asir asir - 6 months ago 39
C Question

Copying one structure to another

I know that I can copy the structure member by member, instead of that can I do a

on structures?

Is it advisable to do so?

In my structure, I have a string also as member which I have to copy to another structure having the same member. How do I do that?


Copying by plain assignment is best, since it's shorter, easier to read, and has a higher level of abstraction. Instead of saying (to the human reader of the code) "copy these bits from here to there", and requiring the reader to think about the size argument to the copy, you're just doing a plain assignment ("copy this value from here to here"). There can be no hesitation about whether or not the size is correct.

Also, if the structure is heavily padded, assignment might make the compiler emit something more efficient, since it doesn't have to copy the padding (and it knows where it is), but mempcy() doesn't so it will always copy the exact number of bytes you tell it to copy.

If your string is an actual array, i.e.:

struct {
  char string[32];
  size_t len;
} a, b;

strcpy(a.string, "hello");
a.len = strlen(a.string);

Then you can still use plain assignment:

b = a;

To get a complete copy. For variable-length data modelled like this though, this is not the most efficient way to do the copy since the entire array will always be copied.

Beware though, that copying structs that contain pointers to heap-allocated memory can be a bit dangerous, since by doing so you're aliasing the pointer, and typically making it ambiguous who owns the pointer after the copying operation.

For these situations a "deep copy" is really the only choice, and that needs to go in a function.