developer = [http://valgrind.org/info/developers.html The Valgrind Developers]
latest release version = 3.3.1
latest release date =
4 June 2008
genre = Profiler,
GNU General Public License
website = http://valgrind.org/
Valgrind is a
programming toolfor memory debugging, memory leakdetection, and profiling. The name Valgrind comes from the name of the main entrance to Valhallain Norse mythology. [ [http://www.valgrind.org/docs/manual/faq.html#faq.whence Valgrind FAQ] ]
Valgrind was originally designed to be a free memory debugging tool for
Linuxon x86, but has since evolved to become a generic framework for creating dynamic analysis tools such as checkers and profilers. It is used by a number of Linux-based projects. [ [http://valgrind.org/gallery/users.html valgrind.org's list of users] ]
The original author of Valgrind is
Julian Seward, who in 2006 won a second Open SourceAward for his work on Valgrind. [ [http://valgrind.org/gallery/awards.html valgrind.org's list of awards] ] [ [http://code.google.com/events/osa-hall-of-fame.html Google-O'Reilly Open Source Awards - Hall of Fame] ] Several others have alsomade significant contributions, including Cerion Armour-Brown, Jeremy Fitzhardinge, Tom Hughes, Nicholas Nethercote, Paul Mackerras, Dirk Mueller,Josef Weidendorfer and Robert Walsh.Fact|date=September 2008
Released under the terms of the
GNU General Public License, Valgrind is free software.
Valgrind is in essence a
virtual machineusing just-in-time (JIT) (aka binary translation) compilation techniques. Nothing from the original program ever gets run directly on the host processor. Instead, Valgrind first translates the program into a temporary, simpler form called Intermediate Representation (IR),which is a processor-neutral,
SSA-based form. After the conversion, a "tool" (see below) is free to do whatever transformations it would like on the IR, before Valgrind translates the IR back into machine code and lets the host processor run it. A considerable amount of performance is lost in these transformations (and usually, the code the tool inserts); usually, code run with Valgrind and the "none" tool (which does nothing to the IR) runs 4-5 times slower than normal. However, the IR form is much more suitable for instrumentation than the original, which makes it easier to write tools, and for most projects, a slowdown of this order is not a big problem during debugging.
There are multiple tools included with Valgrind (and several external ones). The default (and most used) tool is "Memcheck". Memcheck inserts extra instrumentation code around almost all instructions, which keeps track of the "validity" (all unallocated memory starts as invalid or "undefined", until it is initialized into a deterministic state, possibly from other memory) and "addressability" (whether the memory address in question points to an allocated, non-freed memory block), stored in the so-called "V bits" and "A bits", respectively. As data is moved around or manipulated, the instrumentation code keeps track of the A and V bits so they are always correct on a single-bit level.
In addition, Memcheck replaces the standard C memory allocator with its own implementation, which also includes "memory guards" around all allocated blocks (with the A bits set to "invalid"). This feature enables Memcheck to detect
off-by-one errors where a program reads or writes outside an allocated block by a small amount. (Other approaches to this problem include implemented bounded pointers in the compiler that give lower chances of undetected errors, especially on memory that is allocated on the stack and not the heap, but requires recompiling all instrumented binary code.) The problems Memcheck can detect and warn about include the following:
*Use of uninitialized memory
*Reading/writing memory after it has been
*Reading/writing off the end of
The price of this is lost performance; programs running under Memcheck usually run from five to twenty times as slow as running outside Valgrind, and use a lot more memory (there is a considerable memory penalty per-allocation). Thus, few developers run their code under Memcheck (or any other Valgrind tool) all the time; the most common situations would be either to trace down some specific bug, or to verify there are no latent bugs (of the kind Memcheck can detect) in the code.
In addition to Memcheck, Valgrind has several other tools:
*"Addrcheck", a lightweight cousin of Memcheck, running much faster and requiring less memory, but catching fewer types of bugs. This tool has been removed as of version 3.2.0.
*"Helgrind", a tool capable of detecting
race conditions in multithreaded code.
Cachegrind", a cacheprofiler and its GUI KCacheGrind
There are also several externally developed tools available.
As of version 3.3.0, Valgrind supports
Linuxon x86, x86-64and PowerPC. There are, however, unofficial ports to other UNIX-like platforms (like FreeBSD[ [http://www.rabson.org/#valgrind Valgrind FreeBSD port] ] and NetBSD[ [http://vg4nbsd.berlios.de/ Valgrind NetBSD port] ] ). There is no port for Microsoft Windowsat the moment (nor are there any official short-term plans for one), but there is an experimental version capable of interfacing with Wine for debugging Windows software running on Linux. Increasing platform support is a long-term goal, but requires much work due to the nature of the project.
In addition to the performance penalty an important limitation of Valgrind is its inability to detect bounds errors in the use of static or stack allocated data. [ [http://www.valgrind.org/docs/manual/faq.html#faq.overruns Valgrind FAQ] ] The following code will pass the "Memcheck" tool in Valgrind without incident, despite the indicated errors:
* cite book
author = J. Seward, N. Nethercote, J. Weidendorfer and the Valgrind Development Team
title = Valgrind 3.3 — Advanced Debugging and Profiling for GNU/Linux applications
publisher = Network Theory Ltd
date = March 2008
pages = 164 pages
url = http://www.network-theory.co.uk/valgrind/manual/
isbn = 0954612051
* [http://valgrind.org/ Valgrind home page]
* [http://www.valgrind.org/info/about.html Overview of the valgrind system]
* [http://valgrind.org/docs/manual/mc-manual.html Complete manual of Valgrind]
* [http://www.faqs.org/docs/Linux-HOWTO/Valgrind-HOWTO.html Valgrind Howto]
* [http://valgrind.org/gallery/users.html Projects using Valgrind]
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