Vulkan Memory Allocator
Choosing memory type

Physical devices in Vulkan support various combinations of memory heaps and types. Help with choosing correct and optimal memory type for your specific resource is one of the key features of this library. You can use it by filling appropriate members of VmaAllocationCreateInfo structure, as described below. You can also combine multiple methods.

  1. If you just want to find memory type index that meets your requirements, you can use function: vmaFindMemoryTypeIndexForBufferInfo(), vmaFindMemoryTypeIndexForImageInfo(), vmaFindMemoryTypeIndex().
  2. If you want to allocate a region of device memory without association with any specific image or buffer, you can use function vmaAllocateMemory(). Usage of this function is not recommended and usually not needed. vmaAllocateMemoryPages() function is also provided for creating multiple allocations at once, which may be useful for sparse binding.
  3. If you already have a buffer or an image created, you want to allocate memory for it and then you will bind it yourself, you can use function vmaAllocateMemoryForBuffer(), vmaAllocateMemoryForImage(). For binding you should use functions: vmaBindBufferMemory(), vmaBindImageMemory() or their extended versions: vmaBindBufferMemory2(), vmaBindImageMemory2().
  4. This is the easiest and recommended way to use this library: If you want to create a buffer or an image, allocate memory for it and bind them together, all in one call, you can use function vmaCreateBuffer(), vmaCreateImage().

When using 3. or 4., the library internally queries Vulkan for memory types supported for that buffer or image (function vkGetBufferMemoryRequirements()) and uses only one of these types.

If no memory type can be found that meets all the requirements, these functions return VK_ERROR_FEATURE_NOT_PRESENT.

You can leave VmaAllocationCreateInfo structure completely filled with zeros. It means no requirements are specified for memory type. It is valid, although not very useful.


The easiest way to specify memory requirements is to fill member VmaAllocationCreateInfo::usage using one of the values of enum VmaMemoryUsage. It defines high level, common usage types. Since version 3 of the library, it is recommended to use VMA_MEMORY_USAGE_AUTO to let it select best memory type for your resource automatically.

For example, if you want to create a uniform buffer that will be filled using transfer only once or infrequently and then used for rendering every frame as a uniform buffer, you can do it using following code. The buffer will most likely end up in a memory type with VK_MEMORY_PROPERTY_DEVICE_LOCAL_BIT to be fast to access by the GPU device.

VkBufferCreateInfo bufferInfo = { VK_STRUCTURE_TYPE_BUFFER_CREATE_INFO };
bufferInfo.size = 65536;
VmaAllocationCreateInfo allocInfo = {};
VkBuffer buffer;
VmaAllocation allocation;
vmaCreateBuffer(allocator, &bufferInfo, &allocInfo, &buffer, &allocation, nullptr);
VkResult vmaCreateBuffer(VmaAllocator allocator, const VkBufferCreateInfo *pBufferCreateInfo, const VmaAllocationCreateInfo *pAllocationCreateInfo, VkBuffer *pBuffer, VmaAllocation *pAllocation, VmaAllocationInfo *pAllocationInfo)
Creates a new VkBuffer, allocates and binds memory for it.
Definition: vk_mem_alloc.h:492
Parameters of new VmaAllocation.
Definition: vk_mem_alloc.h:1222
VmaMemoryUsage usage
Intended usage of memory.
Definition: vk_mem_alloc.h:1230
Represents single memory allocation.

If you have a preference for putting the resource in GPU (device) memory or CPU (host) memory on systems with discrete graphics card that have the memories separate, you can use VMA_MEMORY_USAGE_AUTO_PREFER_DEVICE or VMA_MEMORY_USAGE_AUTO_PREFER_HOST.

When using VMA_MEMORY_USAGE_AUTO* while you want to map the allocated memory, you also need to specify one of the host access flags: VMA_ALLOCATION_CREATE_HOST_ACCESS_SEQUENTIAL_WRITE_BIT or VMA_ALLOCATION_CREATE_HOST_ACCESS_RANDOM_BIT. This will help the library decide about preferred memory type to ensure it has VK_MEMORY_PROPERTY_HOST_VISIBLE_BIT so you can map it.

For example, a staging buffer that will be filled via mapped pointer and then used as a source of transfer to the buffer decribed previously can be created like this. It will likely and up in a memory type that is HOST_VISIBLE and HOST_COHERENT but not HOST_CACHED (meaning uncached, write-combined) and not DEVICE_LOCAL (meaning system RAM).

VkBufferCreateInfo stagingBufferInfo = { VK_STRUCTURE_TYPE_BUFFER_CREATE_INFO };
stagingBufferInfo.size = 65536;
stagingBufferInfo.usage = VK_BUFFER_USAGE_TRANSFER_SRC_BIT;
VmaAllocationCreateInfo stagingAllocInfo = {};
stagingAllocInfo.usage = VMA_MEMORY_USAGE_AUTO;
VkBuffer stagingBuffer;
VmaAllocation stagingAllocation;
vmaCreateBuffer(allocator, &stagingBufferInfo, &stagingAllocInfo, &stagingBuffer, &stagingAllocation, nullptr);
Definition: vk_mem_alloc.h:598
VmaAllocationCreateFlags flags
Use VmaAllocationCreateFlagBits enum.
Definition: vk_mem_alloc.h:1224

For more examples of creating different kinds of resources, see chapter Recommended usage patterns.

Usage values VMA_MEMORY_USAGE_AUTO* are legal to use only when the library knows about the resource being created by having VkBufferCreateInfo / VkImageCreateInfo passed, so they work with functions like: vmaCreateBuffer(), vmaCreateImage(), vmaFindMemoryTypeIndexForBufferInfo() etc. If you allocate raw memory using function vmaAllocateMemory(), you have to use other means of selecting memory type, as decribed below.

Old usage values (VMA_MEMORY_USAGE_GPU_ONLY, VMA_MEMORY_USAGE_CPU_ONLY, VMA_MEMORY_USAGE_CPU_TO_GPU, VMA_MEMORY_USAGE_GPU_TO_CPU, VMA_MEMORY_USAGE_CPU_COPY) are still available and work same way as in previous versions of the library for backward compatibility, but they are not recommended.

Required and preferred flags

You can specify more detailed requirements by filling members VmaAllocationCreateInfo::requiredFlags and VmaAllocationCreateInfo::preferredFlags with a combination of bits from enum VkMemoryPropertyFlags. For example, if you want to create a buffer that will be persistently mapped on host (so it must be HOST_VISIBLE) and preferably will also be HOST_COHERENT and HOST_CACHED, use following code:

VmaAllocationCreateInfo allocInfo = {};
VkBuffer buffer;
VmaAllocation allocation;
vmaCreateBuffer(allocator, &bufferInfo, &allocInfo, &buffer, &allocation, nullptr);
Set this flag to use a memory that will be persistently mapped and retrieve pointer to it.
Definition: vk_mem_alloc.h:549
Definition: vk_mem_alloc.h:610
VkMemoryPropertyFlags preferredFlags
Flags that preferably should be set in a memory type chosen for an allocation.
Definition: vk_mem_alloc.h:1240
VkMemoryPropertyFlags requiredFlags
Flags that must be set in a Memory Type chosen for an allocation.
Definition: vk_mem_alloc.h:1235

A memory type is chosen that has all the required flags and as many preferred flags set as possible.

Value passed in VmaAllocationCreateInfo::usage is internally converted to a set of required and preferred flags, plus some extra "magic" (heuristics).

Explicit memory types

If you inspected memory types available on the physical device and you have a preference for memory types that you want to use, you can fill member VmaAllocationCreateInfo::memoryTypeBits. It is a bit mask, where each bit set means that a memory type with that index is allowed to be used for the allocation. Special value 0, just like UINT32_MAX, means there are no restrictions to memory type index.

Please note that this member is NOT just a memory type index. Still you can use it to choose just one, specific memory type. For example, if you already determined that your buffer should be created in memory type 2, use following code:

uint32_t memoryTypeIndex = 2;
VmaAllocationCreateInfo allocInfo = {};
allocInfo.memoryTypeBits = 1u << memoryTypeIndex;
VkBuffer buffer;
VmaAllocation allocation;
vmaCreateBuffer(allocator, &bufferInfo, &allocInfo, &buffer, &allocation, nullptr);
uint32_t memoryTypeBits
Bitmask containing one bit set for every memory type acceptable for this allocation.
Definition: vk_mem_alloc.h:1248

Custom memory pools

If you allocate from custom memory pool, all the ways of specifying memory requirements described above are not applicable and the aforementioned members of VmaAllocationCreateInfo structure are ignored. Memory type is selected explicitly when creating the pool and then used to make all the allocations from that pool. For further details, see Custom memory pools.

Dedicated allocations

Memory for allocations is reserved out of larger block of VkDeviceMemory allocated from Vulkan internally. That is the main feature of this whole library. You can still request a separate memory block to be created for an allocation, just like you would do in a trivial solution without using any allocator. In that case, a buffer or image is always bound to that memory at offset 0. This is called a "dedicated allocation". You can explicitly request it by using flag VMA_ALLOCATION_CREATE_DEDICATED_MEMORY_BIT. The library can also internally decide to use dedicated allocation in some cases, e.g.:

  • When the size of the allocation is large.
  • When VK_KHR_dedicated_allocation extension is enabled and it reports that dedicated allocation is required or recommended for the resource.
  • When allocation of next big memory block fails due to not enough device memory, but allocation with the exact requested size succeeds.