What is the synchronized keyword?
Threads communicate primarily by sharing access to fields and the objects reference fields refer to. This form of communication is extremely efficient, but makes two kinds of errors possible: thread interference and memory consistency errors. The tool needed to prevent these errors is synchronization.
Synchronized blocks or methods prevents thread interference and make sure that data is consistent. At any point of time, only one thread can access a synchronized block or method (critical section) by acquiring a lock. Other thread(s) will wait for release of lock to access critical section.
When are methods synchronized?
Methods are synchronized when you add
synchronized to method definition or declaration. You can also synchronize a particular block of code with-in a method.
What does it mean pro grammatically and logically?
It means that only one thread can access critical section by acquiring a lock. Unless this thread release this lock, all other thread(s) will have to wait to acquire a lock. They don't have access to enter critical section with out acquiring lock.
This can't be done with a magic. It's programmer responsibility to identify critical section(s) in application and guard it accordingly. Java provides a framework to guard your application, but where and what all sections to be guarded is the responsibility of programmer.
More details from java documentation page
Intrinsic Locks and Synchronization:
Synchronization is built around an internal entity known as the intrinsic lock or monitor lock. Intrinsic locks play a role in both aspects of synchronization: enforcing exclusive access to an object's state and establishing happens-before relationships that are essential to visibility.
Every object has an intrinsic lock associated with it. By convention, a thread that needs exclusive and consistent access to an object's fields has to acquire the object's intrinsic lock before accessing them, and then release the intrinsic lock when it's done with them.
A thread is said to own the intrinsic lock between the time it has acquired the lock and released the lock. As long as a thread owns an intrinsic lock, no other thread can acquire the same lock. The other thread will block when it attempts to acquire the lock.
When a thread releases an intrinsic lock, a happens-before relationship is established between that action and any subsequent acquisition of the same lock.
Making methods synchronized has two effects:
First, it is not possible for two invocations of synchronized methods on the same object to interleave.
When one thread is executing a synchronized method for an object, all other threads that invoke synchronized methods for the same object block (suspend execution) until the first thread is done with the object.
Second, when a synchronized method exits, it automatically establishes a happens-before relationship with any subsequent invocation of a synchronized method for the same object.
This guarantees that changes to the state of the object are visible to all threads.
Look for other alternatives to synchronization in :
Avoid synchronized(this) in Java?