Paging and Segmentation

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Paging and segmentation are processes by which knowledge is saved to, then retrieved from, a pc’s storage disk.

Paging is a pc reminiscence administration operate that presents storage areas to the pc’s CPU as further reminiscence, known as digital reminiscence. Every bit of information wants a storage handle.

Segmentation is a digital course of that creates variable-sized handle areas in pc storage for associated knowledge, known as segments. This course of pace retrieval. 

Managing pc reminiscence is a fundamental working system operate — each paging and segmentation are fundamental features of the OS. No system can effectively depend on restricted RAM alone. So the pc’s reminiscence administration unit (MMU) makes use of the storage disk, HDD or SSD, as digital reminiscence to complement RAM.

Let’s look in-depth at paging, then we’ll look in-depth at segmentation.

What’s Paging?

As talked about above, the reminiscence administration operate known as paging specifies storage areas to the CPU as further reminiscence, known as digital reminiscence. The CPU can not straight entry storage disk, so the MMU emulates reminiscence by mapping pages to frames which are in RAM.

Earlier than we launch right into a extra detailed clarification of pages and frames, let’s outline some technical phrases.

  • Web page: A hard and fast-length contiguous block of digital reminiscence residing on disk.
  • Body: A hard and fast-length contiguous block positioned in RAM; whose sizing is an identical to pages.
  • Bodily reminiscence: The pc’s random entry reminiscence (RAM), sometimes contained in DIMM playing cards hooked up to the pc’s motherboard.
  • Digital reminiscence: Digital reminiscence is a portion of an HDD or SSD that’s reserved to emulate RAM. The MMU serves up digital reminiscence from disk to the CPU to cut back the workload on bodily reminiscence.
  • Digital handle: The CPU generates a digital handle for every energetic course of. The MMU maps the digital handle to a bodily location in RAM and passes the handle to the bus. A digital handle area is the vary of digital addresses underneath CPU management.
  • Bodily handle: The bodily handle is a location in RAM. The bodily handle area is the set of all bodily addresses akin to the CPU’s digital addresses. A bodily handle area is the vary of bodily addresses underneath MMU management.


By assigning an handle to a chunk of information utilizing a “web page desk” between the CPU and the pc’s bodily reminiscence, a pc’s MMU allows the system to retrieve that knowledge at any time when wanted.

The Paging Course of

A web page desk shops the definition of every web page. When an energetic course of requests knowledge, the MMU retrieves corresponding pages into frames positioned in bodily reminiscence for sooner processing. The method is known as paging.

The MMU makes use of web page tables to translate digital addresses to bodily ones. Every desk entry signifies the place a web page is positioned: in RAM or on disk as digital reminiscence. Tables could have a single or multi-level web page desk akin to completely different tables for purposes and segments.

Nevertheless, fixed desk lookups can decelerate the MMU. A reminiscence cache known as the Translation Lookaside Buffer (TLB) shops latest translations of digital to bodily addresses for speedy retrieval. Many methods have a number of TLBs, which can reside at completely different areas, together with between the CPU and RAM, or between a number of web page desk ranges.

Completely different body sizes can be found for knowledge units with bigger or smaller pages and matching-sized frames. 4KB to 2MB are widespread sizes, and GB-sized frames can be found in high-performance servers.

A problem known as hidden fragmentation was an issue in older Home windows deployments (95, 98, and Me). The issue was inner (or hidden) fragmentation. In contrast to the intense exterior fragmentation of segmenting, inner fragmentation occurred if each body is just not the precise dimension of the web page dimension. Nevertheless, this isn’t a difficulty in fashionable Home windows OS.

What’s Segmentation?

The method generally known as segmentation is a digital course of that creates handle areas of assorted sizes in a pc system, known as segments. Every section is a unique digital handle area that straight corresponds to course of objects.

When a course of executes, segmentation assigns associated knowledge into segments for sooner processing. The segmentation operate maintains a section desk that features bodily addresses of the section, dimension, and different knowledge.


Segmentation hurries up a pc’s data retrieval by assigning associated knowledge right into a “section desk” between the CPU and the bodily reminiscence.

The Segmentation Course of

Every section shops the processes main operate, knowledge constructions, and utilities. The CPU retains a section map desk for each course of and reminiscence blocks, together with section identification and reminiscence areas.

The CPU generates digital addresses for working processes. Segmentation interprets the CPU-generated digital addresses into bodily addresses that confer with a singular bodily reminiscence location. The interpretation is just not strictly one-to-one: completely different digital addresses can map to the identical bodily handle.

The Problem of Fragmentation

Though segmentation is a high-speed and extremely safe reminiscence administration operate, exterior fragmentation proved to be an insurmountable problem. Segmentation causes exterior fragmentation to the purpose that fashionable x86-64 servers deal with it as a legacy software, and solely assist it for backwards compatibility.

Exterior fragmentation happens when unusable reminiscence is positioned outdoors of allotted reminiscence blocks. The problem is that the system could have sufficient reminiscence to fulfill course of request, however the obtainable reminiscence is just not in a contiguous location. In time, the fragmentation worsens and considerably slows the segmentation course of.

Segmented Paging

Some fashionable computer systems use a operate known as segmented paging. Predominant reminiscence is split into variably-sized segments, that are then divided into smaller fixed-size pages on disk. Every section incorporates a web page desk, and there are a number of web page tables per course of.

Every of the tables incorporates data on each section web page, whereas the section desk has details about each section. Section tables are mapped to web page tables, and web page tables are mapped to particular person pages inside a section.

Benefits embrace much less reminiscence utilization, extra flexibility on web page sizes, simplified reminiscence allocation, and a further stage of information entry safety over paging. The method doesn’t trigger exterior fragmentation.

Paging and Segmentation: Benefits and Disadvantages

Paging Benefits

  • On the programmer stage, paging is a clear operate and doesn’t require intervention.
  • No exterior fragmentation.
  • No inner fragmentation on up to date OS’s.
  • Frames would not have to be contiguous.

Paging Disadvantages

  • Paging causes inner fragmentation on older methods.
  • Longer reminiscence lookup instances than segmentation; treatment with TLB reminiscence caches.

Segmentation Benefits

  • No inner fragmentation.
  • Section tables consumes much less area in comparison with web page tables.
  • Common section sizes are bigger than most web page sizes, which permits segments to retailer extra course of knowledge.
  • Much less processing overhead.
  • Easier to relocate segments than to relocate contiguous handle areas on disk.
  • Section tables are smaller than web page tables, and takes up much less reminiscence.

Segmentation Disadvantages

  • Makes use of legacy expertise in x86-64 servers.
  • Linux solely helps segmentation in 80×86 microprocessors: states that paging simplifies reminiscence administration by utilizing the identical set of linear addresses.
  • Porting Linux to completely different architectures is problematic due to restricted segmentation assist.
  • Requires programmer intervention.
  • Topic to critical exterior fragmentation.

Key Variations: Paging and Segmentation


  • Paging: Mounted block dimension for pages and frames. Pc determines web page/body sizes.
  • Segmentation: Variable dimension segments are user-specified.


  • Paging: Older methods had been topic to inner fragmentation by not allocating complete pages to reminiscence. Fashionable OS’s not have this drawback.
  • Segmentation: Segmentation results in exterior fragmentation.


  • Paging: Web page tables direct the MMU to web page location and standing. This can be a slower course of than segmentation tables, however TLB reminiscence cache accelerates it.
  • Segmentation: Segmentation tables comprise section ID and knowledge, and are sooner than direct paging desk lookups.


  • Paging: Extensively obtainable on CPUs and as MMU chips.
  • Segmentation: Home windows servers could assist backwards compatibility, whereas Linux has very restricted assist.


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