Apparent memory leaks

If you run Valgrind or another memory checker on a program that uses librsvg, or rsvg-convert, you may get false positives. This chapter explains why these occur by giving some examples of false positives from Valgrind.

Note that there may be real memory leaks, and they should be fixed! This chapter just explains why not everything that is reported as a memory leak is in fact a leak.

Example: false leak in fontconfig’s code for FcPattern

$ valgrind --leak-check=full --track-origins=yes rsvg-convert -o foo.png foo.svg

==5712== 5,378 (512 direct, 4,866 indirect) bytes in 1 blocks are definitely lost in loss record 1,463 of 1,487
==5712==    at 0x484D82F: realloc (in /usr/libexec/valgrind/
==5712==    by 0x5577D88: FcPatternObjectInsertElt (fcpat.c:516)
==5712==    by 0x557BE08: FcPatternObjectAddWithBinding (fcpat.c:711)
==5712==    by 0x557315F: UnknownInlinedFun (fcpat.c:738)
==5712==    by 0x557315F: UnknownInlinedFun (fcpat.c:884)
==5712==    by 0x557315F: FcDefaultSubstitute (fcdefault.c:257)
==5712==    by 0x544E15D: UnknownInlinedFun (pangofc-fontmap.c:2066)
==5712==    by 0x544E15D: UnknownInlinedFun (pangofc-fontmap.c:2143)
==5712==    by 0x544E15D: pango_fc_font_map_load_fontset (pangofc-fontmap.c:2245)
==5712==    by 0x4D74FBC: UnknownInlinedFun (itemize.c:892)
==5712==    by 0x4D74FBC: UnknownInlinedFun (itemize.c:952)
==5712==    by 0x4D74FBC: pango_itemize_with_font (itemize.c:1564)
==5712==    by 0x4D880D1: pango_layout_check_lines.part.0.lto_priv.0 (pango-layout.c:4894)
==5712==    by 0x4D7D58D: UnknownInlinedFun (pango-layout.c:4786)
==5712==    by 0x4D7D58D: pango_layout_get_extents_internal.lto_priv.0 (pango-layout.c:2925)
==5712==    by 0x4D7D735: pango_layout_get_size (pango-layout.c:3166)
==5712==    by 0x6987FF: pango::auto::layout::Layout::size (
==5712==    by 0x542342: librsvg::text::MeasuredSpan::from_span (
==5712==    by 0x33465C: librsvg::text::MeasuredChunk::from_chunk::{{closure}} (

Fontconfig is a library to enumerate the system’s fonts based on different configuration parameters. It gets used by Pango, GNOME’s library for text rendering, and in turn by librsvg.

Is the report above a leak in fontconfig? No. Let’s look at FcPatternObjectInsertElt(), the function that called realloc() in the stack trace above. From fccpat.c:

int s = p->size + 16;
if (p->size)
    FcPatternElt *e0 = FcPatternElts(p);
    e = (FcPatternElt *) realloc (e0, s * sizeof (FcPatternElt));
    if (!e) /* maybe it was mmapped */
        e = malloc(s * sizeof (FcPatternElt));
        if (e)
     memcpy(e, e0, FcPatternObjectCount (p) * sizeof (FcPatternElt));
    e = (FcPatternElt *) malloc (s * sizeof (FcPatternElt));
if (!e)
    return FcFalse;
p->elts_offset = FcPtrToOffset (p, e);

The code inside the first if (p->size) essentially does a realloc() to resize an existing array, or malloc() to allocate a new one. However, that pointer is encoded instead of stored plainly in the last line: p->elts_offset = FcPtrToOffset (p, e). If you look at the definition of FcPtrToOffset, you will see that it encodes the pointer as the offset between a base location and the pointer’s location itself (p and e respectively in the code above).

What Valgrind thinks is, “oh, they just allocated this memory and immediately obliterated the pointer to it, so it must be a leak!”. However, what actually happens is that fontconfig doesn’t store that pointer plainly, but mangles it somehow. Then it un-mangles it with FcPatternElts to access it, and frees the memory properly later in FcPatternDestroy().

Example: false leak in Rust’s hashbrown crate

$ valgrind --leak-check=full --track-origins=yes rsvg-convert -o foo.png foo.svg

==5712== 708 bytes in 3 blocks are possibly lost in loss record 1,380 of 1,487
==5712==    at 0x48487B4: malloc (in /usr/libexec/valgrind/
==5712==    by 0x79E17B: alloc::alloc::alloc (
==5712==    by 0x79E316: alloc::alloc::Global::alloc_impl (
==5712==    by 0x79E439: <alloc::alloc::Global as core::alloc::Allocator>::allocate (
==5712==    by 0x784A57: hashbrown::raw::alloc::inner::do_alloc (
==5712==    by 0x7C8ECD: hashbrown::raw::RawTableInner<A>::new_uninitialized (
==5712==    by 0x7C926B: hashbrown::raw::RawTableInner<A>::fallible_with_capacity (
==5712==    by 0x7CA2C5: hashbrown::raw::RawTableInner<A>::prepare_resize (
==5712==    by 0x7C7424: hashbrown::raw::RawTable<T,A>::reserve_rehash (
==5712==    by 0x7C7068: hashbrown::raw::RawTable<T,A>::reserve (
==5712==    by 0x7C81F5: hashbrown::raw::RawTable<T,A>::insert (
==5712==    by 0x77828B: hashbrown::map::HashMap<K,V,S,A>::insert (

Hashbrown is a Rust crate that implements an efficient hash table. Let’s look at the code from hashbrown::raw::RawTableInner<A>::new_uninitialized:

let ptr: NonNull<u8> = match do_alloc(&alloc, layout) {
    Ok(block) => block.cast(),
    Err(_) => return Err(fallibility.alloc_err(layout)),

let ctrl = NonNull::new_unchecked(ptr.as_ptr().add(ctrl_offset));

First it calls do_alloc which is essentially malloc() underneath. Then, it adds an offset to the resulting ptr, where it does ptr.as_ptr().add(ctrl_offset). You can see a description of the actual layout in the declaration of the ctrl field. Similar to the example above for fontconfig, Valgrind sees that the code immediately obliterates the only existing pointer to the newly-allocated memory, and thus thinks that it leaks the corresponding memory.

Example: false leak in Rust’s regex crate

$ valgrind --leak-check=full --track-origins=yes rsvg-convert -o foo.png foo.svg

==5712== 42 bytes in 6 blocks are possibly lost in loss record 793 of 1,487
==5712==    at 0x48487B4: malloc (in /usr/libexec/valgrind/
==5712==    by 0xA99074: alloc (
==5712==    by 0xA99074: alloc_impl (
==5712==    by 0xA99074: allocate (
==5712==    by 0xA99074: allocate_in<u8, alloc::alloc::Global> (
==5712==    by 0xA99074: with_capacity_in<u8, alloc::alloc::Global> (
==5712==    by 0xA99074: with_capacity_in<u8, alloc::alloc::Global> (
==5712==    by 0xA99074: to_vec<u8, alloc::alloc::Global> (
==5712==    by 0xA99074: to_vec<u8, alloc::alloc::Global> (
==5712==    by 0xA99074: to_vec_in<u8, alloc::alloc::Global> (
==5712==    by 0xA99074: clone<u8, alloc::alloc::Global> (
==5712==    by 0xA99074: <alloc::string::String as core::clone::Clone>::clone (
==5712==    by 0x761A56: <T as alloc::borrow::ToOwned>::to_owned (
==5712==    by 0x765986: <alloc::string::String as alloc::string::ToString>::to_string (
==5712==    by 0x7692DB: regex::compile::Compiler::c (
==5712==    by 0x76C748: regex::compile::Compiler::c_concat (
==5712==    by 0x769124: regex::compile::Compiler::c (
==5712==    by 0x76927B: regex::compile::Compiler::c (
==5712==    by 0x76E4B1: regex::compile::Compiler::c_repeat_zero_or_one (
==5712==    by 0x76E302: regex::compile::Compiler::c_repeat (
==5712==    by 0x769031: regex::compile::Compiler::c (
==5712==    by 0x76C748: regex::compile::Compiler::c_concat (

This is related to the example above for the hashbrown crate. The regex crate, for regular expressions, builds a hash table with the names of captures. It allocates a string for the name of each capture and inserts it in a hash table:

hir::GroupKind::CaptureName { index, ref name } => {
    if index as usize >= self.compiled.captures.len() {
        let n = name.to_string();
        self.capture_name_idx.insert(n, index as usize);
    self.c_capture(2 * index as usize, &g.hir)

The allocation happens in name.to_string(). Two lines below, the string gets inserted into the self.capture_name_idx hash table.

By looking at the declaration for the capture_name_idx field, we see that it is a HashMap<String, usize>. However, that HashMap is in fact a hashbrown table, as in the previous section. Since hashbrown uses a special encoding for its internal pointers, Valgrind thinks that the original pointer to the string is lost.