Operating System - Virtual Memory

A computer can address more memory than the amount physically installed on the system. This extra memory is actually called virtual memory and it is a section of a hard disk that's set up to emulate the computer's RAM.

The main visible advantage of this scheme is that programs can be larger than physical memory. Virtual memory serves two purposes. First, it allows us to extend the use of physical memory by using disk. Second, it allows us to have memory protection, because each virtual address is translated to a physical address.

Following are the situations, when entire program is not required to be loaded fully in main memory.

Modern microprocessors intended for general-purpose use, a memory management unit, or MMU, is built into the hardware. The MMU's job is to translate virtual addresses into physical addresses. A basic example is given below −

Virtual Memory

Virtual memory is commonly implemented by demand paging. It can also be implemented in a segmentation system. Demand segmentation can also be used to provide virtual memory.

Demand Paging

A demand paging system is quite similar to a paging system with swapping where processes reside in secondary memory and pages are loaded only on demand, not in advance. When a context switch occurs, the operating system does not copy any of the old program’s pages out to the disk or any of the new program’s pages into the main memory Instead, it just begins executing the new program after loading the first page and fetches that program’s pages as they are referenced.

Demand Paging

While executing a program, if the program references a page which is not available in the main memory because it was swapped out a little ago, the processor treats this invalid memory reference as a page fault and transfers control from the program to the operating system to demand the page back into the memory.


Following are the advantages of Demand Paging −


Page Replacement Algorithm

Page replacement algorithms are the techniques using which an Operating System decides which memory pages to swap out, write to disk when a page of memory needs to be allocated. Paging happens whenever a page fault occurs and a free page cannot be used for allocation purpose accounting to reason that pages are not available or the number of free pages is lower than required pages.

When the page that was selected for replacement and was paged out, is referenced again, it has to read in from disk, and this requires for I/O completion. This process determines the quality of the page replacement algorithm: the lesser the time waiting for page-ins, the better is the algorithm.

A page replacement algorithm looks at the limited information about accessing the pages provided by hardware, and tries to select which pages should be replaced to minimize the total number of page misses, while balancing it with the costs of primary storage and processor time of the algorithm itself. There are many different page replacement algorithms. We evaluate an algorithm by running it on a particular string of memory reference and computing the number of page faults,

Reference String

The string of memory references is called reference string. Reference strings are generated artificially or by tracing a given system and recording the address of each memory reference. The latter choice produces a large number of data, where we note two things.

First In First Out (FIFO) algorithm

First In First Out

Optimal Page algorithm

Optimal page replacement

Least Recently Used (LRU) algorithm

Least Recently Used

Page Buffering algorithm

Least frequently Used(LFU) algorithm

Most frequently Used(MFU) algorithm