Garbage collection (GC) is a form of automatic memory management which attempts to reclaim garbage, or memory occupied by objects that are no longer in use by the program.

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At the first sight, garbage collection should be dealing with what the name suggests – finding and throwing away the garbage. In reality it is doing exactly the opposite. Garbage Collection is tracking down all the objects which are still used and marks the rest as garbage.

C# (and any language that runs on the CLR) is a garbage-collected language, meaning that objects that have no references to them remaining will have their memory reclaimed at some point in the future. Creating too much garbage (by creating too many ephemeral objects or over-using the new keyword) can induce the garbage-collector too frequently, slowing down the entire application.

Fortunately there is a straight-forward way to capture the raw GC related events, using the excellent TraceEvent library that provides a wrapper over the underlying ETW Events the .NET GC outputs.

GC pauses are a popular topic, if you do a google search, you’ll see lots of articles explaining how to measure and more importantly how to reduce them. This issue is that in most runtimes that have a GC, allocating objects is a quick operation, but at some point in time the GC will need to clean up all the garbage and to do this is has to pause the entire runtime.

The Go team not only claim to have solved the problem of GC pauses, but also made the entire thing brainless. The reality is that Go’s GC does not really implement any new ideas or research. As their announcement admits, it is a straightforward concurrent mark/sweep collector based on ideas from the 1970s. It is notable only because it has been designed to optimise for pause times at the cost of absolutely every other desirable characteristic in a GC.