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Memory allocation

Memory allocation definition

Memory allocation is the process of reserving virtual or physical computer space for a specific purpose (e.g., for computer programs and services to run). Memory allocation is part of the management of computer memory resources, known as memory management. Through memory allocation, computer programs and services are assigned a specific memory portion, depending on how much memory they need.

How memory allocation works

  • Memory allocation is a computer hardware operation managed through the operating system.
  • Through the process of memory allocation, a portion of the computer memory is set aside for running programs and processes. How much memory is allocated depends on the program’s requirements.
  • When the program or application has finished its operation, the memory is released and assigned to another program.

Types of memory allocation

  • Static memory allocation (compile-time). Programs and services are allocated memory at compile time. Compile time refers to the period when the programming code is converted to machine code for the computer to understand.
  • Dynamic memory allocation (run-time). Programs and services are allocated memory at run time or execution time. Dynamic memory allocation allows computers to use memory space more efficiently.

See also: analog computer, memory dump