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Visual Studio Docs. Visual Studio Dev Essentials. Some other programming languages address these problems by using more restrictive reference types. See also: C string Array types in C are traditionally of a fixed, static size specified at compile time. The more recent C99 standard also allows a form of variable-length arrays. However, it is also possible to allocate a block of memory of arbitrary size at run-time, using the standard library's malloc function, and treat it as an array.
C's unification of arrays and pointers means that declared arrays and these dynamically allocated simulated arrays are virtually interchangeable. Since arrays are always accessed in effect via pointers, array accesses are typically not checked against the underlying array size, although some compilers may provide bounds checking as an option. If bounds checking is desired, it must be done manually.
C does not have a special provision for declaring multi-dimensional arrays , but rather relies on recursion within the type system to declare arrays of arrays, which effectively accomplishes the same thing. The index values of the resulting "multi-dimensional array" can be thought of as increasing in row-major order.
Multi-dimensional arrays are commonly used in numerical algorithms mainly from applied linear algebra to store matrices. The structure of the C array is well suited to this particular task. However, since arrays are passed merely as pointers, the bounds of the array must be known fixed values or else explicitly passed to any subroutine that requires them, and dynamically sized arrays of arrays cannot be accessed using double indexing.
A workaround for this is to allocate the array with an additional "row vector" of pointers to the columns. C99 introduced "variable-length arrays" which address some, but not all, of the issues with ordinary C arrays.
Furthermore, in most expression contexts a notable exception is as operand of sizeof , the name of an array is automatically converted to a pointer to the array's first element. This implies that an array is never copied as a whole when named as an argument to a function, but rather only the address of its first element is passed.
Therefore, although function calls in C use pass-by-value semantics, arrays are in effect passed by reference. The latter only applies to array names: variables declared with subscripts int A.
However, arrays created by dynamic allocation are accessed by pointers rather than true array variables, so they suffer from the same sizeof issues as array pointers. Thus, despite this apparent equivalence between array and pointer variables, there is still a distinction to be made between them. Even though the name of an array is, in most expression contexts, converted into a pointer to its first element , this pointer does not itself occupy any storage; the array name is not an l-value , and its address is a constant, unlike a pointer variable.
Consequently, what an array "points to" cannot be changed, and it is impossible to assign a new address to an array name. Array contents may be copied, however, by using the memcpy function, or by accessing the individual elements.
Memory management[ edit ] One of the most important functions of a programming language is to provide facilities for managing memory and the objects that are stored in memory.
C provides three distinct ways to allocate memory for objects:  Static memory allocation : space for the object is provided in the binary at compile-time; these objects have an extent or lifetime as long as the binary which contains them is loaded into memory.
Automatic memory allocation : temporary objects can be stored on the stack , and this space is automatically freed and reusable after the block in which they are declared is exited. Dynamic memory allocation : blocks of memory of arbitrary size can be requested at run-time using library functions such as malloc from a region of memory called the heap ; these blocks persist until subsequently freed for reuse by calling the library function realloc or free These three approaches are appropriate in different situations and have various trade-offs.
For example, static memory allocation has little allocation overhead, automatic allocation may involve slightly more overhead, and dynamic memory allocation can potentially have a great deal of overhead for both allocation and deallocation. The persistent nature of static objects is useful for maintaining state information across function calls, automatic allocation is easy to use but stack space is typically much more limited and transient than either static memory or heap space, and dynamic memory allocation allows convenient allocation of objects whose size is known only at run-time.
Most C programs make extensive use of all three. Where possible, automatic or static allocation is usually simplest because the storage is managed by the compiler, freeing the programmer of the potentially error-prone chore of manually allocating and releasing storage. However, many data structures can change in size at runtime, and since static allocations and automatic allocations before C99 must have a fixed size at compile-time, there are many situations in which dynamic allocation is necessary.
See the article on malloc for an example of dynamically allocated arrays. Unlike automatic allocation, which can fail at run time with uncontrolled consequences, the dynamic allocation functions return an indication in the form of a null pointer value when the required storage cannot be allocated.
Static allocation that is too large is usually detected by the linker or loader , before the program can even begin execution. Unless otherwise specified, static objects contain zero or null pointer values upon program startup.