What are circular references

A circular reference is a scenario in which two or more resources become mutually dependent on each other, leading to a deadlock condition and rendering the resources unusable. It occurs when there is a cycle of references, where an object or resource refers back to itself either directly or indirectly, creating a closed loop. Dealing with circular references requires employing effective methods and techniques to break the cycle and resolve the interdependencies between the resources.

  1. Weighted reference counting
  2. Indirect reference counting

There are some ways to handle problem of detecting and collecting circular references with the help of garbage collection. The very high level view of how the garbage collector works is:

  1. Start with locals, statics and GC pinned objects. None of these can be collected

  2. Mark every object which can be reached by traversing the children of these objects

  3. Collect every object which is not marked

Garbage Collection

Circular references can present challenges in garbage collection since objects in the circular reference may reference each other, making it difficult for the garbage collector to determine which objects are still in use and which can be safely collected. However, if none of the objects involved in the circular reference are reachable from an object known to be uncollectable, then the circular reference becomes essentially irrelevant from a garbage collection perspective.

In such cases, the garbage collector can identify and collect objects that are not part of the circular reference, as they are no longer reachable from any accessible object in the application. This allows for effective memory management and ensures that resources are properly released and made available for reuse.

To handle circular references in a good manner, it is crucial to manage object lifetimes and ensure that objects are properly released and their references are appropriately managed. Techniques such as weak references or breaking the circular reference manually by setting references to null can help mitigate the impact of circular references on garbage collection.


While circular references can pose challenges in garbage collection, they can be handled effectively if none of the objects involved in the circular reference are reachable from an uncollectable object. By managing object lifetimes and utilizing appropriate techniques, the impact of circular references on garbage collection can be minimized, allowing for efficient memory management in the application.