# Initial and maximum heap sizes

Understanding the operations of the Garbage Collector (GC) helps you set initial and maximum heap sizes for efficient management of the heap.

- A heap occupancy greater than 70% causes more frequent GC cycles, which can reduce performance. You can alter this behavior by setting the -Xminf option.
- A heap occupancy less than 40% means infrequent GC cycles. However, these cycles are longer than necessary, causing longer pause times, which can reduce performance. You can alter this behavior by setting the -Xmaxf option.

`70 + (70 * 43/100)`

Setting the minimum and maximum heap size to the same value is typically not a good idea because garbage collection is delayed until the heap is full. Therefore, the first time that the GC runs, the process can take longer. Also, the heap is more likely to be fragmented and require a heap compaction. Start your application with the minimum heap size that your application requires. When the GC starts up, it runs frequently and efficiently because the heap is small.

If the GC cannot find enough garbage, it runs compaction. If the GC finds enough garbage, or any of the other conditions for heap expansion are met (see Heap allocation in the OpenJ9 user documentation), the GC expands the heap.

Therefore, an application typically runs until the heap is full. Then, successive garbage collection cycles recover garbage. When the heap is full of live objects, the GC compacts the heap. If sufficient garbage is still not recovered, the GC expands the heap.

From the earlier description, you can see that the GC compacts the heap as the needs of the application rise, so that as the heap expands, it expands with a set of compacted objects in the bottom of the original heap. This process is an efficient way to manage the heap because compaction runs on the smallest-possible heap size at the time that compaction is found to be necessary. Compaction is performed with the minimum heap sizes as the heap grows. Some evidence exists that an application's initial set of objects tends to be the key or root set, so that compacting them early frees the remainder of the heap for more short-lived objects.

Eventually, the JVM has the heap at maximum size with all long-lived objects compacted at the bottom of the heap. The compaction occurred when compaction was in its least expensive phase. The amount of processing and memory usage that is required to expand the heap is almost trivial compared to the cost of collecting and compacting a very large fragmented heap.