Assignment Description

In this lab, you will learn about two memory checking utilities: Valgrind and AddressSanitizer (aka ASAN).

The first utility you will learn about is Valgrind. Valgrind will help you detect memory errors and practice implementing the big three. Valgrind is an extremely useful tool for debugging memory problems and for fixing segfaults or other crashes. This lab is also particularly important because we will be checking for memory errors and leaks on your assignments. You will lose points for memory leaks and/or memory errors (we will also teach you the difference between a memory leak and a memory error). You should check your code with Valgrind/ASAN before handing it in. You should also be aware that Valgrind/ASAN will only detect a leak if your program allocates memory and then fails to deallocate it. It cannot find a leak unless the code containing the leak is executed when the program runs. Thus, you should be sure to test your code thoroughly and check these tests with Valgrind/ASAN.

Valgrind and ASAN do not work well or at all on later versions of macOS! In particular, we have noticed ASAN never reporting errors or errors, and Valgrind always reporting memory leaks.

We strongly recommend working on this assignment on an EWS system

Background on Valgrind

Valgrind is a useful tool to detect memory errors and memory leaks.

Valgrind is a free utility for memory debugging, memory leak detection, and profiling. It runs only on Linux systems. To prepare your project to be examined by Valgrind you need to compile and to link it with the debug options -g and -O0. Make sure your Makefile is using these options when compiling. In order to test your program with Valgrind you should use the following command:

valgrind ./yourprogram

To instruct valgrind to also check for memory leaks, run:

valgrind --leak-check=full ./yourprogram

You will see a report about all found mistakes or inconsistencies. Each row of the report starts with the process ID (the process ID is a number assigned by the operating system to a running program). Each error has a description, a stack trace (showing where the error occurred), and other data about the error. It is important to eliminate errors in the order that they occur during execution, since a single error early could cause others later on.

Here is a list of some of the errors that Valgrind can detect and report. (Note that not all of these errors are present in the exercise code.)

More information about the Valgrind utility can be found at the following links:

Fixing Memory Bugs (using Valgrind)

Before fixing the bugs, you’ll need to compile the code:


This will create an executable file called allocate, which you can run with:


You can then run Valgrind on allocate:

valgrind ./allocate

This works fine for fixing the memory errors, however, to fix the memory leaks, you’ll need to add --leak-check=full before ./allocate:

valgrind --leak-check=full ./allocate

Once you have fixed all the Valgrind errors, you can test your program output using:

./allocate > output.txt
diff output.txt soln_output.txt

Note that most of the work in this lab consists of fixing Valgrind’s errors and memory leaks, rather than the program’s output, which should be correct once the memory errors are fixed.

Background on ASAN

ASAN is another utility used to check for memory-related errors. Unlike Valgrind, which interprets code as it is run, ASAN is built into the executable at compile time. For this reason, ASAN is sometimes faster than Valgrind. However, ASAN does not handle recursion as well as Valgrind.

ASAN checks for a wide variety of things. Here are some things that may pop up when debugging:

Fixing Memory Bugs (using ASAN)

NOTE: You cannot used Valgrind and ASAN at the same time. Make sure to run it only on the non-ASAN executable!

Before fixing the bugs, you’ll need to compile the code. ASAN terminates the program upon the first invalid memory access. So, if you have an invalid memory access, you’ll have to fix it before moving on to other errors. This incremental procedure should help you step through memory bugs one at a time.

To compile the code for the lab, run


(In this and future assignments, make will produce 2 versions of each executable: the “normal” version and a version that has ASAN enabled.)

This will create two executable files named allocate and allocate-asan. Run the ASAN version with


which will check for both memory errors and leaks.

Once you have fixed all the memory errors, you can test your program output using:

./allocate > output.txt
diff output.txt soln_output.txt

Note that most of the work in this lab consists of fixing ASAN’s errors and memory leaks, rather than the program output, which should be correct already once the memory errors are fixed.

Further Testing

To test the code further, you may use the provided test program to see whether your program runs fine without any memory leaks. We expect that your code produces no memory leaks for both the allocate program and the test program. To compile the test program, please run the following:

make test

You can test whether the test program successful works without any memory issues by running

valgrind ./test

If you notice no errors or memory leak errors outputted from Valgrind, your test program has successfully run as well. If not, it’s time to Valgrind your way through the code once more :)

To get more specific issues about memory leak releated issues with Valgrind, you may get more information by using:

valgrind --leak-check=full ./test

GDB: A Debugger

While ASAN and Valgrind tell you what went wrong in your program after it has been executed, GDB is a debugging tool that allows you to see what is going on `inside’ your program WHILE it executes! It can also be used after your program has crashed for debugging purposes as well. In particular, Valgrind and ASAN work well for memory related errors, but GDB can handle crashes from those as well as other classes of bugs, such as logic errors. To learn how to use GDB for your lab and mps, visit this page:

Guide: How to use GDB

Checking Out the Code

After reading this lab specification, the first task is to check out the provided code from the class repository.

To check out your files for the third lab, run the following command in your cs225git directory:

git fetch release
git merge release/lab_memory -m "Merging initial lab_memory files"

This should update your directory to contain a new directory called lab_memory.

Code Description

For this lab, you will be fixing bugs in course staff’s Student-To-Room allocation program. Since many CS classes are very large (CS 225 has nearly 800 students!), exams are usually spread across several rooms. Before each exam, course staff have to allocate different students to different rooms, so that everyone can take the test with enough space.

For example, if there were only two classrooms of equal size, students in the first half of the alphabet (last name letters A - N) might go to Siebel 1404, while students in the second half of the alphabet (letters M - Z) might go to DCL 1320.

However, with more rooms, this problem becomes more difficult. In the sample situation provided, there are 9 classrooms for the exam, varying in seating capacity from 43 to 70 seats (i.e. 21 to 35 students seated every-other-desk). Although we’ll have to break up the alphabet more, we’d still like to assign students with the same first letter of their last name to the same room, as this makes going to the right room easier.

We’ve provided you the code to solve this problem, however, it has several memory bugs in it. You’ll have to use Valgrind and/or ASAN, as well as some debugging skills from lab_debug, to find the bugs and fix them. Note, there are no bugs in the fileio namespace.

A reference for the lab is provided for you in Doxygen form.

Committing the Code

Guide: How to submit CS 225 work using git

Grading Information

The following files are used to grade this assignment:

All other files, including main.cpp and any testing files you have added will not be used for grading.