One of the jobs of the operating system is to control processes’ access to our computer’s shared hardware resources, including and especially its memory. Memory stores the information necessary for our processes to function.

At the lowest level, data in memory is just a sequence of 0s and 1s which represent a piece of information. A handful of 0s and 1s might represent a number, while a great many could represent an image or a video.

But memory is a finite resource; we only have so much of it. This is why our computers can only store a limited number of files before we have to get rid of some in order to add new ones.

Given that memory is limited, the job of the OS is not only to provide our processes access to memory, but to do so efficiently. And since memory stores information critical to our computer’s functions, the OS must make sure that the access it provides is safe and secure.

Not all memory is the same though. In a grocery store like the one to the right, some of the more popular, smaller items like chewing gum and candy bars are stored close to the register. Bulkier, less popular items are stored further away. The same is true of memory, our computers have tons of space in deep storage but relatively little in the faster-access regions of memory. It is the job of the OS to determine what goes where at what time.

With all this in mind, let us learn how the operating system fulfills its role as memory manager.


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