How does garbage collection work in Python?

Python deletes unwanted objects (built-in types or class instances) automatically to free the memory space. The process by which Python periodically frees and reclaims blocks of memory that no longer are in use is called Garbage Collection.

Python's garbage collector runs during program execution and is triggered when an object's reference count reaches zero. An object's reference count changes as the number of aliases that point to it changes.

An object's reference count increases when it is assigned a new name or placed in a container (list, tuple, or dictionary). The object's reference count decreases when it's deleted with del, its reference is reassigned, or its reference goes out of scope. When an object's reference count reaches zero, Python collects it automatically.

a = 40      # Create object <40>
b = a       # Increase ref. count  of <40>
c = [b]     # Increase ref. count  of <40>
del a       # Decrease ref. count  of <40>
b = 100     # Decrease ref. count  of <40>
c[0] = -1   # Decrease ref. count  of <40>

You normally will not notice when the garbage collector destroys an orphaned instance and reclaims its space. But a class can implement the special method __del__(), called a destructor, that is invoked when the instance is about to be destroyed. This method might be used to clean up any non memory resources used by an instance.


This __del__() destructor prints the class name of an instance that is about to be destroyed −

class Point:
   def __init__( self, x=0, y=0):
      self.x = x       self.y = y    def __del__(self):
      class_name = self.__class__.__name__       print class_name, "destroyed"
 pt1 = Point()
pt2 = pt1 pt3 = pt1
print id(pt1), id(pt2), id(pt3) # prints the ids of the obejcts
del pt1
del pt2
del pt3


When the above code is executed, it produces following result −

3083401324 3083401324 3083401324
Point destroyed

Updated on: 13-Jun-2020

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