8 Difference between Array and Pointer (With Table)

There are several programming languages in the world. Each language usually has unique concepts that confuse looking to become programmers. 

Both array and pointer are common concepts used in various programming languages. The close relationship between array and pointer does not mean they are similar. 

So, what is the main difference between array and pointer? The former is a data structure that stores a collection of elements of the same data type while the latter is a variable that holds the address of another variable in the computer memory.

This article provides further differences between array and pointer in a tabular form. Take the time also to read through the similarities between array and point for deeper understanding. 

Comparison Table (Array vs Pointer)

Basic TermsArrayPointer
DefinitionIt is a data structure that contains a collection of elements that can be identified by an array index.It is a programming language where the variable storing the memory variable help to locate the address of another variable in computer memory.
Data StructureComprises of a set of data elementsIt is a variable that points to some other memory address of another value.
Syntax Structurearray_name[array_size ];datatype *variable_name;
FunctionHelp to allocate fixed-size memory.Meant for dynamic memory allocation.
GenerationAn array of pointers are generatedPointer to an array is generated
Java SupportHighly being supportNot supported at all
CapacityStores the number of elements in terms of array sizeStores only the address of a single variable at a time

What is an Array?

The array is a kind of data structure that typically stores fixed numbers that are of the same type. The elements in the array are considered to be in a contiguous memory position.

If you want to access a particular array element then you will be required to access a specific index of that array element in their location.

The good news is that arrays tend to occur in one dimension array, two-dimension array, and multidimensional array.

An array index usually begins from zero and ends with the size of the array minus one. Here is a programming demonstration for proper understanding: type array_name[array_size ];

What is Pointer?

A pointer is known to be a variable that used to store the address of another variable. In case the memory is allocated to a variable then the pointer help to locate the address of the memory in the variable.

In most cases, many programmers normally use a unary operator to help declare the pointer variable. Here is an example of syntax pointer declaration: datatype *variable_name;

Datatype represents the data type of the variable while the variable_name represents the name of the variable given by the user.

Main Differences Between Array and Pointer 

  1. The array can be supported by Java but pointers are not supported at all.
  2. Pointer only stores the address of a single variable at a time while array determines the number of elements to be stored.
  3. Arrays whose pointers are variable can be generated in an array while pointers help to create points of an array.
  4. Array stores variables of the same data type while the pointer variable stores the address of the variable which has a similar pointer variable type.
  5. Array tends to represent a set of data elements while pointer represents a variable that points to some other memory address.
  6. The array is typically used to allocate some fixed size memory while the pointer for dynamic memory allocation.
  7. An array has a syntax arrangement of array_name[array_size ]; while a pointer has a syntax arrangement of datatype *variable_name;
  8. Arrays store the number of elements in terms of array size while pointer tends to point the location of the variable in other memory addresses.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can a Pointer be Used as An Array?

Yes. This is because most expressions an array name evaluates to a pointer to the first element of the array

  • Is An Array a Pointer C?

Array names can be converted to pointers. But the array is an array and the pointer is a pointer. 

  • How Do You Declare a Pointer?

They are normally declared before they are used. The syntax of declaring a pointer is to place a * in front of the name.

  • Why the Pointer Is Used in C?

It helps to create dynamic data structures, handle variable parameters passed to functions, and also provides alternative access to the information stored in arrays.

  • How Do C Pointers Work?

Pointer in C is used to allocate memory dynamically i.e. at run time.  Besides that, it is a variable that stores and points to the address of another variable.

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Conclusion

An array helps us to work on elements that have similar data types without doing it separately while the pointer is meant for programming purposes.

According to research, pointer tends to give incorrect values though it has tremendous power when it comes to locating the address of variables.

I hope the core difference between the array and pointer listed above has been useful. Kindly used the comment section to share your views.

More Sources and References 

  1. Basics of C Programming. How Stuff Work
  2. Pointer and Array in C Programming. NTU

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