Eric Anastas Eric Anastas -4 years ago 71
C# Question

Do I need to remove event subscriptions from objects before they are orphaned?

If my software has two object instances, one of which is subscribed to the events of the other. Do I need to unsubscribe them from one another before they are orphaned for them to be cleaned up by the garbage collector? Or is there any other reason why I should clear the event relationships? What if the subscribed to object is orphaned but the subscriber is not, or vise versa?

Answer Source

Yes you do. The event publishers are holding references to the objects, and would prevent them from being garbage collected.

Let's look at an example to see what happens. We have two classes; one exposes an event, the other consumes it:

class ClassA
{
    public event EventHandler Test;
    ~ClassA()
    {
        Console.WriteLine("A being collected");
    }
}
class ClassB
{
    public ClassB(ClassA instance)
    {
        instance.Test += new EventHandler(instance_Test);
    }

    ~ClassB()
    {
        Console.WriteLine("B being collected");
    }

    void instance_Test(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
        // this space is intentionally left blank
    }
}

Note how ClassB does not store a reference to the ClassA instance; it merely hooks up an event handler.

Now, let's see how the objects are collected. Scenario 1:

ClassB temp = new ClassB(new ClassA());
Console.WriteLine("Collect 1");
GC.Collect();
Console.ReadKey();
temp = null;
Console.WriteLine("Collect 2");
GC.Collect();
Console.ReadKey();

We create a ClassB instance and hold a reference to it through the temp variable. It gets passed a new instance of ClassA, where we do not store a reference to it anywhere, so it goes out of scope immediately after the ClassB constructor is done. We have the garbage collector run once when ClassA has gone out of scope, and once when ClassB as gone out of scope. The output:

Collect 1
A being collected
Collect 2
B being collected

Scenario 2:

ClassA temp = new ClassA();
ClassB temp2 = new ClassB(temp);
temp2 = null;
Console.WriteLine("Collect 1");
GC.Collect();
Console.ReadKey();
temp = null;
Console.WriteLine("Collect 2");
GC.Collect();
Console.ReadKey();

A new instance of ClassA is created and a reference to it is stored in the temp variable. Then a new instance of ClassB is created, getting the ClassA instance in temp passed to it, and we store a reference to it in temp2. Then we set temp2 to null, making the ClassB instance going out of scope. As before, we have the garbage collector run after each instance has gone out of scope. The output:

Collect 1
Collect 2
B being collected
A being collected

So, to conclude; if the instance that exposes an event goes out of scope, it becomes available for garbage collection, regardless of whether there are event handlers hooked up or not. If an instance that has an event handler hooked up to an event in another instance, it will not be available for garbage collection until either the event handler is detached, or the instance to which the event handler is attached becomes available for garbage collection.

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