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Difference Between malloc() and calloc() with Examples

  • Difficulty Level : Easy
  • Last Updated : 03 Jan, 2020

Pre-requisite: Dynamic Memory Allocation in C using malloc(), calloc(), free() and realloc()

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.

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  • 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);

    calloc() allocates the memory and also initializes the allocated memory block to zero. If we try to access the content of these blocks then we’ll get 0.

    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:-

    // C program to demonstrate the use of calloc()
    // and malloc()
    #include <stdio.h>
    #include <stdlib.h>
    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);

    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.

    This article is contributed by Shubham Bansal. If you like GeeksforGeeks and would like to contribute, you can also write an article using or mail your article to See your article appearing on the GeeksforGeeks main page and help other Geeks.

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