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Logical and Physical Address in Operating System

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A logical address is generated by the CPU while a program is running. The logical address is a virtual address as it does not exist physically, therefore, it is also known as a Virtual Address. The physical address describes the precise position of necessary data in a memory. Before they are used, the MMU must map the logical address to the physical address. In operating systems, logical and physical addresses are used to manage and access memory. Here is an overview of each in detail.

What is a Logical Address?

A logical address, also known as a virtual address, is an address generated by the CPU during program execution. It is the address seen by the process and is relative to the program’s address space. The process accesses memory using logical addresses, which are translated by the operating system into physical addresses. An address that is created by the CPU while a program is running is known as a logical address. Because the logical address is virtual—that is, it doesn’t exist physically—it is also referred to as such. The CPU uses this address as a reference to go to the actual memory location. All logical addresses created from a program’s perspective are referred to as being in the “logical address space”. This address is used as a reference to access the physical memory location by CPU. The term Logical Address Space is used for the set of all logical addresses generated by a program’s perspective. 

What is a Physical Address?

A physical address is the actual address in the main memory where data is stored. It is a location in physical memory, as opposed to a virtual address. Physical addresses are used by the Memory Management Unit (MMU) to translate logical addresses into physical addresses. The user must use the corresponding logical address to go to the physical address rather than directly accessing the physical address. For a computer program to function, physical memory space is required. Therefore, the logical address and physical address need to be mapped before the program is run.

The term “physical address” describes the precise position of necessary data in a memory. Before they are used, the MMU must map the logical address to the physical address. This is because the user program creates the logical address and believes that the program is operating in this logical address. However, the program requires physical memory to execute. All physical addresses that match the logical addresses in a logical address space are collectively referred to as the “physical address space”

The translation from logical to physical addresses is performed by the operating system’s memory management unit. The MMU uses a page table to translate logical addresses into physical addresses. The page table maps each logical page number to a physical frame number.

Similarities Between Logical and Physical Addresses in the Operating System

  • Both logical and physical addresses are used to identify a specific location in memory.
  • Both logical and physical addresses can be represented in different formats, such as binary, hexadecimal, or decimal.
  • Both logical and physical addresses have a finite range, which is determined by the number of bits used to represent them.

Important Points about Logical and Physical Addresses in Operating Systems

  • The use of logical addresses provides a layer of abstraction that allows processes to access memory without knowing the physical memory location.
  • Logical addresses are mapped to physical addresses using a page table. The page table contains information about the mapping between logical and physical addresses.
  • The MMU translates logical addresses into physical addresses using the page table. This translation is transparent to the process and is performed by hardware.
  • The use of logical and physical addresses allows the operating system to manage memory more efficiently by using techniques such as paging and segmentation.

MMU scheme

What is Memory Management Unit ?

The physical hardware of a computer that manages its virtual memory and caching functions is called the memory management unit (MMU). The MMU is sometimes housed in a separate Integrated Chip (IC), but it is typically found inside the central processing unit (CPU) of the computer. The MMU receives all inputs for data requests and decides whether to retrieve the data from ROM or RAM storage.

Difference Between Logical address and Physical Address

ParameterLOGICAL ADDRESSPHYSICAL ADDRESS
Basicgenerated by CPUlocation in a memory unit
Address SpaceLogical Address Space is set of all logical addresses generated by CPU in reference to a program.Physical Address is set of all physical addresses mapped to the corresponding logical addresses.
VisibilityUser can view the logical address of a program.User can never view physical address of program.
Generationgenerated by the CPUComputed by MMU
AccessThe user can use the logical address to access the physical address.The user can indirectly access physical address but not directly.
EditableLogical address can be change.Physical address will not change.
Also calledvirtual address.real address.

Some reference books on operating system concepts that cover logical and physical addressing include:

  • “Operating System Concepts” by Abraham Silberschatz, Peter Baer Galvin, and Greg Gagne.
  • “Modern Operating Systems” by Andrew S. Tanenbaum.
  • “Operating Systems: Three Easy Pieces” by Remzi H. Arpaci-Dusseau and Andrea C. Arpaci-Dusseau.
    These books provide detailed coverage of operating system concepts, including memory management and addressing techniques.

Frequently Asked Question on Logical and Physical Address – FAQs

How does the operating system map logical addresses to physical addresses?

The process requires physical memory to run because the logical address is a virtual address. The Physical Address is never utilised by the User. The Memory Management Unit (MMU) maps the logical address that the user programme creates to the physical address.

What is paging?

The process of retrieving processes in the form of pages from the secondary storage into the main memory is known as paging.

Can two processes have the same logical address?

Yes two process can have same logical address.

Why do we need logical address?

The CPU uses logical address as a reference to get to the real physical memory location.


Last Updated : 22 Feb, 2024
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