Python Finalization

See also GC bugs.

At exit, Python calls Py_Finalize() which is responsible to stop Python and cleanly all states, variables, modules. etc. This code is very fragile.

Issues with clearing memory at exit

Since Python 3.6, a big refactoring started in CPython to clear more and more variables and states at Python exit: in Py_FinalizeEx(), but also in Python main() (for variables which cannot be cleared in Py_FinalizeEx().

Sadly, it caused some nasty issues:

Weird GC behavior during Python finalization

When an extension module is converted to the multiphase initialization API (PEP 489), sometimes tests using subinterpreters start to leak.

Reorder Python finalization

Release objects at exit

Main issue: bpo-1635741.

  • bpo-1635741: Release Unicode interned strings at exit (commit).

Prevent deadlock in io.BufferedWriter


commit 25f85d4bd58d86d3e6ce99cb9f270e96bf5ba08f
Author: Antoine Pitrou <>
Date:   Mon Apr 13 19:41:47 2015 +0200

    Issue #23309: Avoid a deadlock at shutdown if a daemon thread is aborted
    while it is holding a lock to a buffered I/O object, and the main thread
    tries to use the same I/O object (typically stdout or stderr).  A fatal
    error is emitted instead.


relax_locking = _Py_IsFinalizing();
if (!relax_locking)
    st = PyThread_acquire_lock(self->lock, 1);
else {
    /* When finalizing, we don't want a deadlock to happen with daemon
     * threads abruptly shut down while they owned the lock.
     * Therefore, only wait for a grace period (1 s.).
     * Note that non-daemon threads have already exited here, so this
     * shouldn't affect carefully written threaded I/O code.
    st = PyThread_acquire_lock_timed(self->lock, (PY_TIMEOUT_T)1e6, 0);
if (relax_locking && st != PY_LOCK_ACQUIRED) {
    PyObject *msgobj = PyUnicode_FromFormat(
        "could not acquire lock for %A at interpreter "
        "shutdown, possibly due to daemon threads",
        (PyObject *) self);
    const char *msg = PyUnicode_AsUTF8(msgobj);


To workaround bpo-19565 on Windows, multiprocessing crash at exit, _winapi.Overlapped deallocator leaves the overlapped handle open if Python is exiting, see the commit:

commit 633db6f6a69fd44b4a27e7e216ff7a138f69aaf3
Author: Richard Oudkerk <>
Date:   Sun Nov 17 13:15:51 2013 +0000

    Issue #19565: Prevent warnings at shutdown about pending overlapped ops.

Python issues

  • 2013-10-31: Clear state of threads earlier in Python shutdown. Call _PyThreadState_DeleteExcept(tstate) in Py_Finalize(). This issue introduced corrupted a Python frame of an asyncio daemon thread which leaded to a crash: bpo-20526. I had to revert the _PyThreadState_DeleteExcept(tstate) change.



By the time your __dealloc__() method is called, the object may already have been partially destroyed and may not be in a valid state as far as Python is concerned, so you should avoid invoking any Python operations which might touch the object. In particular, don’t call any other methods of the object or do anything which might cause the object to be resurrected. It’s best if you stick to just deallocating C data.

Daemon threads