What is a NullPointerException, and how do I fix it?

NullPointerExceptions are exceptions that occur when you try to use a reference that points to no location in memory (null) as though it were referencing an object. Calling a method on a null reference or trying to access a field of a null reference will trigger a NullPointerException. These are the most common, but other ways are listed on the NullPointerException javadoc page.

Probably the quickest example code I could come up with to illustrate a NullPointerException would be:

public class Example {

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        Object obj = null;
        obj.hashCode();
    }

}

On the first line inside main, I'm explicitly setting the Object reference obj equal to null. This means I have a reference, but it isn't pointing to any object. After that, I try to treat the reference as though it points to an object by calling a method on it. This results in a NullPointerException because there is no code to execute in the location that the reference is pointing.

(This is a technicality, but I think it bears mentioning: A reference that points to null isn't the same as a C pointer that points to an invalid memory location. A null pointer is literally not pointing anywhere, which is subtly different than pointing to a location that happens to be invalid.)