Microsoft KB Archive/41532

From BetaArchive Wiki

Article ID: 41532

Article Last Modified on 11/21/2006


  • Microsoft QuickBasic 4.0
  • Microsoft QuickBASIC 4.0b
  • Microsoft QuickBasic 4.5 for MS-DOS
  • Microsoft BASIC Compiler 6.0
  • Microsoft BASIC Compiler 6.0b
  • Microsoft BASIC Professional Development System 7.0
  • Microsoft BASIC Professional Development System 7.1

This article was previously published under Q41532


Any allocation of variable-length strings (or data in the default data segment, DGROUP) that is done at run time reduces the values returned by both the FRE("") and FRE(-1) functions by an equal amount.

This behavior occurs because the area that is unused by the default data segment (64K maximum) can potentially be consumed by the far heap and vice versa. In other words, the following is true:

  1. Run-time allocation of data in the default data segment (64K maximum) always reduces the space free for the far heap by an equal amount.
  2. Allocation of far heap (which is always done at run time with non-variable-length-string arrays only) reduces the memory available for the default data segment if all other memory has already been consumed.

This information applies to Microsoft QuickBasic versions 4.00, 4.00b, and 4.50, and to Microsoft Basic Compiler versions 6.00 and 6.00b for MS-DOS and MS OS/2.

This information also applies to Microsoft Basic Professional Development System (PDS) versions 7.00 and 7.10 for MS-DOS and MS OS/2 when using near strings. The meaning of the information returned by the FRE function when using far strings in Basic PDS 7.00/7.10 is slightly different, and is documented in the "Microsoft Basic 7.0: Language Reference" manual on pages 140-141. Note that the QBX.EXE environment of Basic PDS 7.00/7.10 always uses and requires far strings. You can print the value of the STACK function to find available DGROUP space when using far strings.


Unused memory can be consumed at run time by either the default data segment (DGROUP) (64K maximum), or by the far heap (640K maximum minus DOS, minus code, minus previously allocated data), as shown in the three examples below. The boundary between the default data segment and the far heap is dynamically variable at run time.

Example 1

In the following program, an array in the far heap consumes all except 2K or less of available memory, leaving less than 2K free for the default data segment:

   ' Compile this with QB or BC with the /AH option
   ' for supporting huge (larger than 64K) arrays:
   x = FRE(-1)
   PRINT FRE("")  ' Default data space free starts around 48K.
   DIM y(1023, x / (4 * 1024))  ' Dynamically allocate all but < 2K.
   PRINT FRE("")  ' Default data space free ends at less than 2K.

FRE("") reports the size, in bytes, of the memory available for the storage of variable-length (dynamic) strings at run time. FRE(-1) reports the size, in bytes, of the memory available for the largest dynamic non-variable-length-string array that can be dimensioned.

Example 2

The following is another example showing that any variable-length string allocated at run time reduces both FRE("") and FRE(-1) by an equal amount:

far = FRE(-1)
near = FRE("")
a$ = STRING$(1000, 34)   ' Initializes a 1000-byte string.
PRINT "far heap difference=",far - FRE(-1)
PRINT "default data difference=",near - FRE("")
PRINT : PRINT "Now allocate some more default data space..."
far = FRE(-1)
near = FRE("")
DIM b$(250)   ' Dynamically allocates variable-length string array.
PRINT "far heap difference=",far - FRE(-1)
PRINT "default data difference=",near - FRE("")

Example 3

The following code produces a $STATIC array of variable-length strings, which allocates memory for the string descriptors in the default data segment at compile time (NOT at run time):

   PRINT FRE(-1)
   PRINT FRE("")
   DIM a$(200)
   PRINT FRE(-1)  ' Unchanged free far heap.
   PRINT FRE("")  ' Unchanged free default data space.

Each array element has a string descriptor that takes 4 bytes (2 bytes for length plus 2 bytes for string pointer). In a $STATIC array, these descriptors are allocated at compile time.

(Note: Assigning variable-length string array elements to string values is done only at run time for both $STATIC and $DYNAMIC arrays, which consumes default data space at run time. The FRE function displays the changing free memory values at run time.)

If a $DYNAMIC metacommand is placed before this block of code, the array of string descriptors is allocated at run time, which reduces the space available in the data segment and the far heap at run time. The values returned by FRE(-1) and FRE("") are reduced by an equal amount. Results from running the above code with and without a $DYNAMIC declaration are listed below for both the QuickBasic environment and compiled EXEs:

   In QB.EXE with $DYNAMIC        In QB.EXE Without $DYNAMIC
   -----------------------        --------------------------

   Prior:         Heap = 245070   Prior:         Heap = 244246
   Prior: String space = 47694    Prior: String space = 46870
   After:         Heap = 244258   After:         Heap = 244246
   After: String space = 46882    After: String space = 46870

   Compiled EXE with $DYNAMIC     Compiled EXE Without $DYNAMIC
   --------------------------     -----------------------------

   Prior:         Heap = 444120   Prior:         Heap = 443368
   Prior: String space = 59144    Prior: String space = 58360
   After:         Heap = 443308   After:         Heap = 443368
   After: String space = 58332    After: String space = 58360

Additional query words: QuickBas BasicCom

Keywords: KB41532