Memory Allocation Techniques | Mapping Virtual Addresses to Physical Addresses


In computer science and operating systems, memory allocation techniques are used to allocate memory to programs and processes.

The mapping of virtual addresses to physical addresses is an important aspect of memory allocation because it allows programs to access the memory they require to run.

Mapping Virtual Addresses to Physical Addresses

Virtual addresses are used by programs to access memory, while physical addresses are the actual locations in RAM where data is stored.Memory allocation techniques manage the mapping of virtual addresses to physical addresses using different methods.

Methods of Mapping Virtual Addresses to Physical Addresses

There are three common methods of mapping virtual addresses to physical addresses −


The virtual address space is divided into fixed-size pages in this technique, and physical memory is also divided into pages of the same size. When a program accesses a virtual address, the operating system uses a page table to map it to the corresponding physical address.


In this method, the virtual address space is divided into logical segments, such as code segment, data segment, and stack segment.Each segment is assigned a base address in physical memory.The operating system maps virtual addresses to physical addresses by adding the base address of the corresponding segment to the offset of the virtual address.

Combined Paging and Segmentation

This method combines the benefits of paging and segmentation.The virtual address space is segmented, and each segment is further divided into pages.To map virtual addresses to physical addresses, the operating system uses a two-level page table.

Virtual Address Extension(VAE)

VAE is a technique for expanding the virtual address space beyond the constraints imposed by the number of bits in the virtual address. In 64-bit operating systems, this technique is used to support larger address spaces. The operating system employs a page table structure capable of dealing with larger address spaces.

Address Translation Buffers(ATB)

ATB is a hardware-based technique for accelerating the mapping of virtual to physical addresses. It is a cache that stores recently used mapping information, reducing the time required to map.


Using memory allocation techniques to map virtual addresses to physical addresses offers several benefits −

Efficient Use of Memory

Memory allocation techniques ensure that memory is efficiently allocated to programs and processes.

Protection of System Resources

Memory allocation techniques aid in the prevention of memory-related problems such as memory leaks and buffer overflows.

Virtual Memory Support

Memory allocation techniques support virtual memory, allowing programs to access more memory than is physically available in the system.


Memory allocation techniques provide memory allocation flexibility, allowing programs to allocate and deallocate memory as needed.

Hardware Optimization

Address Translation Buffers (ATB) can help improve system performance by reducing the time required to map virtual addresses to physical addresses.

Memory allocation techniques are an important part of modern operating systems because they provide several benefits that help improve system performance and stability.


There are also a few drawbacks to using memory allocation techniques −

Overhead − Some memory allocation techniques can result in extra memory usage and processing time required to perform the mapping between virtual and physical addresses.


Memory allocation techniques can result in memory fragmentation, which is the division of available memory into small, unusable chunks. This can result in inefficient memory usage and decreased system performance.


Some memory allocation techniques, especially when dealing with large amounts of memory, can be difficult to implement and manage. This increases the possibility of system errors or bugs.

Hardware Limitations

Some hardware platforms may not support certain memory allocation techniques, limiting the system's flexibility and capabilities.

Security Vulnerabilities

Memory allocation techniques can also introduce security flaws, especially if the implementation contains bugs or flaws. Attackers may be able to use these flaws to gain unauthorized access to the system or cause it to crash.


Memory allocation techniques are critical for managing system resources efficiently while also ensuring system stability and security. Each technique has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, but all serve the same purpose of managing memory allocation in an efficient, secure, and reliable manner. It is essential to carefully select and implement the appropriate memory allocation technique for a given system and application to optimize system performance and ensure long-term reliability and security.

Updated on: 04-May-2023


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