C++ FAQ Celebrating Twenty-One Years of the C++ FAQ!!!
(Click here for a personal note from Marshall Cline.)
Section 16:
16.1 Does delete p delete the pointer p, or the pointed-to-data *p?
16.2 Is it safe to delete the same pointer twice?
16.3 Can I free() pointers allocated with new? Can I delete pointers allocated with malloc()?
16.4 Benefits of new over malloc()?
16.5 Can I use realloc() on pointers allocated via new?
16.6 Checking for NULL after p = new Fred()?
16.7 How can I convince my (older) compiler to automatically check new to see if it returns NULL?
16.8 Checking for NULL before delete p?
16.9 What are the two steps that happen when I say delete p?
16.10 Does p = new Fred() leak memory if the ctor throws an exception?
16.11 How do I allocate / unallocate an array of things?
16.12 What if I forget the [] when deleteing an array allocated via new T[n]?
16.13 Can I drop the [] when deleteing an array of some built-in type (char, int, etc)?
16.14 After p = new Fred[n], how does the compiler know there are n objects to be destructed during delete[] p?
16.15 Is it legal (and moral) for a member function to say delete this?
16.16 How do I allocate multidimensional arrays using new?
16.17 How to simplify the Matrix code from the previous FAQ?
16.18 How to make the Matrix class generic?
16.19 What's another way to build a Matrix template?
16.20 Does C++ have arrays whose length can be specified at run-time?
16.21 Allocating all objects via new, not local/global/static?
16.22 How do I do simple reference counting?
16.23 How do I provide reference counting with copy-on-write semantics?
16.24 How do I provide reference counting with copy-on-write semantics for a hierarchy of classes?
16.25 Preventing people from subverting the reference counting mechanism?
16.26 Can I use a garbage collector in C++?
16.27 What are the two kinds of garbage collectors for C++?
16.28 Where can I get more info on garbage collectors for C++?
[16.15] Is it legal (and moral) for a member function to say delete this?

As long as you're careful, it's OK for an object to commit suicide (delete this).

Here's how I define "careful":

  1. You must be absolutely 100% positively sure that this object was allocated via new (not by new[], nor by placement new, nor a local object on the stack, nor a global, nor a member of another object; but by plain ordinary new).
  2. You must be absolutely 100% positively sure that your member function will be the last member function invoked on this object.
  3. You must be absolutely 100% positively sure that the rest of your member function (after the delete this line) doesn't touch any piece of this object (including calling any other member functions or touching any data members).
  4. You must be absolutely 100% positively sure that no one even touches the this pointer itself after the delete this line. In other words, you must not examine it, compare it with another pointer, compare it with NULL, print it, cast it, do anything with it.

Naturally the usual caveats apply in cases where your this pointer is a pointer to a base class when you don't have a virtual destructor.