What Is Stack Overflow and Underflow in Data Structure?

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Heather Bennett

What Is Stack Overflow and Underflow in Data Structure?

In data structure, a stack is a linear data structure that follows the Last-In-First-Out (LIFO) principle. It means that the last element inserted into the stack will be the first one to be removed.

The operations performed on a stack are known as push and pop. However, there are situations where we need to be cautious about potential errors such as stack overflow and underflow.

Stack Overflow

Stack overflow occurs when we try to insert an element into a full stack. In other words, it happens when we attempt to push an element onto a stack that has reached its maximum capacity.

When this happens, it indicates a logical error in our program or algorithm.

To illustrate this further, let’s consider an example of a stack with a fixed size of 5 elements. If we try to push a sixth element onto this stack, it will result in a stack overflow error.

This occurs because the memory allocated for the stack has been exhausted, and there is no more space available to store additional elements.

Stack Underflow

On the other hand, stack underflow occurs when we try to remove an element from an empty stack. It happens when we attempt to pop an element from a stack that does not contain any elements.

Similar to stack overflow, encountering a stack underflow indicates an error in our program or algorithm.

Continuing with our example of a fixed-size stack of 5 elements, if we attempt to pop an element from this empty stack, it will result in a stack underflow error. This occurs because there are no elements present in the stack to remove.

Handling Stack Overflow and Underflow

To prevent stack overflow and underflow errors, it is essential to implement error checking mechanisms in our code. Before performing a push operation, we should check if the stack is already full.

Similarly, before performing a pop operation, we should check if the stack is empty.

By incorporating proper error handling techniques, such as checking for stack overflow and underflow conditions, we can ensure the smooth functioning of our programs that involve stack operations. It is crucial to handle these errors gracefully to avoid unexpected program crashes or incorrect results.

Conclusion

In summary, stack overflow occurs when we try to insert an element into a full stack, while stack underflow occurs when we try to remove an element from an empty stack. These errors indicate logical issues in our programs or algorithms and can be prevented by implementing appropriate error handling mechanisms.

By understanding and addressing these potential issues, we can create robust and reliable code that involves stack operations.