Generic vs Non Generic collections

In C#, collections can be categorized into two main types: generic collections and non-generic collections. These collections differ in their type, safety, usability, and performance characteristics. Here's an overview of each type:

Generic Collections

  1. Type Safety

    • Generic collections provide strong type safety. They allow you to specify the type of elements they will contain when you declare them.
    • This type of safety is enforced at compile-time, preventing type-related runtime errors.
  2. Usability

    • Generic collections are more user-friendly because they eliminate the need for explicit casting when retrieving elements from the collection.
    • Developers can work with strongly typed elements, making code more readable and less error-prone.
  3. Performance

    • Generic collections are generally more efficient in terms of both execution speed and memory usage because they avoid the overhead of boxing and unboxing.
    • They offer better performance for value types and do not require casting when retrieving elements.
  4. Examples

    • Generic List: List<T>
    • Generic Dictionary: Dictionary<TKey, TValue>
    • Generic Queue: Queue<T>
    • Generic Stack: Stack<T>
    • Generic HashSet: HashSet<T>
    • Generic LinkedList: LinkedList<T>
    • Generic SortedSet: SortedSet<T>

Non-Generic Collections

  1. Type Safety

    • Non-generic collections are not type-safe because they store elements as object types. As a result, explicit casting is often required when retrieving elements.
    • Type-related errors may only be discovered at runtime.
  2. Usability

    • Non-generic collections are less user-friendly because they involve casting and boxing/unboxing operations when working with elements.
    • Casting can make the code less readable and more error-prone.
  3. Performance

    • Non-generic collections may have performance overhead due to the need for boxing (converting value types to reference types) and unboxing (converting reference types back to value types).
    • This can result in performance degradation, especially when working with value types.
  4. Examples

    • Non-Generic ArrayList: ArrayList
    • Non-Generic Hashtable: Hashtable
    • Non-Generic Queue: Queue
    • Non-Generic Stack: Stack
    • Non-Generic SortedList: SortedList
    • Non-Generic Queue: Queue
    • Non-Generic Stack: Stack


  • Whenever possible, it's recommended to use generic collections in C# because they offer stronger type safety, better performance, and improved usability.
  • Non-generic collections are rarely used in modern C# development, and their use is generally discouraged except in scenarios where you need to interoperate with legacy code or external systems that use non-generic collections.

In summary, generic collections in C# provide significant advantages in terms of type safety, performance, and ease of use compared to their non-generic counterparts. They are the preferred choice for most scenarios in modern C# development.

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