Ayende @ Rahien

It's a girl

Spot the bug: Unmanaged memory traps

Sometimes I forgot how good life is in the managed lane.  Then I do some unmanaged work and get a good reality check.

Let us look at the following structures:

    [StructLayout(LayoutKind.Explicit, Pack = 1)]
    public struct PageHeader
        [FieldOffset(0)] public long Marker;

        [FieldOffset(8)] public ushort Lower;

        [FieldOffset(10)] public ushort Upper;

        [FieldOffset(12)] public int OverflowSize;

        [FieldOffset(16)] public int ItemCount;

    [StructLayout(LayoutKind.Explicit, Pack = 1)]
    public struct FileHeader
        [FieldOffset(0)] public long Marker;

        [FieldOffset(8)] public LogHeader Active;

        [FieldOffset(44)] public LogHeader Backup;

        [FieldOffset(80)] public TreeRootHeader Root;

        [FieldOffset(142)] public TreeRootHeader FreeSpace;

    [StructLayout(LayoutKind.Explicit, Pack = 1)]
    public struct TreeRootHeader
        [FieldOffset(0)] public long RootPageNumber;
        [FieldOffset(8)] public long BranchPages;
        [FieldOffset(16)] public long LeafPages;
        [FieldOffset(32)] public long OverflowPages;
        [FieldOffset(40)] public long PageCount;
        [FieldOffset(48)] public long EntriesCount;
        [FieldOffset(56)] public int Depth;
        [FieldOffset(60)] public TreeFlags Flags;

    [StructLayout(LayoutKind.Explicit, Pack = 1)]
    public struct LogHeader
        [FieldOffset(0)] public long Marker;

        [FieldOffset(8)] public long LastLog;

        [FieldOffset(16)] public long LastLogPage;

        [FieldOffset(24)] public int ItemCount;

        [FieldOffset(28)] public long Options;

And now we have the following code:

   1:  private static unsafe void Main()
   2:  {
   3:      IntPtr pagePtr = Marshal.AllocHGlobal(4096);
   5:      var pageHeader = (PageHeader*) pagePtr.ToPointer();
   6:      pageHeader->ItemCount = 2;
   7:      pageHeader->Marker = 0x128314543423;
   8:      pageHeader->OverflowSize = 32;
  10:      FileHeader* fileHeader = (FileHeader*) pageHeader + sizeof (PageHeader);
  12:      fileHeader->Root.BranchPages = 0;
  15:      Marshal.FreeHGlobal(pagePtr);
  16:  }

The fun part about this code is that it would silently corrupt the state of the process.

Here is what happens when you run it under the debugger:


Can you figure out why?


Posted By: Ayende Rahien

Published at

Originally posted at


Pawel Kmiec
11/04/2013 10:17 AM by
Pawel Kmiec

What is TreeFlags? Looks like it's size is counted as 2 bytes, and those 2 bytes looks invalid to me (just a feeling)

Marc Gravell
11/04/2013 10:26 AM by
Marc Gravell

Pointer math; adding in pointers means "this many instances of the type".

I'd use:

var fileHeader = (FileHeader*)((byte*)pagePtr.ToPointer() + sizeof(PageHeader));

(actually, I'd probably have the ptr as a byte* at the top, for convenience)

Marc Gravell
11/04/2013 10:29 AM by
Marc Gravell

as a simple example to my "Pointer math" reply:

    int* p = stackalloc int[100];
    int* p2 = p + 1;

if, say, p is 0x05bdec30 - then p2 is 0x05bdec34; the "+ 1" is "+ the space used by one of the declared type, int - so + 4"

11/04/2013 10:33 AM by

TreeRootHeader.OverflowPages should have FieldOffset(24)

Mark Heath
11/04/2013 10:35 AM by
Mark Heath

Looks like your pointer arithmetic is wrong. By adding sizeof(PageHeader) to pageHeader, you're not moving the point forward 20 bytes, but 20 times the size of the pageHeader structure (which you've cast to a FileHeader). so it's incrementing the pointer 20 * 204 bytes. Something like this is what you want: FileHeader* fileHeader = (FileHeader) ((byte)pageHeader + sizeof (PageHeader));

Mark Heath
11/04/2013 10:36 AM by
Mark Heath

sorry, code formatting got screwed up. Mark Gravell beat me to it anyway.

Comments have been closed on this topic.