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1. Introduction

In this quick tutorial, we’re going to examine the differences between the PermGen and Metaspace memory regions in the Java environment.

It’s important to keep in mind that, starting with Java 8, the Metaspace replaces the PermGen – bringing some substantial changes.

2. PermGen

PermGen (Permanent Generation) is a special heap space separated from the main memory heap.

The JVM keeps track of loaded class metadata in the PermGen. Additionally, the JVM stores all the static content in this memory section. This includes all the static methods, primitive variables, and references to the static objects.

Furthermore, it contains data about bytecode, names and JIT information. Before Java 7, the String Pool was also part of this memory. The disadvantages of the fixed pool size are listed in our write-up.

The default maximum memory size for 32-bit JVM is 64 MB and 82 MB for the 64-bit version.

However, we can change the default size with the JVM options:

  • -XX:PermSize=[size] is the initial or minimum size of the PermGen space
  • -XX:MaxPermSize=[size] is the maximum size

Most importantly, Oracle completely removed this memory space in JDK 8 release.

With its limited memory size, PermGen is involved in generating the famous OutOfMemoryError. Simply put, the class loaders aren’t garbage collected properly and, as a result, generated a memory leak.

Therefore, we receive a memory space error; this happens mostly on development environment while creating new class loaders.

3. Metaspace

Simply put, Metaspace is a new memory space – starting from the Java 8 version; it has replaced the older PermGen memory space. The most significant difference is how it handles the memory allocation.

As a result, this native memory region grows automatically by default. Here we also have new flags to tune-up the memory:

  • MetaspaceSize and MaxMetaspaceSize – we can set the Metaspace upper bounds.
  • MinMetaspaceFreeRatio – is the minimum percentage of class metadata capacity free after garbage collection
  • MaxMetaspaceFreeRatio – is the maximum percentage of class metadata capacity free after a garbage collection to avoid a reduction in the amount of space

Additionally, the garbage collection process also gains some benefits from this change. The garbage collector now automatically triggers cleaning of the dead classes once the class metadata usage reaches its maximum metaspace size.

Therefore, with this improvement, JVM reduces the chance to get the OutOfMemory error.

Despite all of this improvements, we still need to monitor and tune up the metaspace to avoid memory leaks.

4. Summary

This quick write-up presents a brief description of PermGen and Metaspace memory regions. Additionally, we explained the key differences between each of them.

PermGen is still around with JDK 7 and older versions, but Metaspace offers more flexible and reliable memory usage for our applications.

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Sandeep Rana
Sandeep Rana

So in case of permGen, there was no GC but in case of Meta space there would be GC , so won’t that affect our static objects or cached object that reside in it?

Loredana Crusoveanu

Hey Sandeep,

GC only removes objects that are no longer in use. In the case of metaspace, the GC process is triggered when the max size is reached. In the case of PermGen, you would get an OutOfMemory error.