FileOutputStream.getFD() vs finalization

Hans Boehm hboehm at
Thu Dec 28 20:32:50 UTC 2017

The design of the getFD() calls in some Java *Stream classes seems
problematic, and doesn't seem cleanly fixable without a spec change. I
first noticed this in JDK 8 code, but Roger Riggs recent JDK 10 changes
also don't seem to fully address this specific problem, particularly since
the code paths remain more-or-less similar when a FOS subclass has a close
method. It probably remains easier to describe this in a JDK 8/9 setting,
so I'll do so initially.

Close() on the *Stream closes the FD. The finalize() method on the Stream
(not the FD!) calls close(). Assuming JLS 12.6.2 finalization semantics, if
my program consists of:

  FileOutputStream f1 = new FileOutputStream("foo");
  FileDescriptor fd = f1.getFD();
  FileOutputStream f2 = new FileOutputStream(fd);

f2 may be associated with a closed fd, since f1 could have been finalized
at any pointer after its construction, in particular at point A.

This is slightly aggravated by the fact that close() is implemented in a
way that doesn't guarantee reachability of the  FileOutputStream while, or
before, it runs. Close() could easily be inlined, and the *Stream fields
promoted to registers. Thus even if you always call close() explicitly, I
think you are still affected by this problem.

Fundamentally the result of getFD() is only valid as long as the underlying
*Stream is reachable, and that is not defined in a way that's
understandable by most programmers. That also makes this API un-Java-like,
in that the user has to worry about very subtle object lifetime rules.

The only semi-plausible solution seems to involve judicious use of
ReachabilityFence() on FileOutputStreams after the getFD() result is no
longer needed. I personally don't think that's really a very plausible
request of the programmer.

I think Roger's JDK 10 changes may help in the case in which there is not
an overridden close() method, since the cleanup action is registered on the
underlying FileDescriptor. But if a subclass overrides close(), I think
we're basically still  in the same boat. For the reasons he already gave,
that seems hard to avoid. And again I think the problem applies even if
close() is explicitly called, since that doesn't really prevent
finalization of the Stream object.

Has this been discussed anywhere? Opinions about how to deal with it?

(This arose while going through the core libraries, looking for premature
finalization issues. So far, this one seems special, in that It really
seems to require an API change.)


More information about the core-libs-dev mailing list