Pipes in operating System

A pipe acts as a conduit allowing two processes to communicate. Pipes were one of the first IPC mechanisms in early UNIX systems. They typically provide one of the simpler ways for processes to communicate with one another, although they also have some limitations. In implementing a pipe, four issues must be considered:

  • Does the pipe allow bidirectional communication, or is communication unidirectional ?
  • If two-way communication is allowed, is it half duplex (data can travel only one way at a time) or full duplex (data can travel in both directions at the same time) ?
  • Must a relationship (such as parent–child) exist between the communicating processes ?
  • Can the pipes communicate over a network, or must the communicating processes reside on the same machine ?

Table of Contents

Ordinary Pipes

Ordinary pipes allow two processes to communicate in standard producer– consumer fashion: the producer writes to one end of the pipe (the write-end) and the consumer reads from the other end (the read-end). As a result, ordinary pipes are unidirectional, allowing only one-way communication.

If two-way communication is required, two pipes must be used, with each pipe sending data in a different direction. We next illustrate constructing ordinary pipes on both UNIX and Windows systems. In both program examples, one process writes the message Greetings to the pipe, while the other process reads this message from the pipe


#include <sys/types.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#define BUFFER SIZE 25
#define READ END 0
#define WRITE END 1
int main(void)
char write msg[BUFFER SIZE] = "Greetings";
char read msg[BUFFER SIZE];
int fd[2];
pid t pid;
/* create the pipe */
if (pipe(fd) == -1) {
fprintf(stderr,"Pipe failed");
return 1;
/* fork a child process */
pid = fork();
if (pid < 0) { /* error occurred */
fprintf(stderr, "Fork Failed");
return 1;
if (pid > 0) { /* parent process */
/* close the unused end of the pipe */
close(fd[READ END]);
/* write to the pipe */
write(fd[WRITE END], write msg, strlen(write msg)+1);
/* close the write end of the pipe */
close(fd[WRITE END]);
else { /* child process */
/* close the unused end of the pipe */
close(fd[WRITE END]);
/* read from the pipe */
read(fd[READ END], read msg, BUFFER SIZE);
printf("read %s",read msg);
/* close the write end of the pipe */
close(fd[READ END]);
return 0;

Leave a Comment