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How Will you Free the Allocated Memory?

Last Updated on July 2, 2023 by Mayank Dham

Memory allocation and deallocation are critical components of computer programming, involving the assignment and release of memory for data storage and variables during program execution. Proper memory management is vital for the efficient operation of applications. However, inadequate memory management can lead to memory leaks, which can result in application crashes or abnormal behavior. In this article, we will discuss the process of freeing allocated memory, the significance of releasing memory after usage, and the potential consequences of neglecting to free memory.

Importance of Freeing the Allocated Memory

Releasing allocated memory once it has fulfilled its purpose is crucial. The following points elucidate the significance of freeing allocated memory:

  • If we do not free the memory over time, it will continue to take up the free space in your system.
  • If this continues over a long time, the system will eventually run out of memory.
  • This will cause the program to crash or behave abnormally.
  • Freeing the Allocated memory can help in preventing unwanted memory leaks, which can lead to vulnerabilities in the program.

How will you Free the Allocated Memory?

There are several ways to free allocated memory in programming.

  • The most common way is to use the "free" function in C or C++.
  • Another way is using the Garbage Collection Process in Programming Languages like, Java and Python.

These are explained below in brief.

free() Function in C

In C programming language, a free() function is used to deallocate the memory that was previously allocated using the "malloc" or "calloc" functions. The free() function in C has only one parameter, which is a pointer to the memory block that needs to be deallocated. This function is defined in the < stdlib.h> header file.

Note: It is important to note that the pointer passed to the free function should point to the beginning of the allocated memory block.

Here is an example of how to use the free() function in C.

#include <stdlib.h>

int main() {
   int* ptr;
   ptr = (int*) malloc(65 * sizeof(int)); // allocate memory for 65 integers

   // use the memory…
   // These statements use the memory

   free(ptr); // deallocate the memory

   return 0;

In the above example, we have allocated memory space of 65 integers using the malloc() function. After that, there are some statements that use the allocated memory. After the usage of the allocated memory, we used the free() function to deallocate the memory that was allocated using the malloc() function.

It should be noted that after using the free() Function, the memory pointer which we have passed to the free() function becomes invalid after the operation and cannot be accessed again.

To know, more about the process of Memory Allocation and Deallocation in C, please refer to this article, Dynamic Memory Allocation in C.

Garbage Collection Process

Another way to free memory is to use garbage collection. Garbage collection is a process in which the programming language automatically frees the memory that is no longer in use. This is done by identifying and removing objects that are no longer referenced by the program. However, not all programming languages have built-in garbage collection, and in some cases, it may not be as efficient as manually freeing memory. This method is used in Programming Languages such as Java, Python, and Ruby.

You can refer to the following articles for more information.

Consequences of Not Freeing Memory

If memory is not freed after it is no longer needed, it can cause memory leaks. Memory leaks occur when memory is allocated but never freed, leading to a gradual buildup of memory usage over time. As memory usage continues to increase, it can eventually cause the program to crash or become unstable. Moreover, memory leaks can occur because of not freeing the memory. These memory leaks can lead to security vulnerabilities as attackers may use the memory leak to gain unauthorized access to the system.

In conclusion, freeing allocated memory is a vital aspect of memory management in computer programming. It ensures efficient memory utilization and prevents issues like memory leaks. Proper deallocation of memory is typically achieved using the "free()" function in C or C++ or by using appropriate memory deallocation mechanisms provided by the programming language or framework being used. Failing to free allocated memory can lead to memory leaks, inefficient memory usage, and potential application crashes or abnormal behavior.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q1: How do you free allocated memory in C and C++?
In C and C++, you can free allocated memory using the "free()" function, which takes a pointer to the memory block that needs to be deallocated as its argument. For example, "free(ptr);" releases the memory pointed to by the pointer variable "ptr".

Q2: What happens if you don’t free allocated memory?
If allocated memory is not freed after its use, it leads to memory leaks. Memory leaks occur when memory is allocated but not deallocated, resulting in the loss of memory resources. Over time, this can lead to insufficient memory availability, decreased application performance, and potential crashes.

Q3: Is memory deallocation automatic in all programming languages?
No, memory deallocation is not automatic in all programming languages. Some languages, like C and C++, require manual memory management, where the programmer is responsible for explicitly freeing the allocated memory. Other languages, like Java or Python, employ automatic memory management through garbage collection, where the language runtime automatically deallocates memory that is no longer in use.

Q4: Why is it important to free allocated memory?
Freeing allocated memory is important to prevent memory leaks and ensure efficient memory utilization. By releasing memory that is no longer needed, it allows the system to reclaim resources and make them available for other parts of the program or other applications running on the system.

Q5: Can memory leaks cause application crashes?
Yes, memory leaks can cause application crashes. When memory is continuously allocated but not freed, it depletes the available memory resources, eventually leading to memory exhaustion. This can result in application crashes or system instability due to insufficient memory to perform essential operations.

Q6: How can you prevent memory leaks in your programs?
To prevent memory leaks, it is essential to ensure that every allocated block of memory is properly deallocated after its use. Adhering to good memory management practices, using appropriate memory deallocation functions, and regularly testing and debugging the program can help identify and resolve potential memory leaks.

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