fatal error: runtime: cannot allocate heap metadata #1555

burgalon opened this Issue Aug 15, 2013 · 11 comments


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I'm docker under Dokku. When trying to run docker ps or even just docker I'm getting an error:

runtime: panic before malloc heap initialized
fatal error: runtime: cannot allocate heap metadata

Rummomg under DigitalOcean VPS Ubuntu 13 x64


How much free RAM memory have you got? Are you running on a 512MB droplet?


Are you out of memory?
Can you show the output of "free"?

ghost commented Aug 16, 2013

I can confirm he's running on a 512M droplet


I can confirm you see this message when out of memory, I experienced the same thing.

My solution on a 512MB droplet was to add a swapfile to the disk, and the problem went away.


@dhassler Could you explain how to add a swapfile to disk?


I would recommend doing a little bit of reading before making changes on your system, this article helped to refresh my memory.

In short, you do something like:

dd if=/dev/zero of=/extraswap bs=1M count=512
mkswap /extraswap

..and add it to /etc/fstab:

/extraswap         none            swap    sw                0       0

and then turn it on:

swapon -a

I think this can be closed.

cihangir commented Jan 6, 2014

A bit too late but i came across with this issue lately(not with docker)
echo 1 > /proc/sys/vm/overcommit_memory saved my work
you can read more about overcommit_memory here http://www.redhat.com/magazine/001nov04/features/vm/


Had this issue too on EC2. Followed this tutorial to increase swap. http://stackoverflow.com/questions/17173972/how-do-you-add-swap-to-an-ec2-instance


Simply rebooting the droplet worked for me.


Here's a good overview on adding a swapfile to Ubuntu, keeping the swapfile persistent and adjusting performance of the swapfile: https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/how-to-add-swap-on-ubuntu-14-04

To verify whether a swapfile has been setup, type this command:

sudo swapon -s

...if only these headers are return you should set up a swapfile to avoid running out of memory causing this issue:

Filename                Type        Size    Used    Priority
@vinaygode vinaygode referenced this issue in dokku-alt/dokku-alt Nov 30, 2014

error running dokku command #111

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