The most powerful command when debugging a managed memory leak is by far
!dumpheap. It will show you all the objects on the managed heaps and using the different switches of
!dumpheap you can display the output in virtually any way you want.
!dumpheap is a function of the sos.dll extension that comes with the framework installation (in the framework directory) and if you have the SDK installed you can find some basic help for it’s usage in
C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003\SDK\v1.1\Tool Developers Guide\Samples\sos.
There are two tags of objects stored on the heap
- Objects that are rooted somewhere, i.e. something in the application has a pointer to them
- Objects that have been created or un-rooted since the last garbage collection
A good trick if you want to know where you leak and want to avoid looking through a lot of data that will be garbage collected soon is to run a stress-test, then induce a GC by calling
GC.Collect(3), take a memory dump, then stress it a bit more, induce a GC again and take another memory dump and compare the objects on the heap.
–stat switch (statistics) shows a summary, per type of the objects on the heap
0:000> !dumpheap -stat 0x79c489a0 1 12 System.Runtime.Remoting.Messaging.ClientContextTerminatorSink 0x79bf9aec 1 12 System.IO.TextReader/NullTextReader 0x79be7078 1 12 System.Runtime.Remoting.Proxies.ProxyAttribute 0x79bce8e0 1 12 System.Runtime.InteropServices.ComVisibleAttribute 0x79bce7c8 1 12 System.CLSCompliantAttribute 0x79bc08e0 1 12 System.Empty 0x0618ae68 1 12 System.Web.Configuration.CustomErrorsConfigHandler 0x061887f8 1 12 System.Web.UI.WebControls.UnitConverter 0x06180848 1 12 System.Drawing.ColorConverter 0x05dbfbc4 1 12 System.Data.Res <… cut to save space …> 0x03f1236c 625 2,820,896 System.Char 0x04ad88f4 102,874 2,880,472 System.Web.UI.ControlCollection 0x0469bdf0 156,650 3,133,000 System.Collections.Specialized.HybridDictionary 0x04ad91bc 164,516 3,290,320 System.Web.UI.Triplet 0x03f134a8 7,582 3,799,704 System.Collections.Hashtable/bucket 0x04ade5e4 47,395 4,549,920 System.Web.UI.WebControls.Label 0x061826bc 58,197 4,888,548 System.Web.UI.DataBoundLiteralControl 0x04adff44 323,119 5,169,904 System.Web.UI.StateItem 0x0618788c 63,437 6,089,952 System.Web.UI.WebControls.TableCell 0x0469c5c4 309,132 6,182,640 System.Collections.Specialized.ListDictionary/DictionaryNode 0x0011cec0 305 6,240,720 Free 0x79ba2ee4 270,831 6,499,944 System.Collections.ArrayList 0x03f16d9c 222 7,703,284 System.DateTime 0x04add34c 105,502 8,018,152 System.Web.UI.LiteralControl 0x0615c6f4 558,019 11,160,380 System.Data.DataRowView 0x03f15d1c 3,783 15,447,528 System.Boolean 0x060bcc74 570,274 22,810,960 System.Data.DataRow 0x03f15fd4 702 50,930,472 System.Decimal 0x03f131e8 21,013 60,573,352 System.Int32 0x03f1209c 508,734 75,399,184 System.Object 0x79b94638 5,286,303 697,441,440 System.String Total 9,712,896 objects, Total size: 1,032,127,612
The 1st column shows the method table for the type. If you dump out the actual data for an object you will find that the first DWORD is the method table and this contains links to information about the type, such as what its member variables are, what methods it implements etc. Essentially, with the method table you can uniquely identify the type.
The 2nd column lists the number of objects of this type on the heap, so in the example above we have 5,286,303 strings on the heap.
The 3rd column shows the total size of all the objects, so again, in the example above our 5,286,303 strings occupy a total of ~695 MB
However, total size is a truth with modification, what is shown in the 3rd column is the total size of the structures of the objects, not including member variables.
Lets take a System.Data.DataSet for example
0x060bbd2c 221 17,680 System.Data.DataSet
Here we can see that 221 datasets take up a total of 17,680 bytes, which means that on average they take up 80 bytes each. That would be a very, very small dataset if the size shown was the complete dataset.
If we dump out the contents of a dataset on the heap by first running
!dumpheap –mt [methodtable] and then picking one out in the resulting list and running
!dumpobj [address] on it we will see something like the following.
0:000> !dumpobj 0x3920ed4c Name: System.Data.DataSet MethodTable 0x060bbd2c EEClass 0x060d2614 Size 80(0x50) bytes GC Generation: 2 mdToken: 0x0200003b (c:\windows\assembly\gac\system.data\1.0.5000.0__b77a5c561934e089\system.data.dll) FieldDesc*: 0x060bb358 MT Field Offset Type Attr Value Name 0x060b252c 0x4000583 0x4 CLASS instance 0x00000000 site 0x060b252c 0x4000584 0x8 CLASS instance 0x00000000 events 0x060b252c 0x4000582 0 CLASS shared static EventDisposed >> Domain:Value 0x001192a0:NotInit 0x0017fc40:NotInit 0x044b7b28:0x1c357cb8 << 0x060bbd2c 0x40003d3 0xc CLASS instance 0x00000000 defaultViewManager 0x060bbd2c 0x40003d4 0x10 CLASS instance 0x3920ee28 tableCollection 0x060bbd2c 0x40003d5 0x14 CLASS instance 0x3920ed9c relationCollection 0x060bbd2c 0x40003d6 0x18 CLASS instance 0x00000000 extendedProperties 0x060bbd2c 0x40003d7 0x1c CLASS instance 0x1c357c90 dataSetName 0x060bbd2c 0x40003d8 0x20 CLASS instance 0x182d0224 _datasetPrefix 0x060bbd2c 0x40003d9 0x24 CLASS instance 0x182d0224 namespaceURI 0x060bbd2c 0x40003da 0x40 System.Boolean instance 0 caseSensitive 0x060bbd2c 0x40003db 0x28 CLASS instance 0x14309a0c culture 0x060bbd2c 0x40003dc 0x41 System.Boolean instance 1 enforceConstraints 0x060bbd2c 0x40003dd 0x42 System.Boolean instance 0 fInReadXml 0x060bbd2c 0x40003de 0x43 System.Boolean instance 0 fInLoadDiffgram 0x060bbd2c 0x40003df 0x44 System.Boolean instance 0 fTopLevelTable 0x060bbd2c 0x40003e0 0x45 System.Boolean instance 0 fInitInProgress 0x060bbd2c 0x40003e1 0x46 System.Boolean instance 1 fEnableCascading 0x060bbd2c 0x40003e2 0x47 System.Boolean instance 0 fIsSchemaLoading 0x060bbd2c 0x40003e3 0x2c CLASS instance 0x00000000 rowDiffId 0x060bbd2c 0x40003e4 0x48 System.Boolean instance 0 fBoundToDocument 0x060bbd2c 0x40003e5 0x30 CLASS instance 0x00000000 onPropertyChangingDelegate 0x060bbd2c 0x40003e6 0x34 CLASS instance 0x00000000 onMergeFailed 0x060bbd2c 0x40003e7 0x38 CLASS instance 0x00000000 onDataRowCreated 0x060bbd2c 0x40003e8 0x3c CLASS instance 0x00000000 onClearFunctionCalled 0x060bbd2c 0x40003e9 0 CLASS shared static zeroTables >> Domain:Value 0x0017fc40:NotInit 0x044b7b28:0x1c357c80 <<
So 80 bytes is how much is needed to store all the pointers to the member variables, but the actual data is contained in the table collection and it’s member variables. If you need to get the actual size (including member variables for the object) you can run
Since the member variables are objects in themselves they will be listed separately in the !dumpheap –stat output, so the end sum: 1,032,127,612 bytes in this case, is the actual size of all data stored on the heaps.
Some types, like String, byte, char contain the actual data in the structure which means that the total size shown by
!dumpheap –stat will be the same or very close to the total size of the objects. Both because of this and because these are very common object types you will see them as the biggest memory hoggers most of the time when you run
!dumpheap –stat so usually when you are looking for a memory leak it is more interesting to look at some of the other more unique objects.
In this particular case we can see a huge amount of DataRows, so a good starting point here is to look at why there are so many DataRows. (a lot of the strings are probably entries in the DataRows), and then continue looking at the number of DataSets etc. If there was a large number of DataSets we would be interested in why there were so many… in this case as we can see there were 221 which means that there is a large number of DataRows per DataSet which means that the datasets are pretty big. (We could run
!objsize on a few of them to verify)
I will talk in a later post about how to track down why/where an object is rooted (i.e. what is keeping it alive) but for now I want to concentrate on the !dumpheap output.
Another important thing to notice is the Free objects. These are not really objects but rather objects that have been marked as Free during a garbage collection but where the space is not yet compacted. If you have a lot of free space on the heap you may have a problem with pinning (a lot is a very vague term, but if more than 30% of the managed heap is Free you should definitely look into it). For some good explanations on this, please read Maonis blog
Some other switches I use quite a bit are
–mt (dump the objects with a specific method table),
-type (dump the objects that match a specific pattern),
-min (dump any objects over a specific size) and
–fix (dump all the objects between two heap addresses)
You can combine these in pretty much any way you want like this:
!dumpheap –type String –min 85000
which will dump out all Strings on the large object heap. (85000 bytes is the limit for when an object gets stored on the large object heap vs. on the normal .net heaps).
The result will look something like this
0:067> !dumpheap -type String -min 85000 Using our cache to search the heap. Address MT Size Gen 0x212d0030 0x79b94638 86,812 -1 System.String dDwtMTE0NjcyOTQ4MTt0PDtsPGk8Mz 0x222d0030 0x79b94638 86,812 -1 System.String dDwtMTE0NjcyOTQ4MTt0PDtsPGk8Mz 0x232d0030 0x79b94638 86,688 -1 System.String dDwtMTE0NjcyOTQ4MTt0PDtsPGk8Mz Statistics: MT Count TotalSize Class Name 0x79b94638 3 260,312 System.String Total 3 objects, Total size: 260,312
So we had 3 strings on the large object heap, they were 86,812, 86,812 and 86,688 bytes respectively, which means that they contain around 40,000 characters each since a character is 2 bytes.
When strings are listed with
!dumpheap the first few characters of the strings are listed for identification and a little piece of curiosa is that strings like the above that start with dDw are Base64 encoded strings. Most of the time when you see these they are ViewState strings so in this case the process is running some pages with pretty large ViewState.
Til next time…