Java Threads : Fundamentals of Multithreading

In the modern world of computing, where applications are becoming increasingly complex and resource-intensive, the need for efficient and concurrent task execution is paramount. Java's multithreading capability provides a powerful solution to this challenge, enabling developers to write programs that can execute multiple tasks concurrently, improving overall performance and responsiveness.

What is a Thread?

A thread is a lightweight subprocess within a process. It represents a separate path of execution within a program, allowing multiple tasks to be executed concurrently. Each thread has its own stack, program counter, and registers but shares the same memory space and resources with other threads within the same process.

The Java Thread Model

Java's thread model is based on the concept of a "green" thread, which is a user-level thread managed by the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) itself rather than the operating system. This approach provides several advantages, including platform independence, easier implementation of thread scheduling, and better resource utilization.

Creating and Starting Threads

In Java, you can create and start a new thread in two ways:

Extending the Thread class: 

By creating a subclass of the Thread class and overriding its run() method, you can define the code the new thread will execute.

class MyThread extends Thread {

    public void run() {

        // Code to be executed by the new thread



// Creating and starting the new thread

MyThread myThread = new MyThread();


Implementing the Runnable interface: 

Alternatively, you can create a class that implements the Runnable interface and pass an instance of that class to the constructor of a Thread object.

class MyRunnable implements Runnable {

    public void run() {

        // Code to be executed by the new thread



// Creating and starting the new thread

Runnable myRunnable = new MyRunnable();

Thread myThread = new Thread(myRunnable);


Using the Runnable interface approach is generally recommended, as it promotes better code design and allows for greater flexibility and reusability.

Thread Lifecycle

A thread in Java goes through various states during its lifecycle. These states include:

  1. New: The thread has been created but has not yet been started.
  2. Runnable: The thread is ready to run but may be waiting for other resources or CPU time.
  3. Running: The thread is currently executing its task.
  4. Blocked/Waiting: The thread is temporarily inactive and waiting for a specific condition or resource.
  5. Terminated: The thread has completed its execution.

Synchronization and Thread Safety

When multiple threads access and modify shared resources concurrently, there is a risk of race conditions and data inconsistency. Java provides several synchronization mechanisms to prevent these issues, such as the synchronized keyword, locks, and various synchronization utilities in the java.util.concurrent package.

The synchronized keyword can protect a block of code or an entire method, ensuring that only one thread can execute that code simultaneously. This helps maintain data integrity and prevents race conditions.

public class Counter {

    private int count = 0;

    public synchronized void increment() {



    public synchronized void decrement() {



    public synchronized int getCount() {

        return count;



In addition to the synchronized keyword, Java provides various synchronization utilities, such as ReentrantLock, Semaphore, and CountDownLatch, which offer more advanced synchronization features and greater control over thread coordination.

Thread Pools and Executors

Creating and managing threads manually can be cumbersome and error-prone in many applications. To simplify thread management, Java provides the java.util.concurrent package, which includes thread pools and executors.

A thread pool is a collection of pre-created threads ready to execute tasks. When a new task is submitted, it is assigned to one of the available threads from the pool, rather than creating a new thread for each task. This approach reduces the overhead associated with thread creation and improves overall performance.

The Executor interface defines a high-level API for submitting tasks asynchronously. It provides various implementations, such as ThreadPoolExecutor, ScheduledThreadPoolExecutor, and ForkJoinPool, each with its characteristics and use cases.

ExecutorService executor = Executors.newFixedThreadPool(4);

// Submit tasks to the executor

executor.submit(new Runnable() {

    public void run() {

        // Task code



// Shutdown the executor when done


Concurrent Collections

Java's java.util.concurrent package also provides several thread-safe collection implementations, such as ConcurrentHashMap, CopyOnWriteArrayList, and BlockingQueue. These collections are designed to be safely accessed and modified by multiple threads concurrently without explicit synchronization.

Map<String, Integer> concurrentMap = new ConcurrentHashMap<>();

concurrentMap.put("key1", 1);

concurrentMap.put("key2", 2);

Java's multithreading capabilities and rich set of synchronization utilities and concurrent collections enable developers to write efficient, scalable, and responsive applications that can take full advantage of modern multi-core processors and distributed computing environments.


What is the difference between a process and a thread? 

A process is an instance of a computer program being executed with its own memory space and system resources. On the other hand, a thread is a lightweight sub-process that runs within a process and shares the same memory space and resources as other threads.

Can a thread be suspended in Java? 

Yes, it is possible to suspend a thread in Java using the Thread.suspend() method. However, this method is deprecated and should be avoided because it can lead to deadlocks and other synchronization issues. Instead, it is recommended to use more modern synchronization techniques, such as locks and condition variables.

What is a race condition, and how can it be prevented? 

A race condition occurs when two or more threads access a shared resource concurrently, and the final result depends on the relative timing of their execution. Race conditions can lead to data corruption or other unexpected behavior. Proper synchronization mechanisms, such as the synchronized keyword or lock objects, should be used to control access to shared resources to prevent race conditions.

What is the purpose of the volatile keyword in Java? 

The volatile keyword ensures that any write operation to a variable is immediately visible to other threads. It is typically used when dealing with shared variables that are accessed by multiple threads to ensure that each thread sees the most recent value of the variable and prevent certain compiler optimizations that might affect the visibility of variable updates.

How can you stop a running thread in Java? 

There are two ways to stop a running thread in Java:

  1. By interrupting the thread using the Thread.interrupt() method. This sets the thread's interrupted status, which can be checked within its code and used to stop its execution gracefully.
  2. By calling the Thread.stop() method. However, this method is deprecated and should be avoided, as it can lead to deadlocks and other synchronization issues. Instead, it is recommended to use interrupt-based mechanisms or other safer techniques to stop a thread.
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