Destroying Objects (Garbage Collection) in Python

Python deletes unneeded objects (built-in types or class instances) automatically to free the memory space. The process by which Python periodically reclaims blocks of memory that no longer are in use is termed 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 −

 Live Demo

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 the following result −

3083401324 3083401324 3083401324
Point destroyed

Note − Ideally, you should define your classes in separate file, then you should import them in your main program file using import statement.