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Bug #46181 memory leak on garbage collecting function return values
Submitted: 2008-09-26 10:28 UTC Modified: 2008-09-26 21:19 UTC
From: xl269 at cam dot ac dot uk Assigned:
Status: Not a bug Package: Performance problem
PHP Version: 5.3CVS-2008-09-26 (CVS) OS: debian gnu/linux lenny
Private report: No CVE-ID: None
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From: xl269 at cam dot ac dot uk
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 [2008-09-26 10:28 UTC] xl269 at cam dot ac dot uk
I have no idea if my explanation of this bug is correct, but here's a guess anyway.

PHP does not seem to garbage collect return values from functions, when they are operated-assigned (eg. $v = func() + 5; or $v = func()." ";) to a variable in the caller. but this is fine for direct assignments (eg. $v = func();)

It would seem from this that PHP is storing functions' return values internally as if they were pointed to by a variable (that doesn't exist in the script), and using copy-on-write to avoid copying this data when it's assigned to an actual script variable. However copy-on-write, doesn't trigger when there is an operation on this data before this assignment.

Reproduce code:

define('LF', chr(10));

// define('REALLY_LONG_STRING', str_repeat("really ", 65536)."long string");

function generic($for, $title) {
	$data = '<abbr title="information for '.$for.'">'.$title.'</abbr>';
	// $data = '<abbr title="information for '.$for.'">'.$title.'</abbr>'.REALLY_LONG_STRING;
	return $data;

function lol1() {
	$data = " ".generic("name", "test")." ";
	return $data;

function lol2() {
	$data = generic("name", "test");
	return $data;

echo memory_get_usage().LF;
for ($i=0; $i<8; $i++) {
	$a[] = lol2();
	echo memory_get_usage().LF;
	$a[] = lol1();
	echo memory_get_usage().LF;


Expected result:
see below

Actual result:
635240 l2+
635496 g+
635672 g-
635672 l2- (no memory leak here)
636024 l1+
636072 g+
636184 g-
636248 l1- (this value should only be 2 bytes larger than the previous)


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 [2008-09-26 10:34 UTC] xl269 at cam dot ac dot uk
oh, i forgot to add, if you uncomment those lines in the code provided, the bug doesn't appear. which odd, since it appears for the smaller data.
 [2008-09-26 19:54 UTC]
"Fatal error: Call to undefined function mem() " therefore I couldn't do a check, but I assume it'S the same as bug #46180
 [2008-09-26 21:19 UTC] xl269 at cam dot ac dot uk
sorry, mem() just prints out the memory:

function mem($k) { echo memory_get_usage().' '.$k.LF; }

still, if this is an effect of php's caching system as you state in the other bug report, it's not doing its job. i'm running a cli daemon and this bug is the main cause of leaks - around 2MB per day, and that's based on lightest possible use (ie, doing pretty much nothing).

and there's hardly any documentation available on this subject.
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