The " Other data " node

NOTE: This article was originally published as a post in the .NET and Memory blog (by Andreas Suurkuusk, co-founder of SciTech Software AB).

A common question we get about the profiler is how the number presented under the “Other data-><Other>” node in the Native memory tree should be interpreted. This number can often be significant compared to the total memory used by the application.

The “Other data -> <Other>” node represents native memory that the profiler has failed to identify (as mentioned below, data collected by the unmanaged resource tracker is currently not used). This can be memory used by:

  • Unmanaged resources
    Unmanaged windows resources such as HBITMAPs, HWNDs and HICONs etc. will consume memory, but the profiler will not be able to identify it.
  • Internal memory used by the runtime
    The runtime needs to allocate memory for internal structures. These structures can contain information about loaded modules, classes and other data needed by the runtime. When attaching, the profiler identifies some of this memory but when doing normal profiling this memory will be unidentified. Additionally, the amount of unidentified native memory is greater when running under the profiler than it is when running the application the normal way. The runtime itself probably consumes more memory when profiling since it cannot perform certain optimizations and it might keep information available for the profiler that could otherwise be discarded.
  • Memory allocated by VirtualAlloc
    If the memory is not sub-allocated by other functions, like HeapAlloc, then it will be presented as <Other>.
  • Memory mapped files
    If the file mapping is created without a specified file, then the memory used will be unidentified.
  • Committed stack memory
    This memory is allocated using VirtualAlloc and can consume quite a lot of memory if you have many threads in the application. I will discuss the stack memory usage in a future post.

What do I do if a have a high memory usage that has not been identified by the profiler?

First of all you should investigate whether the high memory usage is really a problem. As mentioned above, the amount of unidentified native memory is higher when running under the profiler. This increase can be mitigated by using the “Attach to” command in the profiler. When attaching to a process the profiler will not affect the memory usage of the profiled process at all (however, since it reads a lot of memory pages, it will affect the working set of the process when a snapshot is collected).

If you still see a lot of unidentified memory, and especially if the size of this memory increases, you can continue the investigation by using the unmanaged resources tracker. It can be used to collect more detailed information about the unmanaged memory usage of the application. After you have collected a snapshot, you will be able to see unmanaged resources in the Types/Resources view. Unfortunately, the information collected by the resource tracker is currently only presented in the normal snapshot views, the native memory tree view does not use the information collected by the resource tracker. This will be implemented in a future version.

Unmanaged resources are identified by the icon in the Types/Resources view and can be further investigated by double-clicking. Each created resource instance is associated with a creation context. When looking for a leak related to unmanaged resources, the instances associated with the unmanaged interop context () are usually of most interest. The reason for this is that the creation of these instances is normally performed by managed code (using P/Invoke calls) and it it easier to track why they’re created. Resource instances associated with the “Managed runtime” and the “Other unmanaged” are usually created by the runtime or other unmanaged code, so it might not be possibly to identify why they’re created.

I hope this post has given you some useful information about the native memory view, and some directions on what to do if you have an application with a lot of unidentified native memory. We will continue to work on identifying native memory, and future versions of the profiler will include more detailed information.