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๐Ÿ“š Understanding Value Types and Reference Types in C#


๐Ÿ’ก Newskategorie: Programmierung
๐Ÿ”— Quelle: dev.to

All C# data types are categorized based on how they store their value in the memory. C# includes the following categories of data types:

  • Value types
  • Reference types
  • Generic type parameters
  • Pointer types

In this article we will discuss the value types and reference types in C#, and value types and reference types are the two primary data types in C#.

Value types in C#

A value type in C# is a data type that directly stores its data within its allocated memory space. This means that variables of these types hold their actual values directly, without referencing another memory location. Understanding value types is fundamental in programming for efficient memory management and faster data access.

For example:

int i = 100; 

In C#, int is a value type. When you declare a variable i and assign it the value of 100, the variable i directly contains the value 100 within its own memory space. This means that the memory required to hold the value 100 is allocated directly to the variable i.

Image showing how a value type datatype stores in memory
Here's another example:

int i = 100;
int j = i;
int k = 200;
int l = k;
  • As we know int is a value type in C#. It stores a specific numeric value.
  • When i = 100; is executed, memory is allocated to store the value 100 in the variable i.
  • j = i; copies the value stored in i (which is 100) and assigns it to j. Now, j also contains the value 100.
  • Similarly, k = 200; allocates memory for k and stores the value 200.
  • l = k; copies the value stored in k (which is 200) and assigns it to l. Consequently, l also holds the value 200.

Image showing how multiple variables of value type datatype are stored in memory

Each variable (i, j, k, l) stores its own distinct copy of the assigned value. Modifications to one variable won't affect the others because they contain independent copies of the assigned values. This is characteristic of value types in C#, where each variable maintains its own data.

Explore essential C# built-in value types

Reference types in C#

Unlike value types, reference types are data types that store references to the actual data rather than storing the data directly in the memory allocated to the variable. This means that variables of reference types hold a reference (memory address) to the location where the data is stored rather than the data itself. Understanding reference types is essential for handling complicated data structures as well as dynamic memory allocation and sharing.

For example:

string s = "Hello World!!"; 
  • System randomly allocates memory location ( 0x111111) for variable s.
  • Value of variable s is 0x1222, representing the memory address of the actual data value.
  • Reference types store memory addresses where the actual values are stored instead of the values themselves.
  • Variables of reference types, like s, hold addresses pointing to the actual memory location of the data.
  • Reference types optimize memory by allowing multiple variables to reference the same data if it's identical.

Image showing how multiple variables of reference type datatype are stored in memory

conclusion

Comprehending the distinction between value types and reference types in C# is fundamental for efficient memory management and data handling. Value types store data directly within allocated memory, enhancing performance by reducing indirection. On the other hand, reference types store memory addresses, enabling dynamic memory allocation and facilitating complex data structures. Mastering these concepts empowers developers to optimize memory usage, create robust applications, and leverage the strengths of each type in crafting effective and scalable C# programs.

Enhance your programming knowledge! #CSharp #DotNET #ValueTypes

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