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Table of contents
What is a process?
What is Process Management?
Process Attributes
Process States
Characteristics of a Process
When Does Context Switching Happen?
Process Management os in Practice
Best Practices for Managing Processes in an Operating System
Scheduling Algorithms
Advantages of Process Management
Disadvantages of Process Management
Frequently Asked Questions
What activities does an OS perform for process management?
What is the need for process management in OS?
What happens when a process terminates?
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024

Introduction of Process Management

Author Sagar Mishra
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Earlier there used to be only single-task performing systems. In this way, there used to be only one process running at a time. And it had the freedom to utilise all the resources in the system. But today, we have multitasking and multiprocessing operating systems, where more than one process runs at a time.

process management in os

This creates problems such as deadlock and multiple processes requesting for the same resource, processor, or RAM space allocation to execute.

All these problems require a proper solution, and this instigates the operating system to carry out processor management.

In this article, we will discuss about introduction to process management in OS. So let us learn more about the process and its management, processor management, how they are being carried out by the operating system, and what are their different stages.

What is a process?

A process is an active execution unit of a program that performs some action. An operating system has the right to create, schedule, and terminate a process. There are four sections in a process:-

  • Text: holds the current activities represented by the value of Program Counter
  • Stack: holds temporary data such as local variables, functional parameters, return addresses, etc.
  • Data: holds the global variables
  • Heap: dynamically allocated memory to process during runtime.

The operating system controls a process by a block called Process Control Block (PCB). It is a type of Data Structure that is maintained by the OS for storing the context of each process.

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What is Process Management?

Now that we know about a process and its various states and parts, let us learn about its management. 

Process management involves tasks related to processing like creation, scheduling, termination, deadlock, etc. The operating systems allocate resources that allow the process to exchange information. It synchronizes among processes and safeguards the resources of other processes.

The operating system manages the running processes in the system and performs tasks like scheduling and resource allocation.

Process Attributes

process attributes

Let us see the attributes of a process at a glance.

  • Process Id: a unique identifier assigned by the operating system to each process.
  • Process State: there are a few possible states a process goes through during execution.
  • CPU registers: stores the details of the process when it is swapped in and out of the CPU, just like the program counter.
  • I/O status information: shows information like the device to which a process is allotted and details of open files.
  • CPU scheduling information: processes are scheduled and executed based on priority.
  • Accounting & Business information: information about the amount of CPU used and time utilities like a job or process number, real-time utilised, etc.
  • Memory management information: information about the value of base registers and limit registers, segment tables, and pages.

Process States

Process States

These are the states in which a process might go during its execution. Let us know more about them-:

  • New: a new process is created when a certain program is called up from secondary memory and loaded to RAM.
  • Ready: a process is said to be in a ready state if it is already loaded in the primary memory/RAM for its execution.
  • Running: here, the process is already executing.
  • Paused (Waiting): at this stage, the process is believed to be waiting for CPU or resource allocation.
  • Blocked: at this stage, the process is waiting for some I/O operation to get completed. 
  • Terminated: this specifies the time at which the process gets terminated by the OS.
  • Suspended: this state shows that the process is ready but it has not been placed in the ready queue for execution.

Characteristics of a Process

A process has the following characteristics:-

  • Process State: A process can be in several states, some of them are ready, suspend wait, and running. 
  • Process Control Block: The PCB is a data structure that contains information related to a process. These blocks are stored in the process table.
  • Resources: Processes request various types of resources such as files, input/output devices, and network connections. The OS manages the allocation of these resources.
  • Priority: Each process has a scheduling priority. Higher-priority processes are given preferential treatment and they receive more CPU time compared to lower-priority processes.
  • Execution Context: Each process has its own execution context, which includes the address of the next instruction to be executed, stack pointer, and register values. 

When Does Context Switching Happen?

Context switching in an operating system occurs when the system transitions from executing one process or thread to another. The context switching happens for various reasons:

  • Time Slicing: In a multitasking environment, the operating system allocates a fixed time slice or quantum to each process. When a process's time slice expires, a context switch occurs to give CPU time to another process
  • Interrupt Handling: When an interrupt, such as a hardware interrupt, such as keyboard input, or a software interrupt, such as a system call, occurs, the CPU must switch context to handle the interrupt's request. After handling the interrupt, the CPU returns to the original process
  • Process State Changes: When a process transitions between states (e.g., from running to waiting for I/O or from waiting to ready), a context switch is necessary to manage these state changes
  • Blocking Operations: When a process initiates a blocking I/O operation (e.g., reading from disk), it may be switched out, allowing other processes to execute while waiting for the I/O operation to complete

Process Management os in Practice

Process management is a fundamental aspect of operating systems (OS) that involves creating, scheduling, and terminating processes. A process, essentially a program in execution, comprises the program code, its current activity represented by the program counter, and a set of resources allocated by the OS. Effective process management is crucial for the efficient operation of a computer system, ensuring that CPU time is optimally utilized, and multiple processes are executed without conflicts.

Key Components of Process Management

  • Process Creation and Termination: The life cycle of a process starts when it is created, either by a user request or by another process. It ends when the process completes its execution or is terminated by the OS due to an error or user intervention.
  • Process Scheduling: The OS schedules processes on the CPU based on scheduling algorithms, which can range from simple first-come, first-served to more complex priority-based or round-robin methods. The goal is to ensure fair CPU time for all processes, optimize system performance, and support multitasking.
  • Inter-process Communication (IPC): Processes often need to communicate with each other to exchange data or synchronize their actions. IPC mechanisms like message passing and shared memory facilitate this communication, crucial for the functioning of distributed systems and parallel processing.
  • Process Synchronization: When multiple processes access shared data or resources, the OS must ensure that data consistency is maintained and deadlocks are avoided. This is achieved through synchronization techniques like semaphores, mutexes, and monitors.
  • Process Context Switching: The OS switches the CPU among processes to give the illusion of simultaneous execution. This involves saving the state (context) of the current process and loading the context of the next scheduled process, a critical function for supporting multitasking environments.

Best Practices for Managing Processes in an Operating System

Managing processes efficiently is crucial for the optimal performance and stability of an operating system (OS). Here are some best practices for managing processes:

1. Prioritize Processes Intelligently

Dynamic Prioritization: Use dynamic priorities for processes to ensure that system resources are allocated efficiently. Prioritize system and user processes based on their importance and urgency, adjusting priorities in real-time based on process behavior and system load.

2. Efficient Process Scheduling
Adaptive Scheduling Algorithms: Implement adaptive scheduling algorithms that can adjust to varying workloads and process types. Algorithms like Multilevel Queue Scheduling can cater to a diverse set of processes, balancing between foreground interactive processes and background batch processes.

3. Optimize Resource Allocation
Resource Monitoring and Management: Continuously monitor resource usage by processes and adjust allocations to prevent bottlenecks. Use techniques like memory swapping and load balancing to optimize the use of CPU, memory, and I/O resources.

4. Ensure Fairness and Responsiveness
Time-sharing Systems: In time-sharing systems, ensure that each process gets a fair share of CPU time. Implement quantum time slices to balance between throughput and response time, ensuring that no single process monopolizes the CPU.

5. Manage Concurrency and Synchronization
Concurrency Control: Implement robust concurrency control mechanisms to manage access to shared resources. Use synchronization tools like semaphores, mutexes, and condition variables to prevent race conditions and ensure data consistency.

6. Implement Effective IPC Mechanisms
Inter-process Communication: Provide a variety of IPC mechanisms, such as message queues, shared memory, and sockets, facilitating efficient communication and data exchange between processes.

7. Handle Deadlocks Proactively
Deadlock Prevention and Resolution: Implement strategies to prevent, avoid, or detect and resolve deadlocks. Techniques like resource allocation graphs, deadlock prevention algorithms, or the Ostrich algorithm can be used based on the system requirements.

8. Monitor and Manage Process States
State Management: Keep track of process states (running, waiting, blocked, etc.) and manage transitions effectively. Use state diagrams and process control blocks (PCBs) to monitor and control process states and transitions.

9. Secure Process Execution
Security and Sandboxing: Ensure that processes operate within their allocated resources and permissions. Use sandboxing and virtualization to isolate processes and protect the system from malicious or faulty processes.

10. Support for Multithreading
Multithreading and Parallelism: Leverage multithreading and parallel processing to improve the efficiency and responsiveness of applications. Provide frameworks and APIs for developers to easily create and manage threads within processes.

11. Efficient Context Switching
Minimize Context Switching Overheads: Optimize the context switching process to minimize overheads. This includes efficiently saving and restoring process states and minimizing the frequency of context switches to improve overall system performance.

Scheduling Algorithms

Scheduling algorithms in the context of operating systems are crucial mechanisms responsible for determining the order in which processes or threads are allocated CPU time. These algorithms are essential for efficient CPU utilization and ensuring that multiple tasks can run concurrently on a single processor. 

The primary goal of scheduling algorithms is to strike a balance between optimizing system performance metrics such as throughput, response time, and fairness among processes. There are several scheduling algorithms used in operating systems. Here's a list of some of the most commonly known scheduling algorithms:

  • First-Come, First-Served (FCFS)
  • Shortest Job Next (SJN) or Shortest Job First (SJF)
  • Round Robin (RR)
  • Priority Scheduling
  • Multilevel Queue Scheduling
  • Priority Inversion

Advantages of Process Management

The following are some advantages of process management:-

  • Concurrent Execution: Process management enables concurrent execution of multiple processes. This allows users to run multiple applications at the same time.
  • Process Isolation: Process management ensures process isolation, which means different processes cannot interfere with the execution of each other.
  • Resource Utilization: Resources are allocated fairly and effectively among processes to minimize starvation among lower-priority processes and maximize CPU throughput.
  • Efficient Context Switching: It is the process of saving and restoring the execution of processes, efficiently performing context switching minimizes its overhead while improving the responsiveness of the OS.

Disadvantages of Process Management

The following are some advantages of process management:-

  • Overhead: Process management introduces overhead for the system resources as the OS needs to maintain various complex data structures and scheduling queues. These processes require CPU cycles and memory which impacts the performance of the system.
  • Complexity: Implementing complicated scheduling algorithms for managing process queues along with resource allocation makes maintaining and designing operating systems complex.
  • Deadlocks: For process synchronization, various mechanisms are implemented by the OS, such as semaphores and mutex locks, however, they introduce deadlocks to the system.
  • Increased Context Switching: In multitasking systems, processes switch between ready and running states many times during their execution. The process of storing the context of the process impacts system performance as it is computationally intensive.

Frequently Asked Questions

What activities does an OS perform for process management?

An operating system deals with process creation, process scheduling, resource management, device allocation, context switching, and process synchronization. The OS ensures system resources are used efficiently and high throughput is maintained.

What is the need for process management in OS?

Process management is needed for achieving fair resource allocation among processes along with multitasking. Multitasking is achieved by using various scheduling algorithms that allow processes to share CPU, the OS manages the allocation of CPU time to minimize process starvation.

What happens when a process terminates?

The operating system performs cleanup tasks when a process terminates. It notifies the caller process if applicable and it removes the process from the process table and deallocates resources. These steps ensure that system resources are released and they are available for other processes to use.


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