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Difference Between malloc() and calloc() with Examples

Student at GITAM University
・2 min read

The name malloc and calloc() are library functions that allocate memory dynamically. It means that memory is allocated during runtime(execution of the program) from the heap segment.

Initialization: malloc() allocates memory block of given size (in bytes) and returns a pointer to the beginning of the block. malloc() doesn’t initialize the allocated memory. If we try to access the content of memory block(before initializing) then we’ll get segmentation fault error(or maybe garbage values).'

void* malloc(size_t size);

void* calloc(size_t num, size_t size);

Number of arguments: Unlike malloc(), calloc() takes two arguments:
1) Number of blocks to be allocated.
2) Size of each block.
Return Value: After successful allocation in malloc() and calloc(), a pointer to the block of memory is returned otherwise NULL value is returned which indicates the failure of allocation.
For instance, If we want to allocate memory for array of 5 integers, see the following program:-
int main()
int* arr;

// malloc() allocate the memory for 5 integers
// containing garbage values
arr = (int*)malloc(5 * sizeof(int)); // 5*4bytes = 20 bytes

// Deallocates memory previously allocated by malloc() function

// calloc() allocate the memory for 5 integers and
// set 0 to all of them
arr = (int*)calloc(5, sizeof(int));

// Deallocates memory previously allocated by calloc() function

return (0);
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We can achieve same functionality as calloc() by using malloc() followed by memset(),

ptr = malloc(size);
memset(ptr, 0, size);

Note: It would be better to use malloc over calloc, unless we want the zero-initialization because malloc is faster than calloc. So if we just want to copy some stuff or do something that doesn’t require filling of the blocks with zeros, then malloc would be a better choice.

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