Getting started with garbage-collection – Enabling verbose gc logging in Java

Normally the jvm’s garbage collection (gc) is transparent to the user (developer/engineer).

GC tuning is normally not required unless the user faces a memory leak or has an application that requires large amount of memory – both of which eventually lead to an out-of-memory exception which compels the user to look into the problem.

The first step is typically to increase the memory (either the heap or the perm-gen/meta-space depending on whether its due to load at runtime or the libary base of the application is large or there is a leak in the classloading or thread-handling mechanism). But whenever that is not feasible, the next step is to try to understand what is going wrong.

If one wants just the snapshot at a particular instant in time, then the jstat utility that is part of the jdk would suffice.

However for a more detailed understanding, it is helpful to have a log containing the snapshot of the heap before and after each gc event. For that the user has to enable verbose gc logging by using the -verbose:gc as part of the jvm startup parameters and including -XX:+PrintGCDetails and -XX:+PrintGCTimeStamp flags.

For those who would like to pro-actively profile their application, there are also tools such as jvisualvm that is also part of the jdk through which they can gain insight into the applications behaviour.

Below is a sample program, the gc configuration and the verbose-gc log output :


import java.util.Arrays;
import java.util.Random;

public class HelloWorld {

    public static void main(String[] args) {
    private static void sortTest() {
        int count = 3;
        while(count-- > 0) {
            int size = 1024*1024;
            int[] numbers = new int[size];
            Random random = new Random();
            for(int i=0;i<size;i++) {
                numbers[i] = random.nextInt(size);


GC Options :

-server -verbose:gc  -XX:+PrintGCDetails -XX:+PrintGCTimeStamps  -Xmx10m  -XX:-PrintTenuringDistribution  -XX:MaxGCPauseMillis=250 -Xloggc:/path/to/logs/verbose_gc.log

Output :

Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (25.72-b15) for windows-amd64 JRE (1.8.0_72-b15), built on Dec 22 2015 19:16:16 by "java_re" with MS VC++ 10.0 (VS2010)
Memory: 4k page, physical 6084464k(2584100k free), swap 8130628k(3993460k free)
CommandLine flags: -XX:InitialHeapSize=10485760 -XX:MaxGCPauseMillis=250 -XX:MaxHeapSize=10485760 -XX:+PrintGC -XX:+PrintGCDetails -XX:+PrintGCTimeStamps -XX:-PrintTenuringDistribution -XX:+UseCompressedClassPointers -XX:+UseCompressedOops -XX:-UseLargePagesIndividualAllocation -XX:+UseParallelGC 
0.398: [GC (Allocation Failure) [PSYoungGen: 483K->432K(2560K)] 4579K->4536K(9728K), 0.0012569 secs] [Times: user=0.00 sys=0.00, real=0.00 secs] 
0.400: [GC (Allocation Failure) [PSYoungGen: 432K->336K(2560K)] 4536K->4440K(9728K), 0.0008121 secs] [Times: user=0.00 sys=0.00, real=0.00 secs] 
0.401: [Full GC (Allocation Failure) [PSYoungGen: 336K->0K(2560K)] [ParOldGen: 4104K->294K(5632K)] 4440K->294K(8192K), [Metaspace: 2616K->2616K(1056768K)], 0.0056202 secs] [Times: user=0.00 sys=0.00, real=0.01 secs] 
0.555: [GC (Allocation Failure) [PSYoungGen: 41K->0K(2560K)] 4431K->4390K(9728K), 0.0004678 secs] [Times: user=0.00 sys=0.00, real=0.00 secs] 
0.555: [GC (Allocation Failure) [PSYoungGen: 0K->0K(2560K)] 4390K->4390K(9728K), 0.0003490 secs] [Times: user=0.00 sys=0.00, real=0.00 secs] 
0.556: [Full GC (Allocation Failure) [PSYoungGen: 0K->0K(2560K)] [ParOldGen: 4390K->293K(5632K)] 4390K->293K(8192K), [Metaspace: 2619K->2619K(1056768K)], 0.0060187 secs] [Times: user=0.00 sys=0.00, real=0.01 secs] 
 PSYoungGen      total 2560K, used 82K [0x00000000ffd00000, 0x0000000100000000, 0x0000000100000000)
  eden space 2048K, 4% used [0x00000000ffd00000,0x00000000ffd14938,0x00000000fff00000)
  from space 512K, 0% used [0x00000000fff80000,0x00000000fff80000,0x0000000100000000)
  to   space 512K, 0% used [0x00000000fff00000,0x00000000fff00000,0x00000000fff80000)
 ParOldGen       total 5632K, used 4389K [0x00000000ff600000, 0x00000000ffb80000, 0x00000000ffd00000)
  object space 5632K, 77% used [0x00000000ff600000,0x00000000ffa49670,0x00000000ffb80000)
 Metaspace       used 2625K, capacity 4486K, committed 4864K, reserved 1056768K
  class space    used 282K, capacity 386K, committed 512K, reserved 1048576K

Below are few useful links on GC:

  1. An archived page explaining gc concepts (jdk7)
  2. G1 Collector Tutorial
  3. Useful VM Options
  4. JDK 5 – GC Ergonomics (concepts are still relevant)
  5. JDK 6 Tuning (concepts are still relevant)

if you want to reproduce, please indicate the source:
Getting started with garbage-collection – Enabling verbose gc logging in Java - CodeDay