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Memory leak

Quick Definition

A memory leak is a common type of bug that plagues all forms of software. It occurs when a program isn't managing its resources properly, slowly leading to a situation where the will run out of available memory and crash.

More details

All programs, including operating systems, are provided with a limited amount of space to do their tasks. To work within this limitation, they reserve portions of their space for specific information, and then clear that space when the information is no longer needed. Ideally, the amount a program clears is the same amount it reserved, but sometimes some of the space remains allocated instead. Eventually, there won't be enough free spots for new information the program needs to store, causing it to crash.

From the perspective of a user, a memory leak can be seen as a gradual slowing down. The longer they use a program, the slower things become. Another common symptom of a memory leak is strange behavior of objects within a game. Objects that should disappear will instead remain in the game like some sort of ghost. While they are visible, they cannot be interacted with and don't seem to obey the game's usual physics.

By the time these symptoms have become apparent, the memory leak has caused a majority of the program's available space to be rendered useless and the program is about to crash.