What is Memory Allocation?
Memory allocation is an essential process in computing that involves the distribution of computer memory to programs or processes that require it. Whenever you run a program on your computer, whether it’s a simple calculator app or a complex video game, the program needs a certain amount of memory to perform its tasks. Memory allocation is the process of assigning that memory to the program so that it can operate correctly.
Memory allocation can be done in two ways: statically or dynamically. Statically allocated memory is reserved at the time of program compilation and is fixed throughout the program’s execution. This type of allocation is used to store literals, global variables or constants. Dynamically allocated memory, on the other hand, is allocated during runtime as needed. This type of memory allocation is commonly used for variables with unpredictable size like arrays, linked-lists, and tree structures.
There are various techniques to dynamically allocate memory such as:
1. Stack allocation: In this technique, memory is allocated from a contiguous block of memory, called the stack. The stack is automatically managed by the operating system, which means that variables created on the stack are automatically freed when they go out of scope.
2. Heap allocation: This technique is used when we need to allocate memory dynamically whose size is not known at compile time. Heap allocation is managed differently than stack allocation as it uses process/program memory to store data, which needs to be manually managed by the programmer. The programmer must explicitly allocate and de-allocate memory otherwise, it can cause memory leaks, which can slow down the program and even crash it.
3. Garbage Collection: This technique automatically frees up the memory by the process of garbage collection. In this technique, a program periodically scans the memory and locates any memory that is no longer being used. It’s a useful technique that allows for the automatic freeing of memory without the need for explicit allocation and de-allocation, but it can slow down the program.
In conclusion, memory allocation is a vital process in computing. Without it, programs would not be able to function correctly. As a programmer, you must ensure that the memory allocation is done efficiently, and that the memory is promptly de-allocated when it is no longer needed to avoid memory leaks. Whether it is dynamic or static memory allocation, the process should be done with care to ensure the effective functioning of the program.