C · Fun Facts


While reading a report, I saw where 0xDEADBEEF is used in Linux Kernel to assign a variable, null. TIL that this hexa value is used to assign a variable to null.


What is the difference between the two?

Using either memset(ptr, NULL, size) or memset(ptr, 0xDEADBEEF, size) is a clear indication of the fact that the author did not understand what they were doing.

Firstly, memset(ptr, NULL, size) will indeed zero-out a memory block in C and C++ if NULL is defined as an integral zero.

However, using NULL to represent the zero value in this context is not an acceptable practice. NULL is a macro introduced specifically for pointer contexts. The second parameter of memset is an integer, not a pointer. The proper way to zero-out a memory block would be memset(ptr, 0, size). Note: 0 not NULL. I’d say that even memset(ptr, ”, size) looks better than memset(ptr, NULL, size).

Moreover, the most recent (at the moment) C++ standard – C++11 – allows defining NULL as nullptr. nullptr value is not implicitly convertible to type int, whihc means that the above code is not guaranteed to compile in C++11 and later.

In C language (and your question is tagged C as well) macro NULL can expand to (void *) 0. Even in C (void *) 0 is not implicitly convertible to type int, which means that in general case memset(ptr, NULL, size) is simply invalid code in C.

Secondly, even though the second parameter of memset has type int, the function interprets it as an unsigned char value. It means that only one lower byte of the value is used to fill the destination memory block. For this reason memset(ptr, 0xDEADBEEF, size) will compile, but will not fill the target memory region with 0xDEADBEEF values, as the author of the code probably naively hoped. memset(ptr, 0xDEADBEEF, size) is eqivalent to memset(ptr, 0xEF, size) (assuming 8-bit chars). While this is probably good enough to fill some memory region with intentional “garbage”, things like memset(ptr, NULL, size) or memset(ptr, 0xDEADBEEF, size) still betray the major lack of professionalism on the author’s part.

Again, as other answer have already noted, the idea here is to fill the unused memory with a “garbage” value. Zero is certainly not a good idea in this case, since it is not “garbagy” enough. When using memset you are limited to one-byte values, like 0xAB or 0xEF. If this is good enough for your purposes, use memset. If you want a more expressive and unique garbage value, like 0xDEDABEEF or 0xBAADFOOD, you won’t be able to use memset with it. You’ll have to write a dedicated function that can fill memory region with 4-byte pattern.

A pointer in C and C++ cannot be assigned an arbitrary integer value (other than a Null Pointer Constant, i.e. zero). Such assignment can only be achieved by forcing the integral value into the pointer with an explicit cast. Formally speaking, the result of such a cast is implementation defined. The resultant value can certainly point to valid data.


This description is picked from here.

Some more up here.


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