What Is A Memory Leak C++?

Believe it or not, memory leaks are pretty common mistakes that many programmers find themselves making from time to time.

Believe it or not, memory leaks are pretty common mistakes that many programmers find themselves making from time to time.

Essentially, a memory leak in C++ is something that occurs whenever a programmer decides to allocate memory to a specific aspect of a platform without remembering to remove the memory that already exists – leading to a leak.

Still, understanding what a memory leak is, let alone knowing how to avoid it, can be one of the most challenging things for a programmer to grasp, especially when starting out.

However, in this article, we are going to be taking a deep dive into memory leaks in C++, how they occur as well as how to prevent them from occurring. 

So, regardless of whether you suspect that you might have a memory leak in C++, or you’re currently training to become a programmer, just keep reading to discover what a memory leak in C++ is, what signs to look out for, as well as what to do to prevent it from happening to you.

What Is A Memory Leak C++?

What Is A Memory Leak C++

To cut a long story short, a memory leak in C++ is essentially something that occurs when a programmer accidentally allocates new memory via a specific code command/keyword and does not remember to get rid of the memory that is already existing.

Typically, the existing memory that is no longer needed can typically be deleted by using the delete() command or manually. 

Even though memory leakages can occur across various areas of an application/platform, they most commonly occur in C++ when the wrong delete command is used to get rid of the existing single memory.

When done correctly, deleted memory in C++ will need to be achieved by using a delete operator to get rid of a single allocated space, as opposed to using the “delete()” command that we have briefly mentioned above.

The only instance in which a programmer would need to use the “delete()” command in place of the delete operator within C++ is if there were multiple allocated memory locations to delete in place of new allocations.

Why Is A Memory Leak In C++ A Problem?

Even though a memory leakage occurring in C++ is a relatively harmless mistake that many programmers will find themselves making at some point or another, it is important to try and avoid making this mistake as much as you can, as it can cause a few issues that you should be aware of.

Besides interfering with the smooth operation of the system being used, it is important to note that when a program experiences a memory leak, the overall memory usage will prematurely increase due to the additional memory on top of the existing memory, and this can cause the overall performance of the program to dwindle. 

Due to this, some of the biggest indicators that a memory leak has occurred is if you are noticing a decrease in the performance of the program that you are using, slower loading times, as well as less memory space.

How To Prevent Memory Leakage In C++:

Now that we have covered what a memory leak in C++ is and why it is important to try and avoid them as much as possible, we are now going to be sharing with you some tips to help make sure that you do not experience them. Let’s take a look at them below: 

Make A Note

One of the easiest and simplest ways that you can prevent memory leakage unintentionally is by writing a note near your workspace with a reminder of when to use a delete operator function, and when to use the delete() function.

This will help to prevent you from accidentally causing a memory leak to occur.

Use Smart Pointers Where Possible

In addition to making a note to make sure that you never forget which command to use, you might also find it useful to use smart pointers that will be able to internally manage the memory of the program for you so that you don’t have to.

This will then take away the need for you to manually manage the memory, and this will lower the chances of any memory leaks.

Keep Dynamic Memory Enclosed In One Area

Along with all of the above, one of the most important ways that you can help to prevent any unintentional data leaks within the program that you are using is to ensure that all dynamic memory is contained to one area.

To prevent any unwanted leaks out of your control, you should be sure to regularly check that all dynamic memory has been stored safely inside a RAII object, as this will mean that in the event that memory did start to escape, it would be destroyed as opposed to allowed to leak.

The Bottom Line

There we have it! You’ve made it to the end of the article.

Now that you have taken the time to read through our guide to memory leaks in C++ above, we’re hoping that we have helped to provide you with some much-needed information on what it is, exactly – as well as why it happens.

Essentially, a memory leak is a pretty common mistake that programmers of all levels of experience find themselves making from time to time. 

It’s important to avoid memory leaks as much as possible as they can cause problems within the greater platform.

But, while this might be the case, now that you have read the guide above, we also hope that we have helped to give you a better understanding of how you can spot when a memory leak in C++ occurs, as well as how to prevent it from happening going forward to ensure that the platform runs smoothly and at its optimum capability.

Thank you for reading!