pinpointing “conditional jump or move depends on uninitialized value(s)” valgrind message

So I’ve been getting some mysterious uninitialized values message from valgrind and it’s been quite the mystery as of where the bad value originated from.

Seems that valgrind shows the place where the unitialised value ends up being used, but not the origin of the uninitialised value.

==11366== Conditional jump or move depends on uninitialised value(s)
==11366==    at 0x43CAE4F: __printf_fp (in /lib/tls/i686/cmov/
==11366==    by 0x43C6563: vfprintf (in /lib/tls/i686/cmov/
==11366==    by 0x43EAC03: vsnprintf (in /lib/tls/i686/cmov/
==11366==    by 0x42D475B: (within /usr/lib/
==11366==    by 0x42E2C9B: std::ostreambuf_iterator<char, std::char_traits<char> > std::num_put<char, std::ostreambuf_iterator<char, std::char_traits<char> > >::_M_insert_float<double>(std::ostreambuf_iterator<char, std::char_traits<char> >, std::ios_base&, char, char, double) const (in /usr/lib/
==11366==    by 0x42E31B4: std::num_put<char, std::ostreambuf_iterator<char, std::char_traits<char> > >::do_put(std::ostreambuf_iterator<char, std::char_traits<char> >, std::ios_base&, char, double) const (in /usr/lib/
==11366==    by 0x42EE56F: std::ostream& std::ostream::_M_insert<double>(double) (in /usr/lib/
==11366==    by 0x81109ED: Snake::SnakeBody::syncBodyPos() (ostream:221)
==11366==    by 0x810B9F1: Snake::Snake::update() (snake.cpp:257)
==11366==    by 0x81113C1: SnakeApp::updateState() (snakeapp.cpp:224)
==11366==    by 0x8120351: RoenGL::updateState() (roengl.cpp:1180)
==11366==    by 0x81E87D9: Roensachs::update() (rs.cpp:321)

As can be seen, it gets quite cryptic.. especially because when it’s saying by Class::MethodX, it sometimes points straight to ostream etc. Perhaps this is due to optimization?

==11366==    by 0x81109ED: Snake::SnakeBody::syncBodyPos() (ostream:221)

Just like that. Is there something I’m missing? What is the best way to catch bad values without having to resort to super-long printf detective work?


I found out what was wrong, but the strange thing is, valgrind did not report it when the bad value was first used. It was used in a multiplication function:

movespeed = stat.speedfactor * speedfac * currentbendfactor.val;

Where speedfac was an unitialised float. However, at that time it was not reported and not until the value is to be printed that I get the error.. Is there a setting for valgrind to change this behavior?

2 Answers

Use the valgrind option --track-origins=yes to have it track the origin of uninitialized values. This will make it slower and take more memory, but can be very helpful if you need to track down the origin of an uninitialized value.

Update: Regarding the point at which the uninitialized value is reported, the valgrind manual states:

It is important to understand that your program can copy around junk (uninitialised) data as much as it likes. Memcheck observes this and keeps track of the data, but does not complain. A complaint is issued only when your program attempts to make use of uninitialised data in a way that might affect your program’s externally-visible behaviour.

From the Valgrind FAQ:

As for eager reporting of copies of uninitialised memory values, this has been suggested multiple times. Unfortunately, almost all programs legitimately copy uninitialised memory values around (because compilers pad structs to preserve alignment) and eager checking leads to hundreds of false positives. Therefore Memcheck does not support eager checking at this time.

What this means is that you are trying to print out/output a value which is at least partially uninitialized. Can you narrow it down so that you know exactly what value that is? After that, trace through your code to see where it is being initialized. Chances are, you will see that it is not being fully initialized.

If you need more help, posting the relevant sections of source code might allow someone to offer more guidance.


I see you’ve found the problem. Note that valgrind watches for Conditional jump or move based on unitialized variables. What that means is that it will only give out a warning if the execution of the program is altered due to the uninitialized value (ie. the program takes a different branch in an if statement, for example). Since the actual arithmetic did not involve a conditional jump or move, valgrind did not warn you of that. Instead, it propagated the “uninitialized” status to the result of the statement that used it.

It may seem counterintuitive that it does not warn you immediately, but as mark4o pointed out, it does this because uninitialized values get used in C all the time (examples: padding in structures, the realloc() call, etc.) so those warnings would not be very useful due to the false positive frequency.

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