In computer programming, there are various data structures available to store and manipulate data. Two of the most commonly used data structures are arrays and linked lists. Both of these data structures are used to store collections of elements, but they differ in their implementation and performance characteristics. In this article, we will explore the difference between arrays and linked lists.
An array is a collection of elements of the same data type that are stored in contiguous memory locations. It is a linear data structure that can be accessed using an index, and the elements in an array can be accessed in any order.
On the other hand, a linked list is a collection of elements called nodes, where each node contains a value and a pointer to the next node in the list. Linked lists can be singly linked, where each node points to the next node in the list, or doubly linked, where each node points to both the next and previous nodes in the list.
Arrays are implemented using a contiguous block of memory, which means that all the elements in an array are stored next to each other. This makes it easy to access any element in the array using its index, which is an integer value that represents the position of the element in the array.
Linked lists, on the other hand, are implemented using dynamic memory allocation. Each node in a linked list is allocated separately and may not be located in contiguous memory locations. This makes it more difficult to access a specific node in the list, as we have to traverse the list from the beginning to reach the node we want to access.
Insertion and Deletion
Insertion and deletion of elements in an array are relatively straightforward when the array has empty slots. Elements can be inserted or deleted at any position in the array using the index, and the remaining elements are shifted accordingly. However, if the array is full, then the entire array needs to be re-allocated to increase its size, which can be time-consuming.
Linked lists, on the other hand, are much better suited for insertion and deletion operations. To insert a new node in a linked list, we simply create a new node, update the pointers of the neighboring nodes, and link the new node in the list. To delete a node from a linked list, we update the pointers of the neighboring nodes to bypass the node we want to delete.
Accessing elements in an array is very fast, as we can access any element directly using its index. However, accessing elements in a linked list is slower than in an array, as we have to traverse the list from the beginning to reach the node we want to access. This makes arrays more suitable for applications where we need fast random access to elements, whereas linked lists are better suited for applications that require frequent insertion and deletion operations.
Arrays are statically allocated, which means that their size is fixed at the time of creation. This means that arrays cannot be resized once they are created, and their size cannot be changed dynamically during program execution. This can be a significant limitation in some applications, as it requires allocating memory for the maximum expected size of the array.
Linked lists, on the other hand, are dynamically allocated, which means that their size can be increased or decreased dynamically during program execution. This makes linked lists more flexible and suitable for applications where the size of the data structure needs to change frequently.
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