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c++, when should I use the stack or heap?

So I have started learning c++ recently, and as a .NET/Java developer I always want to write the following code.

var s = new myClass().

In c++ you have to manage memory yourself, there is no garbage collector.

If you do not use the new keyword var s = myClass() you will create that class and assign it to on the stack.

Any stack variables will be cleaned at the end of the block, so in this case s will be cleaned. However if you use var s = new myClass() s will be allocated onto the heap and must be deleted, otherwise memory leaks will occur.

To clean the variable you must call delete when you are done with the variable, this will cause the memory in the heap to be cleaned.

Now this comes back to what is a stack and heap I wrote a blog post about value and reference types in c# and this talk touches on a lot of the same subject. Basically a stack in c++ is a 1mb scratch pad of memory, that is really fast to access. The heap is a larger pool of memory for dynamic allocation, but can be slower to access.

So I was thinking to myself, well when should I allocate on the stack vs heap. The stack is limited in size, and if you go over that size you will cause a stack overflow. Also I want my c++ app to be fast, so I would like to allocate on the stack often, and I don't have to worry about cleaning up stack objects. That being said the heap is still quite fast so I shouldn't avoid the heap.

Consider any or all of the following rules to put objects into the stack. Note: You don't need to meet all of them.

Stack Allocate:

  • Immutable
  • Under 32 bytes (Ideally around 16 bytes)
  • It won't require being put into heap often
  • Short Lived
  • Embedded in other objects
Tagged In:
c performance