How do you implement the Singleton design pattern?


The Singleton design pattern is a creational design pattern that ensures a class has only one instance, while providing a global point of access to it. It is often used in situations where there is a need for a single, shared resource, such as a database connection, logging system, or configuration settings.

In this article, we will explore the implementation of the Singleton design pattern in C++. We will discuss different approaches to implementing the Singleton pattern and address common concerns such as memory management and thread safety.

The Problem

Lets start by looking at the code snippet provided:

class Singleton {
        static Singleton* getInstance();
        static Singleton* instance;

From this declaration, we can deduce that the instance field is initiated on the heap. That means there is a memory allocation. However, it is not clear when exactly the memory is going to be deallocated. This raises concerns about memory leaks and the overall design of the Singleton class.

Singleton Implementation

To implement the Singleton pattern correctly, we need to ensure that the Singleton class:

  1. Has a private constructor to prevent direct instantiation of the class.
  2. Has a static method, typically named getInstance(), to provide access to the single instance of the class.
  3. Has a static member variable, typically named instance, to hold the single instance of the class.

Lazy Initialization

One approach to implementing the Singleton pattern is through lazy initialization. This means that the instance of the class is only created when the getInstance() method is called for the first time.

Singleton* Singleton::instance = nullptr;

Singleton* Singleton::getInstance() {
    if (instance == nullptr) {
        instance = new Singleton();
    return instance;

In this implementation, the instance variable is initially set to nullptr. When the getInstance() method is called, it checks if the instance variable is nullptr, indicating that the instance has not been created yet. If it is nullptr, a new instance of the Singleton class is created using the new keyword.

This approach provides on-demand instantiation of the Singleton instance. However, it is not thread-safe. If multiple threads call the getInstance() method simultaneously and find the instance variable to be nullptr, they may all create their instances, violating the Singleton pattern's intent.

Thread-Safe Initialization

To ensure thread safety, we can use a synchronization mechanism, such as a mutex, to prevent simultaneous access to the getInstance() method. One common approach is to use the double-check locking technique.

Singleton* Singleton::instance = nullptr;
std::mutex Singleton::mutex;

Singleton* Singleton::getInstance() {
    if (instance == nullptr) {
        std::lock_guard lock(mutex);
        if (instance == nullptr) {
            instance = new Singleton();
    return instance;

In this implementation, we introduce a std::mutex named mutex as a static member variable of the Singleton class. The std::lock_guard is used to lock the mutex while checking and creating the instance. This prevents multiple threads from simultaneously creating their instances and ensures that only one instance is created.

Memory Management

The Singleton pattern should also handle proper memory management to avoid memory leaks. Since the instance is allocated on the heap using the new keyword, it should be deallocated when it is no longer needed. One way to achieve this is by providing a destructor for the Singleton class.

Singleton::~Singleton() {
    delete instance;

In this implementation, the destructor is responsible for deallocating the memory occupied by the Singleton instance. This ensures proper cleanup and prevents memory leaks.

Usage of the Singleton

After implementing the Singleton pattern, you can now access the Singleton instance using the getInstance() method.

Singleton* singleton = Singleton::getInstance();

This will retrieve the single instance of the Singleton class, or create it if it hasn't been created yet.


The Singleton design pattern provides a way to ensure a class has only one instance, while providing a global point of access to it. In C++, the Singleton pattern can be implemented using lazy initialization and a mutex for thread safety. Proper memory management is also essential to prevent memory leaks.

By following the guidelines and code examples provided in this article, you should now have a better understanding of how to correctly implement the Singleton design pattern in C++.