Difference between malloc() and calloc() in c language?

Major differences

  • First, is in the number of arguments. Malloc() takes a single argument (memory required in bytes), while calloc() needs two arguments.
  • Secondly, malloc() does not initialize the memory allocated, while calloc() initializes the allocated memory to ZERO.

calloc() allocates a memory area, the length will be the product of its parameters. calloc fills the memory with ZERO’s and returns a pointer to first byte. If it fails to locate enough space it returns a NULL pointer.
Syntax: ptr_var=(cast_type *)calloc(no_of_blocks , size_of_each_block);
i.e. ptr_var=(type *)calloc(n,s);

malloc() allocates a single block of memory of REQUSTED SIZE and returns a pointer to first byte. If it fails to locate requsted amount of memory it returns a null pointer.
Syntax: ptr_var=(cast_type *)malloc(Size_in_bytes);
The malloc() function take one argument, which is the number of bytes to allocate, while the calloc() function takes two arguments, one being the number of elements, and the other being the number of bytes to allocate for each of those elements. Also, calloc() initializes the allocated space to zeroes, while malloc() does not.

A less known difference is that in operating systems with optimistic memory allocation, like Linux, the pointer returned by malloc isn’t backed by real memory until the program actually touches it.

calloc does indeed touch the memory (it writes zeroes on it) and thus you’ll be sure the OS is backing the allocation with actual RAM (or swap). This is also why it is slower than malloc (not only does it have to zero it, the OS must also find a suitable memory area by possibly swapping out other processes)

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