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MALLOC(3)                 OpenBSD Programmer's Manual                MALLOC(3)

     malloc, calloc, realloc, free, cfree - memory allocation and deallocation

     #include <stdlib.h>

     void *
     malloc(size_t size);

     void *
     calloc(size_t nmemb, size_t size);

     void *
     realloc(void *ptr, size_t size);

     free(void *ptr);

     cfree(void *ptr);

     char * malloc_options

     The malloc() function allocates uninitialized space for an object whose
     size is specified by size. The malloc() function maintains multiple lists
     of free blocks according to size, allocating space from the appropriate

     The allocated space is suitably aligned (after possible pointer coercion)
     for storage of any type of object.  If the space is of pagesize or larg-
     er, the memory returned will be page-aligned.

     Allocation of a zero size object returns a pointer to a zero size object.

     The calloc() function allocates space for an array of nmemb objects, each
     of whose size is size. The space is initialized to all bits zero.

     The free() function causes the space pointed to by ptr to be deallocated,
     that is, at least made available for further allocation, but if possible,
     it will passed back to the kernel with sbrk(2). If ptr is a null pointer,
     no action occurs.

     A cfree() function is also provided for compatibility with old systems
     and other malloc libraries; it is simply an alias for free().

     The realloc() function changes the size of the object pointed to by ptr
     to size bytes and returns a pointer to the (possibly moved) object.  The
     contents of the object are unchanged up to the lesser of the new and old
     sizes.  If the new size is larger, the value of the newly allocated por-
     tion of the object is indeterminate and uninitialized.  If ptr is a null
     pointer, the realloc() function behaves like the malloc() function for
     the specified size.  If the space cannot be allocated, the object pointed
     to by ptr is unchanged.  If size is zero and ptr is not a null pointer,
     the object it points to is freed and a new zero size object is returned.

     When using realloc() one must be careful to avoid the following idiom:

           if ((p = realloc(p, nsize)) == NULL)
                   return NULL;

     In most cases, this will result in a leak of memory.  As stated earlier,
     a return value of NULL indicates that the old object still remains allo-
     cated.  Better code looks like this:

           if ((p2 = realloc(p, nsize)) == NULL) {
                   if (p)
                   p = NULL;
                   return NULL;
           p = p2;

     Malloc will first look for a symbolic link called /etc/malloc.conf and
     next check the environment for a variable called MALLOC_OPTIONS and fi-
     nally for the global variable malloc_options and scan them for flags in
     that order.  Flags are single letters, uppercase means on, lowercase
     means off.

     A       ``Abort''. malloc() will coredump the process, rather than toler-
             ate failure.  This is a very handy debugging aid, since the core
             file will represent the time of failure, rather than when the
             null pointer was accessed.

     D       ``Dump''. malloc() will dump statistics in a file called
             malloc.out at exit.  This option requires the library to have
             been compiled with -DMALLOC_STATS in order to have any effect.

     J       ``Junk''. Fill some junk into the area allocated.  Currently junk
             is bytes of 0xd0; this is pronounced ``Duh''. :-)

     H       ``Hint''. Pass a hint to the kernel about pages we don't use.  If
             the machine is paging a lot this may help a bit.

     N       Do not output warning messages when encountering possible corrup-
             tion or bad pointers.

     R       ``realloc''. Always reallocate when realloc() is called, even if
             the initial allocation was big enough.  This can substantially
             aid in compacting memory.

     U       ``utrace''. Generate entries for ktrace(1) for all operations.
             Consult the source for this one.

     X       ``xmalloc''. rather than return failure, abort(3) the program
             with a diagnostic message on stderr.  It is the intention that
             this option be set at compile time by including in the source:

                   extern char *malloc_options;
                   malloc_options = "X";

     Z       ``Zero''. Fill some junk into the area allocated (see J), except
             for the exact length the user asked for, which is zeroed.

     <       ``Half the cache size''. Reduce the size of the cache by a factor
             of two.

     >       ``Double the cache size''. Double the size of the cache by a fac-
             tor of two.

     So to set a systemwide reduction of cache size and coredumps on problems
     one would: ln -s 'A<' /etc/malloc.conf

     The J and Z is mostly for testing and debugging.  If a program changes
     behavior if either of these options are used, it is buggy.

     The default cache size is 16 pages.

     See above.

     The malloc() and calloc() functions return a pointer to the allocated
     space if successful; otherwise, a null pointer is returned and errno is
     set to ENOMEM.

     The free() and cfree() functions return no value.

     The realloc() function returns a pointer to the (possibly moved) allocat-
     ed space if successful; otherwise, a null pointer is returned and errno
     is set to ENOMEM.

     If malloc(), calloc(), realloc(), or free() detect an error or warning
     condition, a message will be printed to file descriptor 2 (not using
     stdio).  Errors will always result in the process being abort(3)'ed. If
     the A option has been specified, warnings will also abort(3) the process.

     Here is a brief description of the error messages and what they mean:

     ``(ES): mumble mumble mumble''
                 malloc() has been compiled with -DEXTRA_SANITY and something
                 looks fishy in there.  Consult sources and/or wizards.

     ``allocation failed''
                 If the A option is specified it is an error for malloc(),
                 calloc(), or realloc() to return NULL.

     ``mmap(2) failed, check limits.''
                 This is a rather weird condition that is most likely to indi-
                 cate a seriously overloaded system or a ulimit(1) restric-

     ``freelist is destroyed.''
                 malloc()'s internal freelist has been stomped on.

     Here is a brief description of the warning messages and what they mean:

     ``chunk/page is already free.''
                 A pointer to a free chunk is attempted freed again.

     ``junk pointer, too high to make sense.''
                 The pointer doesn't make sense.  It's above the area of memo-
                 ry that malloc() knows something about.  This could be a
                 pointer from some mmap(2)'ed memory.

     ``junk pointer, too low to make sense.''
                 The pointer doesn't make sense.  It's below the area of memo-
                 ry that malloc() knows something about.  This pointer proba-
                 bly came from your data or bss segments.

     ``malloc() has never been called.''
                 Nothing has ever been allocated, yet something is being freed
                 or realloc'ed.

     ``modified (chunk-/page-) pointer.''
                 The pointer passed to free or realloc has been modified.

     ``pointer to wrong page.''
                 The pointer that malloc() is trying to free is not pointing
                 to a sensible page.

     ``recursive call.''
                 An attempt was made to call recursively into these functions,
                 i.e., from a signal handler.  This behavior is not supported.
                 In particular, signal handlers should not use any of the
                 malloc() functions nor utilize any other functions which may
                 call malloc() (e.g., stdio(3) routines).

     ``unknown char in MALLOC_OPTIONS''
                 We found something we didn't understand.

     /etc/malloc.conf  symbolic link to filename containing option flags

     brk(2), alloca(3), getpagesize(3), memory(3)

     The malloc() function conforms to ANSI X3.159-1989 (``ANSI C'').

     The present implementation of malloc() started out as a filesystem on a
     drum attached to a 20-bit binary challenged computer built with discrete
     germanium transistors, and it has since graduated to handle primary stor-
     age rather than secondary.

     The main difference from other malloc() implementations are believed to
     be that the free pages are not accessed until allocated.  Most malloc()
     implementations will store a data structure containing a, possibly dou-
     ble-, linked list in the free chunks of memory, used to tie all the free
     memory together.  That is a quite suboptimal thing to do.  Every time the
     free-list is traversed, all the otherwise unused, and very likely paged
     out, pages get faulted into primary memory, just to see what lies after
     them in the list.

     On systems which are paging, this can make a factor five in difference on
     the page-faults of a process.

OpenBSD 3.0                     August 27, 1996                              4