Java Garbage Collection

In Java, garbage collection is the process of automatically freeing up memory that is no longer in use by the program. This is an important feature of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) as it eliminates the need for the programmer to manually manage memory allocation and deallocation.

The garbage collector runs in the background and periodically checks for objects that are no longer referenced by the program. These objects are then marked for deletion and their memory is freed up.

Java employs a generational garbage collector that divides the heap into two or more regions, typically called the young generation and the old generation. New objects are created in the young generation, and when the young generation fills up, a minor garbage collection is triggered to reclaim unused memory. Objects that survive a certain number of minor collections are promoted to the old generation, where they remain until they are no longer needed and a major garbage collection is triggered.

There are several different garbage collection algorithms that can be used in Java, each with its own trade-offs in terms of speed and memory efficiency. These include:

  • Mark and sweep
  • Copying
  • Mark, compact and sweep
  • Concurrent mark and sweep
  • G1 (Garbage First)

Developers can configure the garbage collector to use a particular algorithm, or choose to use the default algorithm that is optimized for general use.

Advantage of Garbage Collection:

There are several advantages of using garbage collection in Java:

  1. Simplified memory management: Garbage collection eliminates the need for the programmer to manually manage memory allocation and deallocation, which can be a complex and error-prone task.
  2. Automatic memory reclamation: The garbage collector automatically frees up memory that is no longer in use, which helps prevent memory leaks and other types of memory-related errors.
  3. Better program stability: By automatically managing memory allocation and deallocation, garbage collection can help improve program stability and reduce the risk of crashes or other errors caused by memory issues.
  4. Improved developer productivity: With garbage collection, developers can focus more on writing code and less on managing memory, which can help improve productivity and reduce development time.
  5. Dynamic memory allocation: Garbage collection allows for dynamic memory allocation, meaning that programs can allocate and deallocate memory as needed without requiring manual intervention.

Overall, garbage collection simplifies memory management and helps improve program stability, which can lead to better performance and more efficient development.

How can an object be unreferenced?

An object in Java becomes unreferenced when there are no longer any live references to it in the program. In other words, if there are no variables, fields, or arrays that reference the object, it becomes eligible for garbage collection.

Here are some common ways that an object can become unreferenced:

  1. Variable goes out of scope: If an object is created within a method or block and that method or block ends, the variable that references the object goes out of scope and the object becomes unreferenced.
  2. Null assignment: If a variable that references an object is assigned the value null, then the object becomes unreferenced.
  3. Reassignment: If a variable that references an object is assigned a new value that is not the object, then the object becomes unreferenced.
  4. Collection modification: If an object is removed from a collection (such as a list or map) and there are no other references to it, then it becomes unreferenced.

It’s important to note that simply setting a reference to null does not immediately result in an object being garbage collected. Garbage collection is only triggered when the JVM determines that an object is no longer being used by the program and can be safely removed

Simple Example of garbage collection in java:

Here’s a simple example that demonstrates garbage collection in Java:

public class GarbageCollectionExample {

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        // create a new object
        MyClass obj = new MyClass();
        // set obj to null to make it unreferenced
        obj = null;
        // run garbage collection

class MyClass {
    // constructor
    public MyClass() {
        System.out.println("Object created.");
    // finalize method (called by the garbage collector)
    protected void finalize() {
        System.out.println("Object destroyed.");

In this example, we create a new instance of the MyClass class and assign it to the obj variable. We then set obj to null, making the MyClass object unreferenced and eligible for garbage collection. Finally, we explicitly call System.gc() to run the garbage collector.

When the garbage collector runs, it will detect that the MyClass object is no longer being used by the program and will call its finalize() method before destroying it. In this case, the finalize() method simply prints a message to the console.

Note that calling System.gc() is not guaranteed to immediately trigger garbage collection, as it is ultimately up to the JVM to decide when and how often garbage collection should occur.