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Virtual address

Virtual address

(also virtual memory address)

Virtual address definition

A virtual address is a memory address that is generated by the operating system and presented to a program as if it were the actual physical address in the computer’s main memory (RAM). It’s essentially a pretend address that makes it easier for the computer to manage memory and keep track of the programs’ data.

Advantages of using virtual addresses

  1. Increased memory capacity. Virtual addressing allows programs to use more memory than is physically available in the computer. It allows you to run larger programs or multiple programs simultaneously.
  2. Memory isolation and protection between programs. One program cannot access or interfere with the memory of another program, enhancing system stability and security. It helps prevent crashes and protects sensitive data from unauthorized access.
  3. Simplified memory management for operating systems and programmers. The system handles the translation between virtual and physical addresses, relieving programmers from manual memory management tasks.
  4. Flexibility and portability of programs. Programs can be moved or executed on different computer systems without requiring modifications.

Disadvantages of using virtual addresses

  1. The translation between virtual addresses and physical addresses involves additional processing overhead.
  2. If the system’s memory becomes heavily overloaded with processes, it can severely degrade system performance as it spends more time moving data between disk and memory than actually executing programs.
  3. Virtual memory systems can suffer from fragmentation, where the available memory is divided into small chunks that are scattered across physical memory.
  4. Understanding and optimizing memory usage in virtual memory environments can be challenging for both system developers and application programmers.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security