Difference Wiki

Array vs. Linked List: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 4, 2024
An array is a collection of elements stored at contiguous memory locations, while a linked list consists of nodes, each containing data and a reference to the next node, stored non-contiguously.

Key Differences

Array is a data structure where elements are stored in contiguous memory locations, enabling efficient access using indices. On the other hand, a linked list is a collection of elements, called nodes, where each node is linked to the next node via pointers, and these nodes may not be stored in contiguous memory.
In an array, accessing an element by its index is fast because of the contiguous memory allocation, which allows for quick computation of an element's address. However, in a linked list, each element (node) must be accessed sequentially from the beginning, which can be slower for large lists as it requires traversing the list.
Arrays have a fixed size, meaning their size must be declared at the time of creation and cannot be changed dynamically. Conversely, a linked list offers dynamic sizing, as nodes can be easily added or removed without reallocating the entire list.
When it comes to insertion and deletion operations, arrays are less efficient, especially for operations at or near the beginning of the array, as they often require shifting elements. In contrast, linked lists allow for more efficient insertions and deletions, as only the pointers in the nodes need to be updated.
Arrays can be more memory-efficient if the number of elements is known in advance and remains constant, as there is no overhead for storing pointers. On the flip side, linked lists require extra memory for storing pointers alongside the actual data, but they offer greater flexibility in memory usage due to their dynamic nature.

Comparison Chart

Memory Allocation

Contiguous memory blocks
Non-contiguous nodes

Access Time

Constant time with index
Linear time via traversal

Size Flexibility

Fixed size
Dynamic resizing

Insertion/Deletion Efficiency

Less efficient
More efficient

Memory Overhead

No extra for pointers
Extra memory for pointers

Array and Linked List Definitions


A collection of items stored at contiguous memory locations.
The array contained 10 integers, each representing a different temperature.

Linked List

A collection of nodes where each node points to the next node.
The linked list was used to store a dynamic number of user inputs.


A data structure with elements identified by index numbers.
He accessed the fifth element of the array to update its value.

Linked List

A sequence of elements, each connected to the next by a pointer.
He traversed the linked list to find the node containing the target value.


An ordered series of similar items.
The color array was used to store different shades for the graphic.

Linked List

A chain of nodes, each holding data and a link to the next node.
The linked list efficiently managed the inventory items, each represented by a node.


A fixed-size sequence of elements of the same type.
The array of booleans indicated the availability of each item.

Linked List

A dynamic data structure allowing efficient insertions and deletions.
Adding a new element to the linked list was done without rearranging the entire structure.


A structure for storing multiple items in a single variable.
She created an array to hold all the names of the participants.

Linked List

A non-contiguous structure of nodes with data and references to other nodes.
Each node in the linked list contained a data part and a pointer to the next node.


To set out for display or use; place in an orderly arrangement
Arrayed the whole regiment on the parade ground.


A rectangular arrangement of quantities in rows and columns, as in a matrix.


Numerical data linearly ordered by magnitude.


(Computers) A group of memory elements accessed by one or more indices.


(programming) Any of various data structures designed to hold multiple elements of the same type; especially, a data structure that holds these elements in adjacent memory locations so that they may be retrieved using numeric indices.


An orderly arrangement;
An array of troops in battle order


An arrangement of aerials spaced to give desired directional characteristics


Are arrays better for accessing data or modifying data?

Better for accessing data due to direct index access.

What is the main advantage of using an array?

Fast access to elements by their index.

Can arrays grow in size dynamically?

No, arrays have a fixed size determined at creation.

Do linked lists use memory more efficiently for dynamic data?

Yes, as they allocate memory as needed.

Are arrays or linked lists better for large datasets?

Arrays for large, stable datasets; linked lists for dynamic datasets.

Can you insert elements in the middle of an array?

Yes, but it's inefficient as it requires shifting other elements.

What is array indexing?

The process of accessing elements using their position number.

Is memory allocation in arrays more efficient than linked lists?

Yes, if the number of elements is known and constant.

How are elements in a linked list accessed?

By sequentially traversing from the start or another node.

Can linked lists have nodes in non-sequential memory locations?

Yes, nodes can be anywhere in memory.

Do linked lists have a performance advantage over arrays in certain operations?

Yes, in insertions and deletions, especially at the beginning or middle.

What type of data is best stored in a linked list?

Data with frequent insertions and deletions.

Are arrays or linked lists more commonly used?

Arrays are more common due to their simplicity and direct access feature.

What makes linked lists more flexible than arrays?

Their ability to dynamically add or remove elements.

Can linked lists be bidirectional?

Yes, in the form of doubly linked lists.

Can you store different data types in arrays and linked lists?

Typically, arrays store similar types, while linked lists can store varied data types.

How does resizing affect array and linked list performance?

Resizing an array is costly, while linked lists handle resizing efficiently.

How does memory allocation differ in arrays and linked lists?

Arrays allocate a block of contiguous memory, while linked lists allocate memory per node.

Is traversal faster in arrays or linked lists?

Faster in arrays due to direct index access.

What is a node in a linked list?

A basic unit containing data and a reference to the next (and sometimes previous) node.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons