SHOpenRegStream does not mix with smart pointers

Raymond Chen

Raymond

Some time ago, I noted that Co­Get­Interface­And­Release­Stream does not mix with smart pointers because it performs an IUnknown::Release of its interface parameter, which messes up all the bookkeeping because smart pointers expect that they are the ones which will perform the Release.

The other half of the problem is functions like SH­Open­Reg­Stream and SH­Open­Reg­Stream2 which return a COM pointer directly, rather than putting it into an output parameter. When you put them into a smart pointer, the default behavior of the smart pointer is to create a new reference, so it will call AddRef upon assignment or construction, and call Release upon replacement or destruction.

// Code in italics is wrong

Microsoft::WRL::ComPtr<IStream> stream;
stream = SHOpenRegStream(...);

Microsoft::WRL::ComPtr<IStream> stream(SHOpenRegStream(...));

ATL::CComPtr<IStream> stream;
stream = SHOpenRegStream(...);

ATL::CComPtr<IStream> stream(SHOpenRegStream(...));

_com_ptr_t<IStream> stream;
stream = SHOpenRegStream(...);

_com_ptr_t<IStream> stream(SHOpenRegStream(...));

All of these operations will take the raw pointer returned by SH­Open­Reg­Stream, save it in the smart pointer, and increment the reference count. When the smart pointer is destructed, the reference count will be decremented.

But the object started with a reference count of 1. After storing it in the smart pointer, the reference count is 2, even though there is only one object tracking it. When that object (in this case, the smart pointer) releases its reference, there is still one reference remaining, which nobody is tracking.

You have a memory leak.

The solution is to use the Attach method to say, “Here is an object that I would like you to adopt responsibility for.” The smart pointer will take the object but will not increment the reference count, because you told it, “I want you to take responsibility for the reference count that I am giving you.”

Microsoft::WRL::ComPtr<IStream> stream;
stream.Attach(SHOpenRegStream(...));

ATL::CComPtr<IStream> stream;
stream.Attach(SHOpenRegStream(...));

_com_ptr_t<IStream> stream;
stream.Attach(SHOpenRegStream(...));

_com_ptr_t<IStream> stream(SHOpenRegStream(...), false);

The _com_ptr_t class has a bonus constructor that takes a boolean parameter that indicates whether the smart pointer should perform an AddRef on the pointer. In the case where you want to adopt an existing reference, you pass false.

This problem is basically the flip side of the Co­Get­Interface­And­Release­Stream problem. Whereas that one results in an over-release, this results in an under-release.

And the root cause of both of them is that they use a calling pattern that doesn’t conform to COM recommendations.

Raymond Chen
Raymond Chen

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