Working with HashTable

The HashTable structure serves many purposes in PHP and can be found everywhere, a good understanding of it's functionality is a preqrequisite of being a good Hacker.

The HashTable implemented by the engine is a standard HashTable, that is to say, a key => value based store, where the keys are always strings, whose hashes are calculated with a built in hashing algorithm zend_inline_hash_func(const char* key, uint length), which results in good distribution, and reasonable usage.

The internal structure and exact operation of HashTable is out of the scope of this document, this document serves to inform you of the API's available and how best to use them. For a more detailed picture of the HashTable see Zend/zend_hash.h.

Unless otherwise stated, these functions all return FAILURE if the requested operation fails for any reason, otherwise SUCCESS is returned.


It is important to remember that ordinarily HashTable API functions expect key lengths to be the length of the null terminated string, including the null termination, in other words they expect strlen(key) + 1

Below are some typedefs you should know when interacting with HashTable. They are mostly self explanitory and will allow the Hacker to fully understand the prototypes below properly.

typedef ulong (*hash_func_t)(const char *arKey, uint nKeyLength); /* mostly redundant */
typedef int  (*compare_func_t)(const void *, const void * TSRMLS_DC); /* comparison function */
typedef void (*sort_func_t)(void *, size_t, register size_t, compare_func_t TSRMLS_DC); /* sorting function */
typedef void (*dtor_func_t)(void *pDest); /* destructor function */
typedef void (*copy_ctor_func_t)(void *pElement); /* copy constructor */
typedef void (*copy_ctor_param_func_t)(void *pElement, void *pParam); /* copy with argument constructor */
typedef int (*apply_func_t)(void *pDest TSRMLS_DC); /* apply function */
typedef int (*apply_func_arg_t)(void *pDest, void *argument TSRMLS_DC); /* apply with argument function */
typedef int (*apply_func_args_t)(void *pDest TSRMLS_DC, int num_args, va_list args, zend_hash_key *hash_key); /* apply with multiple arguments function */
HashTable API
int zend_hash_init(HashTable* ht, uint size, hash_func_t hash, dtor_func_t destructor, zend_bool persistent)
Initializes the hash table to hold at least size elements, hash exists for historical reasons and is always ignored, zend_inline_hash_func is always used as the hashing function. destructor may be NULL.
int zend_hash_add(HashTable* ht, const char* key, uint klen, void* data, uint dlen, void** dest)
adds data to the table using the specified key, where the key is length bytes long (and will be copied from key to the table). If the key is set FAILURE will be returned.
int zend_hash_update(HashTable* ht, const char* key, uint klen, void* data, uint dlen, void** dest)
adds data to the table using the specified key, where the key is length bytes long (and will be copied from key to the table). If the key has been set previously the old data has dtor_func_t called on it and the existing data is replaced with data
int zend_hash_find(HashTable* ht, const char* key, uint klen, void** data)
searches the table for key, setting *data and returning SUCCESS if it is found.
zend_bool zend_hash_exists(HashTable* ht, const char* key, uint klen)
returns positively if key is found in ht
int zend_hash_del(HashTable* ht, const char* key, uint klen)
removes the entry identified by key from the table if found
int zend_hash_index_update(HashTable* ht, ulong index, void* data, uint dsize, void** dest)
updates the entry at index in ht, with the data at data
int zend_hash_index_del(HashTable* ht, ulong index)
deletes the entry at index from ht
int zend_hash_index_find(HashTable* ht, ulong index, void** data)
redirects *data to the data identified by index in ht
int zend_hash_index_exists(HashTable* ht, ulong index)
returns positively if index is found in ht
ulong zend_hash_next_free_element(HashTable* ht)
returns the index of the next free element in ht

zend_hash_* functions that accept void* data should normally cast it to (void**) (ie, (void**) &data)

Traversing the HashTable is often necessary, to do this you provide a pointer to a HashTable, with an optional HashPosition - a structure internal to the HashTable API that allows traversal not to affect the internal position of HashTable. The following traversal functions are provided, and an example usage found below.

HashTable Traversal API
int zend_hash_internal_pointer_reset(HashTable* ht)
resets the internal pointer of ht to the start
int zend_hash_internal_pointer_reset_ex(HashTable* ht, HashPosition position)
sets position the the start of ht
int zend_hash_get_current_data(HashTable* ht, void* data)
gets the data at the current position in ht, data should be cast to void**, ie: (void**) &data
int zend_hash_get_current_data_ex(HashTable* ht, void* data, HashPosition position)
sets data to the data at position in ht
int zend_hash_get_current_key(HashTable* ht, void* data, char**key, uint klen, ulong index, zend_bool duplicate)
sets key, klen, and index from the key information at the current position. The possible return values HASH_KEY_IS_STRING and HASH_KEY_IS_LONG are indicative of the kind of key found at the current posision.
int zend_hash_get_current_key_ex(HashTable* ht, void* data, char**key, uint klen, ulong index, zend_bool duplicate, HashPosition position)
sets key, klen, and index from the key information at position. The possible return values HASH_KEY_IS_STRING and HASH_KEY_IS_LONG are indicative of the kind of key found at position.
int zend_hash_move_forward(HashTable* ht)
moves the internal pointer of ht to the next entry in ht
int zend_hash_move_forward_ex(HashTable* ht, HashPosition position)
moves position to the next entry in ht

The functions above allow traversal over a HashTable to be much like a normal loop, which will look something like:

HashPosition position;
zval **data = NULL;

for (zend_hash_internal_pointer_reset_ex(ht, &position);
     zend_hash_get_current_data_ex(ht, (void**) &data, &position) == SUCCESS;
     zend_hash_move_forward_ex(ht, &position)) {

     /* by now we have data set and can use Z_ macros for accessing type and variable data */

     char *key = NULL;
     uint  klen;
     ulong index;

     if (zend_hash_get_current_key_ex(ht, &key, &klen, &index, 0, &position) == HASH_KEY_IS_STRING) {
         /* the key is a string, key and klen will be set */
     } else {
         /* we assume the key to be long, index will be set */


If a HashTable has been passed into the engine, it is a good idea to use the zend_hash_*_ex API to avoid unexpected behaviour in userland.


If a duplicate of the key is requested and HAS_KEY_IS_STRING is returned the caller must efree the duplicated key

In addition to traversal, the engine provides API functions for merging, copying, and comparing HashTables. These are all concepts that the Hacker should be familiar with. A concept possibly not in the repertoire of the Hacker is applying, which is lamens terms is functionality of the HashTable API allowing the Hacker to pass a callback function to be executed on every entry in a HashTable.

Copying, Merging and Sorting
void zend_hash_copy(HashTable *target, HashTable *source, copy_ctor_func_t pCopyConstructor, void *tmp, uint size)
Copies the contents of source to target. tmp should be an unallocated temporary pointer of the appropriate type, used during copying. size is the size of each element.
void zend_hash_merge(HashTable *target, HashTable *source, copy_ctor_func_t pCopyConstructor, void *tmp, uint size, zend_bool overwrite)
Merges the contents of source into destination, replacing existing entries only where overwrite is true.
void int zend_hash_sort(HashTable *ht, sort_func_t sort_func, compare_func_t compare_func, int renumber TSRMLS_DC)
renumber controls if indexes should be preserved, see the typedefs at the start of this section for more information


When a function accepts a copy_ctor_func_t pCopyConstructor, the function passed with be executed upon creation of every new entry in the HashTable. The most common copy constructor used within the engine is a wrapper around zval_copy_ctor, the macro ZVAL_COPY_CTOR.


it concerns the transponing of an saprfc php5 extension to php7.

I am trying to get a typ for value_ptr - zend_hash_get_current_data(hash,(void **)&value_ptr); - in PHP7.

I tried ---- value_ptr, &value_ptr, (void*)&value_ptr, (void **)&value_ptr ---- and switched it.

I always get: IS_UNKNOWN or IS_UNDEF. But there are values in there if I print it out like that, each others depending on naturally which --- value_ptr, &value_ptr, (void*)&value_ptr, (void **)&value_ptr ---- I use.
php_printf("value_ptr=%ld", (void*)value_ptr);

Following the definition in zend_hash.h in must be:
#define zend_hash_get_current_data(ht) \ zend_hash_get_current_data_ex(ht, &(ht)->nInternalPointer)

If I use zend_hash_get_current_data(hash, &(void**)value_ptr) I get --- IS_UNKNOWN
If I use zend_hash_get_current_data_ex(hash, &(void**)value_ptr) I get --- IS_UNDEF

Do you have an idea about that?
Axel Arnold Bangert - Herzogenrath 26.12.2017
2017-12-27 08:54:04
The result is not convertible ---- convert_to_string_ex(value_ptr); ---- this leads to an exception.
#define convert_to_string_ex(pzv) convert_to_ex_master(pzv, string, IS_STRING)

Axel Bangert
2017-12-27 10:36:13
The picture links in the above text are broken:
Axel Arnold Bangert - Herzogenrath 27.12.2017
2017-12-27 10:39:57
astonishing  is that I can find it and can make an update

zend_string *str = "CLIENT";   
ZVAL_STRING(zv, "800");                                               

if (zend_hash_find(hash, str) != FAILURE)
    zend_hash_index_update(hash, str, zv);       
2017-12-27 14:28:23

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