multithreading - What resources are shared between threads?

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Top 5 Answer for multithreading - What resources are shared between threads?

vote vote

92

You're pretty much correct, but threads share all segments except the stack. Threads have independent call stacks, however the memory in other thread stacks is still accessible and in theory you could hold a pointer to memory in some other thread's local stack frame (though you probably should find a better place to put that memory!).

vote vote

82

From Wikipedia (I think that would make a really good answer for the interviewer :P)

Threads differ from traditional multitasking operating system processes in that:

  • processes are typically independent, while threads exist as subsets of a process
  • processes carry considerable state information, whereas multiple threads within a process share state as well as memory and other resources
  • processes have separate address spaces, whereas threads share their address space
  • processes interact only through system-provided inter-process communication mechanisms.
  • Context switching between threads in the same process is typically faster than context switching between processes.
vote vote

73

Something that really needs to be pointed out is that there are really two aspects to this question - the theoretical aspect and the implementations aspect.

First, let's look at the theoretical aspect. You need to understand what a process is conceptually to understand the difference between a process and a thread and what's shared between them.

We have the following from section 2.2.2 The Classical Thread Model in Modern Operating Systems 3e by Tanenbaum:

The process model is based on two independent concepts: resource grouping and execution. Sometimes it is use­ful to separate them; this is where threads come in....

He continues:

One way of looking at a process is that it is a way to group related resources together. A process has an address space containing program text and data, as well as other resources. These resource may include open files, child processes, pending alarms, signal handlers, accounting information, and more. By putting them together in the form of a process, they can be managed more easily. The other concept a process has is a thread of execution, usually shortened to just thread. The thread has a program counter that keeps track of which instruc­tion to execute next. It has registers, which hold its current working variables. It has a stack, which contains the execution history, with one frame for each proce­dure called but not yet returned from. Although a thread must execute in some process, the thread and its process are different concepts and can be treated sepa­rately. Processes are used to group resources together; threads are the entities scheduled for execution on the CPU.

Further down he provides the following table:

Per process items             | Per thread items ------------------------------|----------------- Address space                 | Program counter Global variables              | Registers Open files                    | Stack Child processes               | State Pending alarms                | Signals and signal handlers   | Accounting information        | 

The above is what you need for threads to work. As others have pointed out, things like segments are OS dependant implementation details.

vote vote

67

Tell the interviewer that it depends entirely on the implementation of the OS.

Take Windows x86 for example. There are only 2 segments [1], Code and Data. And they're both mapped to the whole 2GB (linear, user) address space. Base=0, Limit=2GB. They would've made one but x86 doesn't allow a segment to be both Read/Write and Execute. So they made two, and set CS to point to the code descriptor, and the rest (DS, ES, SS, etc) to point to the other [2]. But both point to the same stuff!

The person interviewing you had made a hidden assumption that he/she did not state, and that is a stupid trick to pull.

So regarding

Q. So tell me which segment thread share?

The segments are irrelevant to the question, at least on Windows. Threads share the whole address space. There is only 1 stack segment, SS, and it points to the exact same stuff that DS, ES, and CS do [2]. I.e. the whole bloody user space. 0-2GB. Of course, that doesn't mean threads only have 1 stack. Naturally each has its own stack, but x86 segments are not used for this purpose.

Maybe *nix does something different. Who knows. The premise the question was based on was broken.


  1. At least for user space.
  2. From ntsd notepad: cs=001b ss=0023 ds=0023 es=0023
vote vote

56

A process has code, data, heap and stack segments. Now, the Instruction Pointer (IP) of a thread OR threads points to the code segment of the process. The data and heap segments are shared by all the threads. Now what about the stack area? What is actually the stack area? Its an area created by the process just for its thread to use... because stacks can be used in a much faster way than heaps etc. The stack area of the process is divided among threads, i.e. if there are 3 threads, then the stack area of the process is divided into 3 parts and each is given to the 3 threads. In other words, when we say that each thread has its own stack, that stack is actually a part of the process stack area allocated to each thread. When a thread finishes its execution, the stack of the thread is reclaimed by the process. In fact, not only the stack of a process is divided among threads, but all the set of registers that a thread uses like SP, PC and state registers are the registers of the process. So when it comes to sharing, the code, data and heap areas are shared, while the stack area is just divided among threads.

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