Types, advantages, and functions of buffers in os

A buffer is a storage location that is used to store data temporarily as it transits from one device or process to the next. While buffering is the process of using buffers to increase the performance and efficiency of the system using buffers. In an operating system, buffers are used during input and output operations.

The 3 types of buffers in the operating system are single, double, and circular. They are used as temporary storage locations within the system. Their main advantage is to smoothen I/O device operations.

Functions of buffer in computer os

Buffers are used to achieve a number of objectives depending on the system. Some of the purposes of the buffer in any system are included. 

  1. Smoothing the input and output operations. Buffering is used to smoothen operation on devices that have different operating speeds and data block sizes. It hides the difference between the 2 devices for smooth operation.
  2. Improve system performance. When different devices are synchronized they improve the overall system performance. 
  3. Reduce system overhead during data transfer. This is achieved by requesting data only once then it is stored on the buffer and used continuously instead of making requests every time data is required.

When are buffers used in computers?

  1. When the data producer device is faster than the consumer. You will need a buffer if the device that is producing data does it at a faster rate than the one consuming to give it room to process data.
  2. When different devices use different blocks of data. For example, if device A uses a block of 100MB and device B use 20MB then you need a buffer to store the extra data before it is moved to the small block device.
  3. Buffer can be used as a caching mechanism to store the most frequently used data. This improves system speed and performance since data can be accessed faster.

Types of buffers in the operating system

There are 3 main types of buffering systems that can be implemented in a computer operating system. Each is an improvement of the other to reduce the inconsistency of the other. These types of buffers in the operating system include:

Single buffer

Single buffer in the operating system

This is the simplest buffer implementation and is used in a simple system. It is implemented where the operating system allocates only one system buffer to be used. The data is moved from the source then moved to the single buffer location and transferred to the destination user space.

Double buffer

Double buffering in the computer system

This is an improvement of the single buffer where instead of OS allocating only 1 buffer they are 2. Now the data is moved from the source to the first buffer then it is moved to the second and finally to the destination device. On one side, the operating system can be filling one buffer with data, while process data be removing from the other. 

Circular buffer

Circular buffering in os

To improve the system even further we can implement more than 2 temporally locations creating a circular buffer. This buffering is mostly used in systems that require fast operation and moving large blocks of data.

Advantages of buffers in the computer system

  1. Reduce the number of input/output operations required to access data in the system.
  2. Used to smoothen input and output operation among different devices.
  3. Improves the system by reducing the number of system calls made when caring out an operation.
  4. They can act as a caching system for the system.
  5. Buffering can be used for error handling by storing data with the error until it is resolved.

Disadvantages of buffers in an operating system

  1. The use of buffers is expensive and complex to manage. It requires high overhead to manage data stored on the buffer.
  2. A system with a small amount of main memory, buffers reduced the available memory for use by other processes.
  3. Buffer overflow. This is when more data is stored on the buffer that it can hold. This leads to the corruption of data and insecurities.