What is Dalvik Cache?

Dalvik Virtual Machine

One of the best functions of Android has to be the Dalvik cache. Dalvik cache is a wonder from the point your Android starts up, runs, hibernates and all the way till you device shuts down. Dalvik cache collects the information about the installed applications and frameworks, and organizes them into a writeable cache. Under this writeable cache, it stores the “optimized” bytecode of the applications which is used by the applications themselves later for a smoother operation. This dalvik cache can grow immensely huge as more applications are installed on your phone. It is safe to wipe dalvik-cache. It will be rebuilt again when the phone boots. This also explains why your phone takes ages to start up for the first time. As for my Nexus One, having about 145 applications installed, it takes about 13 minutes to build the cache.

If you ever extract an APK installer file, you will always find a file named classes.dex. This is the file Dalvik finds to build the cache. What makes the process slow? APK is an archive (which is why you can open it up with an unarchiver such as WinRAR or 7-Zip). Being an archive, it provides limited write access to the files contained within and the fact that archives are compressed. Not to forget, APKs are encrypted archives too. Therefore, DalvikVM has to extract the classes.dex files and build the Dalvik table accordingly which makes it easier to write data on it too. With this collective set of data, the Android OS no longer needs to index the applications and find their classes.dex when the phone is already running. Instead, it will just look into one place, and will know what to do next. Nifty huh?

To know what is going on inside the Dalvik VM, you can read about it here.

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