Memory Management and the Stack

Memory Leaks

What is a memory leak, and how can it be prevented in C++?

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A memory leak occurs when dynamically allocated memory is not properly deallocated, leading to a gradual loss of available memory. This can happen when:

  • Forgetting to use delete on dynamically allocated memory
  • Losing track of pointers to dynamically allocated memory
  • Not freeing memory in all possible code paths (e.g., exceptions)

Example of a memory leak:

void function() {
  int* ptr = new int;
  // ...
  
  // Forgot to delete ptr, causing a memory leak
  return;
}

To prevent memory leaks in C++:

  1. Always deallocate dynamically allocated memory using delete when it's no longer needed.
  2. Use smart pointers (e.g., unique_ptrshared_ptr) that automatically handle memory deallocation.
  3. Be cautious when using raw pointers, and ensure proper deallocation in all code paths.
  4. Use memory profiling tools to detect and diagnose memory leaks.

Example of preventing a memory leak with a smart pointer:

#include <memory>

void function() {
  auto ptr = std::make_unique<int>();
  // ...
  return; // ptr is automatically deallocated
}

By adopting good memory management practices and utilizing smart pointers, you can prevent memory leaks and ensure your C++ programs use memory efficiently.

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

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