System Calls in operating System

System calls provide an interface to the services made available by an operating system. These calls are generally available as routines written in C and C++, although certain low-level tasks (for example, tasks where hardware must be accessed directly) may have to be written using assembly-language instructions

Types of System Calls

System calls can be grouped roughly into six major categories: process control, file manipulation, device manipulation, information maintenance, communications, and protection

Process Control

A running program needs to be able to halt its execution either normally (end()) or abnormally (abort()). If a system call is made to terminate the currently running program abnormally, or if the program runs into a problem and causes an error trap, a dump of memory is sometimes taken and an error message generated.

The dump is written to disk and may be examined by a debugger—a system program designed to aid the programmer in finding and correcting errors, or bugs—to determine the cause of the problem. Under either normal or abnormal circumstances, the operating system must transfer control to the invoking command interpreter. The command interpreter then reads the next command

File Management

We first need to be able to create() and delete() files. Either system call requires the name of the file and perhaps some of the file’s attributes. Once the file is created, we need to open() it and to use it. We may also read(), write(), or reposition() (rewind or skip to the end of the file, for example). Finally, we need to close() the file, indicating that we are no longer using it

Device Management

A process may need several resources to execute—main memory, disk drives, access to files, and so on. If the resources are available, they can be granted, and control can be returned to the user process. Otherwise, the process will have to wait until sufficient resources are available

Information Maintenance

Many system calls exist simply for the purpose of transferring information between the user program and the operating system. For example, most systems have a system call to return the current time() and date(). Other system calls may return information about the system, such as the number of current users, the version number of the operating system, the amount of free memory or disk space, and so on


There are two common models of interprocess communication: the message passing model and the shared-memory model. In the message-passing model, the communicating processes exchange messages with one another to transfer information. Messages can be exchanged between the processes either directly or indirectly through a common mailbox. Before communication can take place, a connection must be opened. The name of the other communicator must be known, be it another process on the same system or a process on another computer connected by a communications network

In the shared-memory model, processes use shared memory create() and shared memory attach() system calls to create and gain access to regions of memory owned by other processes. Recall that, normally, the operating system tries to prevent one process from accessing another process’s memory. Shared memory requires that two or more processes agree to remove this restriction. They can then exchange information by reading and writing data in the shared areas. The form of the data is determined by the processes and is not under the operating system’s control. The processes are also responsible for ensuring that they are not writing to the same location simultaneously


Protection provides a mechanism for controlling access to the resources provided by a computer system. Historically, protection was a concern only on multi programmed computer systems with several users. However, with the advent of networking and the Internet, all computer systems, from servers to mobile handheld devices, must be concerned with protection

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