Semaphores, counting semaphores, binary semaphores in Operating systems OS

What are semaphores?

Semaphores are the variables.
Semaphores are used for signaling among processes.
Three kinds of operations are performed on semaphores;

  1. To initialize the semaphore
  2. To increment the semaphore value
  3. To decrement the semaphore value

What are binary semaphores?

Binary semaphores take only the values between 0 to 1.

What are counting semaphores?

Counting semaphores have the non-negative integer value.

How can processes get the critical section?

  • A critical section is controlled by semaphores by following operations;
    • Wait:
      • Any process can’t enter into the critical section.
      • The semaphore value is decremented.
    • Signal:
      • The process can enter into the critical section.
      • The semaphore value is incremented.

difference between binary and counting semaphores

Wait and Signal Operations in Semaphores

We can implement Wait and Signal Operations in process synchronization. The actual purpose of Wait and Signal operation is to get mutual exclusion.

The Wait Operation in Semaphores

The wait operation decrements the value of Semaphore if it is positive. If Semaphore is negative or zero, then no operation is performed.

while (Semaphore<=0);


Signal Operation in Semaphores

The signal operation increments the value of Semaphore.


Semaphores implementation in C++

Now, let’s see theC++ Program for Semaphores.


Semaphores implementation in OS
Figure: Semaphores implementation in OS

For example, in this example, we can see in our output screenshot that when we select choice 1, then the program gives a chance to the Reader process to enter into the critical section. Now, if the writer process wants to enter into the critical section, then semaphore stops it. When the reader process is removed, then semaphore can allow the writer process to enter into the critical section.

Difference between Binary Semaphore  VS Counting Semaphore

Let’s see some common difference between binary  and counting semaphore:

Binary Semaphore Counting Semaphore
Mutual exclusion No mutual exclusion
Semaphore Value is only 0 and 1 Semaphore Value is any integer value
The only process at the same time. Can provide a set of Processes
Only one slot More than one slot

Advantages of Semaphores

Some of the advantages of semaphores are mentioned below:

  • Semaphores strictly follow the principle of mutual exclusion and allow only one process into the critical section at the same time.
  • Semaphores are machine-independent, so Semaphores are implemented in the machine-independent code of the microkernel.
  • Semaphores allow flexible management of resources.
  • Semaphores can be considered as more efficient than other methods of synchronization.

Disadvantages of Semaphores

Some of the disadvantages of semaphores are mentioned below;

  • Semaphores are very complex to implement, so the wait and signal operations must be implemented in the correct order. If the wait and signal operations are not implemented in the correct order, then it can be a cause of a deadlock.
  • Semaphores can be lead to priority inversion.  In priority inversion, low priority processes may win the critical section and access first, and high priority processes get the critical section after the low priority process.
  • The operating system needs to do some extra work and maintains track of all calls to wait and signal operations in semaphore.

Video Lecture