C++ Copy Constructor

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The copy constructor is a constructor which creates an object by initializing it with an object of the same class, which has been created previously. The copy constructor is used to:

  • Initialize one object from another of the same type.

  • Copy an object to pass it as an argument to a function.

  • Copy an object to return it from a function.

If a copy constructor is not defined in a class, the compiler itself defines one.If the class has pointer variables and has some dynamic memory allocations, then it is a must to have a copy constructor. The most common form of copy constructor is shown here:

classname (const classname &obj) {
   // body of constructor
}

Here, obj is a reference to an object that is being used to initialize another object.

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Line
{
   public:
      int getLength( void );
      Line( int len );             // simple constructor
      Line( const Line &obj);  // copy constructor
      ~Line();                     // destructor

   private:
      int *ptr;
};

// Member functions definitions including constructor
Line::Line(int len)
{
    cout << "Normal constructor allocating ptr" << endl;
    // allocate memory for the pointer;
    ptr = new int;
    *ptr = len;
}

Line::Line(const Line &obj)
{
    cout << "Copy constructor allocating ptr." << endl;
    ptr = new int;
   *ptr = *obj.ptr; // copy the value
}

Line::~Line(void)
{
    cout << "Freeing memory!" << endl;
    delete ptr;
}
int Line::getLength( void )
{
    return *ptr;
}

void display(Line obj)
{
   cout << "Length of line : " << obj.getLength() <<endl;
}

// Main function for the program
int main( )
{
   Line line(10);

   display(line);

   return 0;
}

When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result:

Normal constructor allocating ptr
Copy constructor allocating ptr.
Length of line : 10
Freeing memory!
Freeing memory!

Let us see the same example but with a small change to create another object using existing object of the same type:

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

class Line
{
   public:
      int getLength( void );
      Line( int len );             // simple constructor
      Line( const Line &obj);  // copy constructor
      ~Line();                     // destructor

   private:
      int *ptr;
};

// Member functions definitions including constructor
Line::Line(int len)
{
    cout << "Normal constructor allocating ptr" << endl;
    // allocate memory for the pointer;
    ptr = new int;
    *ptr = len;
}

Line::Line(const Line &obj)
{
    cout << "Copy constructor allocating ptr." << endl;
    ptr = new int;
   *ptr = *obj.ptr; // copy the value
}

Line::~Line(void)
{
    cout << "Freeing memory!" << endl;
    delete ptr;
}
int Line::getLength( void )
{
    return *ptr;
}

void display(Line obj)
{
   cout << "Length of line : " << obj.getLength() <<endl;
}

// Main function for the program
int main( )
{
   Line line1(10);

   Line line2 = line1; // This also calls copy constructor

   display(line1);
   display(line2);

   return 0;
}

When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result:

Normal constructor allocating ptr
Copy constructor allocating ptr.
Copy constructor allocating ptr.
Length of line : 10
Freeing memory!
Copy constructor allocating ptr.
Length of line : 10
Freeing memory!
Freeing memory!
Freeing memory!



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