Creating UObjects From Async Threads

Managing the gotchas around Unreal’s object system.

When developing a project in Unreal, for performance reasons you may find yourself needing to do work on background threads. This could be an FRunnableThread, an AsyncTask(), or even UE5’s fancy new Tasks System – any code that isn’t executing on the game thread.

As a motivating example, perhaps you need to dynamically load and process some mesh / texture data at runtime. Most of the processing work is thread-agnostic, but what if you need to create UObjects to represent the data?

Approach 1: Don’t do it

The common adage is to only work with UObjects on the game thread, and this may ultimately be the simplest and most reliable approach, and perhaps the only approach in older versions of Unreal.

You can still do most non-UObject related processing in the background, and only send data over to the game thread when ready.

AsyncTask(ENamedThreads::AnyBackgroundThreadNormalTask, [] {
    // ... Do work ...

    // Send to the game thread.
    AsyncTask(ENamedThreads::GameThread, [Data = MoveTemp(Data)] {
        // Create UObjects, use the data, etc

Approach 2: Do it, but carefully

It turns out that recent versions of Unreal do allow you to create UObjects from async threads. Here’s an example that creates a transient UTexture2D.

AsyncTask(ENamedThreads::AnyBackgroundThreadNormalTask, [] {
    UTexture2D* Texture = NewObject<UTexture2D>(GetTransientPackage(),
            MakeUniqueObjectName(GetTransientPackage(), UTexture2D::StaticClass(), TEXT("MyTexture")),
            RF_Transient | RF_TextExportTransient | RF_DuplicateTransient);
    // ...

However, there are several caveats to doing this, and they generally revolve around the garbage collector.

Caveat #1: Clear the async flag

When UObjects are created outside the game thread, Unreal will detect this and automatically add a special “async” flag to the object to prevent it from getting prematurely garbage collected. This flag needs to be cleared after the UObject is moved to the game thread and attached to other objects, or else it will never get garbage collected.

AsyncTask(ENamedThreads::AnyBackgroundThreadNormalTask, [] {
    UTexture2D* Texture = NewObject<UTexture2D>(...);

    AsyncTask(ENamedThreads::GameThread, [Texture]() mutable {

Caveat #2: Guard against GC interference

If you try to create a UObject from a background thread while a GC is currently running, you’ll hit an assertion. You must instead use an FGCScopeGuard to lock the new object creation. Ideally, this scope should be as small as possible to not block GC for too long.

AsyncTask(ENamedThreads::AnyBackgroundThreadNormalTask, [] {
    UTexture2D* Texture;
        FGCScopeGuard GCGuard;
        Texture = NewObject<UTexture2D>(...);
    // ...

Aside: Beware GC bugs (UE4)

In Unreal 4.27 (and perhaps in earlier versions of UE4), the garbage collector will try to schedule some collection tasks on the TaskGraph (it schedules on both the “background” and “normal” thread priority groups). This has an unfortunate consequence for users of the engine: if you’re launching multiple concurrent tasks of your own that each potentially use FGCScopeGuard, it’s possible to get into a deadlock state:

  • The game thread will be blocked while doing garbage collection, as the garbage collector has queued tasks on the “background” and “normal” priority thread groups and is now waiting for them to start and run to completion.
  • Meanwhile, your own tasks are already running on those same thread groups and are waiting for the GC to unlock so they can create UObjects.

Neither can make progress; the GC tasks can’t start because the threads are already in use, but your own tasks can’t finish because they’re waiting for the GC. Thus, deadlock.

To avoid this, you can either launch your tasks with ENamedThreads::AnyHiPriThreadNormalTask (as it’s the only priority group that does not conflict with the GC’s work), or just go with approach #1 and don’t create UObjects on async threads to begin with.

Thankfully, this has been fixed in UE5 and no longer causes a deadlock. The fix may be easy to backport to 4.27 if desired – it largely consists of an updated CollectReferences() method.