This module provides various building blocks for a dynamic allocator. This is composed of the following parts:

  • block: An implementation of a linked list of memory blocks, supporting splitting and merging of blocks.

  • freelist: A freelist, suitable for fast lookups of available memory chunks (i.e. block s).

Heap Integrity Check

The Block class provides two sanity check functions:

  • bool Block::IsValid(): Returns true is the given block is valid and false otherwise.

  • void Block::CrashIfInvalid(): Crash the program and output the reason why sanity check fails using PW_DCHECK.

Heap Poisoning

By default, this module disables heap poisoning since it requires extra space. User can enable heap poisoning by enabling the pw_allocator_POISON_HEAP build arg.

$ gn args out
# Modify and save the args file to use heap poison.
pw_allocator_POISON_HEAP = true

When heap poisoning is enabled, pw_allocator will add sizeof(void*) bytes before and after the usable space of each Block, and paint the space with a hard-coded randomized pattern. During each sanity check, pw_allocator will check if the painted space still remains the pattern, and return false if the pattern is damaged.

Heap Visualizer


pw_allocator supplies a pw command pw heap-viewer to help visualize the state of the heap at the end of a dump file. The heap is represented by ASCII characters, where each character represents 4 bytes in the heap.



The heap visualizer can be launched from a shell using the Pigweed environment.

$ pw heap-viewer --dump-file <directory of dump file> --heap-low-address
<hex address of heap lower address> --heap-high-address <hex address of heap
lower address> [options]

The required arguments are:

  • --dump-file is the path of a file that contains malloc/free information. Each line in the dump file represents a malloc/free call. malloc is represented as m <size> <memory address> and free is represented as f <memory address>. For example, a dump file should look like:

    m 20 0x20004450  # malloc 20 bytes, the pointer is 0x20004450
    m 8 0x2000447c   # malloc 8 bytes, the pointer is 0x2000447c
    f 0x2000447c     # free the pointer at 0x2000447c

    Any line not formatted as the above will be ignored.

  • --heap-low-address is the start of the heap. For example:

    --heap-low-address 0x20004440
  • --heap-high-address is the end of the heap. For example:

    --heap-high-address 0x20006040

Options include the following:

  • --poison-enable: If heap poisoning is enabled during the allocation or not. The value is False if the option is not specified and True otherwise.

  • --pointer-size <integer of pointer size>: The size of a pointer on the machine where malloc/free is called. The default value is 4.

Note, this module, and its documentation, is currently incomplete and experimental.