Understanding Java's Long and Integer Cache

| Mar 14, 2023 min read

Java’s Integer and Long classes have a built-in caching mechanism that helps reduce memory overhead and improve performance. This cache is used when autoboxing primitive types into their corresponding wrapper classes. The Integer cache range is from -128 to 127 by default, while the Long cache has a fixed range from -128 to 127 as well. The cache size is configurable with -XX:AutoBoxCacheMax=<size>

The cache is created during the initialization of the Integer and Long classes, and the cached objects are stored in an internal array. When a value falls within the cache range, Java reuses the cached object instead of creating a new one, which can be beneficial for performance.

The Pitfalls

While the caching mechanism can improve performance, it can also lead to unexpected behaviors if developers are not aware of it. Here are some common pitfalls associated with Java’s Long and Integer cache:

Equality comparison pitfalls

When comparing two Integer or Long objects, developers might use the == operator instead of the equals() method. This operator compares object references, not the actual values. If two objects fall within the cache range, they will be the same object, and the == operator will return true. However, when comparing two objects outside the cache range, the == operator will return false, even if their values are the same.


Integer a = 127;
Integer b = 127;
System.out.println(a == b); // true
Integer c = 128;
Integer d = 128;
System.out.println(c == d); // false

The correct approach is to use the equals() method:

System.out.println(c.equals(d)); // true

*Performance implications*

If you’re working with a large number of Integer or Long objects, it’s essential to understand the cache’s impact on performance. Values outside the cache range will not benefit from the caching mechanism, resulting in more significant memory overhead and potential performance degradation.

Mutable cache objects

Java’s Integer and Long classes are immutable, meaning their values cannot be changed once created. However, using reflection or other unsafe methods, a developer might inadvertently modify a cached object’s value. This can lead to unpredictable behavior, as other parts of the code that rely on the same cached object will be affected.

Thread safety

Another significant pitfall associated with Java’s Long and Integer cache is its lack of thread safety. The cache is a shared resource, accessible by multiple threads within a Java application. If the cache were to be modified using reflection or other unsafe techniques, as mentioned earlier, it could lead to unpredictable behavior and data inconsistency across different threads.

When multiple threads access the shared cache, they might inadvertently overwrite or modify the cached objects, causing unexpected results. This is particularly concerning when using unsafe methods to alter cached objects. Here’s an example of how this could cause issues:

public class UnsafeCacheModification {
    public static void main(String[] args) throws NoSuchFieldException, IllegalAccessException {
        // Access the Integer cache through reflection
        Class<?> cacheClass = Integer.class.getDeclaredClasses()[0];
        Field cacheField = cacheClass.getDeclaredField("cache");
        Integer[] cache = (Integer[]) cacheField.get(null);

        // Modify the cached value for 42
        cache[42 + 128] = 43;

        // Use the modified cache value in multiple threads
        Runnable printModifiedValue = () -> {
            Integer modifiedValue = 42;
            System.out.println("Expected: 42, Actual: " + modifiedValue);

        Thread t1 = new Thread(printModifiedValue);
        Thread t2 = new Thread(printModifiedValue);

In this example, we use reflection to modify the cached value of 42 to 43. When multiple threads access the shared cache, they will all receive the modified value, causing data inconsistency.

To avoid such issues related to thread safety, developers should:

  • Refrain from using reflection or other unsafe techniques to modify the cache.

  • Always use the equals() method for object comparisons, as it is thread-safe and does not rely on the shared cache.

  • Consider using thread-safe alternatives like AtomicInteger or AtomicLong when working with concurrent applications.


The cache mechanisms can improve performance in some cases, but they also introduce potential pitfalls for developers. Remember to use the equals() method for object comparisons and be cautious with object mutability to avoid unexpected behaviors. Understanding the thread safety concerns of Java’s Long and Integer cache is crucial for writing reliable and consistent multi-threaded applications. By being aware of these issues and following the best practices mentioned above, developers can mitigate the risks and ensure the stability and performance of their Java applications.