You are currently viewing Understanding and Handling OutOfMemoryError in Java

Understanding and Handling OutOfMemoryError in Java

  • Post author:
  • Post category:Java
  • Post comments:0 Comments
  • Post last modified:May 29, 2024

The OutOfMemoryError in Java is a runtime error that occurs when the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) cannot allocate an object because it is out of memory, and no more memory could be made available by the garbage collector. This error can be tricky to handle and diagnose but understanding its causes and solutions is crucial for developing robust Java applications.

Table of Contents

  1. What is OutOfMemoryError?
  2. Types of OutOfMemoryError
  3. Common Causes
  4. Examples and Solutions
  5. Prevention Tips
  6. Monitoring and Debugging
  7. Conclusion

What is OutOfMemoryError?

The OutOfMemoryError is a subclass of java.lang.VirtualMachineError. It indicates that the JVM has run out of memory and cannot allocate more to new objects. Unlike exceptions, which are conditions that an application might want to catch, errors typically represent conditions that are external to the application and that the application usually cannot anticipate or recover from.

Types of OutOfMemoryError

There are several types of OutOfMemoryError that you might encounter:

  • Java heap space: The most common form, occurring when the heap memory is exhausted.
  • GC overhead limit exceeded: Occurs when the garbage collector is spending too much time collecting and too little time executing application code.
  • Metaspace: Happens when the Metaspace, which holds class metadata, runs out of memory.
  • Direct buffer memory: Occurs when the JVM runs out of direct buffer memory.

Common Causes

  1. Memory Leaks: When objects are unintentionally retained, preventing the garbage collector from reclaiming memory.
  2. Large Data Sets: Handling very large data structures or collections.
  3. Infinite Loops or Recursions: Leading to unbounded memory use.
  4. Incorrect JVM Settings: Insufficient heap size allocated for the application.

Examples and Solutions

Example 1: Heap Space

Cause: Creating a large number of objects without releasing them can exhaust the heap memory.

Code Example:

import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.List;

public class HeapSpaceExample {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        List<String> list = new ArrayList<>();
        while (true) {
            list.add("OutOfMemoryError example");


  • Increase Heap Size: You can increase the heap size using JVM options:
  java -Xmx1024m HeapSpaceExample
  • Optimize Code: Ensure proper memory management by releasing objects when they are no longer needed.

Example 2: Metaspace

Cause: Loading too many classes can exhaust the Metaspace.

Code Example:

import javassist.ClassPool;

public class MetaspaceExample {
    public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {
        ClassPool pool = ClassPool.getDefault();
        for (int i = 0; i < Integer.MAX_VALUE; i++) {
            Class<?> c = pool.makeClass("Class" + i).toClass();


  • Increase Metaspace Size: Adjust the Metaspace size with JVM options:
  java -XX:MaxMetaspaceSize=256m MetaspaceExample

Example 3: Stack Overflow

Cause: Deep recursion without termination can cause stack overflow.

Code Example:

public class StackOverflowExample {
    public static void main(String[] args) {

    public static void recurse() {


  • Refactor Code: Avoid deep recursion and use iterative solutions where possible.
  • Increase Stack Size: You can increase the stack size with JVM options:
  java -Xss2m StackOverflowExample

Prevention Tips

  1. Monitor Memory Usage: Regularly check memory usage using profiling tools.
  2. Optimize Data Structures: Use efficient data structures and algorithms.
  3. Limit Object Lifetimes: Nullify references to objects that are no longer needed.
  4. Use Proper JVM Settings: Configure JVM settings based on application requirements.

Monitoring and Debugging

  1. Java VisualVM: A visual tool to monitor and troubleshoot applications.
  2. JConsole: A monitoring tool that comes with the JDK.
  3. Heap Dumps: Analyzing heap dumps can help identify memory leaks.
   jmap -dump:live,format=b,file=heapdump.hprof <pid>


Handling OutOfMemoryError requires a thorough understanding of your application’s memory usage and efficient coding practices. By monitoring memory consumption, optimizing code, and configuring the JVM appropriately, you can prevent and manage OutOfMemoryError effectively.

Leave a Reply