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Memory Mapping Techniques in OS

By allocating a virtual address to a memory's physical location, memory mapping is a method used in computer science and engineering to retrieve data that has been placed there. Since it does not need expensive read and write operations on the disc, memory mapping offers an effective approach to access data that is stored in memory.

In computer science and engineering, there are a number of memory mapping techniques are used. Some of them are as follow:

1. Direct memory access (DMA)

This method enables peripheral devices to read and write data directly to and from memory without the need for CPU intervention, such as network cards or hard drives. The speed of data transport may be considerably increased using this method.


  1. The peripheral device asks the CPU for DMA access.
  2. The CPU hands over control of the memory bus to the peripheral device and provides DMA access.
  3. Without the assistance of the CPU, the peripheral device reads or writes data directly to or from memory.
  4. When the transfer is finished, the peripheral device alerts the CPU.

2. Virtual Memory Mapping

This method is used to provide programmes access to more memory than is really physically accessible on the machine. Virtual memory mapping entails converting virtual addresses to physical addresses in memory and storing data that does not fit in physical memory in a page file or swap space on disc.


  1. The programme asks the operating system for memory.
  2. The application is given a block of virtual memory by the operating system.
  3. The virtual memory is accessed by the programme just like real memory.
  4. A page fault happens when the programme tries to access a virtual memory page that isn't currently in physical memory.
  5. After moving the page from the disc into physical memory, the operating system modifies the page table to reflect the revised mapping.
  6. After the swapped-in page is accessed as if it were physically present in memory, the programme resumes running.

3. Memory-mapped I/O

This method maps the registers or memory space of hardware devices to the address space of the CPU to enable communication between them and the CPU. As a result, the CPU may access hardware components using the same commands and addressing schemes that it used for accessing memory.


  1. A hardware component transfers its registers or memory to the address space of the CPU.
  2. The CPU reads from or writes to the mapped registers or memory to access the hardware device.
  3. When the desired action is finished, the hardware device alerts the CPU.

4. File Mapping

Programs can access files as if they were actually stored in memory using the file mapping technology, which enables files to be mapped directly into memory. This method is frequently applied in database systems to provide quick access to data kept in big files.


  1. A file is requested to be mapped into memory by the programme.
  2. The operating system allocates a section of virtual memory and maps it to the file on disc in order to map the file into memory.
  3. The file is accessed by the programme as though it were in memory.
  4. The operating system copies the modifications back to the file on disc when the programme writes to the mapped region of memory.

5. Shared Memory

Using the shared memory approach, it is possible for numerous processes to exchange information and communicate with one another by having access to the same area of memory. Parallel computing and inter-process communication (IPC) both frequently employ this.


  1. The operating system assigns a memory space that can be shared by several processes.
  2. After attaching to the shared memory area, the processes use it just like private memory.
  3. The operating system makes sure all processes that visit the shared memory region may see any modifications performed by one process.

6. Memory-mapped files

This process is similar to file mapping in that it directly maps a file into memory, enabling the programme to access the contents of the file as if they were kept in memory. In operating systems and database systems, this method is frequently employed for effective file I/O operations.


  1. A file is requested to be mapped into memory by the programme.
  2. The operating system allocates a section of virtual memory and maps it to the file on disc in order to map the file into memory.
  3. The file is accessed by the programme as though it were in memory.
  4. The operating system copies the modifications back to the file on disc when the program writes to the mapped region of memory.

7. Heap memory allocation

This is a method for dynamically allocating memory for a running programme. The heap is a section of memory that can be used to hold things that are produced and destroyed over the course of a programme, including data structures and other objects.


  1. The programme calls a memory allocation function, such as C's malloc(), to request memory from the heap.
  2. The heap manager returns a pointer to the memory block it has allotted from the heap.
  3. Data structures or other objects are used by the programme in the memory that has been allotted.
  4. The programme calls a deallocation function, such as free() in C, to release the memory when it has stopped using it.

8. Stack Memory Allocation

Memory is allocated for function calls and local variables using the stack memory allocation approach. The runtime environment of the programme controls the stack, a portion of memory used to hold local variables and functions call frames.


  1. A function is called by the programme, and its arguments and return address are placed on the stack.
  2. The stack frame for the function is allocated and includes room for its local variables.
  3. The function reads from and writes to the stack frame to access its local variables.
  4. The function's stack frame is deallocated after it completes, freeing up the stack space it used.

9. Physical memory mapping

This method is used to directly map physical memory into a program's address space, enabling the programme to directly access system memory and hardware resources. Low-level system software and device drivers frequently employ this strategy.


  1. Determine the range of physical memory addresses that need to be mapped to virtual addresses by determining the physical memory range. Depending on the system's hardware setup, this range may change.
  2. A portion of virtual address space should be set aside for the physical memory mapping. The whole physical memory range that has to be mapped should fit inside this range.
  3. Making a page table to map the reserved virtual address space to the actual memory region, create a page table. To map the physical memory range to virtual addresses, the page table should be big enough to include all the necessary entries.
  4. Initialise the page table by adding the physical memory locations that need to be mapped to virtual addresses to the page table entries. The physical memory address is kept in each entry of the page table, which represents a page of memory.
  5. By adjusting the relevant bits in the processor's control registers, you may enable the physical memory mapping. This enables the CPU to use the page table to convert virtual addresses to physical addresses.
  6. Utilise the virtual addresses that have been mapped to the physical memory range to access the physical memory. Using these virtual addresses, data may be read from or written to the actual memory.
  7. When the physical memory mapping is no longer required, the virtual address space might be made available for other purposes.

Applications of Memory Mapping Techniques

Memory mapping has several applications in a variety of access domains, such as:

1. Operating systems

A key idea in operating systems is memory mapping. Operating systems employ virtual memory mapping to effectively manage physical memory and give each process its own address space. Memory-mapped files are used to exchange data across processes and speed up file I/O operations.

2. Databases

Memory mapping is used in databases to assist effective indexing and speed up data access. All of the data is kept in memory by in-memory databases, which often manage the data via memory mapping techniques.

3. Device drivers

Memory mapping is a technique used by device drivers to directly access hardware registers and memory without going via the CPU.Device drivers can achieve great performance and low latency as a result.

4. Games

Memory mapping is a technique used in video games to swiftly load vast quantities of data, such as textures and models, into memory. Data from gaming controllers and other input devices are read and written using memory-mapped I/O.

5. Scientific computing

To allow large-scale simulations and enable parallel processing, memory mapping is utilised in scientific computing. Multiple processes can often interact with each other and access the same data thanks to shared memory.

6. Applications for multimedia

Memory mapping is used in multimedia applications to load and process huge data, such as photographs and movies. When reading and writing data from files, memory-mapped files are utilised, and memory-mapped I/O is used to communicate with hardware devices like cameras and microphones.

7. Financial applications

To enable high-speed data access and processing, memory mapping is utilised in financial applications including trading systems and risk management software. Large volumes of financial data are frequently stored and managed using in-memory databases.

8. High-frequency trading

To facilitate quick access to data and decision-making, memory mapping is utilised in high-frequency trading systems. Memory-mapped data structures are used by high-frequency trading systems to store and quickly retrieve financial data.

9. File Systems

To enhance file access and retrieval, file systems employ memory mapping. When a file is memory-mapped, the operating system places the file in virtual memory, enabling access to it in the same way as other memory-mapped areas. Faster file I/O and better system performance may result from this.

10. Network Communication

To enhance data transport and processing, memory mapping is utilised in network communication. To enable effective processing by the operating system and network applications, network packets are frequently memory-mapped into virtual memory.

11. Video Processing

To enhance video playing and rendering, memory mapping is utilised in video processing applications. The video programme can process and produce video frames effectively because they are frequently memory-mapped into virtual memory.

12. Web Servers

To cache frequently requested files and data, web servers employ memory mapping. The speed with which memory-mapped files may be retrieved and delivered to clients enhances server performance and lowers network latency.

13. High-performance Computing

Memory mapping is used in high-performance computing to enhance the processing and access of data. It is possible to provide parallel processing and effective data interchange across processes by utilising shared memory and memory-mapped data structures.

14. Digital Signal Processing

Memory mapping is a technique used to quickly access big data sets. This is crucial in applications like real-time image processing, which require the instantaneous access to huge picture data sets.

15. Robotics

Sensor data, which is often broadcast from several sensors, is accessed in robotics applications using memory mapping. This information may be quickly accessible and processed by mapping it into memory.

16. Applications for Audio Processing

It employs memory mapping to effectively access big audio files. In cases where quick access to big files is essential, this can also apply to editing and manipulating audio recordings.

Advantages of Memory Mapping

  1. Fast Access: Memory mapping enables direct memory access that bypasses the CPU, resulting in quicker access times and better performance.
  2. Memory Management: Memory mapping provides effective memory management by allowing different processes to access shared memory, which lowers memory use and increases resource utilisation.
  3. Simplified I/O Operations: Memory mapping makes I/O operations simpler by enabling data to be written to or retrieved from memory directly, as opposed to passing through a number of I/O pipeline steps.
  4. Better File Handling: By mapping a file to memory and treating it as an array there, memory mapping makes it possible to handle files more effectively.
  5. Shared Memory: Memory mapping makes shared memory possible, allowing for inter-process communication and data exchange, which improves teamwork and makes effective use of resources.

Disadvantages of Memory Mapping

  1. Limited Control: Memory mapping places restrictions on how much control users have over how memory is used, which can result in unexpected behaviour and performance problems.
  2. Resource-Intensive: Memory mapping may need a lot of resources, which might result in excessive memory utilisation and decreased system stability.
  3. Security Issues: Memory mapping may create security problems since it gives users direct access to memory, which might expose them to vulnerabilities and attacks connected to memory.
  4. Complexity: Memory mapping can be challenging to execute well and may call for specialised knowledge.
  5. Operating System Dependency: Because memory mapping is frequently dependent on the operating system, porting applications between various platforms can be challenging.

Memory mapping has shown to be an effective method in a number of access domains. Large data volumes may now be accessed effectively, enhancing system throughput and performance. It is a crucial approach in many applications due to its rapid access to large data volumes in real-time.

To sum up, memory mapping has several benefits, including quick access, effective memory management, streamlined I/O operations, enhanced file handling, and shared memory. It also has several drawbacks including restricted control, resource intensity, security threats, complexity, and operating system dependence. Memory mapping should be chosen depending on the application's particular needs and limitations.