Old Generation

The implementation for the Old Generation memory space is much more complex. Old Generation is usually significantly larger and is occupied by objects that are less likely to be garbage.

GC in the Old Generation happens less frequently than in the Young Generation. Also, since most objects are expected to be alive in the Old Generation, there is no Mark and Copy happening. Instead, the objects are moved around to minimize fragmentation. The algorithms cleaning the Old space are generally built on different foundations. In principle, the steps taken go through the following:

  • Mark reachable objects by setting the marked bit next to all objects accessible through GC roots
  • Delete all unreachable objects
  • Compact the content of old space by copying the live objects contiguously to the beginning of the Old space

As you can see from the description, GC in Old Generation has to deal with explicit compacting to avoid excessive fragmentation.