Difference Between Array and Linked List

By Anjnee Bhatnagar|Updated : June 14th, 2022

Difference between Array and Linked List: Array and Linked List are linear data structures used to store and organize data. We use linear data structures like an array and linked list for sorting the data. These two data structures are widely used in the sorting of data. The major difference between Array and Linked List is that the array uses contiguous memory locations whereas the linked list uses non-contiguous memory locations.

To store a huge amount of homogenous data, we make use of arrays and linked lists. In this article, we will learn about the difference between array and linked list briefly, along with their advantages and disadvantages. We will find out the Array vs Linked List.

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Difference Between Array and Linked List

We are already familiar with the two linear data structures that are an array and a linked list. Now, we can easily understand the comparison of Array vs Linked list. The difference between array and linked list is as follows:

Key Differences Between Array and Linked List


Linked List

It is a collection of elements of similar data types.

It is a collection of entities called nodes.

They use contiguous memory locations.

They use non-contiguous memory locations.

Works with static memory.

Works with dynamic memory.

Random access is possible.

Only sequential access is possible.

Insertion and deletion take more time.

Insertion and deletion take less time.

Memory allocated at compile time.

Memory allocated at run time.

What is an Array?

An array is a collection of similar types of data elements. These data elements have the same data type. An element in an array is referred to as an array element. Array elements are stored in consecutive memory locations. After the array, the next linear data structure that we learn is a linked list. The difference between array and linked list is that an array provides random access to the data elements because we use an array index to access array elements, while a linked list does not provide random access to elements.

Each array element is referenced by an index. Generally, the array index starts from zero up to the length -1. That is, if we have an array of length, say n=10, then the array index will start from 0 up to 9, as shown in the below figure:


What is a Linked List?

A linked list is a linear collection of data elements. Data elements in a linked list are called nodes. A linked list can be used to implement other data structures such as stack, queue, and other variations of stack and queue.

A node contains two parts: a data part and a pointer to the next node. The left part of the node is used to store the data, which may be an integer or a character, and the right part of the node is used to store the pointer to the next node in sequence (address of the next node to be accessed). We can learn about the difference between List and Tuple to know more about a linked list. The last node of the linked list contains Null in the pointer part, which marks the end of the list. A linked list is shown in the figure:


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FAQs on Difference Between Array and Linked List

  • A data element can be accessed easily in both data structures. The difference between array and linked list based on accessing the element is that in an array, random access, as well as sequential access, is possible, while in a linked list, only sequential access of data is possible, which is one of the disadvantages of using a linked list over an array data structure.

  • A linked list is a collection of nodes. A node consists of two parts data part and the pointer part. The last node of a linked list pointer contains a Null to indicate the end of the list. The presence of Null or “/0” marks the end of the list.

  • The time complexity to insert and delete an element is less than the time complexity for the same operations in the linked list. The difference between an array and linked list for the same operation is due to the random access of data in an array. While in a linked list, to insert or delete an element, one needs to sequentially traverse the list and then perform insertion and deletion.

  • The random access of data in an array is possible due to the index of an array. Whenever we store data in an array data structure, it gets stored sequentially, starting from the index zero and so on up to the last element. In order to access an element randomly, we need its array index.

  • In an array, the user needs to have knowledge of the size of the data beforehand. That is, before declaring an array, we need to know the size of the array we require. Let’s say we want to store one thousand elements. Then at the time of declaration of the array, we have to mention the size as one thousand. While in the case of a linked list, we do not need to specify the size beforehand. A linked list grows dynamically.

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