Finalize Methods and Destructors

For the majority of the objects that your application creates, you can rely on the .NET Framework's garbage collector to implicitly perform all the necessary memory management tasks. However, when you create objects that encapsulate unmanaged resources, you must explicitly release the unmanaged resources when you are finished using them in your application. The most common type of unmanaged resource is an object that wraps an operating system resource, such as a file, window, or network connection. Although the garbage collector is able to track the lifetime of an object that encapsulates an unmanaged resource, it does not have specific knowledge about how to clean up the resource. For these types of objects, the .NET Framework provides the Object.Finalize method, which allows an object to clean up its unmanaged resources properly when the garbage collector reclaims the memory used by the object. By default, the Finalize method does nothing. If you want the garbage collector to perform cleanup operations on your object before it reclaims the object's memory, you must override the Finalize method in your class.


To implement the Finalize method in C#, you must use destructor syntax. In the .NET Framework version 2.0, Visual C++ provides its own syntax for implementing the Finalize method, as described in How to: Define and Consume Classes and Structs (C++/CLI). In the .NET Framework version 1.0 and 1.1, Visual C++ used destructor syntax for the Finalize method, as C# does.

The garbage collector keeps track of objects that have Finalize methods, using an internal structure called the finalization queue. Each time your application creates an object that has a Finalize method, the garbage collector places an entry in the finalization queue that points to that object. The finalization queue contains entries for all the objects in the managed heap that need to have their finalization code called before the garbage collector can reclaim their memory.


The code example provided for the GC.KeepAlive method shows how aggressive garbage collection can cause a finalizer to run while a member of the reclaimed object is still executing, and how to use the KeepAlive method to prevent this.

A Finalize method should not throw exceptions, because they cannot be handled by the application and can cause the application to terminate.

Implementing Finalize methods or destructors can have a negative impact on performance and you should avoid using them unnecessarily. Reclaiming the memory used by objects with Finalize methods requires at least two garbage collections. When the garbage collector performs a collection, it reclaims the memory for inaccessible objects without finalizers. At this time, it cannot collect the inaccessible objects that do have finalizers. Instead, it removes the entries for these objects from the finalization queue and places them in a list of objects marked as ready for finalization. Entries in this list point to the objects in the managed heap that are ready to have their finalization code called. The garbage collector calls the Finalize methods for the objects in this list and then removes the entries from the list. A future garbage collection will determine that the finalized objects are truly garbage because they are no longer pointed to by entries in the list of objects marked as ready for finalization. In this future garbage collection, the objects' memory is actually reclaimed.

See Also




Overriding the Finalize Method

Destructor Syntax in C# and C++