malloc an array of struct pointers vs array of structs

What's the difference between

struct mystruct *ptr = (struct test *)malloc(n*sizeof(struct test));

and

struct mystruct **ptr = (struct test *)malloc(n*sizeof(struct test *));

They both work fine, I'm just curious about the actual difference between the two. Does the first one allocate an array of structs, whereas the second one an array of struct pointers? The other way around? Also, which one has a smaller memory footprint?

Answers


The first allocates an array of struct, and the other allocates an array of pointers to struct. In the first case, you can write to fields by assigning ptr[0].field1 = value; right away, while in the second case you must allocate the struct itself before doing the actual writing.

It is OK to drop the cast of malloc result in C, so you could write

struct mystruct **ptr = malloc(n*sizeof(struct test *));
for (int i = 0; i != n ; i++) {
    ptr[i] = malloc(sizeof(struct test));
}
ptr[0]->field1 = value;
...
// Do not forget to free the memory when you are done:
for (int i = 0; i != n ; i++) {
    free(ptr[i]);
}
free(ptr);

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