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by (10.2k points)

How do you find a memory leak in Java (using, for example, JHat)? I have tried to load the heap dump up in JHat to take a basic look. However, I do not understand how I am supposed to be able to find the root reference (ref) or whatever it is called. Basically, I can tell that there are several hundred megabytes of hash table entries ([java.util.HashMap$Entry or something like that), but maps are used all over the place... Is there some way to search for large maps, or perhaps find general roots of large object trees?

Ok, I've read the answers so far but let's just say I am a cheap bastard (meaning I am more interested in learning how to use JHat than to pay for JProfiler). Also, JHat is always available since it is part of the JDK. Unless of course there is no way with JHat but brute force, but I can't believe that can be the case.

Also, I do not think I will be able to actually modify (adding logging of all map sizes) and run it for long enough for me to notice the leak.

1 Answer

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by (46k points)

I use following approach to finding memory leaks in Java. I've used jProfiler with great success, but I believe that any specialized tool with graphing capabilities (diffs are easier to analyze in graphical form) will work.

  1. Start the application and wait until it get to "stable" state, when all the initialization is complete and the application is idle.
  2. Run the operation suspected of producing a memory leak several times to allow any cache, DB-related initialization to take place.
  3. Run GC and take memory snapshot.
  4. Run the operation again. Depending on the complexity of operation and sizes of data that is processed operation may need to be run several to many times.
  5. Run GC and take memory snapshot.
  6. Run a diff for 2 snapshots and analyze it.

Basically analysis should start from greatest positive diff by, say, object types and find what causes those extra objects to stick in memory.

For web applications that process requests in several threads analysis gets more complicated, but nevertheless general approach still applies.

I did quite a number of projects specifically aimed at reducing memory footprint of the applications and this general approach with some application specific tweaks and trick always worked well.

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