Java – Why would you ever implement finalize()


I've been reading through a lot of the rookie Java questions on finalize() and find it kind of bewildering that no one has really made it plain that finalize() is an unreliable way to clean up resources. I saw someone comment that they use it to clean up Connections, which is really scary since the only way to come as close to a guarantee that a Connection is closed is to implement try (catch) finally.

I was not schooled in CS, but I have been programming in Java professionally for close to a decade now and I have never seen anyone implement finalize() in a production system ever. This still doesn't mean that it doesn't have its uses, or that people I've worked with have been doing it right.

So my question is, what use cases are there for implementing finalize() that cannot be handled more reliably via another process or syntax within the language?

Please provide specific scenarios or your experience, simply repeating a Java text book, or finalize's intended use is not enough, as is not the intent of this question.

Best Solution

You could use it as a backstop for an object holding an external resource (socket, file, etc). Implement a close() method and document that it needs to be called.

Implement finalize() to do the close() processing if you detect it hasn't been done. Maybe with something dumped to stderr to point out that you're cleaning up after a buggy caller.

It provides extra safety in an exceptional/buggy situation. Not every caller is going to do the correct try {} finally {} stuff every time. Unfortunate, but true in most environments.

I agree that it's rarely needed. And as commenters point out, it comes with GC overhead. Only use if you need that "belt and suspenders" safety in a long-running app.

I see that as of Java 9, Object.finalize() is deprecated! They point us to java.lang.ref.Cleaner and java.lang.ref.PhantomReference as alternatives.