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Difference between std::quick_exit and std::abort in C++

In this article, you will learn the difference between std::quick_exit and std::abort in C++. But before discussing their differences, you must know about the std::quick_exit and std::abort in C++.

What is std::quick_exit?

The std::quick_exit is a function in C++ that provides a way to terminate a program in a way that allows for the execution of registered cleanup functions. It is part of the header and is related to the C++ Standard.

Purpose and Motivation:

At its core, std::quick_exit serves as a tool for terminating a program with a specific focus on efficiency and expediency. Unlike its counterpart, std::exit, this function abstains from the unwinding of the stack or the invocation of destructors for static or thread-local objects. Instead, it provides an avenue for a rapid and minimal cleanup process, ideal for scenarios where immediate termination is paramount.

No Stack Unwinding:

One of the distinctive features of std::quick_exit lies in its divergence from the conventional stack unwinding mechanism. In C++, when a program terminates, the runtime system usually takes the time to unwind the stack, calling destructors for automatic objects along the way. However, in the case of std::quick_exit, this conventional unwinding process is bypassed. As a result, destructors for automatic objects are not invoked, contributing to a faster termination.

Registration of Cleanup Functions:

A pivotal aspect of std::quick_exit is its compatibility with cleanup functions. Before invoking std::quick_exit, developers can register functions to be executed during the termination process using the at_quick_exit function. These registered functions typically encapsulate cleanup routines, allowing developers to perform necessary actions before the program concludes.

The process involves associating these cleanup functions with the program's quick exit mechanism, creating a structured approach to handle resource deallocation, file closure, or any other cleanup activities deemed essential.


Let's take an example to illustrate the std::quick_exit function in C++.


Allocated dynamic memory.
Allocated dynamic memory.
Opened database connection: DB1
Opened database connection: DB2
Cleaning up database connections...
Closed database connection: DB1
Closed database connection: DB2
Cleaning up dynamic resources...
Released dynamic memory.
Released dynamic memory.


The provided C++ code simulates a program managing dynamic resources and database connections, utilizing std::quick_exit for swift program termination with proper cleanup.


DynamicResource: It represents a dynamic resource with a constructor allocating dynamic memory and a destructor releasing it.

DatabaseConnection: It represents a database connection with a constructor opening a connection and a destructor closing it.


dynamicResources: It stores instances of dynamic resources.

dbConnections: It stores instances of database connections.

Cleanup Functions:

cleanupDynamicResources(): It deletes dynamic resources, ensuring the release of dynamic memory.

cleanupDatabaseConnections(): It deletes database connections, ensuring proper closure.

Resource Management:

manageResources(): It simulates dynamic resource and database connection management.

Creates instances of DynamicResource and DatabaseConnection.

Intentionally triggers std::quick_exit(EXIT_SUCCESS) for swift program termination.

Main Function:

  • Registers cleanup functions using std::at_quick_exit.
  • Invokes manageResources for simulation.
  • The subsequent code is unreachable due to the quick program exit.


  • It prints messages during resource allocation, deallocation, connection opening, and closing.
  • It demonstrates how cleanup functions registered with std::at_quick_exit are invoked during swift program termination.
  • The code exemplifies the use of std::quick_exit to efficiently handle cleanup tasks, making it suitable for scenarios where immediate program termination is crucial.

Complexity Analysis:

Time Complexity: O(1) for most operations.

Resource Management (manageResources function):

  • Creating instances of DynamicResource and DatabaseConnection involves dynamic memory allocation and constructor calls. The time complexity for each allocation and the constructor is generally constant, denoted as O(1).
  • The loop for cleanup in the cleanupDynamicResources and cleanupDatabaseConnections functions involves deleting each resource. The time complexity for each deletion (calling the destructor and freeing memory) is also generally constant, O(1).

Quick Program Exit (std::quick_exit):

The call to std::quick_exit triggers the termination of the program without invoking destructors for automatic objects. This operation is typically considered to have constant time complexity, O(1).

Space Complexity: O(n + m)

Where n is the number of dynamic resources, and m is the number of database connections.

Dynamic Resources (dynamicResources vector):

The space complexity of the dynamicResources vector is proportional to the number of dynamic resources created. If n dynamic resources are created, the space complexity is O(n), considering each dynamic resource as a separate entity.

Database Connections (dbConnections vector):

The space complexity of the dbConnections vector is proportional to the number of database connections created. If m database connections are created, the space complexity is O(m), considering each connection as a separate entity.

Auxiliary Space:

The auxiliary space complexity is mainly determined by the size of the vectors (dynamicResources and dbConnections) and any additional data structures used internally by the C++ standard library. The space complexity for managing these vectors is O(n + m), where n is the number of dynamic resources, and m is the number of database connections.

What is std::abort?

The std::abort is a function in C++ that provides a mechanism for the abrupt termination of a program. It is part of the header and is designed to be a quick and forceful way to exit a program, often in response to critical errors or exceptional conditions. Unlike other program termination functions like std::exit, std::abort do not allow for the execution of registered cleanup functions or the unwinding of the stack.

Purpose and Usage:

The primary purpose of std::abort is to immediately and unconditionally terminate a program, generating a crash report or a core dump. It can be particularly useful in scenarios where the program encounters an unrecoverable error and continuing execution might lead to unpredictable behavior.

The function is typically used in error-handling situations where the severity of the issue is so high that continuing the program's execution would be unsafe. It's important to note that invoking std::abort results in an abnormal program termination and does not provide an opportunity for the normal cleanup procedures associated with program termination.


It has the following syntax:


When std::abort is called, the following actions are typically taken:

Abnormal Termination:

The program is terminated abnormally, and control is not returned to the calling function or the operating system in a graceful manner.

Exit Status:

Unlike std::exit, std::abort does not allow for an exit status to be specified. The termination is unconditional.

No Stack Unwinding:

The stack is not unwound. It means that destructors for automatic objects are not called, and the program terminates immediately.

No Cleanup Functions:

Unlike std::exit or std::quick_exit, std::abort does not provide a mechanism for registering cleanup functions. It is an abrupt and uncontrolled termination.

Common Use Cases:

There are several use cases of std::abort in C++. Some of them are as follows:

1. Critical Errors:

std::abort is often used in situations where the program encounters critical errors that cannot be recovered. For example, if a fundamental invariant is violated or an essential resource is unavailable.

2. Unreachable Code:

It can be employed in situations where certain code paths are deemed unreachable, and their execution indicates a severe flaw in the program logic.

3. Debugging:

During development and debugging phases, std::abort can be strategically placed to halt the program immediately when a specific condition is met, allowing developers to inspect the program state.

Considerations and Best Practices:

1. No Cleanup:

One of the critical considerations when using std::abort is that it doesn't allow for any cleanup activities. Resources might be left in an inconsistent state, and memory leaks may occur.

2. Use with Caution:

Due to its abrupt nature, the use of std::abort should be approach with caution. It is not a substitute for proper error handling and should be reserved for situations where continuing program execution is unsafe.

3. Debug Information:

When std::abort is triggered; it often provides information about the abnormal termination, such as generating a core dump. This information can be valuable for debugging.

4. Unhandled Exceptions:

If there are unhandled exceptions in the program when std::abort is called, std::terminate is invoked, which can be customized to provide additional information or perform specific actions before termination.

5. Alternative Approaches:

In scenarios where some cleanup is necessary before program termination, alternatives like std::exit or std::quick_exit may be more appropriate. These functions allow for the execution of cleanup functions before the program exits.


Let's take an example to illustrate the std::abort function in C++.


Transaction initialized with amount: 500
Processing transaction...
This line will not be reached.
Transaction completed.


Transaction Class:

  • The code defines a class name Transaction to represent a financial transaction.
  • The class has a constructor, a method for processing the transaction, and a destructor.
  • The constructor initializes a transaction with a specified amount, and the destructor simulates cleanup after the transaction.

Transaction Processing Method (process):

  • The process method simulates the processing of the transaction.
  • It checks if the transaction amount is negative. If so, it prints an error message to std::cerr and calls std::abort() to terminate the program abruptly.
  • If the amount is non-negative, it prints a message indicating transaction processing and allows for additional processing logic.

Main Function:

  • In the main function, a financial transaction (userTransaction) is initiated with an amount of 500.0 by calling the Transaction constructor.
  • After that, the process method is called on userTransaction to simulate the processing of the transaction.
  • Due to the negative amount (500.0), the process method triggers an error message and calls std::abort(), leading to the abrupt termination of the program.
  • Any subsequent code in the main function is marked as unreachable due to the abrupt termination.

Execution Flow:

Transaction Initialization:

An instance of the Transaction class is created in the main function, simulating the initiation of a financial transaction with an amount of 500.0.

Transaction Processing:

  • The process method is called on the userTransaction
  • Since the transaction amount is negative, an error message is printed to std::cerr, and std::abort() is called, leading to the abrupt termination of the program.
  • The destructor of the Transaction class is not called due to the abrupt termination.

Unreachable Code:

Any subsequent code in the main function is marked as unreachable and will not be executed due to the abrupt termination caused by std::abort().

Complexity Analysis:

Time Complexity: O(1)

Transaction Initialization (Transaction(double amount)):

The time complexity of initializing a Transaction object is O(1). It involves assigning the provided amount to the private member variable.

Transaction Processing (process() method):

The processing logic inside the process method is O(1) since it involves basic conditional checks and printing messages.

Main Function Execution:

The execution of the main function is O(1) as it involves creating a Transaction object, calling its process method, and attempting to execute subsequent code. However, the subsequent code is unreachable due to the abrupt program termination caused by std::abort.

Space Complexity: O(1)

Transaction Object (Transaction userTransaction):

The space complexity for creating a Transaction object is O(1) as it involves allocating memory for a fixed set of member variables.

Auxiliary Space:

The code uses a minimal amount of auxiliary space, such as for error messages and the std::cerr stream. The space complexity is O(1) for these auxiliary components.

Key differences:

There are several differences between std::quick_exit and std::abort in C++. Some main differences are as follows:

Difference between std::quick_exit and std::abort in C++

There are several differences between std::quick_exit and std::abort in C++. Some main differences are as follows:

Feature std::quick_exit std::abort
Purpose Quick program termination with cleanup. Immediate, uncontrolled termination.
Cleanup Functions Allows registration and execution of cleanup functions using std::at_quick_exit. Does not provide a mechanism for cleanup function registration.
Exit Status Allows specifying an exit status (e.g., std::quick_exit(EXIT_SUCCESS)) Does not allow specifying an exit status, termination is unconditional.
Stack Unwinding Allows stack unwinding; destructors for automatic objects are called. Does not unwind the stack; destructors are not called.
Signal Handling Does not invoke signal handlers during termination. Invokes the signal handler for SIGABRT before termination.
Header File Defined in <cstdlib> header Defined in <cstdlib> header
Usage Context Suited for scenarios requiring controlled termination with cleanup. Suited for situations demanding immediate and unconditional termination.
Error Handling Useful for handling non-fatal errors where cleanup is necessary. Typically used for handling critical and unrecoverable errors.
Use Cases Often used in long-running applications where cleanup is crucial. Used in scenarios where continuing execution is unsafe or undesirable.
Program State Allows controlled cleanup, potentially leaving the program in a consistent state. Results in immediate termination without a chance for state cleanup.
Destructors Calls destructors for automatic objects during stack unwinding. Does not call destructors for automatic objects, leading to potential resource leaks.
Signal SIGABRT Does not raise SIGABRT; no custom signal handler is invoked. Raises SIGABRT and allows a custom signal handler to be invoked.
Compatibility Available in C++11. Available in C and C++.
Termination Speed Generally may take slightly more time due to the execution of cleanup functions. Terminates the program swiftly without additional cleanup overhead.

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