Storing and Rethrowing Exceptions

std::exception_ptr and Memory Management

Are there any memory management considerations when using std::exception_ptr?

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When using std::exception_ptr, there are a few memory management considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Allocation of the exception object: When an exception is captured into a std::exception_ptr using std::current_exception(), the exception object is copied and the copy is allocated on the free store (heap). This allocation is managed by the C++ runtime and is freed when the last std::exception_ptr referring to it is destroyed.
  2. Copying and destroying std::exception_ptr: std::exception_ptr objects can be copied and assigned. When a std::exception_ptr is copied, the reference count of the internally managed exception object is incremented. When a std::exception_ptr is destroyed, the reference count is decremented. The exception object is destroyed when the reference count reaches zero. This means that you don't need to worry about manually managing the memory of the exception object when using std::exception_ptr.
  3. Exception object lifetime: The exception object captured by std::current_exception() must outlive the std::exception_ptr that refers to it. If the original exception object is destroyed before the std::exception_ptr, attempting to rethrow the exception will result in undefined behavior. This is usually not an issue when capturing exceptions thrown within the same function or block scope. However, if you capture an exception and store the std::exception_ptr in a longer-lived object, you need to ensure that the exception object is not destroyed prematurely.
  4. Exception object size: Capturing an exception into a std::exception_ptr involves copying the exception object. If your exception objects are very large, this copy could be expensive in terms of memory and performance. In such cases, you might consider using a different error handling mechanism, such as error codes or a custom lightweight exception type.

Here's an example that illustrates the lifetime consideration:

#include <exception>
#include <iostream>
#include <stdexcept>

std::exception_ptr captureException() {
  std::exception_ptr eptr;
  try {
    throw std::runtime_error("Exception");
  } catch (...) {
    eptr = std::current_exception();
  // The exception object is destroyed here, but
  // the std::exception_ptr still refers to it.
  return eptr;

int main() {
  std::exception_ptr eptr = captureException();
  try {
    if (eptr) {
      // Undefined behavior!
  } catch (const std::exception& e) {
    std::cout << "Caught exception: "
      << e.what() << "\n";

In this example, captureException() captures an exception into a std::exception_ptr, but the exception object is destroyed when the function returns. The std::exception_ptr eptr in main() now refers to a destroyed object. Attempting to rethrow the exception leads to undefined behavior.

To avoid this, ensure that the exception object outlives the std::exception_ptr, either by extending the lifetime of the exception object or by not storing the std::exception_ptr beyond the lifetime of the exception object.

Answers to questions are automatically generated and may not have been reviewed.

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