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The latest version of this topic can be found at Allocators.

Allocators are used by the Standard Template Library to handle the allocation and deallocation of elements stored in containers. All STL containers except std::array have a template parameter of type allocator<Type>, where Type represents the type of the container element. For example, the vector class is declared as follows:

template <  
    class Type,  
    class Allocator = allocator<Type>  
class vector  

The Standard Template Library provides a default implementation for an allocator. In C++11 and later, the default allocator is updated to expose a smaller interface; the new allocator is called a minimal allocator. In particular, the minimal allocator's construct() member supports move semantics, which can greatly improve performance. In most cases, this default allocator should be sufficient. In C++11 all the Standard Library types and functions that take an allocator type parameter support the minimal allocator interface, including std::function, shared_ptr, allocate_shared(), and basic_string. For more information on the default allocator, see allocator Class.

The default allocator uses new and delete to allocate and deallocate memory. If you want to use a different method of memory allocation, such as using shared memory, then you must create your own allocator. If you are targeting C++11 and you need to write a new custom allocator, make it a minimal allocator if possible. Even if you have already implemented an old-style allocator, consider modifying it to be a minimal allocator in order to take advantage of the more efficient construct() method that will be provided for you automatically.

A minimal allocator requires much less boilerplate and enable you to focus on the allocate and deallocate member functions which do all of the work. When creating a minimal allocator, do not implement any members except the ones shown in the example below:

  1. a converting copy constructor (see example)

  2. operator==

  3. operator!=

  4. allocate

  5. deallocate

The C++11 default construct() member that will be provided for you does perfect forwarding and enables move semantics; it is much more efficient in many cases than the older version.

System_CAPS_ICON_warning.jpg Warning

At compile time, the STL uses the allocator_traits class to detect which members you have explicitly provided and provides a default implementation for any members that are not present. Do not interfere with this mechanism by providing a specialization of allocator_traits for your allocator!

The following example shows a minimal implementation of an allocator that uses malloc and free. Note the use of the new exception type std::bad_array_new_length which is thrown if the array size is less than zero or greater than the maximum allowed size.

#pragma once  
#include <stdlib.h> //size_t, malloc, free  
#include <new> // bad_alloc, bad_array_new_length  
#include <memory>  
template <class T>  
struct Mallocator  
    typedef T value_type;  
    Mallocator() noexcept {} //default ctor not required by STL  
    // A converting copy constructor:  
    template<class U> Mallocator(const Mallocator<U>&) noexcept {}  
    template<class U> bool operator==(const Mallocator<U>&) const noexcept  
        return true;  
    template<class U> bool operator!=(const Mallocator<U>&) const noexcept  
        return false;  
    T* allocate(const size_t n) const;  
    void deallocate(T* const p, size_t) const noexcept;  
template <class T>  
T* Mallocator<T>::allocate(const size_t n) const  
    if (n == 0)  
        return nullptr;  
    if (n > static_cast<size_t>(-1) / sizeof(T))  
        throw std::bad_array_new_length();  
    void* const pv = malloc(n * sizeof(T));  
    if (!pv) { throw std::bad_alloc(); }  
    return static_cast<T*>(pv);  
template<class T>  
void Mallocator<T>::deallocate(T * const p, size_t) const noexcept  

In C++03, any allocator used with STL containers must implement the following type definitions:


In addition, any allocator used with STL containers must implement the following methods:

Copy constructordestroy

For more information on these type definitions and methods, see allocator Class.

Standard Template Library