penguru penguru - 3 months ago 8
C++ Question

When do we have to use copy constructors?

As I know that C++ compiler creates a copy constructor for each class. In which cases we have to write user defined copy constructors? Can you give some examples?

Answer

The copy constructor generated by the compiler does member-wise copying. Sometimes that is not sufficient. For example:

class Class {
public:
    Class( const char* str );
    ~Class();
private:
    char* stored;
};

Class::Class( const char* str )
{
    stored = new char[srtlen( str ) + 1 ];
    strcpy( stored, str );
}

Class::~Class()
{
    delete[] stored;
}

in this case member-wise copying of stored member will not duplicate the buffer (only the pointer will be copied), so the first to be destroyed copy sharing the buffer will call delete[] successfully and the second will run into undefined behavior. You need deep copying copy constructor (and assignment operator as well).

Class::Class( const Class& another )
{
    stored = new char[strlen(another.stored) + 1];
    strcpy( stored, another.stored );
}

void Class::operator = ( const Class& another )
{
    char* temp = new char[strlen(another.stored) + 1];
    strcpy( temp, another.stored);
    delete[] stored;
    stored = temp;
}
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