Typical virtual memory layout, Operating System

Using pages makes it easier to manage the whole memory, avoiding excessive fragmentation and waste. As an analogy, think of Tetris, but with only square blocks: it is relatively easy to avoid fragmentation in this case. Both the virtual and the physical memory are divided into pages. As an aside, we often refer to physical memory pages as frames. Every virtual page consists of a range of virtual addresses. Virtual pages are then mapped to physical pages in the physical memory. When an application needs to access a virtual page, the corresponding virtual address is translated into a "real" physical address, and then the actual data might be read and/or written. As a consequence, note that although arrays are contiguous in virtual memory, they may be non-contiguous in physical memory. Note also that some virtual pages do not map to any actual physical memory address, because not all virtual pages are necessarily being used at any given time. The unused virtual pages are called invalid. If a program ever tries to access an invalid page, it pagefaults.

A typical virtual memory layout includes a stack, a mmap region, a heap, and the code of the program (the "text" section). Since mmap and heap grow towards each other, in the worst case they could smash into each other. The same could happen with the stack: if a program recurses for a large number of times, the stack could grow over the mmap region ("stack over?ow") and in this case something bad and usually unpredictable will happen.

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