Memory management in C++
Most of the time, you will hear people complaining about forums such as Reddit about how complicated C++ is because of the topic of memory management. However, it is a misguided notion and you should not give attention to it. There are indeed instances when you have to allocate memory manually. But the process isn't as complicated as it is driven by people in general. If you do not know anything about memory management, you could learn it within a few hours, if you work out with full concentration. In this article, we are going to introduce you to the world of memory management in C++. Precisely, we will focus on the major functions used in memory allocation.
Before we can proceed further, let's try to explain what this monster word implies. Memory management is a computing concept that refers to the process of controlling all the computer memory to ensure each task functions optimally. Memory management tracks all the memory allocation and deallocation processes. It verifies what memory is allocated to a task and is responsible for determining the processes to which memory should be allocated first.
Importance of memory allocation
The main advantage of memory management is that it helps in ensuring that memory is managed effectively. Take the case of arrays. Normally, arrays can take any type of data, but there is a serious challenge when it comes to memory allocation. At the time of programming, precise memory cannot be allocated. There are two risks that we face. We can allocate memory that is not sufficient or we can opt to err on allocating the maximum memory. The problem here is that if all memory is not used, the unused will go to waste and could not t be allocated to other processes. This calls for dynamic memory allocation.
All this points to the fact that we need to allocate memory dynamically. Dynamic memory allocation makes it possible to automatically adjust the memory location to ensure that all processes and variables are allocated sufficient memory to ensure the optimal running of the operation.
Which memory management operators can I use?
C++ contains the memory management unary operators "new" and "delete". As their name suggests, they allocate and delete the memory. C++ also uses the malloc () and calloc () to allocate memory while free () deletes the memory allocated. These functions are mostly used in C, but since C is a subset of C++ and both have a lot of similarities, they can be used in the two languages. We would recommend using the unary operators new and delete.
The new and delete operator
As explained above, these operators create and reallocate memory. This discredits the idea that a memory allocated lasts for the lifetime of the program. But actually, the memory allocated lasts only till it is deleted explicitly by the delete operator. The delete operator deallocates memory so that it can be freed for other uses.
The new operator syntax is given below.
Pointervariable =new datatype;
Where the pointer variable refers to the pointer variable, new is the unary operator, and datatype refers to the type of data. Additionally, we can allocate memory to an array as shown below.
Pointervariable =new datatype [size];
The syntax for the delete operator is shown below.
Where delete is our unary operator and point variable refers to the name of the pointer variable. We can dedicate a dynamically allocated memory array
delete [size] point variable;
How does the new operator differ from the malloc function?
Obviously, the syntax in the two differ. There are still other differences that are worth noting. They include.
1. Malloc is an inbuilt function while new is an operator.
2. Because new is an operator, it can be overloaded while the malloc function can't be overloaded.
3. Both are memory allocation in a heap, but if there is not sufficient memory in a heap, they throw different kinds of errors. The operator raises an exception while the function returns a null pointer.
Advantages of using the new operator over the malloc function
1. You no longer need to define the size of the memory that needs to be allocated. It's automatically allocated.
2. As in all other C++ operators both the new and delete operators can be overloaded.
3. Allows for data initialization during memory space creation.
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