TCMalloc and gperftools

There are two projects on Github that are based on Google’s internal TCMalloc: This repository and gperftools. Both are fast C/C++ memory allocators designed around a fast path that avoids synchronizing with other threads for most allocations.

This repository is Google’s current implementation of TCMalloc, used by ~all of our C++ programs in production. The code is limited to the memory allocator implementation itself.


Google open-sourced its memory allocator as part of “Google Performance Tools” in 2005. At the time, it became easy to externalize code, but more difficult to keep it in-sync with our internal usage, as discussed by Titus Winters’ in his 2017 CppCon Talk and the “Software Engineering at Google” book. Subsequently, our internal implementation diverged from the code externally. This project eventually was adopted by the community as “gperftools.”


Since “Profiling a Warehouse-Scale Computer” (Kanev 2015), we have invested in improving application productivity via optimizations to the implementation (per-CPU caches, sized delete, fast/slow path improvements, hugepage-aware backend).

Because this repository reflects our day-to-day usage, we’ve focused on the platforms we regularly use and can see extensive testing and optimization.

This implementation is based on Abseil. Like Abseil, we do not attempt to provide ABI stability. Providing a stable ABI could require compromising performance or adding otherwise unneeded complexity to maintain stability. These caveats are noted in our Compatibility Guidelines.

In addition to a memory allocator, the gperftools project contains a number of other tools:

Differences From Google’s Implementation of TCMalloc

The configuration on Github mirrors our production defaults, with two notable exceptions:

Over time, we have found that configurability carries a maintenance burden. While a knob can provide immediate flexibility, the increased complexity can cause subtle problems for more rarely used combinations.