When to use Record vs Class vs Struct in C#?

When deciding whether to use a record, class, or struct in C#, it’s important to consider their characteristics and intended usage. Here are some guidelines to help you choose between records, classes, and structs:

Use a Record when:

  1. Data Storage: If the primary purpose of the type is to store data and carry state, and immutability is desired, records provide a concise syntax and built-in value equality that simplifies the definition and usage of such types.
  2. Value Equality: If you need value-based equality comparisons and want to easily compare instances for equality based on their property values, records are a good choice. They automatically generate value equality members, making it convenient to work with collections and comparisons.
  3. Immutability: If you want the properties of the type to be immutable and prevent modification after object creation, records are designed to be immutable by default. Any modification to a property creates a new record instance with the updated values.

Use a Class when:

  1. Complex Behavior: If the type requires more complex behavior, encapsulation, or contains methods and functionality beyond data storage, classes provide a flexible and powerful option. Classes allow you to define methods, implement interfaces, inherit from base classes, and provide more advanced customization.
  2. Reference Semantics: If you prefer reference semantics, where variables hold references to objects, allowing multiple variables to refer to the same object instance and share state, classes should be used. Assigning a class instance to another variable creates a reference, and changes made to one variable affect all references.
  3. Large Objects: If the type is expected to have a large memory footprint or requires a lot of memory for each instance, classes are more suitable. Structs can be less efficient for large objects due to potential memory copying and passing by value.

Use a Struct when:

  1. Value Semantics: If you prefer value semantics, where variables directly hold the object’s values, and copying the value creates a new independent instance, structs are appropriate. Each struct instance has its own memory allocation and state, and changes made to one instance do not affect others.
  2. Small Objects: If the type is expected to be small and lightweight, structs can be more efficient in terms of memory usage and performance. Structs are typically stored on the stack, avoiding the overhead of heap allocation.
  3. Copy by Value: If you want assignments and method calls to copy the entire object’s value, rather than passing a reference, structs provide the desired behavior. Assigning a struct instance to another variable creates a new copy of the struct, and changes made to one copy do not affect others.

It’s worth noting that the decision between records, classes, and structs depends on the specific requirements, design considerations, and performance considerations of your application. It’s important to carefully analyze the characteristics and behaviors of each type and choose the one that best aligns with your needs.

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