Finding the largest free block of address space

BuildingsI’ve been seeing problems recently with fragmented virtual address space. During the lifetime of a process, bits and pieces of memory are allocated throughout the 2GB 32-bit address space to such an extent that large contiguous blocks of free space are no longer available. If anything subsequently requires a large block of memory (like, for instance, a somewhat out-of-date version of the GHC runtime), it will fail to get it.

It’s obvious looking at the output from VMmap or windbg’s !address command what the largest contiguous block is, e.g.

0:008> !address -summary
Largest free region: Base 07300000 - Size 63ed0000 (1637184 KB)

But what if you need that number in order to make a decision at run-time? For instance, to decide whether your process is in a fit state to continue, or if it should instead commit hara-kiri. In that case, you need to access the information programmatically. That’s where the immensely useful VirtualQueryEx function comes in…

VirtualQueryEx gives you information on a single page of your virtual address space at a time. Pages size are dependent on the architecture and OS, but if you just want to iterate over all of them, you don’t need to add any special handling; the function returns the size of the page in an element of the MEMORY_BASIC_INFORMATION structure, so you can simply move to the ‘next’ page regardless of size.

If you’re interested in free space, you’ll need to find all the pages that have a state of MEM_FREE (0x10000), and that’s pretty much all there is to it. By keeping track of how much space falls into a continuous range of MEM_FREE pages you can get to the number reported by VMmap and !address.

Here’s some C++ code that returns the address of the largest free contiguous block in largestFreestartlargestFree. Enjoy!

	DWORD start = 0;
	bool recording = false;
	DWORD freestart = 0, largestFreestart = 0;
	__int64 free = 0, largestFree = 0;
	while (true)
		SIZE_T s = VirtualQueryEx(hproc, reinterpret_cast(start), &mbi, sizeof(mbi));
		if (s != sizeof(mbi))
			if (GetLastError() != ERROR_INVALID_PARAMETER)
				return ReportError(GetLastError(), _T("Failed to VirtualQueryEx at %08x"), start);
		if (mbi.State == MEM_FREE)
			if (!recording)
				freestart = start;
			free += mbi.RegionSize;
			recording = true;
			if (recording)
				if (free > largestFree)
					largestFree = free;
					largestFreestart = freestart;
			free = 0;
			recording = false;
		start += mbi.RegionSize;