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Definition: garbage collection

(1) Garbage collection is a function of an operating system or programming language that reclaims memory no longer in use. For example, Java and .NET have built-in garbage collection, but C and C++ do not, and programmers have to write the code to allocate and deallocate, which is tedious and error prone. See dynamic memory allocation and memory allocation.

(2) In a flash memory-based solid state drive (SSD), the garbage collection function improves write speed by erasing blocks of unused storage in the background. Flash memory requires blocks to be erased before they can be written, and having empty blocks available saves time when writing new data on the drive. See TRIM support, flash memory and solid state drive.