Garbage Collection

Garbage Collection

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Garbage collection (GC) in the context of computing refers to the automatic memory management process carried out by some programming languages, such as Java, Python, and JavaScript, among others. This process aims to reclaim the memory occupied by objects that are no longer in use by the program.

When a program creates objects, it often dynamically allocates a block of memory to hold the object. However, as the program continues to run and create new objects, the amount of available memory decreases. If the program fails to deallocate the memory used by objects that are no longer needed, it can eventually run out of memory to use, leading to a condition known as a memory leak. This can severely impact program and overall system performance, and may even cause the program or system to crash.

Garbage collection addresses this issue by automatically tracking object references and identifying which objects can no longer be accessed by the program (i.e., they have no references pointing to them). It then deallocates the memory occupied by these objects, effectively freeing up that memory for future use.

While garbage collection helps ensure efficient memory management and can prevent certain types of memory leaks, it’s not without its downsides. Garbage collection can introduce overhead and can potentially cause noticeable pauses in program execution, particularly if a large amount of memory needs to be reclaimed all at once. This is why some performance-critical systems or programming languages (such as C or C++) opt to give developers more direct control over memory management, despite the increased complexity and potential for memory-related bugs.

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