C++ FAQ Celebrating Twenty-One Years of the C++ FAQ!!!
(Click here for a personal note from Marshall Cline.)
Section 16:
16.1 Does delete p delete the pointer p, or the pointed-to-data *p?
16.2 Is it safe to delete the same pointer twice?
16.3 Can I free() pointers allocated with new? Can I delete pointers allocated with malloc()?
16.4 Benefits of new over malloc()?
16.5 Can I use realloc() on pointers allocated via new?
16.6 Checking for NULL after p = new Fred()?
16.7 How can I convince my (older) compiler to automatically check new to see if it returns NULL?
16.8 Checking for NULL before delete p?
16.9 What are the two steps that happen when I say delete p?
16.10 Does p = new Fred() leak memory if the ctor throws an exception?
16.11 How do I allocate / unallocate an array of things?
16.12 What if I forget the [] when deleteing an array allocated via new T[n]?
16.13 Can I drop the [] when deleteing an array of some built-in type (char, int, etc)?
16.14 After p = new Fred[n], how does the compiler know there are n objects to be destructed during delete[] p?
16.15 Is it legal (and moral) for a member function to say delete this?
16.16 How do I allocate multidimensional arrays using new?
16.17 How to simplify the Matrix code from the previous FAQ?
16.18 How to make the Matrix class generic?
16.19 What's another way to build a Matrix template?
16.20 Does C++ have arrays whose length can be specified at run-time?
16.21 Allocating all objects via new, not local/global/static?
16.22 How do I do simple reference counting?
16.23 How do I provide reference counting with copy-on-write semantics?
16.24 How do I provide reference counting with copy-on-write semantics for a hierarchy of classes?
16.25 Preventing people from subverting the reference counting mechanism?
16.26 Can I use a garbage collector in C++?
16.27 What are the two kinds of garbage collectors for C++?
16.28 Where can I get more info on garbage collectors for C++?
[16.3] Can I free() pointers allocated with new? Can I delete pointers allocated with malloc()?


It is perfectly legal, moral, and wholesome to use malloc() and delete in the same program, or to use new and free() in the same program. But it is illegal, immoral, and despicable to call free() with a pointer allocated via new, or to call delete on a pointer allocated via malloc().

Beware! I occasionally get e-mail from people telling me that it works OK for them on machine X and compiler Y. Just because they don't see bad symptoms in a simple test case doesn't mean it won't crash in the field. Even if they know it won't crash on their particular compiler doesn't mean it will work safely on another compiler, another platform, or even another version of the same compiler.

Beware! Sometimes people say, "But I'm just working with an array of char." Nonetheless do not mix malloc() and delete on the same pointer, or new and free() on the same pointer! If you allocated via p = new char[n], you must use delete[] p; you must not use free(p). Or if you allocated via p = malloc(n), you must use free(p); you must not use delete[] p or delete p! Mixing these up could cause a catastrophic failure at runtime if the code was ported to a new machine, a new compiler, or even a new version of the same compiler.

You have been warned.