In a multiprogramming environment, several processes may compete for a finite number of resources. A process requests resources; if the resources are not available at that time, the process enters a waiting state. Sometimes, a waiting process is never again able to change state, because the resources it has requested are held by other waiting processes. This situation is called a deadlock. We discussed this issue briefly in Chapter 6 in connection with semaphores.
Perhaps the best illustration of a deadlock can be drawn from a law passed by the Kansas legislature early in the 20th century. It said, in part: “When two trains approach each other at a crossing, both shall come to a full stop and neither shall start up again until the other has gone.”
In this chapter, we describe methods that an operating system can use to prevent or deal with deadlocks. Although some applications can identify programs that may deadlock, operating systems typically do not provide deadlock-prevention facilities, and it remains the responsibility of programmers to ensure that they design deadlock-free programs. Deadlock problems can only become more common, given current trends, including larger numbers of processes, ...