Virtual memory, page fault and thrashing

Explain the following terms: virtual memory, page fault, thrashing.

My initial thoughts:

  1. Virtual memory is a technique that uses hard disk pages as main memory.
  2. Page fault is the error occurred when transferring pages.
  3. Trashing… No idea.

Solution:
Virtual memory is a computer system technique which gives an application program the impression that it has contiguous working memory (an address space), while in fact it may be physically fragmented and may even overflow on to disk storage. Systems that use this technique make programming of large applications easier and use real physical memory (e.g. RAM) more efficiently than those without virtual memory.

Page Fault: A page is a fixed-length block of memory that is used as a unit of transfer between physical memory and external storage like a disk, and a page fault is an interrupt (or exception) to the software raised by the hardware, when a program accesses a page that is mapped in address space, but not loaded in physical memory.

Thrash is the term used to describe a degenerate situation on a computer where increasing resources are used to do a decreasing amount of work. In this situation the system is said to be thrashing. Usually it refers to two or more processes accessing a shared resource repeatedly such that serious system performance degradation occurs because the system is spending a disproportionate amount of time just accessing the shared resource. Resource access time may generally be considered as wasted, since it does not contribute to the advancement of any process. In modern computers, thrashing may occur in the paging system (if there is not ‘sufficient’ physical memory or the disk access time is overly long), or in the communications system (especially in conflicts over internal bus access), etc.

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