calloc() allocates memory for an array of nmemb elements of size bytes each and returns a pointer to the allocated memory. The memory is set to zero.
malloc() allocates size bytes and returns a pointer to the allocated memory. The memory is not cleared.
free() frees the memory space pointed to by ptr, which must have been returned by a previous call to malloc(), calloc() or realloc(). Otherwise, or if free(ptr) has already been called before, undefined behaviour occurs. If ptr is NULL, no operation is performed.
For calloc() and malloc(), the value returned is a pointer to the allocated memory, which is suitably aligned for any kind of variable, or NULL if the request fails.
free() returns no value.
The Unix98 standard requires malloc(), calloc(), and realloc() to set errno to ENOMEM upon failure. Glibc assumes that this is done (and the glibc versions of these routines do this); if you use a private malloc implementation that does not set errno, then certain library routines may fail without having a reason in errno.
Crashes in malloc(), free() or realloc() are almost always related to heap corruption, such as overflowing an allocated chunk or freeing the same pointer twice.
Recent versions of Linux libc (later than 5.4.23) and GNU libc (2.x) include a malloc implementation which is tunable via environment variables. When MALLOC_CHECK_ is set, a special (less efficient) implementation is used which is designed to be tolerant against simple errors, such as double calls of free() with the same argument, or overruns of a single byte (off-by-one bugs). Not all such errors can be proteced against, however, and memory leaks can result. If MALLOC_CHECK_ is set to 0, any detected heap corruption is silently ignored; if set to 1, a diagnostic is printed on stderr; if set to 2, abort() is called immediately. This can be useful because otherwise a crash may happen much later, and the true cause for the problem is then very hard to track down.