TCMalloc Quickstart

Note: this Quickstart uses Bazel as the official build system for TCMalloc, which is supported on Linux, and compatible with most major compilers. The TCMalloc source code assumes you are using Bazel and contains BUILD.bazel files for that purpose.

This document is designed to allow you to get TCMalloc set up as your custom allocator within a C++ development environment. We recommend that each person starting development using TCMalloc at least run through this quick tutorial.


Running the code within this tutorial requires:

Although you are free to use your own build system, most of the documentation within this guide will assume you are using Bazel, version 4.0 or newer.

To download and install Bazel (and any of its dependencies), consult the Bazel Installation Guide.

Getting the TCMalloc Code

You can obtain the TCMalloc code from its repository on GitHub:

# Change to the directory where you want to create the code repository
$ cd ~
$ mkdir Source; cd Source
$ git clone
Cloning into 'tcmalloc'...
remote: Total 1935 (delta 1083), reused 1935 (delta 1083)
Receiving objects: 100% (1935/1935), 1.06 MiB | 0 bytes/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (1083/1083), done.

Git will create the repository within a directory named tcmalloc. Navigate into this directory and run all tests:

$ cd tcmalloc
$ bazel test //tcmalloc/...
INFO: Analyzed 112 targets (12 packages loaded, 606 targets configured).
INFO: Build completed successfully, 827 total actions

Congratulations! You’ve installed TCMalloc

Running the TCMalloc Hello World

Once you’ve verified you have TCMalloc installed correctly, you can compile and run the tcmalloc-hello sample binary to see how TCMalloc is linked into a sample binary. This tiny project features proper configuration and a simple hello_main to demonstrate how TCMalloc works.

First, build the tcmalloc/testing:hello_main target:

tcmalloc$ bazel build tcmalloc/testing:hello_main
Extracting Bazel installation...
Starting local Bazel server and connecting to it...
INFO: Analyzed target //tcmalloc/testing:hello_main (31 packages loaded ...
INFO: Build completed successfully, 102 total actions
PASSED in 0.1s

Now, run the compiled program:

tcmalloc$ bazel run tcmalloc/testing:hello_main
INFO: Found 1 target...
INFO: Build completed successfully, 1 total action
Current heap size = 73728 bytes
hello world!
new'd 1073741824 bytes at 0x14ea40000000
Current heap size = 1073816576 bytes
malloc'd 1073741824 bytes at 0x14eac0000000
Current heap size = 2147558400 bytes

You can inspect this code within tcmalloc/testing/

Happy Coding!

Creating and Running TCMalloc

Now that you’ve obtained the TCMalloc code and verified that you can build, test, and run it, you’re ready to use it within your own project.

Linking Your Code to the TCMalloc Repository

First, create (or select) a source code directory for your work. This directory should generally not be the tcmalloc directory itself; instead, you will link into that repository from your own source directory.

# Change to your main development directory and create a new development
# directory. (If you already have a development directory you'd wish to use,
# you can use that.)
$ cd ~/Source
$ mkdir TestProject; cd TestProject

Bazel allows you to link other Bazel projects using WORKSPACE files in the root of your development directories. To add a link to your local TCMalloc repository within your new project, add the following into a WORKSPACE file:

  # Name of the TCMalloc repository. This name is defined within your
  # WORKSPACE file, in its `workspace()` metadata
  name = "com_google_tcmalloc",

  # NOTE: Bazel paths must be absolute paths. E.g., you can't use ~/Source
  path = "/PATH_TO_SOURCE/Source/tcmalloc",

The “name” in the WORKSPACE file identifies the name you will use in Bazel BUILD files to refer to the linked repository (in this case “com_google_tcmalloc”).

Note that your path to the TCMalloc source code must be an absolute path.

Adding Abseil

TCMalloc requires Abseil which you will also need to provide as a local_repository, or link to a specific commit (we always recommend the latest commit) using an http_archive declaration in the WORKSPACE file:

# Abseil HTTP Archive to specific commit
# Consult for the latest
# commit. But DO NOT use for that purpose. (Sha256 values are not
# stable across master versions.) Click on that specific commit.
# Click "Browse Files" on the commit and click on "Clone or Download Code."
# Right click on "Download ZIP" to copy the HTTP Archive URL, which you will
# use within the http_archive "urls" field.
# Note that you will need to generate a sha256 value for Bazel's http_archive
# to ensure this code is secure. On Linux you can do so with a downloaded .zip
# file using the sha256sum command line:
# $ sha256sum
    name = "com_google_absl",
    urls = [""],
    strip_prefix = "abseil-cpp-commit_value",
    sha256 = "sha256_of_commit_value",

Creating Your Test Code

Within your TestProject create an examples directory:

$ cd TestProject; mkdir examples; cd examples

Now, create a C++ file within your examples directory:

#include <iostream>
#include <cstddef>

int main() {
    std::cout << "Standard Alignment: " << alignof(std::max_align_t) << '\n';

    double *ptr = (double*) malloc(sizeof(double));
    std::cout << "Double Alignment: " << alignof(*ptr) << '\n';

    char *ptr2 = (char*) malloc(1);
    std::cout << "Char Alignment: " << alignof(*ptr2) << '\n';

    void *ptr3;
    std::cout << "Sizeof void*: " << sizeof(ptr3) << '\n';
return 0;

Creating Your BUILD File

Now, create a BUILD file within your examples directory like the following:

    name = "hello_world",
    srcs = [""],
    malloc = "@com_google_tcmalloc//tcmalloc",

NOTE: For more information on how to create Bazel BUILD files, consult the Bazel Tutorial.

We declare TCMalloc as our own custom allocation framework using the malloc keyword and set this to the library name (//tcmalloc) within our WORKSPACE file (@com_google_tcmalloc).

Build our target (“hello_world”) and run it:

# It's often good practice to build files from the workspace root
$ cd ~/Source/TestProject
Source/TestProject$ bazel build //examples:hello_world --cxxopt='-std=c++17'
INFO: Analysed target //examples:hello_world (12 packages loaded).
INFO: Found 1 target...
Target //examples:hello_world up-to-date:
INFO: Elapsed time: 0.180s, Critical Path: 0.00s
INFO: Build completed successfully, 1 total action

Source/TestProject$ bazel run //examples:hello_world
INFO: Running command line: bazel-bin/examples/hello_world
Standard Alignment: 16
Double Alignment: 8
Char Alignment: 1
Sizeof void*: 8

Note that we passed --cxxopt='std=c++17' to build using C++17. Instead of passing this flag you can add this line to your root .bazelrc file:

build --cxxopt='-std=c++17'

Congratulations! You’ve created your first binary using TCMalloc.

What’s Next