Memory management is the procedure of controlling as well as coordinating how a software application accesses computer memory. When any software runs on a computer’s operating system, it accesses the computer’s random access memory (RAM) to load its executable bytecode, store the data structures as well as data values used by the program being executed, and load run-time systems needed to execute the software. Let’s have a look at how important memory management is when learning to code.

1. Why is memory management important?

RAM capacity is not infinite. If a software program keeps consuming the memory and is not freed, the program may ultimately crash itself or even the operating system. Injudicious usage of RAM by software programs may cause other processes and programs to run out of memory. Memory leaks or even application or operating system crashes can take place if memory management is not done correctly. Some programming languages automatically take care of memory management, whereas memory management has to be done manually in others.  

2. Automatic memory management 

Automatic memory management is done in most modern programming languages by a process known as Garbage Collection (GC). GC takes place at certain predetermined intervals and frees up unused memory blocks. Programming languages such as Java, JavaScript, OCaml, Golang, C#, and Ruby are some programming languages where garbage collection is used to manage memory by default. Ruby’s garbage collection is remarkably efficient, as it is a complete memory management system, since it frees up and also allocates memory dynamically. You can read more about rails memory usage to know in detail about how memory management is carried out in Ruby.

3. Manual memory management

In some languages like C and C++, the programmer needs to manually allocate and free memory for any objects they create in the code. Certain methods like “free,” “calloc,””realloc,” and “malloc” methods are available for programmers to allocate and free memory blocks in the program. However, manual memory management is error-prone. An experienced programmer may invoke “free” too early and be left with a dangling pointer or too late and leak space. Manual memory management may be a challenge for coding beginners looking for reasons to get into software development.

4. Advantages and disadvantages of automatic memory management

In automatic memory management, garbage collectors recycle blocks of memory that are unreachable by the program variables. The advantages of this approach are:

a) Clean module interfaces

b) Lesser memory management bugs

c) More efficient memory management

The disadvantages of automatic memory management are:

a) The availability of automatic memory managers is limited

b) Memory may be retained since it is reachable, but it won’t be available for use again in the lifecycle of the program

5. Advantages and disadvantages of manual memory management

In manual memory management, the programmer can directly control when memory should be recycled. The advantages of this approach are:

a) It is easier for programmers to know what is going on. 

b) Some manual memory managers will perform better if there is a shortage of memory.

The disadvantages of manual memory management are:

a) Memory management should form a significant portion of module interfaces.

b) Manual memory management usually requires significantly more memory overhead per object.

c) Programmers need to explicitly write code to carry out memory management. Otherwise, the program is in danger of crashing.

In Summary

Computers have a finite amount of memory. Hence, software programs should manage the memory they use conservatively. Memory management is a vital aspect of ensuring that any program you write does not crash itself or the operating system due to poor memory management. Hence, as a coder, you should have a thorough knowledge of memory management and write your code appropriately.

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