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Pre-allocating a HashSet

By  May 13, 2008

Topics: Programming, Windows Programming

In my most recent .NET Guide update, I mention that it's possible to create a large HashSet by creating a List or other collection, and then passing that collection to the HashSet constructor. However, I did not have a way to create an empty HashSet larger than about 48 million items. A little experimentation after I submitted the column revealed a solution.

In the section about HashSet, I provided this example of creating a HashSet that contains 50 million items:

static void Main(string[] args)
{
  int maxSize = 50000000;
  Console.WriteLine("Max size = {0:N0}", maxSize);

  // Initialize a List<long> to hold maxSize items
  var l = new List<long>(maxSize);

  // now add items to the HashSet
  for (long i = 0; i < maxSize; i++)
  {
    if ((i % 1000000) == 0)
    {
      Console.Write("\r{0:N0}", i);
    }
    l.Add(i);
  }
  Console.WriteLine();

  // Construct a HashSet from that list
  var h = new HashSet<long>(l);
  Console.WriteLine("{0:N0} items in the HashSet", h.Count);

After I submitted my column, I experimented a little more and discovered that if I remove all the items from the HashSet, I'm left with an empty collection that has a capacity of 50 million items! Removing each item (or calling Clear()) takes the items out of the collection, but doesn't reduce the capacity. You can use this technique to create a HashSet that contains up to 89,478,457 items--the same as the maximum Dictionary size.

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