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Inverted Page Table in Operating System

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Most Operating Systems implement a separate page table for each process, i.e. for the ‘n’ number of processes running on a Multiprocessing/ Timesharing Operating System, there is an ‘n’ number of page tables stored in the memory. Sometimes when a process is very large and it occupies virtual memory then with the size of the process, its page table size also increases substantially.

Example: A process of size 2 GB with:
Page size = 512 Bytes
Size of page table entry = 4 Bytes, then
Number of pages in the process = 2 GB / 512 B = 222
Page Table Size = 222 * 22 = 224 bytes

Through this example, it can be concluded that for multiple processes running simultaneously in an OS, a considerable part of memory is occupied by page tables only. Operating Systems also incorporate multilevel paging schemes which further increase the space required for storing the page tables and a large amount of memory is invested in storing them. The amount of memory occupied by the page tables can turn out to be a huge overhead and is always unacceptable as main memory is always a scarce resource. Various efforts are made to utilize the memory efficiently and to maintain a good balance in the level of multiprogramming and efficient CPU utilization. 

What is an Inverted Page Table?

In an operating system that uses virtual memory, an Inverted Page Table (IPT) is a data structure used to map physical memory pages to virtual memory pages. Unlike a traditional Page Table, which is a per-process data structure, an IPT is a system-wide data structure that contains an entry for each physical page in memory.

An alternate approach is to use the Inverted Page Table structure that consists of a one-page table entry for every frame of the main memory. So the number of page table entries in the Inverted Page Table reduces to the number of frames in physical memory and a single page table is used to represent the paging information of all the processes.

Through the inverted page table, the overhead of storing an individual page table for every process gets eliminated and only a fixed portion of memory is required to store the paging information of all the processes together. This technique is called inverted paging as the indexing is done concerning the frame number instead of the logical page number.

Components of Inverted Page Table

Each entry in the page table contains the following fields.

  • Page number: It specifies the page number range of the logical address.
  • Process id: An inverted page table contains the address space information of all the processes in execution. Since two different processes can have a similar set of virtual addresses, it becomes necessary in the Inverted Page Table to store a process Id of each process to identify its address space uniquely. This is done by using the combination of PID and Page Number. So this Process Id acts as an address space identifier and ensures that a virtual page for a particular process is mapped correctly to the corresponding physical frame.
  • Control bits: These bits are used to store extra paging-related information. These include the valid bit, dirty bit, reference bits, protection, and locking information bits.
  • Chained pointer: It may be possible sometimes that two or more processes share a part of the main memory. In this case, two or more logical pages map to the same Page Table Entry then a chaining pointer is used to map the details of these logical pages to the root page table.

Working of Inverted Page Table

The operation of an inverted page table is shown below.

Working Inverted Page Table

Inverted Page Table

The virtual address generated by the CPU contains the fields and each page table entry contains the other relevant information required in paging related mechanism. When a memory reference takes place, this virtual address is matched by the Memory Management Unit(MMU), the Inverted Page table is searched and the corresponding frame number is obtained. If the match is found at the ith entry then the physical address of the process is sent as the real address otherwise if no match is found then Segmentation Fault is generated. Note: Number of Entries in Inverted page table = Number of frames in Physical Address Space(PAS).

Examples: The Inverted Page table and its variations are implemented in various systems like PowerPC, UltraSPARC, and the IA-64 architecture. An implementation of the Mach operating system on the RT-PC also uses this technique. 

Advantages of Inverted Page Table

The Main advantages of the inverted page table are as follow:

  • Reduced Memory Space: Inverted Page Tables typically reduce the amount of memory required to store the page tables to a size bound of physical memory. The maximum number of entries could be the number of page frames in the physical memory.
  • Longer Lookup Time: Inverted Page tables are sorted in order of frame number but the memory look-up takes place concerning the virtual address, so, it usually takes a longer time to find the appropriate entry often these page tables are implemented using hash data structures for a faster lookup.
  • Difficult Shared Memory Implementation: As the Inverted Page Table stores a single entry for each frame, it becomes difficult to implement the shared memory in the page tables. Chaining techniques are used to map more than one virtual address to the entry specified in the order of frame number.
  • Optimal and Less Complex: it is better than a simple paging process and has less complexity.
  • Simplified Page Swapping: When a process needs to be swapped out of memory, the IPT can be used to quickly identify all the physical pages that are associated with the process. This can simplify the process of swapping pages and reduce the overall overhead of memory management.
  • Improved Cache Performance: Because the IPT is smaller than a Page Table, it can be more easily stored in the CPU cache, which can improve the performance of memory access operations.

Each entry in the IPT contains the virtual address(es) that map to that physical page, as well as other information such as the process ID of the process that owns the virtual address(es), the access permissions for the page, and other page attributes. This information is used by the operating system to manage the allocation and deallocation of physical memory pages, as well as to ensure that processes are accessing memory only in a safe and controlled manner.

However, there are also some potential disadvantages to using an IPT, such as increased overhead for lookups and the potential for contention between processes for physical memory pages. As with any memory management technique, the choice of whether to use an IPT or a Page Table depends on the specific requirements and constraints of the operating system and hardware platform being used.


At the end, we now know that Inverted Page Table is an important concept in Operating Systems. Systems which have big address spaces provides a better solution to the tracking and management of memory pages problem. It reduces memory usage and seen times by indexing pages according to their actual memory locations rather than their virtual addresses. It is very crucial for system developers to understand the Inverted Page Table because it is a key component of memory allocation and efficiency, which helps to maintain the general stability and responsiveness of operating systems.

Inverted Page Table – FAQs

1. Where is the Inverted Page Table mostly used?

Inverted Page Tables are mostly used in some specialized cases or in the perspective of research areas.

2. How collisions are handled in Inverted Page Tables?

In case of a hash collision, some data structures are used like linked list or tree for resolving the collision.

3. Can the Inverted Page System suit all memory systems?

An inverted Page Table is best suited to systems having limited physical memory but a large virtual address space.

Last Updated : 13 Sep, 2023
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