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IPC technique PIPES

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Pipes are a type of IPC (Inter-Process Communication) technique that allows two or more processes to communicate with each other by creating a unidirectional or bidirectional channel between them. A pipe is a virtual communication channel that allows data to be transferred between processes, either one-way or two-way. Pipes can be implemented using system calls in most modern operating systems, including Linux, macOS, and Windows.

Here are some advantages and disadvantages of using pipes as an IPC technique:


  1. Simplicity: Pipes are a simple and straightforward way for processes to communicate with each other.
  2. Efficiency: Pipes are an efficient way for processes to communicate, as they can transfer data quickly and with minimal overhead.
  3. Reliability: Pipes are a reliable way for processes to communicate, as they can detect errors in data transmission and ensure that data is delivered correctly.
  4. Flexibility: Pipes can be used to implement various communication protocols, including one-way and two-way communication.


  1. Limited capacity: Pipes have a limited capacity, which can limit the amount of data that can be transferred between processes at once.
  2. Unidirectional: In a unidirectional pipe, only one process can send data at a time, which can be a disadvantage in some situations.
  3. Synchronization: In a bidirectional pipe, processes must be synchronized to ensure that data is transmitted in the correct order.
  4. Limited scalability: Pipes are limited to communication between a small number of processes on the same computer, which can be a disadvantage in large-scale distributed systems.
  5. Overall, pipes are a useful IPC technique for simple and efficient communication between processes on the same computer. However, they may not be suitable for large-scale distributed systems or situations where bidirectional communication is required.

A Pipe is a technique used for inter process communication. A pipe is a mechanism by which the output of one process is directed into the input of another process. Thus it provides one way flow of data between two related processes. Although pipe can be accessed like an ordinary file, the system actually manages it as FIFO queue. A pipe file is created using the pipe system call. A pipe has an input end and an output end. One can write into a pipe from input end and read from the output end. A pipe descriptor, has an array that stores two pointers, one pointer is for its input end and the other pointer is for its output end. Suppose two processes, Process A and Process B, need to communicate. In such a case, it is important that the process which writes, closes its read end of the pipe and the process which reads, closes its write end of a pipe. Essentially, for a communication from Process A to Process B the following should happen.

  • Process A should keep its write end open and close the read end of the pipe.
  • Process B should keep its read end open and close its write end. When a pipe is created, it is given a fixed size in bytes.

When a process attempts to write into the pipe, the write request is immediately executed if the pipe is not full. However, if pipe is full the process is blocked until the state of pipe changes. Similarly, a reading process is blocked, if it attempts to read more bytes that are currently in pipe, otherwise the reading process is executed. Only one process can access a pipe at a time. 

Limitations :

  • As a channel of communication a pipe operates in one direction only.
  • Pipes cannot support broadcast i.e. sending message to multiple processes at the same time.
  • The read end of a pipe reads any way. It does not matter which process is connected to the write end of the pipe. Therefore, this is very insecure mode of communication.
  • Some plumbing (closing of ends) is required to create a properly directed pipe.
  • Additionally, the size of the pipe is fixed and cannot be increased, which means that if the size of the data being sent is larger than the size of the pipe, data will be lost.
  • Another limitation is that pipes can only be used for communication between related processes, and cannot be used for communication between unrelated processes or between a process and an external device.

In conclusion, while pipes are a simple and efficient method of inter process communication, they have limitations that need to be taken into consideration when choosing the best method for communication. Understanding the limitations and making informed decisions can ensure that inter process communication runs smoothly.

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Last Updated : 24 Mar, 2023
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