Sep 102014
 

Issue

Recently a colleague asked this question. They had a customer who was experiencing a heap corruption so as expected we enabled PageHeap but there was a catch. The application had to run for a long time (around 30 days) in order to reproduce the crash and we had no idea what’s causing the crash.

How do we enable PageHeap?

We can enable standard PageHeap using following command run from an admin command prompt: gflags /p /enable ImageFileName
To enable full PageHeap use the following: gflags /p /enable ImageFileName /full 

(MSDN) Use care in interpreting the Enable page heap check box for an image file in the GFlags dialog box. It indicates that page heap verification is enabled for an image file, but it does not indicate whether it is full or standard page heap verification. If the check results from selecting the check box, then full page heap verification is enabled for the image file. However, if the check results from use of the command-line interface, then the check can represent the enabling of either full or standard page heap verification for the image file.

Why application hung?

So customer enabled PageHeap and went home. Came back next day to see that the application has stopped responding and is hung. The application hung apparently after enabling PageHeap and as we know of PageHeap: every allocation is paged to the page file. So guess why would the hang take place? PageFile size!

Resolution

The customer had set PageFile to its default size which apparently was not enough in this case. We suggested to increase the PageFile size and the hang went away. This resolved the issue. Note that if you enable PageHeap and then go home no matter what’s the PageFile size eventually the result will be unpredictable as the PageFile size is finite. You might need to tweak your PageHeap settings and make it per module or non-full standard page heap.

Conclusion

Please note there are different variants of PageHeap. In this case we needed a full PageHeap so please note this will be pretty heavy on the PageFile.

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