Key differences between Iterator and Enumeration Interface in Java

Iterator Interface in Java

Iterator interface in Java provides a way to access elements sequentially within a collection without exposing its underlying structure. It is part of the Java Collections Framework, defined in the java.util package. An Iterator allows you to traverse through a collection, obtaining or removing elements as you go. This interface defines three main methods: hasNext(), which returns true if there are more elements to explore; next(), which retrieves the next element in the collection; and remove(), which removes the last element returned by the iterator from the collection. Using an Iterator is more generic and safer than using traditional loops with index variables, especially when modifying the collection during iteration.

Functions of Iterator Interface in Java:

  • Traversal:

It provides a universal way to sequentially access elements in various types of data structures, like lists, sets, and more, without exposing the underlying representation.

  • Check for More Elements:

hasNext() method allows the caller to check whether there are more elements to iterate over. This method returns true if the iteration has more elements.

  • Access Next Element:

next() method returns the next element in the iteration. Calling this method repeatedly moves the cursor forward in the collection.

  • Remove Elements:

remove() method removes from the underlying collection the last element returned by this iterator. This method can be called only once per call to next() and throws an exception if the next() method has not yet been called, or the remove() method has already been called after the last call to next().

  • Modification Safety:

Iterators allow safe modification of the collection during iteration, which is not generally possible using traditional for-loops without causing ConcurrentModificationException.

  • Lambda Operations Support (since Java 8):

Iterators can be used with Java 8’s lambda expressions and method references, though Streams provide a more powerful alternative for such use cases.

  • ForEach Remaining:

Added in Java 8, the forEachRemaining(Consumer action) method performs the given action for each remaining element in the iteration until all elements have been processed or the action throws an exception.

  • Generics Support:

Iterators support generics, which means they can be typed to specific classes to avoid casting and type errors.

Example of Iterator Interface in Java:

This example iterates through a list of integers, printing each number, and then removing even numbers from the list using the iterator. This is a common practice to avoid ConcurrentModificationException which would occur if the list were modified directly while iterating through it using a for-each loop.

import java.util.ArrayList;

import java.util.Iterator;

import java.util.List;

public class IteratorExample {

    public static void main(String[] args) {

        // Create an ArrayList and add some elements

        List<Integer> numbers = new ArrayList<>();






        // Obtain an iterator for the list

        Iterator<Integer> it = numbers.iterator();

        // Iterate through the list using the iterator

        System.out.println(“List before removal:”);

        while (it.hasNext()) {

            Integer number =;



        // Re-obtain the iterator to remove even numbers

        it = numbers.iterator();  // Reinitialize iterator

        while (it.hasNext()) {

            Integer number =;

            if (number % 2 == 0) {

                it.remove();  // Remove even numbers



        // Print the list after removal

        System.out.println(“List after removing even numbers:”);

        for (Integer number : numbers) {






  • List Creation:

Initially, we create an ArrayList of integers and populate it with some values.

  • First Iteration:

We iterate through the list using an iterator and print each element. After this loop, since we used the iterator fully, we need to reinitialize it for a second pass.

  • Second Iteration:

We obtain the iterator again and use it to check and remove even numbers. Note that we use it.remove() which is the safe way to modify a collection during iteration.

  • Final Output:

Finally, we print the contents of the list after removal operations, which should only contain odd numbers.       

Enumeration Interface in Java

Enumeration interface in Java is an older style of iterating over elements of a collection, typically used with legacy classes like Vector and Hashtable. Defined in the java.util package, Enumeration provides a two-method interface for accessing data within a collection sequentially. The hasMoreElements() method checks if there are more elements to retrieve, and the nextElement() method returns the next element in the sequence. While similar in functionality to the Iterator interface, Enumeration does not support element removal, making it less flexible. It is largely considered obsolete for new code due to the more comprehensive and robust capabilities of the Iterator interface but is maintained within Java for backward compatibility.

Functions of Enumeration Interface in Java:

  • Element Traversal:

Enumeration provides a way to traverse through a collection of elements sequentially. It is particularly used with legacy collections.

  • Check for More Elements:

 hasMoreElements() method is used to determine if there are more elements in the collection that can be accessed. It returns true if the enumeration has more elements; otherwise, it returns false.

  • Access Next Element:

nextElement() method retrieves the next element in the collection. This method can be called repeatedly to access each element until all elements have been traversed.

  • Read-Only Access:

Unlike the Iterator interface, Enumeration does not provide a method to remove elements from the collection. This makes Enumeration a read-only interface that can only be used to read or access data within a collection.

  • Simple Iteration Mechanism:

Due to its simple structure with only two methods, Enumeration is easier to implement and use when complex operations like element modification and removal are not required.

  • Use in Legacy Code:

Because of its presence in older classes like Vector and Hashtable, Enumeration is commonly used in maintaining and interacting with legacy systems that have not been updated to use more modern Java collections.

  • Interface Consistency:

Enumeration maintains a consistent method for accessing elements sequentially, similar to more modern iterators, albeit with fewer capabilities, providing a familiar pattern for those working with older Java APIs.

  • Safe for Concurrent Access:

Unlike Iterator, which can throw ConcurrentModificationException if the collection is modified during iteration, Enumeration does not involve any modification methods and is generally safer for use in multi-threaded environments where the collection does not change.

Example of Enumeration Interface in Java:

This example will iterate over a Vector of strings using an Enumeration, displaying each string in the console.

import java.util.Enumeration;

import java.util.Vector;

public class EnumerationExample {

    public static void main(String[] args) {

        // Create a Vector and add some elements

        Vector<String> vector = new Vector<>();





        // Obtain an enumeration of the elements in the vector

        Enumeration<String> elements = vector.elements();

        // Iterate through the vector using the Enumeration

        System.out.println(“Elements in vector:”);

        while (elements.hasMoreElements()) {

            String element = elements.nextElement();






  • Vector Creation:

First, we create a Vector of strings and populate it with some fruit names.

  • Enumeration Obtained:

We then call the elements() method of Vector to obtain an Enumeration that can iterate over the elements in the vector.

  • Iteration:

Using the Enumeration, we check if there are more elements with hasMoreElements() and retrieve each element using nextElement(). Each element is then printed to the console.

Key differences between Iterator and Enumeration Interface in Java

Aspect Iterator Enumeration
Collection Framework Part of modern framework Legacy API
Remove Element Can remove elements Cannot remove elements
Method Names hasNext, next hasMoreElements, nextElement
Functionality Rich functionality Basic functionality
Iteration Method Enhanced control Simple traversal
Fail-Fast Behavior Supports fail-fast No fail-fast support
Safety Can modify collection Read-only access
Interfaces Used Used by all collections Used by specific collections (Vector, Hashtable)
Added Methods remove, forEachRemaining None
Method Count More methods Fewer methods
Introduction Version Introduced in Java 1.2 Introduced in Java 1.0
Generics Support Supports generics Does not support generics
Concurrent Modification Throws ConcurrentModificationException No such checks
Typical Use Case Used in modern Java programs Used in legacy systems
Method of Obtainment iterator() method elements() method

Key Similarities between Iterator and Enumeration Interface in Java

  • Sequential Access:

Both Iterator and Enumeration allow sequential access to the elements of a collection. They provide a means to traverse through the elements one by one.

  • Forward Direction Traversal:

Each interface facilitates movement through a collection in a forward direction only. There is no capability to move backward through the collection.

  • No Direct Collection Manipulation:

Neither interface allows for direct manipulation of the collection’s size or structure during iteration. They are used solely to traverse and access the collection’s elements.

  • Read Elements:

Both interfaces primarily focus on reading elements from a collection. While Iterator does provide a remove function, its fundamental use is still to access elements.

  • Method to Check for More Elements:

Iterator has hasNext(), and Enumeration has hasMoreElements(). Both methods serve the same purpose of checking if there are more elements available for iteration in the collection.

  • Method to Access Next Element:

Each interface includes a method to access the next element (next() for Iterator and nextElement() for Enumeration), which is used to actually retrieve each element during the iteration process.

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