Re: [Rd] garbage collection & memory leaks in 'R', it seems...

From: Mike Williamson <>
Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2010 11:15:36 -0700


    OK, thanks for the info!

    My work-around for the foreseeable future is to simply launch 'R' from a command line with the --no-save & --no-restore options, then break the program up a bit.


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On Sat, Jul 17, 2010 at 2:11 AM, Peter Dalgaard <> wrote:

> Mike Williamson wrote:
> > Hello developers,
> >
> > I noticed that if I am running 'R', type "rm(list=objects())" and
> > "gc()", 'R' will still be consuming (a lot) more memory than when I then
> > close 'R' and re-open it. In my ignorance, I'm presuming this is
> something
> > in 'R' where it doesn't really do a great job of garbage collection... at
> > least not nearly as well as Windows or unix can do garbage collection.
> > Am I right? If so, is there any better way to "clean up" the memory
> > that 'R' is using? I have a script that runs a fairly large job, and I
> > cannot keep it going on its own in a convenient way because of these
> > remnants of garbage that pile up and eventually leave so little memory
> > remaining that the script crashes.
> In a word, no, R is not particularly bad at GC. The internal gc() does a
> rather good job of finding unused objects as you can see from its
> returned report. Whether that memory is returned to the OS is a matter
> of the C-level services (malloc/free) that R's allocation routines use.
> As far as I recall, Windows free() just never returns memory to the OS.
> In general, whether it can be done at all depends on which part of the
> "heap" you have freed since you have to free from the end of it. (I.e.,
> having a tiny object sitting at the end of the heap will force the
> entire range to be kept in memory.)
> R itself will allocate from freed-up areas of the heap as long as it can
> find a space that is big enough. However, there is always a tendency for
> memory to fragmentize so that you eventually have a pattern of many
> small objects with not-quite-big-enough holes between them.
> These issues affect most languages that do significant amounts of object
> allocation and destruction. You should not really compare it to OS level
> memory management because that's a different kettle of fish. In
> particular, user programs like R relies on having all objects mapped to
> a single linear address space, whereas the OS "just" needs to create a
> set of per-process virtual address spaces and has hardware help to do so.
> >
> --
> Peter Dalgaard
> Center for Statistics, Copenhagen Business School
> Phone: (+45)38153501
> Email: Priv:
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Received on Tue 20 Jul 2010 - 18:34:37 GMT

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