Memory management refers to the process of managing a computer’s memory resources. It is a critical component of operating systems and other software that rely on memory to store and retrieve data. Memory management is responsible for allocating memory to programs, tracking which parts of memory are currently in use, and reclaiming memory that is no longer needed.
Memory management involves several key tasks, including:
- Memory allocation: This involves allocating memory to programs as they request it. The operating system must keep track of which memory locations are in use and which are available, and allocate memory from the available pool when a program requests it.
- Memory deallocation: When a program no longer needs a block of memory, it must return it to the operating system so that it can be reused by other programs. This process is known as memory deallocation or freeing.
- Memory fragmentation: Over time, memory can become fragmented, which means that there are small gaps between blocks of allocated memory that cannot be used to satisfy new allocation requests. Memory fragmentation can lead to wasted memory and reduced performance.
- Memory protection: The operating system must protect memory from unauthorized access by other programs or users. This is typically accomplished through the use of memory protection mechanisms, such as access control lists or memory segmentation.
- Virtual memory management: Most modern operating systems use virtual memory, which allows programs to use more memory than is physically available in the system. Virtual memory management involves mapping virtual memory addresses to physical memory addresses, swapping memory pages between physical memory and disk storage, and managing page faults and other errors.