C++ FAQ Celebrating Twenty-One Years of the C++ FAQ!!!
(Click here for a personal note from Marshall Cline.)
Section 16:
16.1 Does delete p delete the pointer p, or the pointed-to-data *p?
16.2 Is it safe to delete the same pointer twice?
16.3 Can I free() pointers allocated with new? Can I delete pointers allocated with malloc()?
16.4 Benefits of new over malloc()?
16.5 Can I use realloc() on pointers allocated via new?
16.6 Checking for NULL after p = new Fred()?
16.7 How can I convince my (older) compiler to automatically check new to see if it returns NULL?
16.8 Checking for NULL before delete p?
16.9 What are the two steps that happen when I say delete p?
16.10 Does p = new Fred() leak memory if the ctor throws an exception?
16.11 How do I allocate / unallocate an array of things?
16.12 What if I forget the [] when deleteing an array allocated via new T[n]?
16.13 Can I drop the [] when deleteing an array of some built-in type (char, int, etc)?
16.14 After p = new Fred[n], how does the compiler know there are n objects to be destructed during delete[] p?
16.15 Is it legal (and moral) for a member function to say delete this?
16.16 How do I allocate multidimensional arrays using new?
16.17 How to simplify the Matrix code from the previous FAQ?
16.18 How to make the Matrix class generic?
16.19 What's another way to build a Matrix template?
16.20 Does C++ have arrays whose length can be specified at run-time?
16.21 Allocating all objects via new, not local/global/static?
16.22 How do I do simple reference counting?
16.23 How do I provide reference counting with copy-on-write semantics?
16.24 How do I provide reference counting with copy-on-write semantics for a hierarchy of classes?
16.25 Preventing people from subverting the reference counting mechanism?
16.26 Can I use a garbage collector in C++?
16.27 What are the two kinds of garbage collectors for C++?
16.28 Where can I get more info on garbage collectors for C++?
[16.13] Can I drop the [] when deleteing an array of some built-in type (char, int, etc)?


Sometimes programmers think that the [] in the delete[] p only exists so the compiler will call the appropriate destructors for all elements in the array. Because of this reasoning, they assume that an array of some built-in type such as char or int can be deleted without the []. E.g., they assume the following is valid code:

void userCode(int n)
  char* p = new char[n];
  delete p;     //  ERROR! Should be delete[] p !
But the above code is wrong, and it can cause a disaster at runtime. In particular, the code that's called for delete p is operator delete(void*), but the code that's called for delete[] p is operator delete[](void*). The default behavior for the latter is to call the former, but users are allowed to replace the latter with a different behavior (in which case they would normally also replace the corresponding new code in operator new[](size_t)). If they replaced the delete[] code so it wasn't compatible with the delete code, and you called the wrong one (i.e., if you said delete p rather than delete[] p), you could end up with a disaster at runtime.