C++ fastest way to clear or erase a vector

The cost of clear() depends greately on what the stored objects are, and in particular whether they have a trivial destructor. If the type does not have a trivial destructor, then the call must destroy all stored objects and it is in fact an O(n) operation, but you cannot really do anything better.

Now, if the stored elements have trivial destructors, then the implementation can optimize the cost away and clear() becomes a cheap O(1) operation (just resetting the size --end pointer).

Remember that to understand asymptotic complexity you need to know what it talks about. In the case of clear() it represents the number of destructors called, but if the cost (hidden) is 0, then the operation is a no-op.

If your struct has a non-trivial destructor, then that needs to be called for all the elements of the vector regardless of how it is emptied. If your struct only has a trivial destructor, the compiler or the standard library implementation is allowed to optimize away the destruction process and give you a O(1) operation.