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V641. Buffer size is not a multiple of …
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V641. Buffer size is not a multiple of element size.

Jul 07 2017

The analyzer has detected a potential error that has to do with casting a pointer to a buffer to a pointer to a different type, while the size of the original buffer is not a multiple of the size of a single element of the resulting type. We will discuss two patterns of type casting mistakes.

The first pattern has to do with allocating memory of incorrect size for storage of array elements using functions 'malloc', 'calloc', 'alloca', 'realloc', etc.

Such errors typically occur when the size of the allocated memory is specified by a constant (or constants in case of 'calloc'). To ensure correct allocation of memory for 'N' elements of an array of type 'T', we recommend using the 'sizeof(T)' operator. Depending on the function used for memory allocation, the pattern of the construct may look like this:

int *p = (int*)malloc(N * sizeof(int));

or like this:

int *p = (int*)calloc(N, sizeof(int));

Incorrect memory allocation may result in an array overrun.

Consider the following example of incorrect code with the 'malloc' function:

int *p = (int*)malloc(70);

The function will allocate 70 bytes. An attempt to access the 'p[17]' element will result in undefined behavior due to an array overrun (the program needs 72 bytes to read the 18th element correctly). This is what the correct version looks like:

p = (int*)malloc(72);

Another possible situation is allocating memory for 70 elements. In this case, the fixed code should look like this:

p = (int*)malloc(70 * sizeof(int));

The following example, taken from real code, uses the 'calloc' function:

int data16len = MultiByteToWideChar(CP_UTF8, 
if (!data16) 
  data16 = (wchar_t*)calloc(data16len + 1, 1);
MultiByteToWideChar(CP_UTF8, 0, data, -1, data16, data16len);

In this case, the programmer intended to allocate a buffer to store a wide string converted from a UTF-8 string. However, the size of 'wchar_t' is not 1 byte (it is 2 bytes in Windows and 4 bytes in Linux). The fixed code:

data16 = (wchar_t*)calloc(data16len + 1, sizeof(wchar_t));

Note on the 'calloc' function. Although the function prototype follows this pattern:

void* calloc(size_t num, size_t size );

some programmers believe that the size of the allocated storage is evaluated by the expression num*size, and will often swap the arguments. Executing such code may result in bugs. This is what the documentation has to say about this: "Due to the alignment requirements, the number of allocated bytes is not necessarily equal to num*size."

The second pattern of errors deals with casting a pointer to an object of type 'A' to a pointer to an object of type 'B'. Consider the following example:

struct A
  int a, b;
  float c;
  unsigned char d;

struct B
  int a, b;
  float c;
  unsigned short d;

A obj1;
B *obj2 = (B*)&obj1; //V641
std::cout << obj2->d;

The two structs are different in the last field. The types of 'd' fields of the structs have different size. When casting pointer 'A*' to pointer 'B*', there is a risk of undefined behavior when attempting to access the 'd' field. Note that pointer 'B*' can be cast to pointer 'A*' without undefined behavior (although it will be a bad code).

The analyzer does not issue the warning when pointer 'A*' is cast to pointer 'B*' in case one of the two classes (structures) deriving from the other.

This diagnostic is classified as:

You can look at examples of errors detected by the V641 diagnostic.