.net – The proper way to dispose Excel com object using VB.NET


I have following code (obtained from online tutorial). The code is working but I suspect the way to dispose the Excel com object is somewhat not proper. Do we need really need to call GC.Collect? Or what is the best way to dispose this Excel com object?

Public Sub t1()
    Dim oExcel As New Excel.Application
    Dim oBook As Excel.Workbook = oExcel.Workbooks.Open(TextBox2.Text)

    'select WorkSheet based on name
    Dim oWS As Excel.Worksheet = CType(oBook.Sheets("Sheet1"), Excel.Worksheet)

        oExcel.Visible = False
        'now showing the cell value


    Catch ex As Exception
        MsgBox("Error: " & ex.ToString, MsgBoxStyle.Critical, "Error!")
    End Try
End Sub

Private Sub releaseObject(ByVal obj As Object)
        obj = Nothing
    Catch ex As Exception
        obj = Nothing
    End Try
End Sub

Best Solution

First - you never have to call Marshal.ReleaseComObject(...) or Marshal.FinalReleaseComObject(...) when doing Excel interop. It is a confusing anti-pattern, but any information about this, including from Microsoft, that indicates you have to manually release COM references from .NET is incorrect. The fact is that the .NET runtime and garbage collector correctly keep track of and clean up COM references. For your code, this means you can remove the whole releaseObject(...) Sub and calls to it.

Second, if you want to ensure that the COM references to an out-of-process COM object is cleaned up when your process ends (so that the Excel process will close), you need to ensure that the Garbage Collector runs. You do this correctly with calls to GC.Collect() and GC.WaitForPendingFinalizers(). Calling twice is safe, end ensures that cycles are definitely cleaned up too.

Third, when running under the debugger, local references will be artificially kept alive until the end of the method (so that local variable inspection works). So a GC.Collect() calls are not effective for cleaning object like rng.Cells from the same method. You should split the code doing the COM interop from the GC cleanup into separate methods.

The general pattern would be:

Sub WrapperThatCleansUp()

    ' NOTE: Don't call Excel objects in here... 
    '       Debugger would keep alive until end, preventing GC cleanup

    ' Call a separate function that talks to Excel

    ' Now Let the GC clean up (twice, to clean up cycles too)

End Sub

Sub DoTheWork()
    Dim app As New Microsoft.Office.Interop.Excel.Application
    Dim book As Microsoft.Office.Interop.Excel.Workbook = app.Workbooks.Add()
    Dim worksheet As Microsoft.Office.Interop.Excel.Worksheet = book.Worksheets("Sheet1")
    app.Visible = True
    For i As Integer = 1 To 10
        worksheet.Cells.Range("A" & i).Value = "Hello"

    ' NOTE: No calls the Marshal.ReleaseComObject() are ever needed
End Sub

There is a lot of false information and confusion about this issue, including many posts on MSDN and on StackOverflow.

What finally convinced me to have a closer look and figure out the right advice was this post https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/visualstudio/2010/03/01/marshal-releasecomobject-considered-dangerous/ together with finding the issue with references kept alive under the debugger on some StackOverflow answer.

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