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NullReferenceException Class
 

The exception that is thrown when there is an attempt to dereference a null object reference.

Namespace:   System
Assembly:  mscorlib (in mscorlib.dll)

Inheritance Hierarchy
SystemObject
   SystemException
     SystemSystemException
      SystemNullReferenceException

Syntax
[SerializableAttribute]
[ComVisibleAttribute(true)]
public class NullReferenceException : SystemException
[SerializableAttribute]
[ComVisibleAttribute(true)]
public ref class NullReferenceException : SystemException
[<SerializableAttribute>]
[<ComVisibleAttribute(true)>]
type NullReferenceException = 
    class
        inherit SystemException
    end
<SerializableAttribute>
<ComVisibleAttribute(True)>
Public Class NullReferenceException
	Inherits SystemException
Constructors
NameDescription
System_CAPS_pubmethod NullReferenceException

Initializes a new instance of the NullReferenceException class, setting the property of the new instance to a system-supplied message that describes the error, such as "The value 'null' was found where an instance of an object was required." This message takes into account the current system culture.

System_CAPS_protmethod NullReferenceException

Initializes a new instance of the NullReferenceException class with serialized data.

System_CAPS_pubmethod NullReferenceException

Initializes a new instance of the NullReferenceException class with a specified error message.

System_CAPS_pubmethod NullReferenceException

Initializes a new instance of the NullReferenceException class with a specified error message and a reference to the inner exception that is the cause of this exception.

Properties
NameDescription
System_CAPS_pubproperty

Gets a collection of key/value pairs that provide additional user-defined information about the exception.(Inherited from Exception.)

System_CAPS_pubproperty

Gets or sets a link to the help file associated with this exception.(Inherited from Exception.)

System_CAPS_pubproperty

Gets or sets HRESULT, a coded numerical value that is assigned to a specific exception.(Inherited from Exception.)

System_CAPS_pubproperty

Gets the Exception instance that caused the current exception.(Inherited from Exception.)

System_CAPS_pubproperty

Gets a message that describes the current exception.(Inherited from Exception.)

System_CAPS_pubproperty

Gets or sets the name of the application or the object that causes the error.(Inherited from Exception.)

System_CAPS_pubproperty

Gets a string representation of the immediate frames on the call stack.(Inherited from Exception.)

System_CAPS_pubproperty

Gets the method that throws the current exception.(Inherited from Exception.)

Methods
NameDescription
System_CAPS_pubmethod Equals

Determines whether the specified object is equal to the current object.(Inherited from Object.)

System_CAPS_protmethod Finalize

Allows an object to try to free resources and perform other cleanup operations before it is reclaimed by garbage collection.(Inherited from Object.)

System_CAPS_pubmethod GetBaseException

When overridden in a derived class, returns the Exception that is the root cause of one or more subsequent exceptions.(Inherited from Exception.)

System_CAPS_pubmethod GetHashCode

Serves as the default hash function. (Inherited from Object.)

System_CAPS_pubmethod GetObjectData

When overridden in a derived class, sets the SerializationInfo with information about the exception.(Inherited from Exception.)

System_CAPS_pubmethod GetType

Gets the runtime type of the current instance.(Inherited from Exception.)

System_CAPS_protmethod MemberwiseClone

Creates a shallow copy of the current Object.(Inherited from Object.)

System_CAPS_pubmethod ToString

Creates and returns a string representation of the current exception.(Inherited from Exception.)

Events
NameDescription
System_CAPS_protevent SerializeObjectState

Occurs when an exception is serialized to create an exception state object that contains serialized data about the exception.(Inherited from Exception.)

Remarks

A NullReferenceException exception is thrown when you try to access a member on a type whose value is null. A NullReferenceException exception typically reflects developer error and is thrown in the following scenarios:

  • You've forgotten to instantiate a reference type. In the following example, names is declared but never instantiated:

    using System;
    using System.Collections.Generic;
    
    public class Example
    {
       public static void Main(string[] args)
       {
          int value = Int32.Parse(args[0]);
          List<String> names;
          if (value > 0)
             names = new List<String>();
    
          names.Add("Major Major Major");       
       }
    }
    // Compilation displays a warning like the following:
    //    Example1.vb(10) : warning BC42104: Variable //names// is used before it 
    //    has been assigned a value. A null reference exception could result 
    //    at runtime.
    //    
    //          names.Add("Major Major Major")
    //          ~~~~~
    // The example displays output like the following output:
    //    Unhandled Exception: System.NullReferenceException: Object reference 
    //    not set to an instance of an object.
    //       at Example.Main()
    Imports System.Collections.Generic
    
    Module Example
       Public Sub Main()
          Dim names As List(Of String)
          names.Add("Major Major Major")       
       End Sub
    End Module
    ' Compilation displays a warning like the following:
    '    Example1.vb(10) : warning BC42104: Variable 'names' is used before it 
    '    has been assigned a value. A null reference exception could result 
    '    at runtime.
    '    
    '          names.Add("Major Major Major")
    '          ~~~~~
    ' The example displays output like the following output:
    '    Unhandled Exception: System.NullReferenceException: Object reference 
    '    not set to an instance of an object.
    '       at Example.Main()

    Some compilers issue a warning when they compile this code. Others issue an error, and the compilation fails. To address this problem, instantiate the object so that its value is no longer null. The following example does this by calling a type's class constructor.

    using System;
    using System.Collections.Generic;
    
    public class Example
    {
       public static void Main()
       {
          List<String> names = new List<String>();
          names.Add("Major Major Major");
       }
    }
    Imports System.Collections.Generic
    
    Module Example
       Public Sub Main()
          Dim names As New List(Of String)()
          names.Add("Major Major Major")       
       End Sub
    End Module
  • You've forgotten to dimension an array before initializing it. In the following example, values is declared to be an integer array, but the number of elements that it contains is never specified. The attempt to initialize its values therefore thrown a NullReferenceException exception.

    using System;
    
    public class Example
    {
       public static void Main()
       {
           int[] values = null;
           for (int ctr = 0; ctr <= 9; ctr++)
              values[ctr] = ctr * 2;
    
           foreach (var value in values)
              Console.WriteLine(value);   
       }
    }
    // The example displays the following output:
    //    Unhandled Exception: 
    //       System.NullReferenceException: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.
    //       at Example.Main()
    Module Example
       Public Sub Main()
           Dim values() As Integer
           For ctr As Integer = 0 To 9
              values(ctr) = ctr * 2
           Next
    
           For Each value In values
              Console.WriteLine(value)
           Next      
       End Sub
    End Module
    ' The example displays the following output:
    '    Unhandled Exception: 
    '       System.NullReferenceException: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.
    '       at Example.Main()

    You can eliminate the exception by declaring the number of elements in the array before initializing it, as the following example does.

    using System;
    
    public class Example
    {
       public static void Main()
       {
           int[] values = new int[10];
           for (int ctr = 0; ctr <= 9; ctr++)
              values[ctr] = ctr * 2;
    
           foreach (var value in values)
              Console.WriteLine(value);   
       }
    }
    // The example displays the following output:
    //    0
    //    2
    //    4
    //    6
    //    8
    //    10
    //    12
    //    14
    //    16
    //    18
    Module Example
       Public Sub Main()
           Dim values(9) As Integer
           For ctr As Integer = 0 To 9
              values(ctr) = ctr * 2
           Next
    
           For Each value In values
              Console.WriteLine(value)
           Next      
       End Sub
    End Module
    ' The example displays the following output:
    '    0
    '    2
    '    4
    '    6
    '    8
    '    10
    '    12
    '    14
    '    16
    '    18

    For more information on declaring and initializing arrays, see Arrays (C# Programming Guide) and Arrays in Visual Basic.

  • You get a null return value from a method, and then call a method on the returned type. This sometimes is the result of a documentation error; the documentation fails to note that a method call can return null. In other cases, your code erroneously assumes that the method will always return a non-null value.

    The code in the following example assumes that the ArrayFind method always returns Person object whose FirstName field matches a search string. Because there is no match, the runtime throws a NullReferenceException exception.

    using System;
    
    public class Example
    {
       public static void Main()
       {
          Person[] persons = Person.AddRange( new String[] { "Abigail", "Abra", 
                                              "Abraham", "Adrian", "Ariella", 
                                              "Arnold", "Aston", "Astor" } );    
          String nameToFind = "Robert";
          Person found = Array.Find(persons, p => p.FirstName == nameToFind);
          Console.WriteLine(found.FirstName);
       }
    }
    
    public class Person
    {
       public static Person[] AddRange(String[] firstNames) 
       {
          Person[] p = new Person[firstNames.Length];
          for (int ctr = 0; ctr < firstNames.Length; ctr++)
             p[ctr] = new Person(firstNames[ctr]);
    
          return p;
       }
    
       public Person(String firstName)
       {
          this.FirstName = firstName;
       } 
    
       public String FirstName;
    }
    // The example displays the following output:
    //       Unhandled Exception: System.NullReferenceException: 
    //       Object reference not set to an instance of an object.
    //          at Example.Main()
    Module Example
       Public Sub Main()
          Dim persons() As Person = Person.AddRange( { "Abigail", "Abra",
                                                       "Abraham", "Adrian",
                                                       "Ariella", "Arnold", 
                                                       "Aston", "Astor" } )    
          Dim nameToFind As String = "Robert"
          Dim found As Person = Array.Find(persons, Function(p) p.FirstName = nameToFind)
          Console.WriteLine(found.FirstName)
       End Sub
    End Module
    
    Public Class Person
       Public Shared Function AddRange(firstNames() As String) As Person()
          Dim p(firstNames.Length - 1) As Person
          For ctr As Integer = 0 To firstNames.Length - 1
             p(ctr) = New Person(firstNames(ctr))
          Next   
          Return p
       End Function
    
       Public Sub New(firstName As String)
          Me.FirstName = firstName
       End Sub 
    
       Public FirstName As String
    End Class
    ' The example displays the following output:
    '       Unhandled Exception: System.NullReferenceException: 
    '       Object reference not set to an instance of an object.
    '          at Example.Main()

    To address this problem, test the method's return value to ensure that it is not null before calling any of its members, as the following example does.

    using System;
    
    public class Example
    {
       public static void Main()
       {
          Person[] persons = Person.AddRange( new String[] { "Abigail", "Abra", 
                                              "Abraham", "Adrian", "Ariella", 
                                              "Arnold", "Aston", "Astor" } );    
          String nameToFind = "Robert";
          Person found = Array.Find(persons, p => p.FirstName == nameToFind);
          if (found != null)
             Console.WriteLine(found.FirstName);
          else
             Console.WriteLine("{0} not found.", nameToFind);   
       }
    }
    
    public class Person
    {
       public static Person[] AddRange(String[] firstNames) 
       {
          Person[] p = new Person[firstNames.Length];
          for (int ctr = 0; ctr < firstNames.Length; ctr++)
             p[ctr] = new Person(firstNames[ctr]);
    
          return p;
       }
    
       public Person(String firstName)
       {
          this.FirstName = firstName;
       } 
    
       public String FirstName;
    }
    // The example displays the following output:
    //        Robert not found
    Module Example
       Public Sub Main()
          Dim persons() As Person = Person.AddRange( { "Abigail", "Abra",
                                                       "Abraham", "Adrian",
                                                       "Ariella", "Arnold", 
                                                       "Aston", "Astor" } )    
          Dim nameToFind As String = "Robert"
          Dim found As Person = Array.Find(persons, Function(p) p.FirstName = nameToFind)
          If found IsNot Nothing Then
             Console.WriteLine(found.FirstName)
          Else
             Console.WriteLine("{0} not found.", nameToFind)
          End If   
       End Sub
    End Module
    
    Public Class Person
       Public Shared Function AddRange(firstNames() As String) As Person()
          Dim p(firstNames.Length - 1) As Person
          For ctr As Integer = 0 To firstNames.Length - 1
             p(ctr) = New Person(firstNames(ctr))
          Next   
          Return p
       End Function
    
       Public Sub New(firstName As String)
          Me.FirstName = firstName
       End Sub 
    
       Public FirstName As String
    End Class
    ' The example displays the following output:
    '       Robert not found
  • You're using an expression (for example, you're chaining a list of methods or properties together) to retrieve a value and, although you're checking whether the value is null, the runtime still throws a NullReferenceException exception. This occurs because one of the intermediate values in the expression returns null. As a result, your rest for null is never evaluated.

    The following example defines a Pages object that caches information about web pages, which are presented by Page objects. The Example.Main method checks whether the current web page has a non-null title and, if it does, displays the title. Despite this check, however, the method throws a NullReferenceException exception.

    using System;
    
    public class Example
    {
       public static void Main()
       {
          var pages = new Pages();
          if (! String.IsNullOrEmpty(pages.CurrentPage.Title)) {
             String title = pages.CurrentPage.Title;
             Console.WriteLine("Current title: '{0}'", title);
          }
       }
    }
    
    public class Pages 
    {
       Page[] page = new Page[10];
       int ctr = 0;
    
       public Page CurrentPage
       {
          get { return page[ctr]; }
          set {
             // Move all the page objects down to accommodate the new one.
             if (ctr > page.GetUpperBound(0)) {
                for (int ndx = 1; ndx <= page.GetUpperBound(0); ndx++)
                   page[ndx - 1] = page[ndx];
             }    
             page[ctr] = value;
             if (ctr < page.GetUpperBound(0))
                ctr++; 
          }
       }
    
       public Page PreviousPage
       {
          get {
             if (ctr == 0) { 
                if (page[0] == null)
                   return null;
                else
                   return page[0];
             }
             else {
                ctr--;
                return page[ctr + 1];
             }
          }
       }         
    }
    
    public class Page
    {
       public Uri URL;
       public String Title;
    }
    // The example displays the following output:
    //    Unhandled Exception: 
    //       System.NullReferenceException: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.
    //       at Example.Main()
    Module Example
       Public Sub Main()
          Dim pages As New Pages()
          Dim title As String = pages.CurrentPage.Title
       End Sub
    End Module
    
    Public Class Pages 
       Dim page(9) As Page
       Dim ctr As Integer = 0
    
       Public Property CurrentPage As Page
          Get
             Return page(ctr)
          End Get
          Set
             ' Move all the page objects down to accommodate the new one.
             If ctr > page.GetUpperBound(0) Then
                For ndx As Integer = 1 To page.GetUpperBound(0)
                   page(ndx - 1) = page(ndx)
                Next
             End If    
             page(ctr) = value
             If ctr < page.GetUpperBound(0) Then ctr += 1 
          End Set
       End Property
    
       Public ReadOnly Property PreviousPage As Page
          Get
             If ctr = 0 Then 
                If page(0) Is Nothing Then
                   Return Nothing
                Else
                   Return page(0)
                End If   
             Else
                ctr -= 1
                Return page(ctr + 1)
             End If
          End Get
       End Property         
    End Class
    
    Public Class Page
       Public URL As Uri
       Public Title As String
    End Class
    ' The example displays the following output:
    '    Unhandled Exception: 
    '       System.NullReferenceException: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.
    '       at Example.Main()

    The exception is thrown because pages.CurrentPage returns null if no page information is stored in the cache. This exception can be corrected by testing the value of the CurrentPage property before retrieving the current Page object's Title property, as the following example does:

    using System;
    
    public class Example
    {
       public static void Main()
       {
          var pages = new Pages();
          Page current = pages.CurrentPage;
          if (current != null) {  
             String title = current.Title;
             Console.WriteLine("Current title: '{0}'", title);
          }
          else {
             Console.WriteLine("There is no page information in the cache.");
          }   
       }
    }
    // The example displays the following output:
    //       There is no page information in the cache.
    Module Example
       Public Sub Main()
          Dim pages As New Pages()
          Dim current As Page = pages.CurrentPage
          If current IsNot Nothing Then 
             Dim title As String = current.Title
             Console.WriteLine("Current title: '{0}'", title)
          Else
             Console.WriteLine("There is no page information in the cache.")
          End If   
       End Sub
    End Module
    ' The example displays the following output:
    '       There is no page information in the cache.
  • You're enumerating the elements of an array that contains reference types, and your attempt to process one of the elements throws a NullReferenceException exception.

    The following example defines a string array. A for statement enumerates the elements in the array and calls each string's Trim method before displaying the string.

    using System;
    
    public class Example
    {
       public static void Main()
       {
          String[] values = { "one", null, "two" };
          for (int ctr = 0; ctr <= values.GetUpperBound(0); ctr++)
             Console.Write("{0}{1}", values[ctr].Trim(), 
                           ctr == values.GetUpperBound(0) ? "" : ", "); 
          Console.WriteLine();
       }
    }
    // The example displays the following output:
    //    Unhandled Exception: 
    //       System.NullReferenceException: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.
    //       at Example.Main()
    Module Example
       Public Sub Main()
          Dim values() As String = { "one", Nothing, "two" }
          For ctr As Integer = 0 To values.GetUpperBound(0)
             Console.Write("{0}{1}", values(ctr).Trim(), 
                           If(ctr = values.GetUpperBound(0), "", ", ")) 
          Next
          Console.WriteLine()
       End Sub
    End Module
    ' The example displays the following output:
    '    Unhandled Exception: System.NullReferenceException: 
    '       Object reference not set to an instance of an object.
    '       at Example.Main()

    This exception occurs if you assume that each element of the array must contain a non-null value, and the value of the array element is in fact null. The exception can be eliminated by testing whether the element is null before performing any operation on that element, as the following example shows.

    using System;
    
    public class Example
    {
       public static void Main()
       {
          String[] values = { "one", null, "two" };
          for (int ctr = 0; ctr <= values.GetUpperBound(0); ctr++)
             Console.Write("{0}{1}", 
                           values[ctr] != null ? values[ctr].Trim() : "", 
                           ctr == values.GetUpperBound(0) ? "" : ", "); 
          Console.WriteLine();
       }
    }
    // The example displays the following output:
    //       one, , two
    Module Example
       Public Sub Main()
          Dim values() As String = { "one", Nothing, "two" }
          For ctr As Integer = 0 To values.GetUpperBound(0)
             Console.Write("{0}{1}", 
                           If(values(ctr) IsNot Nothing, values(ctr).Trim(), ""), 
                           If(ctr = values.GetUpperBound(0), "", ", ")) 
          Next
          Console.WriteLine()
       End Sub
    End Module
    ' The example displays the following output:
    '       one, , two
  • A NullReferenceException exception is thrown by a method that is passed null. Some methods validate the arguments that are passed to them. If they do and one of the arguments is null, the method throws an SystemArgumentNullException exception. Otherwise, it throws a NullReferenceException exception. The following example illustrates this scenario.

    using System;
    using System.Collections.Generic;
    
    public class Example
    {
       public static void Main()
       {
          List<String> names = GetData();
          PopulateNames(names);
       }
    
       private static void PopulateNames(List<String> names)
       {
          String[] arrNames = { "Dakota", "Samuel", "Nikita",
                                "Koani", "Saya", "Yiska", "Yumaevsky" };
          foreach (var arrName in arrNames)
             names.Add(arrName);
       }
    
       private static List<String> GetData() 
       {
          return null;   
    
       }
    }
    // The example displays output like the following:
    //    Unhandled Exception: System.NullReferenceException: Object reference 
    //    not set to an instance of an object.
    //       at Example.PopulateNames(List`1 names)
    //       at Example.Main()
    Imports System.Collections.Generic
    
    Module Example
       Public Sub Main()
          Dim names As List(Of String) = GetData()
          PopulateNames(names)
       End Sub
    
       Private Sub PopulateNames(names As List(Of String))
          Dim arrNames() As String = { "Dakota", "Samuel", "Nikita",
                                       "Koani", "Saya", "Yiska", "Yumaevsky" }
          For Each arrName In arrNames
             names.Add(arrName)
          Next
       End Sub
    
       Private Function GetData() As List(Of String)
          Return Nothing   
       End Function
    End Module
    ' The example displays output like the following:
    '    Unhandled Exception: System.NullReferenceException: Object reference 
    '    not set to an instance of an object.
    '       at Example.PopulateNames(List`1 names)
    '       at Example.Main()

    To address this issue, make sure that the argument passed to the method is not null, or handle the thrown exception in a try…catch…finally block. For more information, see Handling and Throwing Exceptions.

The following Microsoft intermediate language (MSIL) instructions throw NullReferenceException: callvirt, cpblk, cpobj, initblk, ldelem.<type>, ldelema, ldfld, ldflda, ldind.<type>, ldlen, stelem.<type>, stfld, stind.<type>, throw, and unbox.

NullReferenceException uses the HRESULT COR_E_NULLREFERENCE, which has the value 0x80004003.

For a list of initial property values for an instance of NullReferenceException, see the NullReferenceException constructors.

Handling NullReferenceException in release code

It's usually better to avoid a NullReferenceException than to handle it after it occurs. Handling an exception can make your code harder to maintain and understand, and can sometimes introduce other bugs. A NullReferenceException is often a non-recoverable error. In these cases, letting the exception stop the app might be the best alternative.

However, there are many situations where handling the error can be useful:

  • Your app can ignore objects that are null. For example, if your app retrieves and processes records in a database, you might be able to ignore some number of bad records that result in null objects. Recording the bad data in a log file or in the application UI might be all you have to do.

  • You can recover from the exception. For example, a call to a web service that returns a reference type might return null if the connection is lost or the connection times out. You can attempt to reestablish the connection and try the call again.

  • You can restore the state of your app to a valid state. For example, you might be performing a multi-step task that requires you to save information to a data store before you call a method that throws a NullReferenceException. If the uninitialized object would corrupt the data record, you can remove the previous data before you close the app.

  • You want to report the exception. For example, if the error was caused by a mistake from the user of your app, you can generate a message to help him supply the correct information. You can also log information about the error to help you fix the problem. Some frameworks, like ASP.NET, have a high-level exception handler that captures all errors to that the app never crashes; in that case, logging the exception might be the only way you can know that it occurs.

Version Information
Universal Windows Platform
Available since 8
.NET Framework
Available since 1.1
Portable Class Library
Supported in: portable .NET platforms
Silverlight
Available since 2.0
Windows Phone Silverlight
Available since 7.0
Windows Phone
Available since 8.1
Thread Safety

Any public static (Shared in Visual Basic) members of this type are thread safe. Any instance members are not guaranteed to be thread safe.

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