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Uncaught Exception Handling and ThreadDeath

Java uses (or in more specific terms, throws) exceptions to notify exceptional situations in programs. Developers write try-catch blocks to handle these exceptions, or simply propagate the exceptions upwards in the call stack.

An uncaught exception is a Throwable, which is not caught by any part of the application in the call stack where the exception occurred. It has propagated through the call stack, and has arrived at the underlying thread (could be the main thread or a defined thread), without being caught. Java actually handles uncaught exceptions according to the thread in which they occur. When an uncaught exception occurs in a particular thread, Java looks for what is called an uncaught exception handler, actually an implementaiton of the interface UnCaughtExceptionHandler.

The specific procedure is as follows. When an uncaught exception occurs, the JVM does the following:

  • it calls a special private method, dispatchUncaughtException(), on the Thread class in which the exception occurs;
  • it then terminates the thread in which the exception occurred

The dispatchUncaughtException() method, in turn, calls the thread’s getUncaughtExceptionHandler() method to find out the appropriate uncaught exception handler to use. Normally, this will actually be the thread’s parent ThreadGroup, whose handleException() method by default will print the stack trace.

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