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Heap Walker



The objective of the project was to implement a tool that allows analyzing the heaps of any process, i.e. getting the listed heaps and allocated memory blocks.


The developed utility is used as an auxiliary tool for search and elimination of memory leaks, as well as for memory management optimization. The utility generates a complete description of all the heaps of a certain process. By comparing several descriptions obtained at checkpoints, it is possible to detect a memory leak, estimate its size, and detect the addresses of the "lost" blocks as well. Knowing the addresses of the "lost" blocks makes it possible to look through their dump and try to detect the leakage source code by means of a debugger (in case the blocks contain text data, or the objects created in the heap are provided with special markers, the task is quite solvable).

Technical peculiarities

The utility targets the MS Windows 2k platform and later. It uses the standard API to analyze the heaps of a process (Tool Help API) and access the heaps of any process as well. The direct use of the Tool Help API for listing the heaps turned out to be impossible. When address to the non-current process, it continuously allocates memory and heavily loads the processor. However, this feature does not appear when working with the current process,
  that's why the following trick was implemented in our utility. A small chunk of memory is allocated in the context of a non-current target process, and the code is written to this memory that will initialize the heaps scanning. Then a remote thread is created in the target process which execution starts with the code generated by Heap Walker. Thus, the heaps scanning runs in the context of the target process, and the above error does not occur.