1. Introduction

Table of Contents

1.1. An Overview of Valgrind
1.2. How to navigate this manual

1.1. An Overview of Valgrind

Valgrind is an instrumentation framework for building dynamic analysis tools. It comes with a set of tools each of which performs some kind of debugging, profiling, or similar task that helps you improve your programs. Valgrind's architecture is modular, so new tools can be created easily and without disturbing the existing structure.

A number of useful tools are supplied as standard.

  1. Memcheck is a memory error detector. It helps you make your programs, particularly those written in C and C++, more correct.

  2. Cachegrind is a cache and branch-prediction profiler. It helps you make your programs run faster.

  3. Callgrind is a call-graph generating cache profiler. It has some overlap with Cachegrind, but also gathers some information that Cachegrind does not.

  4. Helgrind is a thread error detector. It helps you make your multi-threaded programs more correct.

  5. DRD is also a thread error detector. It is similar to Helgrind but uses different analysis techniques and so may find different problems.

  6. Massif is a heap profiler. It helps you make your programs use less memory.

  7. DHAT is a different kind of heap profiler. It helps you understand issues of block lifetimes, block utilisation, and layout inefficiencies.

  8. BBV is an experimental SimPoint basic block vector generator. It is useful to people doing computer architecture research and development.

There are also a couple of minor tools that aren't useful to most users: Lackey is an example tool that illustrates some instrumentation basics; and Nulgrind is the minimal Valgrind tool that does no analysis or instrumentation, and is only useful for testing purposes.

Valgrind is closely tied to details of the CPU and operating system, and to a lesser extent, the compiler and basic C libraries. Nonetheless, it supports a number of widely-used platforms, listed in full at http://www.valgrind.org/.

Valgrind is built via the standard Unix ./configure, make, make install process; full details are given in the README file in the distribution.

Valgrind is licensed under the The GNU General Public License, version 2. The valgrind/*.h headers that you may wish to include in your code (eg. valgrind.h, memcheck.h, helgrind.h, etc.) are distributed under a BSD-style license, so you may include them in your code without worrying about license conflicts. Some of the PThreads test cases, pth_*.c, are taken from "Pthreads Programming" by Bradford Nichols, Dick Buttlar & Jacqueline Proulx Farrell, ISBN 1-56592-115-1, published by O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.

If you contribute code to Valgrind, please ensure your contributions are licensed as "GPLv2, or (at your option) any later version." This is so as to allow the possibility of easily upgrading the license to GPLv3 in future. If you want to modify code in the VEX subdirectory, please also see the file VEX/HACKING.README in the distribution.

1.2. How to navigate this manual

This manual's structure reflects the structure of Valgrind itself. First, we describe the Valgrind core, how to use it, and the options it supports. Then, each tool has its own chapter in this manual. You only need to read the documentation for the core and for the tool(s) you actually use, although you may find it helpful to be at least a little bit familiar with what all tools do. If you're new to all this, you probably want to run the Memcheck tool and you might find the The Valgrind Quick Start Guide useful.

Be aware that the core understands some command line options, and the tools have their own options which they know about. This means there is no central place describing all the options that are accepted -- you have to read the options documentation both for Valgrind's core and for the tool you want to use.