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mcheck - Man Page

heap consistency checking


Standard C library (libc, -lc)


#include <mcheck.h>

int mcheck(void (*abortfunc)(enum mcheck_status mstatus));
int mcheck_pedantic(void (*abortfunc)(enum mcheck_status mstatus));
void mcheck_check_all(void);

enum mcheck_status mprobe(void *ptr);


The mcheck() function installs a set of debugging hooks for the malloc(3) family of memory-allocation functions. These hooks cause certain consistency checks to be performed on the state of the heap. The checks can detect application errors such as freeing a block of memory more than once or corrupting the bookkeeping data structures that immediately precede a block of allocated memory.

To be effective, the mcheck() function must be called before the first call to malloc(3) or a related function. In cases where this is difficult to ensure, linking the program with -lmcheck inserts an implicit call to mcheck() (with a NULL argument) before the first call to a memory-allocation function.

The mcheck_pedantic() function is similar to mcheck(), but performs checks on all allocated blocks whenever one of the memory-allocation functions is called. This can be very slow!

The mcheck_check_all() function causes an immediate check on all allocated blocks. This call is effective only if mcheck() is called beforehand.

If the system detects an inconsistency in the heap, the caller-supplied function pointed to by abortfunc is invoked with a single argument, mstatus, that indicates what type of inconsistency was detected. If abortfunc is NULL, a default function prints an error message on stderr and calls abort(3).

The mprobe() function performs a consistency check on the block of allocated memory pointed to by ptr. The mcheck() function should be called beforehand (otherwise mprobe() returns MCHECK_DISABLED).

The following list describes the values returned by mprobe() or passed as the mstatus argument when abortfunc is invoked:

MCHECK_DISABLED (mprobe() only)

mcheck() was not called before the first memory allocation function was called. Consistency checking is not possible.

MCHECK_OK (mprobe() only)

No inconsistency detected.


Memory preceding an allocated block was clobbered.


Memory following an allocated block was clobbered.


A block of memory was freed twice.

Return Value

mcheck() and mcheck_pedantic() return 0 on success, or -1 on error.


For an explanation of the terms used in this section, see attributes(7).

mcheck(), mcheck_pedantic(), mcheck_check_all(), mprobe()Thread safetyMT-Unsafe race:mcheck const:malloc_hooks





glibc 2.2.


glibc 2.0.


Linking a program with -lmcheck and using the MALLOC_CHECK_ environment variable (described in mallopt(3)) cause the same kinds of errors to be detected. But, using MALLOC_CHECK_ does not require the application to be relinked.


The program below calls mcheck() with a NULL argument and then frees the same block of memory twice. The following shell session demonstrates what happens when running the program:

$ ./a.out
About to free

About to free a second time
block freed twice
Aborted (core dumped)

Program source

#include <mcheck.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

    char *p;

    if (mcheck(NULL) != 0) {
        fprintf(stderr, "mcheck() failed\n");


    p = malloc(1000);

    fprintf(stderr, "About to free\n");
    fprintf(stderr, "\nAbout to free a second time\n");


See Also

malloc(3), mallopt(3), mtrace(3)

Referenced By

malloc(3), malloc_hook(3), mallopt(3), mtrace(3).

The man pages mcheck_check_all(3), mcheck_pedantic(3) and mprobe(3) are aliases of mcheck(3).

2024-06-15 Linux man-pages 6.9.1