Java: Out-of-Memory Errors in the JVM

Java, a popular programming language, relies on the JVM to execute Java bytecode. The JVM provides a managed runtime environment that handles memory allocation and garbage collection, among other tasks. However, even with the JVM’s memory management capabilities, developers may encounter Out-of-Memory Errors when their applications consume more memory than the JVM can provide.

Understanding these errors is crucial for Java developers as it allows them to diagnose and resolve memory-related issues effectively. By comprehending the causes and symptoms of Out-of-Memory Errors, developers can optimize memory usage, adjust JVM memory parameters, and adopt best practices to prevent these errors from occurring.

In the subsequent sections, we will delve into the specifics of memory management in Java, explore common types of Out-of-Memory Errors, discuss approaches for handling these errors, and highlight best practices for efficient memory management.

Memory Management in Java

Memory management is one of the most important aspects of Java programming, as it affects the performance and reliability of the application. In this section, we will explore how Java manages memory and what are the benefits and challenges of its approach.

Explanation of Java’s Memory Model

Java’s memory model consists of two main components: the Java Heap and the Java Stack.

The Java Heap is a region of memory used for dynamic memory allocation. It is divided into two sections: the young generation and the old generation. Objects are initially allocated in the young generation, and as they survive garbage collection cycles, they may be promoted to the old generation.

The Java Stack, on the other hand, stores method invocations and local variables. Each thread in a Java application has its own Java Stack, which is organized as a stack data structure. As methods are invoked, their respective stack frames are pushed onto the stack, and when methods complete execution, their frames are popped off.

Overview of the Java Heap and Stack

The Java Heap is responsible for dynamically allocating memory for objects. When an object is created using the ‘new’ keyword, memory is allocated on the Java Heap to store that object’s data. The size of the Java Heap is determined by JVM parameters and can be adjusted according to the requirements of the application.

On the other hand, the Java Stack handles method invocations and local variables. It keeps track of the execution context for each thread, including the currently executing method and the values of its local variables. As methods are invoked, their stack frames are created and pushed onto the Java Stack.

Introduction to Garbage Collection

Garbage collection is a crucial aspect of Java’s memory management. It automatically reclaims memory occupied by objects that are no longer in use, freeing up resources for future allocations. The Java Virtual Machine (JVM) includes a garbage collector that periodically identifies and collects unreferenced objects.

The garbage collector employs different algorithms to manage memory, including mark-and-sweep, generational, and concurrent garbage collection. These algorithms identify objects that are still in use and mark them as live, while unreferenced objects are marked as garbage and subsequently removed from memory.

The garbage collector’s primary goal is to minimize pauses in application execution, known as garbage collection pauses, by performing garbage collection activities concurrently with the application’s operation.

Understanding how the Java Heap, Java Stack, and garbage collection work together is vital for efficient memory management in Java applications. By comprehending these concepts, developers can optimize memory usage, avoid memory leaks, and ensure the smooth execution of their applications.

In the next section, we will delve into common Out-of-Memory Errors that developers may encounter and provide insights into diagnosing and troubleshooting these issues effectively.

Common Out-of-Memory Errors

In this section, we will explore some common Out-of-Memory Errors that Java developers may encounter and discuss their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and potential solutions.

Out-of-Memory Error: Java Heap Space

The Out-of-Memory Error related to Java Heap Space occurs when the JVM is unable to allocate more memory for Java objects on the Java Heap. This error typically arises when applications consume excessive amounts of memory or encounter memory leaks.


  • Creating too many objects or large objects that exceed the available heap space.
  • Inefficient memory usage due to improper data structures or algorithms.
  • Retaining references to objects unintentionally, preventing their garbage collection.


  • The application throws an Out-of-Memory Error with the message “Java Heap Space” or similar.
  • The application may exhibit slow performance or become unresponsive before the error occurs.


  • Analyze the heap usage by enabling JVM options like -XX:+HeapDumpOnOutOfMemoryError to generate a heap dump when the error occurs.
  • Use profiling tools like Java VisualVM or YourKit to inspect heap usage, object sizes, and identify potential memory leaks.


  • Review and optimize your code to reduce memory consumption.
  • Employ efficient data structures and algorithms to minimize object creation and memory usage.
  • Use appropriate collection classes and consider alternatives like streaming and lazy loading.
  • Identify and resolve memory leaks by ensuring proper object lifecycle management, releasing resources, and nullifying unnecessary references.

Here’s an example showcasing a potential cause of Java Heap Space Out-of-Memory Error:

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

public class HeapSpaceErrorExample {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        List<byte[]> listOfArrays = new ArrayList<>();
        try {
            while (true) {
                byte[] array = new byte[1024 * 1024]; // Allocate 1MB of memory
        } catch (OutOfMemoryError e) {
            System.out.println("Java Heap Space Out-of-Memory Error occurred!");

In the above example, an ArrayList is continuously populated with 1MB byte arrays, leading to excessive memory consumption and eventually triggering an Out-of-Memory Error.

Out-of-Memory Error: Metaspace

The Out-of-Memory Error related to Metaspace occurs when the JVM’s Metaspace, which stores metadata about classes, methods, and other runtime artifacts, is exhausted.


  • Loading a large number of classes or dynamically generating classes at runtime.
  • Inadequate Metaspace size configuration for the application.


  • The application throws an Out-of-Memory Error with the message “Metaspace” or similar.
  • Class loading or generation operations fail.


  • Monitor Metaspace usage using JVM options like -XX:+PrintGCDetails or -XX:+PrintGC.
  • Analyze the application’s class loading and generation behavior.


  • Adjust the Metaspace size using JVM options such as -XX:MaxMetaspaceSize.
  • Review the application’s class loading and generation mechanisms for optimization.
  • Consider using class sharing or ahead-of-time (AOT) compilation to reduce Metaspace usage.

Here’s an example demonstrating a potential cause of Metaspace Out-of-Memory Error:


public class MetaspaceErrorExample {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        JavaCompiler compiler = ToolProvider.getSystemJavaCompiler();
        try {
            while (true) {
                // Dynamically generate a new class at runtime
                String className = "GeneratedClass" + System.currentTimeMillis();
                String sourceCode = "public class " + className + " {}";
      , null, null, sourceCode);
        } catch (OutOfMemoryError e) {
            System.out.println("Metaspace Out-of-Memory Error occurred!");

In the above example, a new class is dynamically generated at runtime within an infinite loop, leading to continuous class loading and Metaspace consumption, eventually resulting in an Out-of-Memory Error.

Out-of-Memory Error: Native Memory

The Out-of-Memory Error related to Native Memory occurs when a Java application exhausts the available native memory, which is memory outside of the JVM’s heap allocated by the operating system.


  • Using native libraries that consume significant native memory.
  • Inefficient usage of native resources or failure to release them.
  • Inadequate system configuration for native memory allocation.


  • The application throws an Out-of-Memory Error with the message “Native Memory” or similar.
  • System-level errors or crashes may occur.


  • Monitor the application’s native memory usage using operating system tools or specialized profiling tools.
  • Analyze native libraries and resources utilized by the application.


  • Optimize the usage of native libraries and resources, ensuring proper cleanup and disposal.
  • Tune system-level configurations for native memory allocation.
  • Consider using tools like jcmd or jmap to generate memory maps and analyze native memory consumption.

Understanding and addressing these common Out-of-Memory Errors will empower Java developers to effectively diagnose, troubleshoot, and resolve memory-related issues. In the next section, we will discuss various techniques for handling these errors, including adjusting JVM memory parameters and utilizing profiling and monitoring tools.

Handling Out-of-Memory Errors

In this section, we will explore techniques for handling Out-of-Memory Errors in Java. We will discuss adjusting JVM memory parameters and utilizing profiling and monitoring tools to diagnose and mitigate memory-related issues.

Adjusting JVM Memory Parameters

To effectively manage memory in your Java applications, you can adjust JVM memory parameters that control the size of the Java Heap and other memory-related settings. By optimizing these parameters, you can allocate sufficient memory to meet your application’s requirements and minimize the occurrence of Out-of-Memory Errors.

  • Setting JVM Memory Parameters
    • -Xms: Sets the initial size of the Java Heap.
    • -Xmx: Sets the maximum size of the Java Heap.
    • -XX:MaxMetaspaceSize: Configures the maximum size of the Metaspace.
      For example, to allocate 2 GB of initial and maximum heap space, you can use the following JVM options:

      java -Xms2g -Xmx2g MyApp
  • Recommended Practices
    • Ensure that the maximum heap size (-Xmx) is appropriately configured based on your application’s memory requirements.
    • Monitor your application’s memory usage and adjust the heap size accordingly to prevent excessive memory consumption.
    • Consider using tools like JConsole or VisualVM to monitor memory usage and fine-tune JVM memory parameters.

Profiling and Monitoring Tools

Profiling and monitoring tools are invaluable for identifying memory-related issues, diagnosing memory leaks, and optimizing memory usage in Java applications. These tools provide insights into memory allocation, object lifecycles, and can help pinpoint problematic areas of your code.

  1. Profiling Tools
    • Java VisualVM: A comprehensive profiling tool included with the Java Development Kit (JDK). It allows you to monitor memory usage, analyze garbage collection behavior, and profile CPU performance.
    • YourKit: A powerful Java profiler that provides deep insights into memory usage, CPU profiling, and thread analysis.
  2. Monitoring Tools
    • JConsole: A lightweight monitoring tool included with the JDK. It provides real-time monitoring of memory usage, thread activity, and JVM performance metrics.
    • Java Mission Control (JMC): A feature-rich monitoring and diagnostics tool that offers detailed information about memory usage, garbage collection, and overall JVM performance.

By utilizing these tools, you can identify memory-intensive areas of your application, detect memory leaks, and optimize memory usage through proper object lifecycle management and resource cleanup.

Here’s an example showcasing the usage of JConsole for monitoring memory usage:

  1. Start your Java application with the following JVM options to enable JMX monitoring:
    java MyApp
  2. Launch JConsole and connect to your running application by specifying the JMX port (9010 in this example).
  3. In JConsole, navigate to the Memory tab to view real-time memory usage, including heap and non-heap memory pools, garbage collection statistics, and more.

By leveraging profiling and monitoring tools, you can gain valuable insights into your application’s memory usage, identify bottlenecks, and make informed decisions to optimize memory management.

In the next section, we will discuss best practices for memory management, including efficient memory usage and resource cleanup techniques, to prevent Out-of-Memory Errors and enhance the performance of your Java applications.

Best Practices for Memory Management

In this section, we will discuss essential best practices for memory management in Java. By following these practices, you can optimize memory usage, prevent memory leaks, and enhance the overall performance and stability of your Java applications.

Use Efficient Data Structures and Algorithms

  1. Choose the appropriate data structure: Select data structures that are well-suited for the task at hand. For example, use ArrayList when dynamic resizing is required, or LinkedList for frequent insertions and removals.
  2. Optimize collection classes: Utilize collection classes such as HashMap or HashSet with the correct initial capacity to minimize resizing operations, thereby reducing memory overhead.
    Map<String, Integer> map = new HashMap<>(1000); // Specify initial capacity
    Set<String> set = new HashSet<>(500); // Specify initial capacity
  3. Implement efficient algorithms: Employ algorithms that minimize memory consumption. For example, use streaming and lazy loading techniques instead of loading all data into memory at once.

Practice Proper Object Lifecycle Management

  1. Release resources promptly: Ensure timely release of resources like file handles, database connections, or network sockets. Use try-with-resources or finally blocks to guarantee resource cleanup.
    try (FileInputStream fis = new FileInputStream("myfile.txt")) {
        // Read and process file data
    } catch (IOException e) {
        // Handle exception
  2. Nullify references: Nullify references to objects that are no longer needed, allowing the garbage collector to reclaim their memory.
    MyObject obj = new MyObject();
    // Perform operations with obj
    obj = null; // Nullify the reference when obj is no longer needed

Minimize Object Creation

  1. Reuse objects: Whenever possible, reuse objects instead of creating new ones. This reduces the memory overhead associated with object creation and garbage collection.
    StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder();
    for (int i = 0; i < 100; i++) {
        sb.append("data"); // Reuse the same StringBuilder instance
  2. Use immutable objects: Immutable objects are thread-safe and can be safely shared among multiple threads without the need for synchronization. This reduces the memory overhead of creating multiple instances.
    String message = "Hello, world!"; // Immutable String object

Implement Proper Exception Handling

  1. Catch specific exceptions: Catch only the exceptions that you can handle effectively. Catching overly general exceptions can lead to excessive memory consumption and may mask underlying issues.
    try {
        // Perform operations that may throw specific exceptions
    } catch (SpecificException e) {
        // Handle the specific exception
  2. Log and handle exceptions gracefully: Log exceptions and handle them gracefully to prevent application crashes and potential memory leaks. Proper exception handling ensures resources are released correctly.

Perform Regular Testing and Profiling

  1. Conduct memory profiling: Use profiling tools like YourKit or Java VisualVM to analyze memory usage, detect memory leaks, and identify areas of improvement.
  2. Conduct load testing: Simulate heavy workloads to assess the application’s memory usage and ensure it can handle peak usage without encountering Out-of-Memory Errors.

By adhering to these best practices, you can optimize memory usage, prevent memory leaks, and promote efficient memory management in your Java applications. Remember to regularly monitor and analyze your application’s memory behavior to continuously improve its performance and stability.


In conclusion, this tutorial has provided a comprehensive understanding of Out-of-Memory Errors in the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and offered insights into effective memory management techniques. We explored common Out-of-Memory Errors, such as Java Heap Space, Metaspace, and Native Memory errors, along with their causes, symptoms, and diagnosis. We discussed the importance of adjusting JVM memory parameters and utilizing profiling and monitoring tools to handle memory-related issues.

Moreover, we emphasized best practices for memory management, including using efficient data structures and algorithms, practicing proper object lifecycle management, minimizing object creation, implementing proper exception handling, and conducting regular testing and profiling. Ensure to visit the Troubleshooting Java Applications page for a wider range of tutorials that tackle different Java errors.

Frequently asked questions

  • How can I determine the optimal values for JVM memory parameters like -Xms and -Xmx?
    The optimal values for JVM memory parameters depend on various factors, including the size and complexity of your application, anticipated workload, and available system resources. It is recommended to monitor your application’s memory usage using profiling tools and perform load testing to determine suitable values for these parameters.
  • How can I identify and resolve memory leaks in my Java application?
    Memory leaks can be identified by analyzing heap dumps or using profiling tools that track object allocations and deallocations. Look for objects that are not being garbage collected despite being no longer in use. To resolve memory leaks, review your code for potential issues such as unintended object retention, unclosed resources, or circular references, and ensure proper release of resources and nullification of unnecessary references.
  • Can Out-of-Memory Errors be completely eliminated?
    While it is challenging to completely eliminate the possibility of Out-of-Memory Errors, following best practices for memory management and regularly monitoring your application’s memory usage can significantly reduce the occurrence of such errors. Proper resource management, efficient algorithms, and appropriate memory parameter tuning can help mitigate the risk of running out of memory.
  • Are there any tools available to automatically tune JVM memory parameters?
    Yes, there are tools like GC algorithms and memory management frameworks, such as G1GC, CMS, or Shenandoah, which can automatically adjust JVM memory parameters based on the application’s memory usage patterns. These tools aim to optimize memory utilization and reduce the likelihood of Out-of-Memory Errors. However, it is still essential to monitor and fine-tune these parameters based on your specific application’s requirements.
  • How can I monitor memory usage and diagnose memory-related issues in my Java application?
    There are several monitoring and profiling tools available, such as Java VisualVM, YourKit, JConsole, and Java Mission Control (JMC), which provide insights into memory usage, object allocation, garbage collection behavior, and more. These tools enable you to identify memory-intensive areas, detect memory leaks, and optimize memory management in your application.