How to create and run a thread in Java

1. Introduction

A thread is a thread of execution in program. A thread is a light weight sub-process. It is smallest unit of processing.

  • A thread has its own call stack and there is only one call stack per thread in Java.
  • Thread in Java is represented by java.lang.Thread class.
  • Threads exist within a process. So every process has at least one thread. Every Java application has one or several threads.
  • Threads are lightweight. Creating a new thread requires fewer resources than creating a new process.
  • Threads share process’s resources like memory space.
  • Context switching between threads is usually less expensive than switching between processes.
  • Cost of intercommunication between threads is relatively low than that of communication between processes.

2. Create a thread

There are two ways to create thread in Java:

  • By implementing the Runnable interface.
  • By extending java.lang.Thread class.

2.1 Create a thread by extending java.lang.Thread

To create a thread by extending Thread class involved two steps:

  1. Extend java.lang.Thread class.
  2. Override the run() method.
//Our thread class extending Thread
class MyThread extends Thread {
	public void run() {
		System.out.println("executing thread");

public class ThreadExample {
	public static void main(String args[]) {
		//creating the thread
		MyThread myThread1 = new MyThread();
		//start a thread


executing thread

This approach has disadvantage that you can not extend any other class since you have already extended Thread class.

2.2 Create a thread by implementing java.lang.Runnable

The approach to create a thread by implementing Runnable interface is the preferred way of creating a thread. This approach allows you to extend another class.

You can create a thread by implementing Runnable and then passing it to a Thread. This approach separates the job of the thread and the instance creation of a thread.

This approach involves two steps:

  1. Define job of thread by creating a Runnable.
  2. Create a thread by passing Runnable to Thread constructor.
//Define job performed by a thread
class MyThread implements Runnable {
	public void run() {
		System.out.println("executing thread");

public class ThreadExample {
	public static void main(String args[]) {
		//Pass Runnable to Thread
		Thread t = new Thread(new MyThread());
		//run a thread


executing thread

Note: Thread class itself implements Runnable interface.

3. Start a thread

public void run()

Creating a thread instance does not mean it is alive. It is just an instance. To make the thread alive, we have to start it manually.

To start a thread, you have to manually start the thread by calling start() method on thread. If you call the run() method directly, it will not create a new thread and no separate call stack will be created.

The Thread class expects a run() method with no arguments. run() method is executed in a separate call stack once the thread has been started.

4. Points to note

  • You can not start a Runnable. You can only start a Thread.
  • You can directly call run() method like any other method but it does not start a new thread and no separate stack is created. run() method in this case goes onto current call stack.
  • Creating an object of the Thread class doesn’t create a new execution thread.
  • Calling the run() method of a class that implements Runnable doesn’t create a new execution thread. Thread is created only when start() is called.
  • A thread can not be started twice. If you call start() method on a thread once the thread has been started, it will throw IllegalThreadStateException which is a RuntimeException.
  • Once run() method completes, it no longer remains a thread.
  • You can not call start() method twice even if the run() method has not completed.
  • A Java program ends when all its non-daemon threads finish.
  • If the initial thread ends, the rest of the thread continue with their execution until they finish. If one of the threads call System.exit() to end the execution, all other threads end their execution.

5. Order of execution of threads

The thread scheduler is responsible for deciding which thread out of multiple eligible runnable threads should execute at a given point of time. Eligible here means runnable threads not new and dead threads.

The order in which a runnable thread is chosen out of all eligible runnable threads to execute at a given point of time is not guaranteed. The thread scheduler can choose any of the eligible running threads.

The above statement is on the assumption that there is only one processor.

We can not control the behavior of the thread scheduler but we can influence using various methods.

  • public final void setPriority(int newPriority)
  • public final void join() throws InterruptedException
  • public final void notify()
  • public final void notifyAll()public static void sleep(long millis) throws InterruptedException
  • public static void yield()
  • public final void wait() throws InterruptedException

6. Thread Information

The Thread class has some attributes which describe the information about the thread. These attributes are:

  • ID: This is the unique identifier for each Thread.
  • Name: This is the name of the Thread.
  • Priority: Represents the priority of the Thread. It is a number between 1 and 10. 1 is the lowest priority and 10 is the highest priority.
  • Status: Represents the status of the Thread. A thread can be in one of these states: NEW, RUNNABLE, BLOCKED, WAITING, TIMED_WAITING, TERMINATED.

You can’t modify the ID or Status of a thread. The Thread class does not have method to set ID and status.