Describe and compare fail-fast and fail-safe iterators. Give examples.


The main distinction between fail-fast and fail-safe iterators is whether or not the collection can be modified while it is being iterated. Fail-safe iterators allow this; fail-fast iterators do not.

  • Fail-fast iterators operate directly on the collection itself. During iteration, fail-fast iterators fail as soon as they realize that the collection has been modified (i.e., upon realizing that a member has been added, modified, or removed) and will throw a ConcurrentModificationException. Some examples include ArrayList, HashSet, and HashMap (most JDK1.4 collections are implemented to be fail-fast).
  • Fail-safe iterates operate on a cloned copy of the collection and therefore do not throw an exception if the collection is modified during iteration. Examples would include iterators returned by ConcurrentHashMap or CopyOnWriteArrayList.
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