quite a large constant cost. This optimisation is applied to
arrays of primitive types (<computeroutput>double</computeroutput>,
<computeroutput>long</computeroutput>, <computeroutput>long
long</computeroutput>, <computeroutput>short</computeroutput>,
<computeroutput>char</computeroutput>, and <computeroutput>long
double</computeroutput> on platforms where <computeroutput>sizeof(long
double) == 8</computeroutput>). For arrays of all other types, the
wrappers handle each element individually and so there can be a very
large performance cost.</para>
<sect2 id="mc-manual.mpiwrap.writingwrappers"
xreflabel="Writing new MPI Wrappers">
<title>Writing new wrappers</title>
For the most part the wrappers are straightforward. The only
significant complexity arises with nonblocking receives.</para>
<para>The issue is that <computeroutput>MPI_Irecv</computeroutput>
states the recv buffer and returns immediately, giving a handle
(<computeroutput>MPI_Request</computeroutput>) for the transaction.
Later the user will have to poll for completion with
<computeroutput>MPI_Wait</computeroutput> etc, and when the
transaction completes successfully, the wrappers have to paint the
recv buffer. But the recv buffer details are not presented to
<computeroutput>MPI_Wait</computeroutput> -- only the handle is. The
library therefore maintains a shadow table which associates
uncompleted <computeroutput>MPI_Request</computeroutput>s with the
corresponding buffer address/count/type. When an operation completes,
the table is searched for the associated address/count/type info, and
memory is marked accordingly.</para>
<para>Access to the table is guarded by a (POSIX pthreads) lock, so as
to make the library thread-safe.</para>
<para>The table is allocated with
<computeroutput>malloc</computeroutput> and never
<computeroutput>free</computeroutput>d, so it will show up in leak
<para>Writing new wrappers should be fairly easy. The source file is
<computeroutput>mpi/libmpiwrap.c</computeroutput>. If possible,
find an existing wrapper for a function of similar behaviour to the
one you want to wrap, and use it as a starting point. The wrappers
are organised in sections in the same order as the MPI 1.1 spec, to
aid navigation. When adding a wrapper, remember to comment out the
definition of the default wrapper in the long list of defaults at the
bottom of the file (do not remove it, just comment it out).</para>
<sect2 id="mc-manual.mpiwrap.whattoexpect"
xreflabel="What to expect with MPI Wrappers">
<title>What to expect when using the wrappers</title>
<para>The wrappers should reduce Memcheck's false-error rate on MPI
applications. Because the wrapping is done at the MPI interface,
there will still potentially be a large number of errors reported in
the MPI implementation below the interface. The best you can do is
try to suppress them.</para>
<para>You may also find that the input-side (buffer
length/definedness) checks find errors in your MPI use, for example
passing too short a buffer to
<para>Functions which are not wrapped may increase the false
error rate. A possible approach is to run with
<computeroutput>MPI_DEBUG</computeroutput> containing
<computeroutput>warn</computeroutput>. This will show you functions
which lack proper wrappers but which are nevertheless used. You can
then write wrappers for them.
<para>A known source of potential false errors are the
<computeroutput>PMPI_Reduce</computeroutput> family of functions, when
using a custom (user-defined) reduction function. In a reduction
operation, each node notionally sends data to a "central point" which
uses the specified reduction function to merge the data items into a
single item. Hence, in general, data is passed between nodes and fed
to the reduction function, but the wrapper library cannot mark the
transferred data as initialised before it is handed to the reduction
function, because all that happens "inside" the
<computeroutput>PMPI_Reduce</computeroutput> call. As a result you
may see false positives reported in your reduction function.</para>