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Java thread states

Lifecycle and States of a Thread in Java

A thread in Java at any point of time exists in any one of the following states. A thread lies only in one of the shown states at any instant:

The diagram shown below represent various states of a thread at any instant of time.


Image source: Core Java Vol 1, 9th Edition, Horstmann, Cay S. & Cornell, Gary_2013

Life Cycle of a thread

  1. New Thread: When a new thread is created, it is in the new state. The thread has not yet started to run when thread is in this state. When a thread lies in the new state, it’s code is yet to be run and hasn’t started to execute.
  2. Runnable State: A thread that is ready to run is moved to runnable state. In this state, a thread might actually be running or it might be ready run at any instant of time. It is the responsibility of the thread scheduler to give the thread, time to run.
    A multi-threaded program allocates a fixed amount of time to each individual thread. Each and every thread runs for a short while and then pauses and relinquishes the CPU to another thread, so that other threads can get a chance to run. When this happens, all such threads that are ready to run, waiting for the CPU and the currently running thread lies in runnable state.
  3. Blocked/Waiting state:When a thread is temporarily inactive, then it’s in one of the following states:
    • Blocked
    • Waiting

For example, when a thread is waiting for I/O to complete, it lies in the blocked state. It’s the responsibility of the thread scheduler to reactivate and schedule a blocked/waiting thread. A thread in this state cannot continue its execution any further until it is moved to runnable state. Any thread in these states does not consume any CPU cycle.

A thread is in the blocked state when it tries to access a protected section of code that is currently locked by some other thread. When the protected section is unlocked, the schedule picks one of the thread which is blocked for that section and moves it to the runnable state. Whereas, a thread is in the waiting state when it waits for another thread on a condition. When this condition is fulfilled, the scheduler is notified and the waiting thread is moved to runnable state.

If a currently running thread is moved to blocked/waiting state, another thread in the runnable state is scheduled by the thread scheduler to run. It is the responsibility of thread scheduler to determine which thread to run.

  • Timed Waiting: A thread lies in timed waiting state when it calls a method with a time out parameter. A thread lies in this state until the timeout is completed or until a notification is received. For example, when a thread calls sleep or a conditional wait, it is moved to a timed waiting state.
  • Terminated State: A thread terminates because of either of the following reasons:
    • Because it exists normally. This happens when the code of thread has entirely executed by the program.
    • Because there occurred some unusual erroneous event, like segmentation fault or an unhandled exception.

    A thread that lies in a terminated state does no longer consumes any cycles of CPU.

    Implementing Thread States in Java

    In Java, to get the current state of the thread, use Thread.getState() method to get the current state of the thread. Java provides java.lang.Thread.State class that defines the ENUM constants for the state of a thread, as summary of which is given below:

      Constant type: New

    Description: Thread state for a thread which has not yet started.
    Constant type: Runnable

    Description: Thread state for a runnable thread. A thread in the runnable state is executing in the Java virtual machine but it may be waiting for other resources from the operating system such as processor.
    Constant type: Blocked

    Description: Thread state for a thread blocked waiting for a monitor lock. A thread in the blocked state is waiting for a monitor lock to enter a synchronized block/method or reenter a synchronized block/method after calling Object.wait().
    Constant type: Waiting

    Description: Thread state for a waiting thread. Thread state for a waiting thread. A thread is in the waiting state due to calling one of the following methods:

    A thread in the waiting state is waiting for another thread to perform a particular action.
    Constant type: Timed Waiting

    Description: Thread state for a waiting thread with a specified waiting time. A thread is in the timed waiting state due to calling one of the following methods with a specified positive waiting time:

    • Thread.sleep
    • Object.wait with timeout
    • Thread.join with timeout
    • LockSupport.parkNanos
    • LockSupport.parkUntil
  • Constant type: Terminated

    Description: Thread state for a terminated thread. The thread has completed execution.

    Difference between WAIT and BLOCKED thread states

    What is the difference between thread state WAIT and thread state BLOCKED?

    Blocked
    A thread that is blocked waiting for a monitor lock is in this state.

    Waiting
    A thread that is waiting indefinitely for another thread to perform a particular action is in this state

    does not explain the difference to me.

    6 Answers 6

    A thread goes to wait state once it calls wait() on an Object. This is called Waiting State. Once a thread reaches waiting state, it will need to wait till some other thread calls notify() or notifyAll() on the object.

    Once this thread is notified, it will not be runnable. It might be that other threads are also notified (using notifyAll() ) or the first thread has not finished his work, so it is still blocked till it gets its chance. This is called Blocked State. A Blocked state will occur whenever a thread tries to acquire lock on object and some other thread is already holding the lock.

    Once other threads have left and its this thread chance, it moves to Runnable state after that it is eligible pick up work based on JVM threading mechanism and moves to run state.

    The difference is relatively simple.

    In the BLOCKED state, a thread is about to enter a synchronized block, but there is another thread currently running inside a synchronized block on the same object. The first thread must then wait for the second thread to exit its block.

    In the WAITING state, a thread is waiting for a signal from another thread. This happens typically by calling Object.wait() , or Thread.join() . The thread will then remain in this state until another thread calls Object.notify() , or dies.

    The important difference between the blocked and wait states is the impact on the scheduler. A thread in a blocked state is contending for a lock; that thread still counts as something the scheduler needs to service, possibly getting factored into the scheduler’s decisions about how much time to give running threads (so that it can give the threads blocking on the lock a chance).

    Once a thread is in the wait state the stress it puts on the system is minimized, and the scheduler doesn’t have to worry about it. It goes dormant until it receives a notification. Except for the fact that it keeps an OS thread occupied it is entirely out of play.

    This is why using notifyAll is less than ideal, it causes a bunch of threads that were previously happily dormant putting no load on the system to get woken up, where most of them will block until they can acquire the lock, find the condition they are waiting for is not true, and go back to waiting. It would be preferable to notify only those threads that have a chance of making progress.

    (Using ReentrantLock instead of intrinsic locks allows you to have multiple conditions for one lock, so that you can make sure the notified thread is one that’s waiting on a particular condition, avoiding the lost-notification bug in the case of a thread getting notified for something it can’t act on.)

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