By Eddie Parker

2010-11-22 23:54:34 8 Comments

I come from a C++ background, so apologies if this is a non-C# way of thinking, but I just need to know. :)

In C++ if I have two pointers, and I want to know if they point to the same thing, I can look in the memory/watch window and see their value - to see if they are pointing to the same memory space.

In C#, I haven't been able to find something along those lines. One reference type with exactly the same values could in fact be the exact same object, or it could be something wildly different.

Is there a way for me to see this kind of information in C#? Perhaps some kind of equivalent to the & operator for the watch window or some such?


@JaredPar 2010-11-22 23:56:44

What you're looking for are object id's. For any referenc type in the debugger you can right click and say "Make Object ID". This will add a # suffix to the value column whenever that instance is displayed in the debugger. You can also add #1, #2, etc ... to the watch window to see them again any time later.

Step 0 - Run this code

static void Main(string[] args)
    var x = "a string";
    var y = x;

Step 1 - Right Click and select "Make Object Id"

alt text

Step 2 - Instances now display with the 1# suffix. Note: I did nothing special in this step. Immediately after clicking "Make Object Id" both rows updated to display the 1# suffix since they refer to the same instance.

alt text

Step 3 - See them at any time by adding 1# to the watch window

alt text

@Alastair Pitts 2010-11-22 23:59:18

That's cool, I've never heard of object id's. So many little things like this that are 'hidden' in VS.

@Eddie Parker 2010-11-23 19:57:34

Awesome sauce. Great explanation, and sexy visuals. +1 and a right answer. :)

@Chris Dodd 2014-07-16 00:35:47

Now if only there was a way to do this in MonoDevelop...

@Justin Caldicott 2016-06-21 21:41:30

It appears in VS 2015 the syntax is $1, $2, etc

@Bartosz 2017-07-12 19:21:02

What happens when the object that you have watched does not exist any more? I am debugging some thing related to EF DbContext and it seems that these objects stay in the Locals window, even though (I hope) they were already disposed...

@Sean U 2010-11-23 00:12:48

In C# projects, if you right-click on a variable's name in one of the variable windows and select "create object ID", Visual Studio will assign a unique ID to that instance and display it in the Value column. The IDs look like {1#}, {2#}, etc. If two objects have the same ID then they're referentially identical.

In code or in the Immediate window, you can also check to see if two objects are identical by using Object.ReferenceEquals().

I don't believe there's a good way to get an actual memory address for an object in the debugger. I'm guessing that's by design, since an object's location in memory is likely to change during garbage collection in a managed application. Of course you could declare an unsafe block, pin the object, and grab a pointer to it using all the usual C/C++ operators. Then you'd be able to see the pointer's value in the debugger. I wouldn't recommend that as a good habit, though - pinning objects tends to muck with the garbage collector's ability to maintain an orderly heap, which can in turn lead to worse performance and memory consumption.

@boylec1986 2018-11-29 18:27:08

To view the memory address of a variable in the watch window, precede the variable name with an ampersand (&). i.e.: &varName.

@Timbo 2010-11-22 23:58:50

@Alastair Pitts 2010-11-22 23:57:50

You could use the Immediate Window and use Object.ReferenceEquals(obj1, obj2) to test this out!

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