As a Java developer, you’re probably aware of the need for enough memory capacity to execute programs in a timely manner. Indeed; this is a concern in all but the least-demanding programming languages, and is why java garbage collection algorithms are fast becoming a popular route to aid in fixing memory-related code performance problems.

How Does Java Garbage Collection Work?

There’s a bit of A.I involved; in that you the programmer do not need to seek out and tag the objects that will be deleted. The virtual machine manages all of this; and so the task is left to it to automatically target any objects that are no longer contributing to the execution of the code and clean them up. The benefit to you on the front-end is more memory available for new tasks.

java collection

The next thing to consider is the effectiveness of the garbage collector code; the better the algorithm you use, the more memory is freed up without losing crucial components that could be use later (or even now, if you’re trying to compile a program). All Java garbage collector code are not created equal; even though they tend to adhere to a universal code “skeleton”.

The Process

The code that defines the Java Virtual Machine environment is written to first identify objects that were created but remain unreferenced in the program(s) you’re using at present. It tags these for deletion, so that the garbage collector can immediately find them and delete them once it’s implemented. Although this is generally performed first, it is also quite possible – and preferable for some programs – to first find the memory being used up by the unreferenced objects, and then compact these memory blocks into a single string so as to facilitate memory allocation to newly created objects in order.

The difference between these two approaches is that in the first one, the memory blocks are compacted first, and then the garbage collector deletes objects. In the second one, garbage collector gets rid of the unallocated objects first, and only afterwards is the memory compacted and made ready for new use.

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Is Java Garbage Collection Necessary?

Strictly-speaking – no; but that’s like saying that computers, themselves, aren’t necessary. If you’re a programmer working in native C++, which lacks the attributes of garbage collection in its virtual environment, then you have to be sure to manage the memory allocation as you code along. Oftentimes, you’ll run right into a memory issue if you’ve been programming and compiling for some time, since the process of memory management isn’t automatic.

In Java, however, the code does all of this for you; and is especially useful for unallocated objects that are below your radar. Although there’s one benefit to manual memory management – you have more control – this is largely taken care of by simply getting your programmers a well-written, high-performance garbage collector with a proven track record of efficiency and performance.

Things to Consider When Using Java Garbage Heap Collection

At present, there is no way to absolutely control when the garbage collector will activate – it can happen at almost any time, unless you specify that it initiates with the System.gc() or Runtime.gc() methods. Even so, it still might not actually initiate then. You can, however, specify the size of the garbage heaps that are collected each time it runs, so that it doesn’t slow down any concurrent programs you might be running too much. See Oracle’s site for more information on the Java Virtual Environment and the garbage heap collector in particular.

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