If you're going to write your own allocator, you need to respect the MEMORY_ALLOCATION_ALIGNMENT

Raymond Chen


This time, I’m not going to set up a story. I’m just going to go straight to the punch line.

A customer overrode the new operator in order to add additional instrumentation. Something like this:

    DWORD Awesome1;
    DWORD Awesome2;
// error checking elided for expository purposes
void *operator new(size_t n)
  EXTRASTUFF *extra = (EXTRASTUFF)malloc(sizeof(EXTRASTUFF) + n);
  extra->Awesome1 = get_awesome_1();
  extra->Awesome2 = get_awesome_2();
  return ((BYTE *)extra) + sizeof(EXTRASTUFF);
// use your imagination to implement
// operators new[], delete, and delete[]

This worked out okay on 32-bit systems because in 32-bit Windows, MEMORY_ALLOCATION_ALIGNMENT is 8, and sizeof(EXTRASTUFF) is also 8. If you start with a value that is a multiple of 8, then add 8 to it, the result is still a multiple of 8, so the pointer returned by the custom operator new remains properly aligned.

But on 64-bit systems, things went awry. On 64-bit systems, MEMORY_ALLOCATION_ALIGNMENT is 16, As a result, the custom operator new handed out guaranteed-misaligned memory.

The misalignment went undetected for a long time, but the sleeping bug finally woke up when somebody allocated a structure that contained an SLIST_ENTRY. As we saw earlier, the SLIST_ENTRY really does need to be aligned according to the MEMORY_ALLOCATION_ALIGNMENT, especially on 64-bit systems, because 64-bit Windows takes advantage of the extra “guaranteed to be zero” bits that 16-byte alignment gives you. If your SLIST_ENTRY is not 16-byte aligned, then those “guaranteed to be zero” bits are not actually zero, and then the algorithm breaks down.

Result: Memory corruption and eventually a crash.


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